Bush told ABC in an interview he was aware that senior administration officials had discussed and approved details of how high-value al-Qaida suspects would be interrogated. ABC first reported the top-level discussions Wednesday.
"Well, we started to connect the dots, in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News. "And, yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."
Citing unnamed, highly placed sources, ABC said Bush advisers signed off on whether key terror suspects who most strongly resisted providing information could be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding. The discussions were so detailed some interrogation sessions were virtually choreographed, including how many times CIA agents could use any one tactic, ABC said.
The discussions involved members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, senior officials who advised Bush on national security policy issues. At the time, the committee included Vice President Dick Cheney, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and members of the first administration Cabinet -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft.