Bush OK'd Torture Meetings

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, April 14, 2008; 1:36 PM

President Bush says he was aware that his top aides met in the White House basement to micromanage the application of waterboarding and other widely-condemned interrogation techniques. And he says it was no big deal.

"I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved," Bush told ABC News' Martha Raddatz on Friday. "I don't know what's new about that; I'm not so sure what's so startling about that."

It's true that it has been widely assumed and occasionally reported that the CIA's use of brutal interrogation techniques could be traced back to the White House on a general level. But it was most definitely new last week when ABC News reported that a group of Bush's top aides, including Vice President Cheney, took part in meetings where they explicitly discussed and approved -- literally blow by blow -- tactics such as waterboarding. And while Bush has previously defended these tactics -- vaguely, and insisting against all evidence that they did not amount to torture -- he had not, until now, acknowledged that he personally OK'd them beforehand.

If you consider what the government did to be torture, which is a crime according to U.S. and international law, Bush's statement shifts his role from being an accessory after the fact to being part of a conspiracy to commit.

What Bush Said

Here's the transcript of Bush's Friday morning interview with ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz.

Raddatz: "ABC News reported this week that your senior national security officials all got together and approved -- including Vice President Cheney -- all got together and approved enhanced interrogation methods, including waterboarding, for detainees."

Bush: "You mean back in 2003?"

Raddatz: "Are you aware of that? Are you aware of that?"

Bush: "Was I aware that we were going to use enhanced --"

Raddatz: "That they all met together?"

Bush: "Of course. They meet together all the time on --"

Raddatz: "And approved that?"

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