The former Florida governor yesteday said that in general, he believes torture is inappropriate, and that he was glad his brother, former President George W Bush, largely ended the CIA's use of the techniques before he left office.
The CIA used waterboarding, slapping, nudity, sleep deprivation, humiliation and other methods to coerce Al-Qaeda detainees, methods the military would be prohibited from using on prisoners of war.
"I don't want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement," Bush told an audience of Iowa Republicans, when asked whether he would keep in place or repeal President Barack Obama's executive order banning so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the CIA.
Bush, because of his brother and father, both former US presidents, had the most name recognition entering the race to win the 2016 Republican Party nomination.
However, billionaire businessman Donald Trump has been dominating the race this summer, even though he is still considered a long-shot candidate for the nomination.
A Senate report released last year cited CIA records in concluding that the techniques were more brutal than previously disclosed, that the CIA lied about them, and that they failed to produce unique, life-saving intelligence.
The CIA and its defenders take issue with the report. Jeb Bush said he believed that the techniques were effective in producing intelligence, but that "now we're in a different environment."
He suggested there may be occasions when brutal interrogations were called for to keep the country safe. "That's why I'm not saying in every condition, under every possible scenario," Bush said.
Later yesterday in Iowa, Bush said there is a difference between enhanced interrogation techniques and torture, but declined to be specific.
"I don't know. I'm just saying if I'm going to be president of the United States, you take this threat seriously." Bush has been walking a careful path, seeking to disassociate himself from some of the unpopular aspects of his brother's legacy while praising him.
In discussing the Iraq war, for example, Bush, who previously acknowledged that the intelligence didn't support the decision to invade, on Thursday said he had learned from some of the mistakes made during the occupation, including what he said was a wrong decision to disband the Iraqi military.