Saudis Deny Reported CIA Conclusion That Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi Assassination

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.


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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.


The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of outspoken Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to media reports.

Washington Post journalist Shane Harris, who was part of the team that broke the story, told NPR’s Weekend Edition that the CIA drew its conclusion from “a number of different streams of intelligence.”

The agency wasn’t just factoring in audio from inside the Turkish consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi walked in to obtain a marriage license and never walked out.

“You also have intercepted phone calls, including one quite chillingly that we understand came from someone who was a member of that hit team inside the consulate, phoning back to a senior aid to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saying, essentially, the job is done,” Harris said.

The CIA also used a phone call between the prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, and Khashoggi to reach their conclusion, the newspaper reported.

It also assessed how the Saudi government functions, Harris said, “and their conclusion was that nothing of this scale, an operation like this, could possibly have happened without the crown prince knowing about it and authorizing it.”

Speaking on Saturday, President Trump emphasized that Saudi Arabia was “a truly spectacular ally” in terms of business and economic development.

Regarding the crown prince, who has a close relationship with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump said, “As of this moment, we were told that he did not play a role, we’re gonna have to find out what they say.” He said the CIA will be speaking with him as he travels on Saturday.

That contradicts what Harris told NPR. “We should note too that the president has been briefed on the CIA’s findings and what we understand is that he keeps resisting them because he doesn’t have, I guess, the smoking gun. He keeps asking, ‘Well where is the body?’ Or, show the me definitive proof that Mohammed bin Salman ordered this.”

NPR has not independently confirmed the Post’s reporting, which cites unnamed sources. The CIA declined to comment to NPR.

The crown prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman took to Twitter on Friday to deny the phone call between him and the slain journalist, saying the only communication the two men had was “via text on Oct. 26, 2017.”

“I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim,” Khalid bin Salman said in a tweet.

Saudi officials have denied that the crown prince had any role in Khashoggi’s death.

Since his disappearance, Saudi officials have produced numerous and contradictory explanations for Khashoggi’s whereabouts, or lack thereof.

They first said that Khashoggi left the consulate the same day he arrived to get a marriage license on Oct. 2. As evidence slowly unraveled, officials then said a fistfight broke out between Khashoggi and a 15-man team that was sent to Istanbul.

As a longer thread of narratives produced by the Saudi government continued to come apart, officials admitted that Khashoggi did in fact die inside the Saudi consulate, but distanced the crown prince from any connections to his death.

“We believe he was probably suffocated. He may have been choked,” Harris told NPR. The audio from the consulate seemed to indicate that after Khashoggi died, there was conversation about what to do with his remains, Harris said.

All men allegedly involved in the killing of Khashoggi have since been identified by Turkish authorities.

The Turkish government handed audio recordings of Khashoggi’s killing to the United States and other countries.

“We gave them the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference in Ankara, Turkey.

As to why the crown prince allegedly ordered a hit on Khashoggi, the CIA reportedly developed a theory that Mohammed bin Salman believed the journalist was an Islamist nursing sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood. The crown prince said as much to Kushner and national security adviser John Bolton in the days after Khashoggi vanished, the Post reported.

In response to Khashoggi’s killing, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against 17 Saudi officials, including senior officials but not the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor seeks the death penalty for five out of the 11 men charged in Khashoggi’s killing.

Khashoggi’s remains have not yet been recovered.

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