Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his closest adviser, who reportedly was in charge of Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, exchanged at least 11 messages the day the Saudi journalist was killed.
A highly classified CIA assessment report has evidence that the messages were exchanged before, during and after Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.
This is the strongest evidence yet that, contrary to multiple assertions from the Saudi government, the crown prince was directly involved in Khashoggi’s murder. In fact it appears that he not only ordered the assassination but also orchestrated it by sending messages to his senior adviser throughout the entire process.
The CIA included information about the messages in its classified assessment which concluded that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s death. The CIA has reported this conclusion with members of Congress and the White House, leading to conflicts within the U.S. government.
According to the Washington Post, MBS exchanged the messages on October 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his longest-serving and most trusted advisers. He has been known as the crown prince’s strongest public supporter and reportedly has kept a blacklist of those he believes to be disloyal to the Saudi kingdom.
The specific content of the messages between MBS and al-Qahtani has not been reported, and it is not even known exactly what form the messages took.
According to the Post:
“The CIA has rated its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing at “medium-to-high confidence,” and privately, officials have said it is inconceivable that the prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known about such an audacious operation. The Post had previously described officials as saying that the CIA had high confidence in its assessment.”
Khashoggi’s murder has emerged as a very serious threat to American-Saudi ties. Several U.S. senators have demanded that the White House be more open about the intelligence information it has obtained. They also have demanded to know whether the crown prince knew about the murder in advance or ordered it himself.
“The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without MBS being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions. The CIA has declined to comment. The Post said it had reviewed excerpts of the CIA assessment, which included electronic intercepts and other information.
President Trump has publicly questioned whether the crown prince’s role will ever truly be known and has given the impression that he is supportive of the official Saudi government position denying his involvement in the slaying.