Intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi's murder released

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 6:14 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021
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1:41 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

The report's conclusion was not expected to be a surprise. Here's why it matters.

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette

The US intelligence community just released a report on Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Its basic conclusion was not expected to be a surprise.

Shortly after Khashoggi's October 2018 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the CIA assessed with high confidence that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had personally ordered the murder. In June 2019, a United Nations investigator found that it was "inconceivable" the royal heir hadn't been aware of the operation.

Then-President Trump, however, refused to condemn the Saudi prince, even after it became clear that Saudi Arabia's initial claims that Khashoggi's killing was a rogue operation were baseless. Instead, Trump dismissed intelligence that the prince had had a hand in the killing, saying that "maybe he did, maybe he didn't," and stressing that billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia weren't worth sacrificing over the matter.

In contrast, President Biden declared during a November 2019 Democratic presidential candidates' debate that "Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince."

What the report's release means: The report's release will be just the latest shift Biden is making, with support from Congress, in relations with US ally Saudi Arabia. Democratic lawmakers are expected to introduce a resolution on Friday to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for Khashoggi's death and dismemberment as well as other human rights violations. 

Biden and administration officials have stressed that they are committed to the kingdom's security. At the same time, the President has ended US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen launched by the crown prince six years ago. Biden has also ordered an end to some weapons sales to the kingdom and will soon release the report, which is expected to highlight the prince's lawless abuse of fundamental human rights.

2:00 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Khashoggi operation would not have been carried out without crown prince's authorization, report says

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

The long-awaited intelligence report regarding the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi says that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has “absolute control” of the Saudi intelligence and security operation, meaning such an operation to target Khashoggi would not have been carried out without his authorization.

“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom's security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince's authorization,” the report says.

The report says that the 15-person Saudi team that arrived in Istanbul in October 2018 when Khashoggi was killed included members associated with the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs (CSMARC) at the Royal Court, led by a close adviser of bin Salman, as well as “seven members of Muhammad bin Salman's elite personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF).”

CNN's Kaitlan Collins breaks down the report: 

1:32 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

Biden spoke to the Saudi King yesterday ahead of the report's release

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette

Saudi's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Saudi's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images/FILE

President Biden spoke with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud yesterday, ahead of the release today of the long-awaited US intelligence report on the killing of Saudi insider turned dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

The US intelligence report on Khashoggi's murder says that that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman was responsible, saying he approved the operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.

There was no mention of Khashoggi on the White House readout of the call yesterday, which said Biden welcomed the release of several Saudi-American activists and "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law."

When asked Thursday by a reporter if it was a good call, the President replied, "Yes."

A source close to the Saudi government told CNN it "went well."

Some more context: Biden and administration officials have stressed that they are committed to the kingdom's security. At the same time, the President has ended US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen launched by the crown prince six years ago.

Biden has also ordered an end to some weapons sales to the kingdom and will soon release the report, which is expected to highlight the prince's lawless abuse of fundamental human rights.

1:23 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

What you need to know about Khashoggi's 2018 murder

Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014.
Jamal Khashoggi, looks on during a press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on December 15, 2014. Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images

The US just released an intelligence report about the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and a Washington Post columnist. Khashoggi was critical of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s policies.

He was killed and allegedly dismembered on Oct. 2, 2018, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by men with close ties to the highest levels of the Saudi government and bin Salman.

Shortly after Khashoggi's killing, the CIA assessed with high confidence that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had personally ordered the murder. In June 2019, a United Nations investigator found that it was "inconceivable" the royal heir hadn't been aware of the operation. 

Then-President Trump, however, refused to condemn the Saudi prince, even after it became clear that Saudi Arabia's initial claims that Khashoggi's killing was a rogue operation were baseless. Instead, Trump dismissed intelligence that the prince had had a hand in the killing, saying that "maybe he did, maybe he didn't," and stressing that billions of dollars in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia weren't worth sacrificing over the matter.

1:17 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

US intel report finds Saudi Crown Prince responsible for approving Khashoggi operation

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman  Bandar Algaloud/Saudi Kingdom Council/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images/FILE

The US intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi says that 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.

 

1:11 p.m. ET, February 26, 2021

The US intelligence report on Khashoggi's murder was just released

The US intelligence community just released a long-awaited report with new public details about those behind the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Not long after the Saudi journalist was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the CIA assessed with high confidence that Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had personally ordered the killing, but intelligence officials never spoke publicly or presented evidence.

A United Nations investigator found in June 2019 it was "inconceivable" that MBS wasn't aware of the operation.