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US lawmakers will take on Trump to declassify report on Khashoggi killing

Lawmakers will trigger a 1976 law to force the government to declassify the report [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 March, 2020

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Lawmakers will now invoke a little-known law under which the US Senate can release information about Khashoggi's death, even if doing so is against the public interest.
US lawmakers on Tuesday called for the declassification of a new intelligence report on the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, describing the Trump administration's silence on the matter as "deafening".

Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was assassinated in October 2018 by Saudi government agents in the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to those who have seen the report, the US intelligence community concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had played a central role in directing those involved in Khashoggi's murder - a conclusion Riyadh vehemently rejects.

In December last year, congress passed a defence act which featured a provision requiring the US intelligence community to submit an unclassified report revealing the names of every Saudi official complicit in "the directing, ordering, or tampering of evidence in the killing of Khashoggi".

Yet last month, US lawmakers were sent a fully classified document by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The umbrella organisation justified the move by arguing that a public release would jeopardise agencies' sources and methods.

Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, soon wrote to the organisation's acting director, Richard Grenell, urging him to reconsider the decision.

Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on the US Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters on Tuesday that lawmakers now sought to trigger a 1976 law to force the government to declassify the report.

Read also: Khashoggi documentary 'The Dissident' lands at Sundance Film Festival

"There is a total and complete cover-up. If our country and our partners do nothing in the face of this barbaric act it sends a message to the world that it is open season on journalists", Wyden said.

If the select committee votes to disclose the information, President Trump will have five days to submit a written appeal, arguing that the information's release poses a threat to national security which outweighs public interests. 

A senate vote will then be required to finalise the decision.

Senator Wyden was flanked by the fiancee of the slain journalist on Tuesday, Hatice Cengiz, who also addressed reporters.

"It has been 518 days we have been denied the truth. It has been 518 days we have been denied justice," Cengiz said. 

"I am here today to support Senator Wyden's calls for public release of the DNI report and any other related intelligence so we know the answer to some of our critical questions," she added.

US lawmakers were supported in their call for declassification by human rights advocacy groups, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, PEN America and the Project on Middle East Democracy.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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