WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said that he was “stunned” at former Vice President Dick Cheney’s defense of torture techniques, saying that if Cheney doesn’t believe the controversial practice is torture – he should give it a try himself.
Responding to Cheney’s comments at American University last week in which he denied that CIA tactics, including the use of waterboarding – a process in which large quantities of water are poured over a person’s nose and mouth to induce choking – could be considered torture.
“Some people called it torture, It wasn’t torture,” Cheney said in an interview with ATV, the university’s student-run television station.
The comments follow a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee that voted 11-3 last week, recommending that President Obama declassify the Bush-era interrogations of terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Cheney denied any war criminal allegations at the Kennedy Political Union event late last month.
According to Cheney, the enhanced interrogation methods used during the Bush Administration do not fall under the parameters set in the 1949 United Nations Geneva Convention, which bars cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment – but does not apply to the terrorists who were considered “unlawful combatants,” the Eagle Online reported.
“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney said. “The results speak for themselves.”
Many defending the CIA’s actions insist that the techniques were able to bring out critical intelligence information in the fight against terrorism. But critics, like Maine’s Independent Sen. Angus King, say the interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, violate laws that prohibit the use of torture.
“Frankly, I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney just now,” King said, appearing on MSNBC’s ‘Up with Steve Kornacki.’ “If he doesn’t think that was torture, I would invite him anywhere in the United States to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through, one of them a hundred-and-plus odd times. That’s ridiculous to make that claim.”
“This was torture by anybody’s definition. John McCain said it’s torture, and I think he’s in a better position to know that than Vice President Cheney. I was shocked at that statement that he just made and to say it was carefully managed and everybody knew what was going on, that’s absolute nonsense.”
King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which moved to declassify the executive summary of a report, has sent the recommendation to President Obama, who last month stated his dedication to declassifying the CIA interrogation and torture methods used during the Bush administration following the Sept. 11 attacks.
“I am absolutely committed to declassifying that report, as soon as the report is completed,” Obama said on Mar. 12. “We will declassify those findings so that the American people can understand what happened in the past, and that can help guide us as we move forward.”
The summary of the report has not been fully revealed, but the Washington Post reports that the committee concluded the “CIA misled the government and the public of its brutal interrogation program for years.” The Senate report says the CIA concealed details of the severity of its methods, overstated the plots of some prisoners, and that the agency took credit for critical intelligence that detainees had willingly surrendered over to U.S. officials.
“The report exposes brutality that stands in stark contrast to our values as a nation,” committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said last week. “It chronicles a stain on our history that must never again be allowed to happen.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also criticized Cheney, telling CNN that he is “proud” of what the CIA did during the Bush Administration.
“I do believe that during the Bush-Cheney administration, that Vice President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA,” Pelosi told Candy Crowley. “Many people in the CIA are so patriotic, they protect our country in a way to avoid conflict and violence.”