CIA deputy director asked to testify in torture trial
Gina Haspel, who was appointed to the post in early February, was named in the court filing on Tuesday that requested Judge Justin Quackenbush compel her deposition in a lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, two psychologists who developed the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding.
Attorneys for Jessen and Mitchell filed the motion after the Trump administration informed them it would “not authorize” the deposition, according to the Guardian. They say the deposition would help show that their clients’ actions or inactions were “within the scope of legally and validly conferred authority.”
“Ms. Haspel was centrally involved in the events alleged in plaintiffs Sulaiman Abdulla Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Obaid Ullah, on behalf of Gul Rahman’s… suit against Defendants for actions they purportedly took while contractors for the CIA,” wrote Brian Paszamant, one of the attorneys for the former contractors.
Rahman died in November 2002 at a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan known as “the Salt Pit.” The facility was one of the “black sites,” secret detention centers operated by US intelligence in a number of countries across the world.
Haspel, a decorated CIA veteran with over 30 years of covert service, is rumored to have run a black site in Thailand at some point, where Al-Qaeda militant Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. Acting as a deputy to former Counterterrorism Center chief Jose Rodriguez, Haspel reportedly wrote the notice ordering the videotapes of Abu Zubaydah's interrogation destroyed in 2005, according to NPR.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rahman and the three surviving detainees in 2015, after the Obama administration declined to press criminal charges against the two psychologists for designing the interrogation techniques.
Quackenbush has already granted the defense lawyers’ request for testimony from Rodriguez and former CIA attorney John Rizzo. Their depositions are scheduled for March.
Trump’s appointment of Haspel was criticized by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), both members of the Intelligence Committee, who wrote that “her background makes her unsuitable for the position.”
Former CIA Director Michael Morell, who openly endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, has called Haspel “simply exceptional” and “widely respected.”