Saudis discussed plan to lure Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, US intercepts show

The US has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi ...

Posted: Oct 12, 2018 9:04 AM
Updated: Oct 12, 2018 9:04 AM

The US has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence.

Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist and critic of the regime, has been missing for more than a week after going to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for an appointment that he had scheduled to obtain wedding papers. Turkish officials privately believe he was killed at the consulate, an allegation denied by Saudi Arabia, which says he left the consulate the day he arrived.

Continents and regions

Jamal Khashoggi

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Misc people

Saudi Arabia

Donald Trump

Embassies and consulates

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

International relations

International relations and national security

Investigations

North America

Political Figures - US

State departments and diplomatic services

The Americas

Turkey

United States

US federal government

White House

The official said it is unclear if the original plan was to murder Khashoggi or if something went wrong at the consulate and that he might have been killed during an attempt to kidnap him. Getting Khashoggi to the consulate appears to have been a backup plan, the source said, because he couldn't be persuaded to fly back to Saudi Arabia.

The official said there is no hard evidence as to whether Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, is dead or alive.

The source did not say when the United States became aware of the discussions. As CNN reported earlier this week, intercepted communications were being reviewed in the wake of Khashoggi's disappearance.

The official would not go so far as to say Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the operation, but said that, although he may not have known the specifics, such a plan couldn't have taken place without his approval.

The Washington Post first reported the details of the intercepts.

Khashoggi was in regular contact with Saudi authorities in 2017 about taking on a more prominent role in the Kingdom, including discussions about government support for a think tank he would lead, a source who knows the journalist told CNN.

Khashoggi rejected the ideas proposed to him by the main interlocutor, a senior adviser within the Royal Court, according to the source. But that dialogue came to an end over the following months with Khashoggi's increasingly sharp criticism of the government, particularly its domestic policy and the crisis with Qatar.

In September 2017, for instance, Khashoggi wrote a Washington Post opinion piece entitled, "Saudi Arabia wasn't always this repressive. Now it's unbearable."

Senior Royal Court figures in Riyadh were especially infuriated by Khashoggi's criticism of the Saudi government's September 2017 decision to classify as terrorists the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, according to the source, who maintains high-level contact inside the kingdom.

Khashoggi at the time became more wary of returning to the kingdom, the source said.

US officials think it's possible the Crown Prince wanted Khashoggi silenced, but miscalculated the global impact his disappearance would have.

Friends of Khashoggi, who have asked to stay anonymous for fear of being connected to him, have told CNN that there was an active campaign by the Saudi government and pro-Saudi government think tanks in Washington to convince him to stop criticizing bin Salman and get him back in the fold as an ally of the royal court.

One US-based friend told CNN that when Khashoggi would go to the Saudi embassy in Washington, officials would be nice to him and try to convince him that it would be safe to return home.

There is, however, no indication that this wooing campaign was connected to any plot to kidnap or kill Khashoggi.

An international affair

Earlier this week, bin Salman contacted the White House after it became clear he and the royal court were getting blamed for Khashoggi's murder, according to a person familiar with the call. Bin Salman asked specifically to speak with Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, to deny the accusations.

White House national security adviser John Bolton also joined the call, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a separate conversation with the Crown Prince, sending a signal to bin Salman that he could not circumvent Trump's Cabinet officials.

US President Donald Trump is facing increased pressure over the Khashoggi case as he walks the US-Saudi relationship tightrope. Late Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators wrote to the President, calling for the White House to determine what happened to Khashoggi and whether sanctions should be imposed on whoever was responsible for his fate.

The letter, penned by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, triggers an investigation under legislation that allows the President to impose sanctions on individuals or countries that are deemed to have committed a human rights violation. The White House must respond within 120 days, setting out what actions it proposes to take.

Trump told "Fox and Friends" during an interview on Thursday morning that his administration was being "very tough" with Saudi Arabia as it investigates Khashoggi's disappearance.

"We have investigators over there and we're working with Turkey, and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened," Trump said, adding that US inquiries were making progress. "We're probably getting closer than you might think," he said.

Asked whether the United States has investigators on the ground in Turkey, the FBI would not confirm or comment. A Turkish diplomatic official has denied that the United States has sent investigators to Turkey to look into the Khashoggi case, saying the reports are "not true."

On Wednesday night, Trump told Fox News that it was too early to say how the United States might respond, but that blocking further arms sales to Saudi Arabia "would be hurting us."

A German diplomat who knows the missing journalist said he was stunned by the apparent lack of urgency from the United States one day after Khashoggi's disappearance, according to a senior diplomatic source. The German Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington immediately called several people in the US administration, including the State Department, and was surprised by their response.

