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Torture, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, is "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

The Bush Administration claims that only practices are likely to cause severe physical damage (specifically organ failure or loss of life) qualify as torture, and has routinely practiced mental torture, stress positions, and waterboarding.

ABC News has reported that the National Security Council's Principals Committee met regularly to review torture plans for the CIA, which wanted assurances that it could not be accused of authorizing illegal torture on its own. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has begun hearings on these torture meetings.

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