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Former US Official: Khashoggi Report Abuse of Intelligence Power

Former US Official: Khashoggi Report Abuse of Intelligence Power

Sunday, 7 March, 2021 - 13:15
Kirsten Fontenrose. (The Atlantic Council)

Kirsten Fontenrose, a US official in office at the time of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, said the 2018 intelligence assessment of the crime — on which the 2021 assessment is based — was “an abuse of the intelligence community’s power.”

Fontenrose, who was serving as senior director for Gulf affairs at the National Security Council at the time of the murder, said the assessment was not based on any damning evidence.

Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake told The Lancet that Fontenrose, who worked for the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, informed him that she was very concerned with the report.

She was “so concerned at the time 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 based on supposition and triangulation and being used to force your hand,’” he wrote.

The one-page assessment that was released by the American administration was not based on any human sources or documented evidence, rather it was based on supposition and false assumptions.

After Fontenrose’s argument with the CIA, the agency then went on to produce a less classified version of the report, making it possible to spread it far and wide, said Lake. “That meant that every senior national security adviser on the hill now had access to it,” Fontenrose said. “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.”

“For the Washington establishment, the Khashoggi story was a morality play about the politicization of intelligence,” whereby the “intelligence community sought to portray supposition as fact, egged on by a press corps that saw itself engaged in a cosmic struggle of good versus evil” with then President Donald Trump, said Lake.

“Fontenrose told me that the declassified document released last month used very similar language to the classified report that crossed her desk in 2018,” he continued.

“The only piece of this that is high confidence is the last paragraph,” she said, noting that this paragraph lists the names of people involved in the case, but makes no mention of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

In September 2020, the Saudi general prosecution closed the Khashoggi case after issuing jail sentences, totaling 124 years, against eight people.

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