CIA Director Briefs Senate Leaders on 'Smoking Saw' Linking Saudi Prince to Khashoggi Murder
WASHINGTON -- The select few senators who were briefed today by CIA Director Gina Haspel on the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi emerged convinced of the culpability of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and some wanted the facts revealed to all senators.
Haspel was not included, despite requests from senators, in an administration briefing last week on Capitol Hill led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi ruling family who had lived in exile for a year in Northern Virginia, was killed and dismembered last month at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he went to get papers needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was so "pissed" at the exclusion of Haspel that he voted last week to stop support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Today's briefing with Haspel was arranged with Republican and Democratic leaders of pertinent national security committees along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
While on Capitol Hill, Haspel paid her respects at the casket of President George H.W. Bush alongside former CIA directors John Brennan and George Tenet.
“While I will not discuss the content of the Haspel briefing, it reinforced the need for a strong response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Schumer said in a brief statement afterward. "CIA Director Haspel should brief the full Senate without delay.”
Graham told reporters that the briefing confirmed the "smoking saw" -- a reference to the bonesaw used to dismember the journalist.
Graham said he left the briefing convinced it was "virtually impossible for an operation like this to be carried out without the crown prince's knowledge."
"I left the briefing with high confidence that my initial assessment of the situation is correct. I left the briefing being amazed by our CIA and intelligence community's capability and their analytical reasoning. The CIA, in my view, rose to the occasion in terms of informing the Congress about what happened on Oct. 2, what's happened since and what happened before. So I am very satisfied with the briefing," he said. "There is a desire by the intelligence community to limit the number of people briefed. After that request was made, I understand now why they want to keep it more limited than before."
"So here's my takeaway: that Saudi Arabia's a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs. We'll do more damage to our standing in the world and our national security by ignoring MBS than dealing with him," Graham continued. "MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he's complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi to the highest level possible. I think the behavior before the Khashoggi murder was beyond disturbing. And I cannot see him being a reliable partner to the United States. Saudi Arabia and MBS are two different entities. If the Saudi government is going to be in the hands of this man for a long time to come, I find it very difficult to be able to do business because I think he's crazy, I think he is dangerous, and he has put the relationship at risk."