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, a step by the Biden administration to remind the world of the brutal killing and temper relations with the Saudi government.
Much of the evidence the C.I.A. used to draw that conclusion remains classified, including 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 Mr. Khashoggi’s death.
The release of the report also signaled that President Biden, unlike his predecessor, would not set aside the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and that his administration intended to attempt to isolate the crown prince, although it will avoid any measures that would threaten ties to the kingdom. Administration officials said their goal was a recalibration, not a rupture, of the relationship.
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 facto 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.
“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 Mr. Biden’s director of national intelligence, Avril D. Haines.
The Biden administration also announced penalties against Saudi officials, including a travel ban and freezing of assets of the kingdom’s former intelligence chief and sanctions against members of a paramilitary unit that took part in the assassination. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also announced a “Khashoggi Ban,” allowing his department to impose visa restrictions on people suppressing or harming journalists, activists and dissidents. He said 76 Saudis accused of threatening journalists or dissidents overseas would be initially subject to the ban.
But the administration stopped short of sanctioning Prince Mohammed himself, an attempt to not completely break relations with Saudi Arabia, which remains an important American partner in the Middle East.
The four-page report contained few previously undisclosed major facts. It reiterated 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 permanent resident of Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government. The report 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.
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