With new US administration, the Khashoggi case could resurface
Newly elected US president Joe Biden’s nominee for the post of Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, has told a US Senate panel that she would make public an intelligence report regarding the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, was killed in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after stepping in to get divorce papers.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been accused of ordering the murder, and the publication of the report could reinforce these accusations, but the Saudi government maintains the killing was carried out by rogue agents.
Even though the report is not classified, the former Trump administration had prevented its publication, despite the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2020.
Under it, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was mandated to turn over the report in unclassified form to Congressional committees, but decided to submit the classified form instead. ODNI’s decision was that releasing a Congressionally-mandated report on the murder of Khashoggi would "harm national security".
At a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on January 19, Haines was asked by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon whether she would be publish the report, she answered: "Absolutely, I will follow the law".
In a statement following the hearing, Wyden said: "It was refreshing to hear a straightforward commitment to follow the law from DNI-nominee Haines, after a year of stonewalling by the Trump administration to conceal the identity of who ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s murder".
Khashoggi was a Washington Post journalist and US resident who wrote critical columns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record and increasing authoritarianism, after years of being close to Saudi government officials.
He had become more critical with time and ended up being barred from publishing anything or appearing in the media after criticising Trump’s policy in the Middle East in late 2016. He ended up exiling himself from Saudi Arabia, and kept on writing about it until his gruesome death.
In an official statement last October, then-Presidential candidate Joe Biden said Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones deserved accountability, adding: "I will defend the right of activists, political dissidents, and journalists around the world to speak their minds freely without fear of persecution and violence".
"Jamal’s death will not be in vain, and we owe it to his memory to fight for a more just and free world."