U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine on Sunday bluntly criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney for defending the CIA’s use of waterboarding on some al-Qaida members in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and suggested Cheney ought to try it himself.

Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning and which critics say amounts to torture.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Up With Steve Kornacki” show, King said he was shocked to hear Cheney say publicly that he had no regrets over the CIA’s use of waterboarding during the Bush administration.

King is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which voted 11-3 last week to recommend that President Obama declassify part of a secret report on Bush-era interrogations of terrorism suspects that took place following the terror attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

Cheney made his remarks late last month during a speaking engagement at American University in Washington, D.C. He denied that waterboarding – in which large quantities of water are poured over a person’s nose and mouth – constituted torture, according to The Huffington Post, an online news outlet.

“Some people called it torture. It wasn’t torture,” Cheney told ATV, the university’s student-run television station.

“If I would have to do it all over again, I would,” Cheney told The Eagle, American University’s student newspaper. “The results speak for themselves.”

During a video teleconference interview Sunday with Kornacki, King said: “Frankly, I was stunned to hear that quote from Vice President Cheney just now. 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 a ridiculous to make that claim.”

Cheney did not appear on the Sunday morning television show.

Contacted Sunday night, a spokeswoman for King, Kathleen Connery Dawe, said the senator would have no further comment on the MSNBC interview.

Dawe said the issue of declassifying the report has been a topic of heated debate in the nation’s capital. Last Thursday, King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, were among a majority of senators who voted to declassify the report, a process that could take months even if the president supports the move.

The Washington Post reported on March 31 that the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which is 6,300 pages long, concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its interrogation program for years. The report said that the CIA concealed details about the severity of its methods and that the agency took credit for critical pieces of intelligence that the detainees had already surrendered before they were interrogated using harsh methods.

Just before the Senate Intelligence Committee vote on Thursday, King and Collins issued a joint statement explaining their rationale.

“We remain strongly opposed to the use of torture, believing that it is fundamentally contrary to American values. While we have some concerns about the process for developing the report, its findings lead us to conclude that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture. This inhumane and brutal treatment never should have occurred. Further, the report raises serious concerns about the CIA’s management of this program,” King and Collins said.

“Torture is wrong, and we must make sure that the misconduct and the grave errors made in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program never happen again,” the senators said.

After the committee vote, King released another statement.

“Our credibility around the globe depends on our reputation. Today we took an important step forward in living up to our reputation as a nation that believes in openness and the rule of law,” King said in a statement issued April 3. “Indeed, it is clear to me, after carefully reading both the study and the CIA’s response, and after discussing the matter with dozens of experts, that the United States failed to meet the high standards upon which our country was founded and that some detainees were subjected to techniques that constituted torture.”

Efforts to reach a spokesman for Cheney were unsuccessful Sunday night.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com