The country’s top intelligence official has failed to turn over to Congress a report on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources said, flouting a law passed last month.
In December, lawmakers passed a sweeping defense bill that included a provision ordering the director of national intelligence to send Congress an unclassified report identifying those responsible for Khashoggi’s death at a Saudi Arabian consulate in 2018. The legislation set the deadline for the report at 30 days, which passed earlier this week.
Though the CIA has reportedly concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing at the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi officials have denied his involvement - something President Donald Trump seemed willing to believe. The unclassified report, if Congress receives and releases it, could provide the administration’s first public acknowledgment of the crown prince’s role, or that of other Saudi officials, in Khashoggi’s brutal death.
The provision requiring the report was contained in the larger National Defence Authorization Act that Trump signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019. The bill required Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to provide the report to four congressional committees: the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.
The delay has already resulted in an inquiry from the office of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, an Intelligence Committee member who pushed for the provision to be included in the legislation. “Our office has asked ODNI about the status of that information and has not received a response,” Keith Chu, a spokesperson for Wyden, told BuzzFeed News.
“Every case is different,” Chu said when asked whether it’s normal for the executive branch to miss a deadline like this. “However if the [Intelligence Community] isn’t going to comply with the law, Congress needs an explanation.”
A second source close to the committee confirmed that it has yet to receive an explanation as to why the report is late. The source, speaking on background, added that it’s not uncommon for the executive branch to miss deadlines and that it’s too soon to say whether the Office of the Director of National Intelligence simply needs more time or is withholding the report for nefarious reasons.
The House Intelligence Committee hasn’t received the report yet either “and is following up with the IC to ensure its delivery soon,” a committee official said.
A spokesperson for the ODNI declined to answer questions about the report on Wednesday, saying only: “As with all requests that come from Congress, we continue to work with them, with our oversight committees to respond.”
The provision requiring the report on Khashoggi’s murder said it should include conclusions and evidence about “the advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of the Government of Saudi Arabia or any current or former senior Saudi political figure over the directing, ordering, or tampering of evidence” of Khashoggi’s killing. The provision also asks for a list of foreigners that “were responsible for, or complicit in, ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing an act or acts contributing to or causing,” Khashoggi’s death, as well as anyone who “impeded the impartial investigation” of his killing.
It’s unclear what, if any, steps lawmakers might take next to force ODNI to turn over the report, but as the oversight bodies, the Intelligence committees have a range of options, including scheduling hearings or cutting off funding.
Lawmakers - Republicans included - have already shown they are willing to retaliate against the Saudis for Khashoggi’s killing. In December 2018, two months after his death, senators voted to end US military aid for the Saudi war in Yemen. The vote stood in contrast to Trump’s comments on the Saudi crown prince, who most recently has been accused of hacking the cell phone of Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in response to negative press coverage.