By Sarah Adamo
On the morning of Feb. 26, a U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi arrived, and its findings sent the country into an uproar.
The CIA has now established with high confidence Khashoggi was assassinated on orders from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salam, CNN reported. This reflects a prior comment released by a United Nations investigator in June 2019, saying that it was “inconceivable” for the de facto ruler to not have played a role in the fatal operation.
To explain this conclusion, the report states the following: “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 further contends that bin Salam has “absolute control” over Saudi intelligence and security operations, so an assassination attempt with Saudi agents would not have been deployed without his authorization.
An acclaimed Saudi journalist, Khashoggi collaborated with multiple Saudi news organizations to investigate major events like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the rise of the deceased al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, BBC News reports.
Despite his intimate connections to Saudi royalty and his service as a government adviser, Khashoggi went into self-imposed exile in the U.S. in 2017 when the relationship grew sour, as reported by BBC News.
While in America, the journalist contributed to the Washington Post with a column that denounced the government under the crown prince colloquially. According to BBC News, Khashoggi’s first column for the Post published in September 2017 held his prophetic fear of facing arrest by the Saudi administration because of his adversarial views.
On September 28, 2018, Khashoggi took a trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to procure divorce certificates so that he could wed his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, as detailed by BBC News. Once there, he was informed of the need to retrieve the document at a later date. According to his surviving fiancée, Khashoggi assumed that he would be safe from Saudi authorities on Turkish soil.
That fateful day of October 2, 2018, Khashoggi was seen departing from Ms. Cengiz before entering the consulate. Based on CCTV footage, the journalist disappeared after his entrance at 13:14 local time.
While the Saudi government initially denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts, it later released an October 20, 2018 statement after a supposed investigation. The announcement, as reported by BBC News, maintained that the journalist was killed amid a physical altercation that ensued after resisting attempts by agents to return him to Saudi Arabia.
It was revealed the next month that Khashoggi was restrained after a “fight” erupted and was injected with a drug that resulted in an overdose and his consequent death. It is speculated that his body was placed into a plastic bag where he was further smothered, dismembered and hidden somewhere in Turkey.
Apparently, the article adds, the agents responsible were sent by Saudi Arabia’s deputy intelligence chief. This information has since been contested and replaced by the well-founded conjecture that the crown prince ordered the killing.
Under the previous U.S. administration, President Donald Trump refused to condemn and assign blame to MBS for the killing. He reinforced instead, according to CNN, that billions of dollars in American arms sales to Saudi Arabia could not be sacrificed for a more decisive stance on the journalist’s assassination.
In contrast, the Biden administration has promised to ensure that the country only engages in partnerships that reflect its values such as freedom to articulate one’s beliefs without facing oppression, CNN reports.
Despite this reassurance, however, exiled Saudi dissidents within the U.S. condemned the president for failing to explicitly oppose MBS and demand justice for Khashoggi in an interview with The Guardian. They believe that the nation’s hesitance to do so will encourage the crown prince to subdue his opponents.
Khalid Aljabri, the son of a former senior Saudi official who was exiled to Canada, shared his thoughts on the meandering response of the Biden administration. “The Biden administration’s release of the ODNI report [into Jamal Khashoggi’s murder] is welcomed transparency, but the lack of direct accountability will give MBS permanent impunity, rendering him more dangerous,” he told The Guardian.