It turns out that the Bush administration did explicitly authorize the use of torture against suspected terrorists.
The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.
Since 2001, the administration has been very creative in providing CYA (cover your ass) for all parties involved. The Justice Department redefines torture as enhanced interrogation techniques. The CIA gets permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques. The President says we don't torture. Any maltreatment or torture exposed to the public eye is the work of a few bad apples at the bottom of the ladder. How much longer can they make that work for them?
Not that we'll ever get to the bottom of all this and do something to correct it. It's not politically possible or expedient. And it really bothers me to be so pessimistic.