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Prosecutors Reviewing Request to Issue Arrest Warrant for Trump’s New CIA Director

Law & Crime logo Law & Crime 3/13/2018 Colin Kalmbacher
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Video by The Washington Post

Federal prosecutors in Munich are currently reviewing a request to issue an arrest warrant for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump‘s recently named director of the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”).

Haspel currently serves as the deputy director for the CIA and her nomination to head the agency must be approved by the U.S. Senate. Prior to her appointment as CIA deputy director, Haspel controversially ran a secret CIA prison in Thailand used to house, question, and allegedly torture detainees during the second Bush administration’s War on Terror.

Haspel’s tenure as “Chief of Base” at the prison–and what she did while serving in that role–is the subject of the arrest warrant request.

On June 6, 2017, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (“ECCHR”) initiated a request for legal action against Haspel by filing an intervention with the German Federal Public Prosecutor, the foremost law enforcement authority in the Federal Republic of Germany. This office is led by Attorney General Peter Frank.

ECCHR’s legal intervention was made by way of a 6-page document titled, “CIA Torture: Submission on Gina Haspel to German Federal Prosecutor.” Immediately after ECCHR submitted their request, Frank’s office confirmed that this request was received and was being formally reviewed.

According to Deutsche Welle, the German equivalent of PBS, the investigation into Haspel is presently ongoing and Frank’s office has yet to rule on ECCHR’s request. ECCHR reiterated their request in February 2017–when Haspel was named deputy director of the CIA. ECCHR’s request was once again reiterated on Tuesday–after news broke regarding Haspel’s potential promotion.

ECCHR’s request is based on an alleged violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 3. This article prohibits torture and “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There are no recognized exceptions or limitations on the right not to be subject to torture under this section.

In a statement, ECCHR’s General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck said:

Those who commit, order or allow torture should be brought before a court – this is especially true for senior officials from powerful nations. The prosecutor must, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, open investigations, secure evidence and seek an arrest warrant. If the deputy director travels to Germany or Europe, she must be arrested.

The CIA’s torture program has been admitted to by former President Barack Obama, in official U.S. government reports, various high-level officials, whistleblowers and participants. Initially denied, the torture program’s existence and Haspel’s role in said program are now a matter of public record.

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From 2002 to 2005, Haspel was an active participant in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. The term “extraordinary rendition” is a soft euphemism for the CIA’s illegal kidnapping and torture program administered at so-called CIA “black sites”—a series of off-the-books prisons where CIA agents and assets regularly allegedly tortured detainees over the course of several years.

Haspel’s identity and role in the CIA’s torture program was previously concealed by its classification regime. However, when Haspel was designated deputy director of the agency in February 2017, her role in the program became more clear.

Specifically, Haspel was in charge of the CIA’s “Cat’s Eye,” a secret prison located in Thailand. Haspel oversaw the daily torture of detained individuals at Cat’s Eye.According to media accounts and the memoirs of former CIA personnel, Haspel was personally involved in the torture of one Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah.

In July of 2002, Haspel sent the following cable regarding Zubaydah’s eventual torture:

Team is ready to move to the next phase of interrogations immediately upon receipt of approvals/authorization from ALEC/Headquarters. It is our understanding that DOJ/Attorney General approvals for all portions of the next phase, including the water board, have been secured, but that final approval is in the hands of the policy makers.

Infamously, Zubaydah was then waterboarded at least 83 times. Haspel allegedly oversaw the two psychologists–Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. These two men “designed the torture techniques and who actually carried out torture on the prisoners,” according to CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou who was prosecuted by the Obama administration for leaking classified information about the CIA’s torture program.

Eventually, the CIA was forced to admit that Zubaydah was not affiliated with al-Qaeda and had never taken up arms against the United States.

Torture is illegal under various international pacts and treaties to which the U.S. is bound as a state party. Torture is also illegal under U.S. domestic law. On April 16, 2009, then-president Barack Obama announced blanket immunity for any and all U.S. officials engaged in the Bush administration’s torture program.

Law&Crime reached out to the ECCHR and the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office for comment and clarification on this story, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication. This story will be updated if and when such information is received.

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

Editor’s note: Varvara Budetti contributed to this report. Anna Marie and Alen Becirovic helped with translations.

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