And perhaps that's no coincidence.
Media reports earlier this month made much of the story of Daniel Levin, a DOJ employee charged with updating administration policy on torture.
Daniel Levin, then acting assistant attorney general, went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure to inform his analysis of different interrogation techniques.
After the experience, Levin told White House officials that even though he knew he wouldn't die, he found the experience terrifying and thought that it clearly simulated drowning.
Levin, who refused to comment for this story, concluded waterboarding could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision. And, sources told ABC News, he believed the Bush Administration had failed to offer clear guidelines for its use.
The thing that should stand out in this report (and it seems standard in related reporting, from what I can tell) is the lack of comment from either Levin or from any explicitly identified person. The report is based on anonymous sources (they may be known government officials providing information on condition of anonymity; "deep background" or that sort of thing).Take a look at the photo/graphic.
Note the portion that the media have helpfully highlighted: "Torture is abhorrent."
The thrust of the story, supposedly, is that Levin thought that water boarding was torture and wrote that in the memo. Is "torture is abhorrent" the best they could do? The same story links to a .pdf of Levin's memo. The .pdf is protected against cut and paste, and the search function doesn't work, either. From what I can tell, the memo does not specifically mention water boarding at all.
And note again the third paragraph I quoted from the story. Levin's opinion seems to be that water boarding would not (necessarily) qualify as torture if done on a limited basis and under close supervision ("could be illegal torture unless performed in a highly limited way and with close supervision").
And with that in mind, have a look at whack-job Keith Olbermann:
"'Water boarding is torture,' Daniel Levin was to write."
If that's what Levin wrote, then where did he write it?
Olbermann's take on the story isn't worth a day's flatulence from a flatworm if we don't get to the source of the claim.
I still haven't located the source for Olbermann's claim, but I did locate a version of the Levin 2004 memo that permits cuts, pastes, and searches.
In Simpson v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 326 F.3d 230 (D.C. Cir. 2003), the D.C. Circuit again considered the types of acts that constitute torture under the TVPA definition. The plaintiff alleged, among other things, that Libyan authorities had held her incommunicado and threatened to kill her if she tried to leave. See id. at 232, 234. The court acknowledged that "these alleged acts certainly reflect a bent toward cruelty on the part of their perpetrators," but, reversing the district court, went on to hold that "they are not in themselves so unusually cruel or sufficiently extreme and outrageous as to constitute torture within the meaning of the [TVPA]." Id. at 234. Cases in which courts have found torture suggest the nature of the extreme conduct that falls within the statutory definition. See, e.g., Hilao v. Estate of Marcos, 103 F.3d 789, 790-91, 795 (9th Cir. 1996) (concluding that a course of conduct that included, among other things, severe beatings of plaintiff, repeated threats of death and electric shock, sleep deprivation, extended shackling to a cot (at times with a towel over his nose and mouth and water poured down his nostrils), seven months of confinement in a "suffocatingly hot" and cramped cell, and eight years of solitary or near-solitary confinement, constituted torture); Mehinovic v. Vuckovic, 198 F. Supp. 2d 1322, 1332-40, 1345-46 (N.D. Ga. 2002) (concluding that a course of conduct that included, among other things, severe beatings to the genitals, head, and other parts of the body with metal pipes, brass knuckles, batons, a baseball bat, and various other items; removal of teeth with pliers; kicking in the face and ribs; breaking of bones and ribs and dislocation of fingers; cutting a figure into the victim's forehead; hanging the victim and beating him; extreme limitations of food and water; and subjection to games of "Russian roulette," constituted torture); Daliberti v. Republic of Iraq, 146 F. Supp. 2d 19, 22-23 (D.D.C. 2001) (entering default judgment against Iraq where plaintiffs alleged, among other things, threats of "physical torture, such as cutting off . . . fingers, pulling out . . . fingernails," and electric shocks to the testicles); Cicippio v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 18 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64-66 (D.D.C. 1998) (concluding that a course of conduct that included frequent beatings, pistol whipping, threats of imminent death, electric shocks, and attempts to force confessions by playing Russian roulette and pulling the trigger at each denial, constituted torture).Emphasis added to text emphasizing use of water.