The White House this week released a thick file of declassified papers to try to demonstrate that Bush and his top aides, in setting policy on interrogation methods, insisted that detainees be treated humanely.
"Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being," Bush told reporters at the White House.
The administration also appeared to distance itself from a Justice Department memo that argued that the president, as commander in chief, was not constitutionally bound by key U.S. anti-torture laws.
The argument that Bush was not bound by anti-torture laws had caused a firestorm at home and abroad, said Tufts University international law professor Michael Glennon.
"Why have a Constitution at all if the president can unilaterally decide who to torture, when to torture and why to torture?" he said.
He said the significance of the White House retreat was still unclear.