The latest report released by the Biden Administration on the murder of late journalist Jamal Khashoggi; was an “abuse of the intelligence community’s power,” according to a former member of the US National Security Council.
In a column published in the digital magazine Tablet, Eli Lake; a fellow at the Clement Center for National Security at the University of Texas, Austin, said she had recently interviewed Kirsten Fontenrose; who was serving as senior director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council at the time of Khashoggi’s murder.
In the interview, Fontenrose said she believed there was “insufficient evidence” in the report declassified by US President Joe Biden; which alleged that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 operation that led to the murder of Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry has denied the allegations following the report’s publication.
Fontenrose had commented that the assessments targeting the Crown Prince offered no proof of his involvement; instead citing it as “an abuse of the intelligence community’s power;” according to the interview.
At the time, Fontenrose said that she warned the CIA that if the report was included in the president’s daily intelligence briefing, she would attach a memo that warned him; “this is intelligence upon supposition and triangulation and being used in order to force your hand,” the column read.
Fontenrose also stressed there was nothing new in the repackaged Khashoggi report released by the Biden team.
“The only piece of this that is high confidence is the last paragraph,” said Fontenrose; noting that this paragraph lists the names of the Saudi men outed by Turkish intelligence at the time; but makes no mention of the Crown Prince.
“Fontenrose told me that the 2018 assessment provided no “smoking gun” proof of the Crown Prince’s role in a murder plot,” Lake wrote.
“Without that smoking gun there is insufficient justification to trash the US-Saudi relationship when bin Salman is going; in order to lead that country for decades unless the US wants to get back into the business of regime change.”
Less classified report
After Fontenrose’s argument with the CIA, the agency then deliberately produced a less classified version of the report, also making it possible to spread it far and wide, Lake wrote.
“That meant that every senior national security adviser on the hill now had access to it. They released it on the day Congress came back into session; knowing that these guys would all come back from recess and it would cause an explosion;” Fontenrose said, according to the column.
Saudi Arabia’s government has since released a statement saying it completely rejects the negative, false; and unacceptable assessment made by the US following the declassification of the report.
Murdering Khashoggi was on October 2, 2018, after a fistfight broke out at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor had said at the time. He was visiting the consulate to complete paperwork related to his divorce.
At the time, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested 18 Saudis for investigation in connection with events surrounding Khashoggi’s murder.
The Crown Prince told CBS “60 Minutes” in 2019 that he takes “full responsibility”; for the murder of Khashoggi but denied allegations that he ordered it.
“When there is a crime against a Saudi citizen by officials, working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake. And I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future,” he said at the time.