United States intelligence agencies intercepted communications and messages of Saudi officials discussing plans to capture dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting they had wanted to try to lure him back to Saudi Arabia, according to a source with knowledge of the information.
Those communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence before Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi entered the building on October 2, but hasn’t been seen since doing so. Saudi officials say he left the building and went missing elsewhere; Turkish media reported, however, that Khashoggi never left, and is feared to have been killed by a Saudi hit squad.
What’s not made clear, according to a source with knowledge of the communications gathered by U.S. intelligence, is whether Saudi officials had planned merely to capture Khashoggi or to interrogate or kill him, according to reports from Bloomberg. It also wasn’t clear whether the U.S. warned Khashoggi about the danger his life was in before he entered the consulate building.
Saudi officials, after first denying his disappearance, seemed poised earlier this week to acknowledge that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation attempt. However, officials have not made comments since those reports came out.
Turkish media has reported that they have heard recordings of the torture and death of Khashoggi, whom they say was dismembered while still alive.
Khashoggi was a journalist who wrote opinion articles against the crackdowns of dissidence within the nation of Saudi Arabia. He himself was forced into voluntary exile, he said, after officials in his home nation told him to stop writing. He continued writing a column for the Washington Post, expressing the desire to see democratic rights accepted in Saudi Arabia.
He entered the consulate in Turkey on October 2 in order to obtain documents to facilitate a divorce from his wife in his home country.
Perhaps disturbingly, President Donald Trump seems to be ignoring his own intelligence, and has appeared to have sided with the Saudis, expressing his desire to treat them as innocent until proven guilty, and not the other way around.
“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” Trump said to reporters earlier this week, referencing their questions on what he believed happened to the journalist.