WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The head of the US House Intelligence Committee pressed newly confirmed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify a report on the 2018 killing of columnist Jamal Khashoggi “without delay”.
The request – by Representative Adam Schiff of California – follows Ms Haines’s vow during her confirmation hearing to declassify the intelligence.
In a letter on Friday (Jan 22), Mr Schiff said he’s particularly interested in having the classified annex to the report – previously provided to Congress – declassified, essentially making it a public document.
Further public airing of details of the Khashogghi killing will provide an early test for the relationship between President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who enjoyed strong ties to the Trump administration.
Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi-insider-turned critic who was living in the United States and wrote columns for the Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, causing a global outcry.
The Post reported that the CIA concluded with a high degree of confidence that the Crown Prince ordered the assassination, but Saudi officials denied he played any role, saying the murder was carried out by rogue agents.
“The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an assault on human rights,” Mr Schiff tweeted on Friday. “I have asked Director Haines to declassify this report. There must be accountability and justice.”
The international outrage sparked by the murder initially threatened to derail the Saudi government’s economic transformation plan to diversify away from oil, spooking investors and damaging the kingdom’s reputation.
But the furor gradually faded, and many businesspeople who cancelled appearances in Saudi Arabia at the time have since returned.
Former President Donald Trump made Saudi Arabia the centerpiece of his Middle East strategy, and he dismissed demands that he make human rights and the Khashoggi killing key issues in the US relationship with the kingdom, citing the risk of losing US arms sales.
At one point, Mr Trump said in regard to whether the Crown Prince had advance knowledge that Mr Khashoggi would be killed, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.”
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