1. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Tucker, The Associated Press:
"So we learned today that U.S. intelligence officials believe they have assessed that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi and Jamal Khashoggi is, of course, the US based journalist who was murdered, brutally murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018."
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2. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Tucker, The Associated Press:
"The report does not directly accuse the crown prince of ordering the killing. What it says is that we assess that he approved an operation to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi. It's unclear how significant that distinction is, but I do think it's notable that the conclusion is not that he had ordered it as much as he approved it."
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3. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Tucker, The Associated Press:
"It is more significant that the administration is making it public and stating publicly what has been known informally for the last three years, so the idea that the crown prince was believed to be implicated or responsible in some way for Khashoggi's death is not new., we knew that through sources not long after it happened. So this intelligence assessment is not new, but it's incredibly significant that the Biden administration is making it public. Notably, that's not something that the Trump administration had been willing to do."
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4. SOUNDBITE (English) Eric Tucker, The Associated Press:
"The U.S. Saudi relationship is complicated because it is clear that in certain areas, including counterterrorism, for instance, in the Middle East, that the U.S. sees Saudi Arabia as an ally, as a partner. And in fact, the readout of the conversation that President Biden had with the king in Saudi Arabia made clear that there is a trusted partnership. However, this is going to be a difficult moment in the relationship because the Biden administration is making clear that the blame, the direct attribution, the approval for this operation of a U.S. Journalist falls at the feet of the kingdom. And it is the responsibility of of the crown prince who approved it. It doesn't say he ordered it, but certainly since he approved it."
Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday.
The finding could escalate pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew widespread outrage in the U.S. and abroad.
The public blaming of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amounted to an extraordinary rebuke and was likely to set the tone for the new administration's relationship with a country President Joe Biden has criticized but which the White House also regards in some contexts as a strategic partner.
The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, a critic of his authoritarian consolidation of power, was based on what intelligence officials know about his role in decision-making inside the kingdom as well as the involvement of one of his key advisers, Saud al-Qahtani, and members of his protective detail, according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Officials also factored in the prince's past support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, the report said.
As Democrats in Congress clamored for aggressive action, the State Department responded by announcing visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals involved in threatening dissidents abroad.
The declassified document was released one day after a later-than-usual courtesy call from Biden to Saudi King Salman, though a White House summary of the conversation made no mention of the killing and said instead that the men had discussed the countries' longstanding partnership.
The kingdom's state-run Saudi Press Agency similarly did not mention Khashoggi's killing in its report about the call, rather focusing on regional issues such as Iran and the ongoing war in Yemen.
Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival. Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours leading up to his killing.
A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi's body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains remain unknown.