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Incoming US intel chief vows to release report on who ordered Khashoggi murder

Dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured on the poster) was murdered by Saudi regime agents in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018. (File photo by AFP)

US President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for the United States’ top intelligence position has pledged to release an unclassified report on who directed the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as per a congressional demand that the outgoing Donald Trump administration defied.

Biden’s nominee for director of national intelligence (DNI), Avril Haines, made the pledge during her confirmation hearing at the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday in response to a question by a ranking Senator on whether the DNI under her watch would release the Khashoggi report as mandated by Congress.

“Yes, senator, absolutely we’ll follow the law,” Haines said when pressed by Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden whether she would “submit to the Congress the unclassified report required by the law.”

The Senator reminded Haines that the US lawmakers had passed a law requiring the DNI to submit to Congress the unclassified report on who was responsible for the brutal murder of Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Wyden, who has been pushing for the release of the US intelligence community’s findings on Khashoggi’s killing, called on Haines to reverse the Trump administration’s “excessive secrecy and lawlessness.”

The incoming spy chief also responded affirmatively in written testimony — with a simple “Yes” — when asked a similar question about releasing the long-sought report.

Later on Tuesday, Wyden hailed Haines’ commitment to releasing the report in a Twitter post, saying, “This is huge: Incoming DNI, Avril Haines, just committed to releasing an unclassified report on the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

“For two years, I’ve been fighting for transparency and accountability for those responsible. We are closer than ever to getting #JusticeForJamal,” he added.

Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for both the US-based Washington Post and the UK-based Middle East Eye, was killed by Saudi regime agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

With Democrats set to control the Senate by the end of the month with the swearing-in of two new members who won races in Georgia earlier this year, Haines and other Biden appointees are expected to easily win confirmation, barring the emergence of any major opposition.

The outgoing administration of Republican President Trump had been pushing to shield the despotic Saudi regime from criticism, citing the Persian Gulf Arab kingdom’s arms purchases from the US — worth hundreds of billions of dollars — as well as Washington’s geopolitical alliance with the Saudi rulers against Iran’s growing influence in the region.

In Congress, however, many lawmakers have been pushing to punish Riyadh over Khashoggi’s murder, as well as the regime’s brutal military aggression against neighboring Yemen and other human rights abuses.

In late 2019, US legislators included a provision in the Pentagon budget calling on the DNI to submit to Congress within 30 days an unclassified report outlining “the advance knowledge and role” of any Saudi official in “the directing, ordering, or tampering of evidence in the killing of Khashoggi.”

More than a year after the passage of the legislation, Congress has only received a single unclassified page from the DNI stating that it will not release the information publicly to protect “sources and methods.”

The Washington Post has reported that the CIA established in late 2018 that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the murder — an assessment shared by lawmakers who received classified intelligence briefings on the assassination.

Meanwhile, the United Nations rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, who also found in 2019 that the killing of Khashoggi was a state-sanctioned crime, has been calling on Washington to share what it knows about the murder case with the rest of the world.

“From an international legal standpoint and an international political standpoint, the public release of a document with the CIA assessment - a document that could be probed by others - will make it far more difficult for the rest of the world, particularly governments, to ignore Mohammed bin Salman’s personal involvement in the operation that led to the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi,” Callamard said in an interview with the Middle East Eye last year.

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