FACT CHECK: Will Trump’s Pick For CIA Chief Be Arrested If She Steps Foot In Europe?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

MSNBC host Joy Reid retweeted a claim Monday that President Donald Trump’s pick for the next CIA director cannot travel to Europe due to an outstanding warrant for her arrest.

“The incoming head of the CIA can’t travel to Europe because there is a warrant for her arrest for war crimes ….Let that sink in,” the now-deleted tweet read.

Verdict: False

Although an advocacy group requested that German authorities issue an arrest warrant for CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, Germany has not issued any such warrant.

Fact Check:

Trump recently announced that he will nominate current CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his secretary of state and, in turn, choose Haspel to replace Pompeo at the helm of the spy agency. Haspel’s nomination has been met with controversy due to her reported involvement in Bush-era CIA “enhanced interrogation” programs.

Due to the classified nature of these programs, the specific role she may have played is unclear, but Haspel was allegedly in charge of a secret CIA prison in Thailand when a suspected terrorist was subjected to interrogation methods such as waterboarding. She later reportedly helped destroy video evidence of interrogation activities.

Many have argued that methods of enhanced interrogation like waterboarding should be considered torture. Torture is broadly prohibited by the terms of the 1949 Geneva Convention in addition to the charter of the European Union (EU), which specifically recognizes waterboarding as a form of torture.

Some have accordingly claimed over social media that Haspel committed war crimes and cannot travel to Europe because she has a warrant out for her arrest.

The Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) sought an arrest warrant for Haspel in June, filing a criminal complaint with Germany’s federal prosecutor. If successful, an arrest warrant issued by Germany would be valid throughout the EU.

The group’s complaint argues,

Given the systematic torture by the CIA in the years 2002 to 2005 – confirmed by the US Senate Intelligence Committee report – the publication of Gina C. Haspel’s name and previous roles has given rise to a very strong basis for suspicion. The next step would be the issuance of an arrest warrant for her. We call for the appropriate measures to be taken should Gina C. Haspel travel to Germany or the Schengen Area.

But German authorities have not issued a warrant for Haspel’s arrest. They launched a preliminary review of ECCHR’s complaint, but a German federal prosecutor and spokeswoman recently told Law&Crime that, due to concerns about jurisdictional authority, the agency has not conducted an official investigation into Haspel.

ECCHR has been campaigning against post-9/11 interrogation programs by the U.S. for around a decade and has previously lodged complaints against top U.S. officials including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush in European courts.

Haspel first came under fire from the group only after she entered the public limelight when she was appointed deputy director of the CIA in February 2017. In a recent interview with “Democracy Now!,” ECCHR founder and general secretary Wolfgang Kaleck explained,

We decided to target her, in particular, last year, when she was employed as the deputy director, because as a deputy director, she is traveling a lot around the world. And therefore, we think it’s important that the justice – the judicial authorities in Germany, but also in other European countries, make – try to investigate her role in Thailand and elsewhere, and that they are prepared, if Gina Haspel travels to our countries, that they eventually arrest her.

This is not the first time that Haspel’s name has come up in complaints about U.S. interrogation activities. Haspel was asked to be interviewed as part of a 2017 lawsuit by three men who claimed to have been subjected to interrogation methods like waterboarding as part of a CIA program in which she was reportedly involved. Government lawyers asserted that Haspel and other officials were protected under the state secrets privilege.

Others have suggested that Haspel could be liable for criminal prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC), an international tribunal that prosecutes war crimes and crimes against humanity. Neither the U.S. nor Thailand – where Haspel reportedly oversaw the secret CIA prison – however, have ratified the treaty granting the ICC authority to try its citizens.

Reid did not respond to a request for comment.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter