US national intelligence chief Mike McConnell has said the interrogation technique of water-boarding "would be torture" if he was subjected to it.
He told the New Yorker there would be a "huge penalty" for anyone using it if it was ever determined to be torture.
The US attorney-general has declined to rule on whether the method is torture.
In December, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would ban the CIA from using harsh interrogation techniques such as water-boarding.
President George W Bush has threatened to veto the bill, which would require the agency to follow the rules adopted by the US Army and abide by the Geneva Conventions, if the Senate passes it.
The administration seems to believe that torture works as a means of getting information. On the contrary, the assertion that harsh interrogation works is proved false by many studies. In addition public knowledge of torture — which is inevitable in such a high-profile 'war' — hurts the world's perception of the US and breeds more terrorists. But what right does the US have to police the world and detain foreigners as it pleases, especially not in anything close to a war zone?