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Ex-CIA boss: Cheney is 'vice president for torture'

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Former CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner says torture "is beyond the pale."

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Former CIA chief Stansfield Turner lashed out at Dick Cheney on Thursday, calling him a "vice president for torture" that is out of touch with the American people.

Turner's condemnation, delivered during an interview with Britain's ITV network, comes amid an effort by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to pass legislation forbidding any U.S. authority from torturing a prisoner. McCain was tortured as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

Cheney has lobbied against the legislation, prompting Turner to say he's "embarrassed that the United States has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible."

Turner, a retired Navy admiral who headed the intelligence agency from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter, stood firm on his earlier remarks Friday and, in a CNN interview, scoffed at assertions that challenging the administration's strategy aided the terrorists' propaganda efforts.

"It's the vice president who is out there advocating torture. He's the one who has made himself the vice president in favor of torture," said Turner, who from 1972 to 1974 was president of the Naval War College, a think tank for strategic and national security policy.

Cheney has fought McCain's legislation, pushing for an exception for the CIA in cases that involve a prisoner who may have knowledge of an imminent attack. (Read about McCain's anti-torture campaign)

Torture diminishes the country's image and moral stature, forcing other nations to look at the United States "in a very different light," Turner said, adding that such tactics also open the door to retribution.

"We military people don't want future military people who are taken prisoner by other countries to be subjected to torture in the name of doing just what the United States does," he said.

Turner, who supported Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, went on to say that "the vice president is out of tune with the American people, who don't want our country tarred with the label of being one that tortures."

A statement from the vice president's office said that the United States "does not torture." It also stated that Cheney's views are "reflected in the administration's policy.

"Our country is at war, and our government has an obligation to protect the American people from a brutal enemy that has declared war upon us." (Watch special on Cheney's remarks over the years)

The United States has enacted several intrusive procedures since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to protect the country from terrorists, but torture, Turner said, is an unacceptable method.

"Torture is beyond the pale. It is going too far," he said.

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