Saudi Prince Approved Khashoggi’s Death, U.S. Report Says


WASHINGTON — Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia approved the plan for operatives to assassinate the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to a previously classified intelligence report released on Friday by the Biden administration.

Much of the evidence the C.I.A. used to draw its conclusion remains classified, including details from recordings of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and dismemberment at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul that were obtained by Turkish intelligence. But the report does outline who carried out the killing, describe what Prince Mohammed knew about the operation and lay out how the C.I.A. concluded that he ordered it and bears responsibility for the death of Mr. Khashoggi.

The release of the report also signaled that President Biden, unlike his predecessor, would not set aside the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and that the Biden administration intended to attempt to isolate the crown prince, although it will avoid any measures that would threaten to break ties to the kingdom.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” said the report, issued by the director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines.

The report’s disclosure was the first time the U.S. intelligence community has made its conclusions public, and the declassified document is a powerful rebuke of Prince Mohammed, the de factor ruler of Saudi Arabia and a close ally of the Trump administration, whose continued support of him after Mr. Khashoggi’s killing prompted international outrage.

The conclusion was already widely known, and the four-page report contained few previously undisclosed major facts. The report contains the C.I.A.’s conclusion from the fall of 2018 that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and legal resident of Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government. The report declassified on Friday was written a year ago after Congress, which had been briefed on the underlying findings, passed a law mandating intelligence agencies’ conclusions be declassified and released.

But the declassified report still has the power to shock given the brutality of the assassination. Saudi officials lured Mr. Khashoggi to the consulate, where they killed him and were said to use a bone saw to dismember his body.

Hatice Cengiz, Mr. Khashoggi’s fiancée, has sued Prince Mohammed and other Saudi officials in American courts under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991.

Turkish intelligence made a tape of Mr. Khashoggi’s interrogation and killing, which they played for Gina Haspel, then the C.I.A. director. Not long after, the agency told lawmakers that it had concluded Prince Mohammed was culpable in the killing.

Because the recording was collected by Turkey, an allied country, it was not within the power of the C.I.A. to declassify a transcript of the recording, at least not without the blessing of Ankara, current and former officials said.

The report was not expected to officially confirm other details of the murder, such as the hit team’s use of a bone saw, the assassins’ request that a message be passed to Prince Mohammed that their mission was complete or the crown prince’s earlier threats to use a bullet to silence Mr. Khashoggi.

Such details are part of the mosaic of facts that led the C.I.A. to conclude Prince Mohammed gave the order to kill Mr. Khashoggi. But the entire set of facts the C.I.A. used to draw its conclusion remains classified to protect the agency’s sources of information and methods of collecting secrets in the kingdom, according to American officials.

After Mr. Khashoggi’s killing became public, Saudi officials sought to deflect blame from the crown prince. The Saudi government imprisoned eight people in connection with Mr. Khashoggi’s death, trying them largely secretively. Although five were originally sentenced to death, after one of Mr. Khashoggi’s sons said he and his siblings had forgiven the men who killed their father, a Saudi court reduced the sentences to prison terms.

In November 2018, President Donald J. Trump released an exclamation-filled statement, which was at once dissembling and candid. Aiming to move past Mr. Khashoggi’s killing and continue his close relationship with the Saudi government, Mr. Trump talked about the importance of arms sales and the threat of Iran and said Prince Mohammed’s involvement was uncertain. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information,” Mr. Trump wrote, “but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

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