Mamdouh al-Muhainy
Mamdouh al-Muhainy is the General Manager of Al Arabiya and Al Hadath.

The Khashoggi Report

Zero facts and one hundred percent analysis, as one Western commentator put it. This is how one could describe the CIA report on Khashoggi’s murder, which contained a blend of analysis and projections that are not based on clear facts. The report cannot stand in the face of a real test, and it would be difficult, even for those who celebrated it, to claim that the report provides concrete proof. It is composed of mere journalistic assessments that had been kept secret for a long time.

All of this leads us to a logical conclusion; the leaks and secret information passed on to the press about the Khashoggi assassination over the past three years had been based on speculation. From here, we can understand how the issue was politicized on a wide scale to achieve partisan and ideological objectives.

The Khashoggi case is not the only one about which inaccurate information has been leaked. Let us recall, for example, the case of the Trump administration’s ties to Russian agents, in which newspapers hostile to the former US president published information leaked from US intelligence agencies about clandestine collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Former CIA Director John Brennan openly accused Trump of treason and being a foreign agent. The rest of the story is well known; an extensive investigation was conducted by Special Investigator Robert Mueller, it cost nearly $50 million, many individuals were investigated, and the probe ultimately found Trump innocent of all the accusations that had been made by intelligence services for purely political reasons.

Before Jared Kushner had even taken office, information about him was revealed to be false and mere baseless speculation leaked by intelligence services. It was claimed that he had established secret channels of communication with the Russians to exchange information during the transition period. The whole story was speculative, and it had been conjured up to achieve political ends by using intelligence services as a tool. Intelligence agencies have not only been utilized to undermine foreign powers but sometimes even against the man living in the White House himself.

That is why such analysis and speculation have aroused criticism from US presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike. President Richard Nixon dubbed these analysts a group of clowns, and President Lyndon Johnson repeatedly asked what those analysts had been doing in the CIA building.

Moreover, let us recall that President Truman, during whose term the US intelligence agency was established, subsequently criticized it in a famous 1963 article for The Washington Post. He wrote about critical missteps that he thought should be rectified, the most prominent of which is the exploitation of the intelligence agency to compel presidents to make unwise decisions. He believed that the CIA had turned into something different and that it should go back to being an objective and quiet intelligence institution that does not serve any agendas. He also suggested that the president receive unadulterated information directly, without this information being passed on to other government institutions that could alter it.

That is, he wanted to isolate this agency from political and partisan agendas so that they do not submit to pressure or become driven by personal aspirations and biases that make it easy to cater the information to the desired narrative. We clearly see how this can happen in the Khashoggi report, which resembles a politicized rehashing of well-known leaks that had been published by propaganda outlets and dailies like the Turkish Yenisafak newspaper. It is for this reason that observers criticize this institution which, in contrast to other established institutions, has become a center for inaccurate leaks and a place for ideologues to spread their message. It thereby becomes easy prey, even for foreign intelligence services that know what they want and provide it with the information that they want published and that ultimately serves their interests.

This story has a history; it is nothing new, and the Khashoggi report is just one example. The three pages contain a series of estimations that wreak of internal partisan politics. With that, the report did not achieve the aims of those who want to ruin the historic relationship between Riyadh and Washington, a relationship that has been, for the past eight decades, the key driving force shaping the regional system as we know it today (if it didn’t exist… we would be living in a very different world). This was demonstrated by both the US officials’ statements about the supreme interests that bring the US and Saudi Arabia together and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement repudiating the report and emphasizing the solid and long-standing relationship between the two countries.