DoJ Official Experienced Waterboarding, Told WH It Is Illegal, Was ‘Forced Out’

Last night, ABC World News reported that in 2004 then-acting assistant attorney general Daniel Levin was so concerned about the administration’s use of waterboarding that he went to a military base near Washington and underwent the procedure himself.

Levin took over former Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith’s job when he resigned and immediately began reassessing the administration’s interrogation techniques. Levin released a new memo in Dec. 2004 that replaced the 2002 Bybee memo. Levin’s memo declared that “Torture is abhorrent” but also cautioned in a footnote that his memo was not declaring the administration’s previous opinions illegal. “The White House, with Alberto Gonzales as the White House counsel, insisted that this footnote be included in the memo.”

ABC reported that after Levin personally experienced waterboarding, he told the White House that it could be considered torture:

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.

Levin was working on a second memo that would have imposed tighter controls on the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. While working on that memo, ABC reported “Levin was forced out of the Justice Department when Alberto Gonzales became Attorney General.” Watch it:

ABC’s Jan Crawford Greenburg reported, “Sources said Levin was seen as too independent by the Bush administration — not someone who could be counted on to endorse White House policies.”

The Swamp’s Mark Silva writes, “Perhaps Mukasey should take the water-board for a test-ride, too.”