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US intelligence report finds Saudi Crown Prince responsible for approving operation that killed Khashoggi

The US intelligence report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi says that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the Saudi journalist.”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 report’s executive summary states.”We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making 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.The Biden administration provided the long-awaited declassified intelligence report to Congress ahead of its public release on Friday.

The congressionally mandated release of the report followed a phone call President Joe Biden had with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on Thursday. The four-page report, titled “Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi” is dated February 11 and marked as declassified by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on February 25.The report notes bin Salman’s “absolute control” of Saudi intelligence and security operations.”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.It 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.”

On Thursday, administration officials hinted Biden may also be considering an announcement of some sort of punishment for the Saudis once the report was released.When asked if the administration would consider sanctions against those found responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday, “I expect that we will be in a position before long to speak to steps to promote accountability going forward for this horrific crime.”The report said that at the time of Khashoggi’s murder, “the crown prince fostered an environment in which aides were afraid that failure to complete assigned tasks might result in him firing or arresting them.”

Shortly after Khashoggi’s October 2018 death, the CIA assessed with high confidence that the crown prince had personally ordered the killing.As a candidate, Biden said Khashoggi was murdered “on the order of the crown prince” and that the country should be treated like “the pariah that they are.”