The US intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi says that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman was responsible, saying he approved the operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the reports executive summary states.
“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” the report says.
The report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence after previously being held back by the Trump administration, is based on a CIA report that concluded in November 2018 that the Saudi crown prince ordered the killing. Biden called Saudi Arabia’s King Salman late Thursday but the White House readout did not mention the report, instead of saying the two discussed continued work on “mutual issues of concern.”
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi Arabian dissident and columnist who fled his native country in 2017, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate office in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018, to retrieve documents for his impending marriage.
While there, he was restrained, murdered and at some point dismembered by a doctor who wielded a bone saw, according to audio caught on listening devices inside the consulate. Turkish journalists who heard the surveillance tapes wrote in a book that Saudi agents had planned the killing. “We will first tell him that we are taking him to Riyadh. If he fails to comply, we will kill him here and get rid of the body,” they were overheard saying.
Khashoggi is later heard asking, “Are you going to give me drugs?” His final words were, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
A struggle then ensued before a man asked, “Did he sleep?” Another voice commanded: “Keep pushing.”
Later, a doctor is heard describing the dismemberment. “Joints will be separated,” he is heard saying. “If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished.” His body has never been found.
The Saudi government initially denied he had been killed, but later said rogue agents had carried out the horrific crime. A body double dressed in his clothes was seen leaving the consulate in an effort to cover up the killing.
General Ahmed al-Assiri, a Saudi intelligence agent, later admitted he had formally ordered agents to try to convince Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia but had not authorized the use of force if he refused, according to The Washington Post.
Eight Saudi men were eventually charged and convicted for their role in a questionable trial. All five who were sentenced to death saw their sentences commuted to 20 years. The Saudi court said the Khashoggi relatives had forgiven them, paving the way to a lighter sentence.
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiance, filed a lawsuit in the United States against Bin Salman, who is widely known as MBS, over the murder. It is unclear how this report will impact that suit.
During the presidential campaign, Biden accused MBS of ordering the murder and vowed the U.S. would not sell weapons to Saudis, instead of making them “the pariah that they are.” He told reporters earlier this week that he had read the intel report on Khashoggi’s killing and planned to speak to Saudi Arabian King Salman over the phone soon.
By contrast, the Trump administration had refused to release the report, claiming that revealing it would “compromise the national intelligence office’s sources and methods.”
Biden has also ended American support for the Saudi-led conflict in Yemen and discussed resuming talks with Iran—moves the Saudi kingdom adamantly opposes.