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In 2004, while drafting a memo outlining the Bush administration’s position on torture, Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, was so concerned by the practice of waterboarding that he underwent the procedure himself. The interrogation technique, designed to simulate drowning, involves pouring water over a detainee’s towel-covered face. Levin’s experience cemented his view: the technique was indeed torture.
Levin’s subsequent memo clarified the definition of torture to include suffering “even if it does not involve severe physical pain.” Levin was working on a second memo setting stricter controls on interrogation practices, when he was forced out of the Justice Department, an event coinciding with Alberto Gonzalez’s appointment as attorney general in 2005.
His work, however, made an impact. In December 2007, the House of Representatives passed a bill forbidding such interrogation methods as waterboarding.