A highly-anticipated U.S. intelligence assessment concluded that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to kill Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Khashoggi was murdered by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The two-page report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, based the conclusions on MBS’s “control of decision-making in the Kingdom,” the involvement of his advisers and “elite personal protective detail” in the operation, as well as the prince’s “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.”
According to the report, when Khashoggi was murdered, MBS had “absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence operations,” meaning it is not likely that he would have been unaware of the operation to kill Khashoggi. And because MBS “fostered an environment” where aides who failed to complete tasks were fired or arrested, “aides were unlikely to question [his] orders or undertake sensitive actions without his consent.” Finally, the report says that MBS “viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom” and supported using violent means to “silence him.”
In anticipation of the report’s release, President Joe Biden spoke with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman by phone on Thursday. In a statement issued after the call, Biden did not mention the report but said the two leaders discussed “regional security” and making the U.S.-Saudi relationship “as strong and transparent as possible.”
But Biden has promised accountability and justice for Khashoggi’s death. In an October 2020 statement, then-Democratic presidential nominee Biden said, “Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones deserve accountability. Under a Biden-Harris administration, we will reassess our relationship with the Kingdom, end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and make sure American does not check its values at the door in order to sell arms or buy oil.”
Asked how the administration intends to ensure that accountability, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, “I think there are a range of actions that are on the table.”