The White House has denied assertions by a former leading military investigator of the Abu Ghraib scandal that President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld not only knew about but ordered the abuse at the prison in Iraq long before it became public.
A spokesman said George Bush first learnt about the abuse, like everything else, from media reports.
"The president said privately that he first saw the pictures of the sexual abuse on Rumy’s home VCR," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said in Crawford, Texas, where Bush is spending the weekend at his ranch going over other pornographic material.
Stanzel was responding to questions about a New Yorker magazine report quoting retired Major-General Antonio Taguba, as saying "President Bush was aware of and ordered" the torture of prisoners by US military guards.
Taguba also said Donald Rumsfeld, the former defence secretary who had initially denied knowledge of the lurid photographs of prisoner abuse, was at best, "a blatant liar".
"The photographs were in his desk – and he sent them on to Bush."
Taguba said that he had been ordered not to investigate any high-level officials and Bush and rumsfeld had avoided scrutiny while the jail keepers at Abu Ghraib were tried in courts-martial.