President George W. Bush's landmark 2006 speech defending the CIA's enhanced interrogation methods was riddled with inaccuracies, according to a Senate report released today detailing the controversial program.
The new document rebuts Bush's core claims — that the interrogation techniques were safe, did not constitute torture, and that the use of these brutal tactics produced useful intelligence.
The Sept. 6, 2006, speech was based on CIA information and vetted by CIA personnel, according to the report. But the investigation found that the speech "contained significant inaccurate statements, especially regarding the significance of information acquired from CIA detainees and the effectiveness of the CIA's interrogation techniques."
That's not entirely Bush's fault. The report found that the president was kept in the dark on key details of the program. The CIA did not fully brief Bush on specific techniques until April 2006, even though the program began in 2002. The report also claims the White House was misled by the CIA, which provided "incomplete and inaccurate information" regarding the program's effectiveness.
Here are some of the most glaring inaccuracies in Bush's speech:
1. What Bush said: The U.S. does not torture and the interrogation methods are "safe."
"I can say the procedures were tough and they were safe and lawful and necessary.
"I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture. It's against our laws and it's against our values. I have not authorized it and I will not authorize it."
What the report says: The CIA used "forced rectal feedings" and waterboarding caused "near drownings."
2. What Bush said: Interrogation methods were lawful and constitutional
"These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations."
What the report says: Untrained officers frequently carried out unauthorized interrogations.
3. What Bush said: Interrogation techniques had been approved by the Justice Department
"The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively, and determined them to be lawful."
What the report says: The Justice Department had not reviewed some controversial procedures and CIA officials lied to the department about stopping interrogations if detainees were in poor health.
4. What Bush said: The program produced valuable intelligence about terror plots.
"By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives."
What the report says: Enhanced interrogations provided bad intelligence because multiple detainees made up information.
5. What Bush said: A detainee named Abu Zubaydah disclosed information that was "quite important," such as the fact that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM) was the 9/11 mastermind.
"…the nominal information he gave us turned out to be quite important."
What the report says: The CIA already had information detailing KSM's involvement in the 9/11 plot.
6. What Bush said: Zubaydah stopped talking, so the CIA used enhanced interrogation methods to pry information from him.
"We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives. But he stopped talking."
What the report says: Zubaydah did not stop cooperating with U.S. intelligence.
7. What Bush said: Zubaydah gave up valuable intelligence about key al-Qaeda figures, which led to their capture.
"Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key Al Qaida operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th.
"For example, Zubaydah identified one of KSM's accomplices in the 9/11 attacks, a terrorist named Ramzi Binalshibh. The information Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of Binalshibh. And together these two terrorists provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."
What the report says: The quality of information from Ramzi bin al-Shibh declined as he was subjected to harsh interrogations.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.