The devastating accusations have been made by Admiral Stansfield Turner who labelled Dick Cheney "a vice president for torture".
He said: "We have crossed the line into dangerous territory".
The American Senate says torture should be banned - whatever the justification. But President Bush has threatened to veto their ruling.
Former CIA director, Admiral Stansfield Turner
The former spymaster claims President Bush is not telling the truth when he says that torture is not a method used by the US.
Speaking of Bush's claims that the US does not use torture, Admiral Turner, who ran the CIA from 1977 to 1981, said: "I do not believe him".
On Dick Cheney he said "I'm embarrassed the United States has a vice president for torture.
"He condones torture, what else is he?".
Admiral Turner claims the secret CIA prisons used for torture are known as 'black sites', terror suspects are picked up in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
They are flown by CIA-controlled private aircraft to countries where there are secret interrogation centres, operating outside any country's jurisdiction.
No one will confirm their locations, but there are several possibilities: The Mihail-Kogalniceanu military airbase in Romania is believed by many to be one such facility.
Admiral Turner's remarks were echoed by Republican Senator John McCain, himself a victim of torture in Vietnam.
He said torturing to get information was immoral, was not effective and encouraged potential enemies to do the same to Americans.
Both Mr Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have repeatedly stated that torture by US forces is not condoned.
Copyright 2005 ITN / UK
Common Dreams Editor's Note 12/02/05: Common Dreams erroneously listed Peter Wallsten and Barbara Demick as authors/reporters for this story. It was our editing error.