Jefferson Morley | January 24, 2020
Did the Trump Administration Warn Jamal Khashoggi He Was in Danger?
Avi Asher-Schapiro asks the question at Lawfare: Did the Trump administration warn Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi was the Saudi insider and Washington Post columnist who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Khashoggi had been critical of Saudi Arab’s new and reckless Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman (MBS).
The CIA, led by director Gina Haspel (who had served in Turkey) investigated and concluded, much to President Trump’s displeasure, that MBS was responsible.
The Khashoggi affair is still reverberating in Washington, where MBS is both a pariah and a pal to the president’s son-in-law Jared Trump. The crown prince wants the world to move on, but that’s not happening.
If U.S. intelligence had knowledge that MBS had targeted Khashoggi, Asher-Schapiro notes, it had a legal obligation to warn him. (Asher-Schapiro is a research associate and tech reporter at the Committee to Protect Journalists.)
In January, we joined a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that forced the government to release documents outlining the “Duty to Warn” process, which requires U.S. intelligence officers to warn targets of “an impending threat of intentional killing, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping,” according to National Security Agency documents obtained in the suit. If an intelligence officer declines to warn a threatened subject, he or she must provide written justification for that decision, according to those documents.
The Trump administration will not say whether they followed these procedures to inform Khashoggi of the threat to his life, despite reporting indicating that U.S. intelligence agencies had prior knowledge of the threat posed to him by the Saudi government.
I don’t assume U.S. officials acquiesced in Khashoggi’s elimination but it’s not impossible either. Transparency is needed.