U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, approved of an operation to kill or capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to a declassified reported released Friday.
In the four-page report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, officials said that 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.”
Officials also pointed to “the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and critic of the country’s leadership, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, 2018. Intelligence officials in the U.S. and Europe previously said they believed Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents and then dismembered, The Washington Post reported. His remains have not been found.
The public blaming of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amounted to an extraordinary rebuke and was likely to set the tone for the new administration’s relationship with a country President Joe Biden has criticized but which the White House also regards in some contexts as a strategic partner. During a 2019 interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” the prince said he took “full responsibility” for Khashoggi’s death “as a leader in Saudi Arabia,” though he denied any involvement in the killing.
On Thursday, Biden spoke with the crown prince’s father, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. Neither the White House nor the king’s officials said whether Khashoggi was mentioned on the call, according to the Post.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.