The CIA and security services of one or more foreign governments have recently warned at least three friends and colleagues of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi that their pro-democracy work “has made them and their families the targets of potential retaliation from Saudi Arabia,” reports TIME.
Three of those who were given security briefings in recent weeks––democracy advocates Iyad El-Baghdadi of Oslo, Norway; Omar Abdulaziz of Montreal, Canada; and a person in the U.S. who asked not to be named––were working closely with Khashoggi on politically sensitive media and human rights projects at the time of his killing inside a Saudi diplomatic facility in Turkey last October. Based on the security briefings, the advocates say they have been targeted because they have become especially vocal and influential critics of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, accusing him of ordering Khashoggi’s murder as part of a broader crackdown on Saudi dissidents worldwide.
The CIA was the source of the threat warning, according to an overseas intelligence official, Baghdadi and others involved with the briefings. A CIA spokesperson declined to comment, but the agency has a legal “duty to warn” potential victims of specific threats including murder, kidnapping and serious bodily harm, according to a 2015 directive signed by the Director of National Intelligence. After Khashoggi was killed, the CIA faced criticism for failing to warn him after reportedly learning that the Crown Prince, known as MBS, had issued an earlier order to capture the journalist, who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post. The CIA later assessed with “medium-to-high confidence” that the Crown Prince ordered his death.