WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The Justice Department, in expanding its definition of torture, says the act is "abhorrent" to U.S. law and values.
In publishing its revision, the agency overtly repudiated one of the most criticized policy memorandums drafted during President Bush's first term, the Washington Post said Friday.
In a statement on the department's Web site, the head of its Office of Legal Counsel said "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms." He rejects a previous statement that only "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death" constitute torture punishable by law.
That earlier definition of torture figured prominently in complaints from Democrats and human rights groups about White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales.
Gonzales, who oversaw its creation, is Bush's nominee to become attorney general for the second term.
In the new Justice memo, Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin said torture may consist of acts that fall short of provoking excruciating and agonizing pain.