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Waterboarding is a method of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages, causing the captive to believe he or she is dying. Waterboarding is considered a form of torture by legal experts, politicians, war veterans, medical experts in the treatment of torture victims, intelligence officials, military judges and human rights organizations.

In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, waterboarding precipitates an almost immediate gag reflex. While the technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage, it can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage or, if uninterrupted, death. Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.

In 2007 it was reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was using waterboarding on extrajudicial prisoners and that the Department of Justice had authorized the procedure, a revelation that sparked a worldwide political scandal. Al-Qaeda suspects upon whom the CIA is known to have used waterboarding are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. According to Justice Department documents, the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed provided information about a potential 9/11-type attack on Los Angeles.

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