"It seemed they weren't aware, and didn't see it as such a big deal," according to the source familiar with the phone calls.

On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Khaled bin Salman, was on his way back to Saudi Arabia, but not at the request of the Trump administration. She said the State Department had been in touch with the ambassador and expected information from him upon his return.

"As we have said from the beginning, we are not sure what happened to Jamal Khashoggi," she said. "We are all concerned about his whereabouts. We do not have information on his whereabouts or what happened to him."

Investigation continues

On Thursday, a Turkish presidential spokesperson said that a joint working group would be established "at the request of Saudi Arabia," according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Earlier in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that Turkey "cannot remain silent" on the disappearance of Khashoggi.

"We are currently investigating the event in all its dimensions. The event took place in our country. We cannot remain silent in the face of an event like this because it is not a normal occurrence," Erdogan said while returning on a flight from Hungary. He said security and intelligence forces "have been looking at all dimensions of this" and are looking especially closely at the country's entry and exit points.

Turkish officials have said that a 15-man team flew from Saudi Arabia into Istanbul on the day Khashoggi entered the consulate, and were present in the building at the same time as the journalist.

A Saudi source familiar with four of the 15 men told CNN that one is a former diplomat in London and an intelligence officer, and another is a forensics expert.

In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, a Saudi official said the kingdom "categorically" denies "any involvement in Jamal's disappearance."

"At this stage, our priority is to support the investigation, as opposed to responding to evolving comments not directly related to those efforts. Jamal's well being, as a Saudi citizen, is our utmost concern and we are focusing on the investigation as a means to reveal the truth behind his disappearance. Our sympathies go out to the family during this difficult time," the official said.

But a senior Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity told CNN that the Saudis were not cooperating with the investigation: "They are not open to cooperating."

Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancée, told CNN that although she is afraid that media reports of his death could be true, she wants to wait for a "final result" and still thinks "anything" could have happened to him.

Cengiz told the Turkish news agency Anadolu that Khashoggi's first visit to the consulate on the Friday before he went missing had gone smoothly.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926931

Reported Deaths: 9740
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1809132056
Ramsey749811054
Dakota68505591
Anoka64961589
Washington41119367
Stearns34021287
St. Louis29939416
Scott26281188
Wright26260226
Olmsted22677131
Sherburne19206130
Carver1687671
Clay12219108
Blue Earth1162171
Rice11578139
Crow Wing11318124
Chisago1005281
Kandiyohi9913108
Otter Tail9908130
Benton9174128
Beltrami8249100
Goodhue822699
Douglas7967101
Itasca779999
Mower740049
McLeod723384
Winona715158
Isanti711085
Steele695034
Morrison678681
Becker631675
Polk608987
Freeborn569947
Carlton552577
Mille Lacs539479
Lyon532961
Nicollet528561
Nobles527954
Pine521143
Cass505255
Todd496443
Brown473661
Le Sueur464736
Meeker437960
Martin391344
Waseca381433
Wabasha380110
Dodge366412
Hubbard357649
Roseau320532
Fillmore310115
Wadena306040
Redwood283845
Houston275317
Renville271651
Faribault261835
Sibley256017
Pennington254830
Kanabec254437
Cottonwood232933
Aitkin225052
Chippewa222043
Pope209910
Watonwan201121
Yellow Medicine189925
Koochiching179225
Rock178429
Swift174124
Stevens170211
Jackson162016
Clearwater159421
Marshall154822
Murray152911
Pipestone150929
Lake134124
Lac qui Parle124425
Wilkin122016
Mahnomen108314
Norman10579
Grant102410
Big Stone9585
Lincoln8915
Kittson74623
Red Lake71810
Traverse6086
Unassigned563124
Lake of the Woods5285
Cook3141

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 532160

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Unassigned64520
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
Rochester
Clear
wxIcon
Hi: 13° Lo: 5°
Feels Like: -5°
Mason City
Clear
wxIcon
Hi: 14° Lo: 7°
Feels Like: -4°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 11° Lo: 6°
Feels Like: 7°
Austin
Clear
wxIcon
Hi: 12° Lo: 5°
Feels Like: 5°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 16° Lo: 7°
Feels Like: -2°
A day to stay inside
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Full Forecast 12/6/21

Image

Oxbow Park Gets Improvements

Image

Research continues on Omicron and treatments 4

Image

Sean's Weather 12/6

Image

Sean's Weather 12/6

Image

MN DOC offering a $5,000 hiring bonus

Image

United Way second annual holiday light contest

Image

Asking Rochester residents about government surveillance

Image

Reviewing public safety camera policy

Image

Santa Run

Community Events