Beware of Media Sourcing for Jamal Khashoggi 'Scoops'
There are still more questions than answers surrounding the disappearance of sometime Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. And the whole affair has become a tug-of-war between Middle East interests and an ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and other powers in the region, including Turkey and Qatar.
In the absence of verifiable facts, the American media are floating all kinds of leaks from Turkish sources. As I noted just last month, American media continue to gravitate towards the Erdogan regime, even as Turkey remains the largest jailer of journalists in the world, creating several layers of irony in the Khashoggi saga.
But in the past 24 hours we now have a glimpse of exactly who is feeding the establishment media reporting on the Khashoggi matter -- including at least one source who was tied to a joint Libyan intelligence and al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Saudi crown prince.
Earlier today, Yahoo News published an article quoting an associate close to Khashoggi. The source conveniently said that President Trump's criticism of the media is directly tied to the alleged decision by the Saudi Crown Prince to have Khashoggi murdered.
The source for this article and the allegation is Khaled Saffuri:
Saffuri also appears as a named source in a Daily Beast article from earlier this week on Khashoggi's alleged pro-democracy efforts.
It would be helpful to explain to our readers just who Mr. Saffuri is.
Khaled Saffuri is the protege of al-Qaeda fundraiser Abdurahman Alamoudi, who is currently serving a 17-year sentence in federal prison for his role as bagman for the Libyan/Al-Qaeda assassination plot.
Remarkably, Saffuri's ties to terror financing were reported on shortly after the 9/11 attacks by none other than Michael Isikoff -- one of the authors of today's Yahoo News article. Yet Saffuri's background is never mentioned.
Saffuri got his start in Washington, D.C. as Alamoudi's deputy and chief lobbyist of the American Muslim Council.
For his book, Infiltration, reporter Paul Sperry uncovered a 1996 lobbying disclosure showing Saffuri's position with Alamoudi's AMC:
As I noted here at PJ Media two years ago, one of the most important events that Alamoudi and Saffuri were responsible for was the first White House Iftar dinner that they arranged in 1996 for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
In 1998, Saffuri established a new organization, the Islamic Institute. Among those providing the start-up money for his new venture was his longtime mentor, Alamoudi:
Cooperation between the two didn't end with Saffuri's new organization, nor was Alamoudi the only problematic element for Saffuri's operation.
As Franklin Foer reported at The New Republic in November 2001, one of the first events held by Saffuri's Islamic Institute was funded by Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Eager to improve relations with the United States, Qatar worked with Norquist and Saffuri to help portray itself as a liberal outpost in the Islamic world. In April, Saffuri sponsored the “First Annual Conference on Free Trade and Democracy” in the Qatari capital of Doha, for which the Islamic Institute received over $150,000 in payments from the Qatar Embassy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Account. (Saffuri says these were reimbursements for the travel expenses of congressional delegates.)
A lobbyist at Norquist’s firm, Janus-Merritt, has solicited pro-Qatari op-eds from at least one conservative pundit. When the emir of Qatar came to Washington, Saffuri hosted a Capitol Hill luncheon in his honor.
Saffuri's Islamic Institute was also the co-sponsor of an October 28, 2000, rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House when Alamoudi gave an impassioned speech expressing his support for Hamas and Hezbollah, two U.S.-designated terrorist organizations:
When questioned by the New York Daily News about his statement, Alamoudi first denied making it -- he said that the reporters should "check their Arabic." When told that he had made the statement in English, Alamoudi responded by saying: "It was in English? Oh my god, I forgot."
Another achievement for the Alamoudi-Saffuri alliance was a meeting that they had in 2000 with then-GOP presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush and Karl Rove.
A picture shows the pair at the meeting with Bush:
Meanwhile, fresh from their success with both the Clinton White House and the Bush family, Alamoudi began showering politicians of both parties with campaign contributions.
That all came to a screeching halt when Alamoudi was stopped in September 2003 at Heathrow Airport transporting $340,000 in cash. Deported back to the U.S., he was arrested at Dulles Airport.
Alamoudi was then charged with, and later pleaded guilty to, playing the role of bagman in an assassination plot by Libyan intelligence -- with the assistance of al-Qaeda operatives -- to kill then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah by attacking his motorcade with RPGs. He admitted he had received the cash from Libya and had traveled to the country illegally on another passport in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Alamoudi is currently serving a 17-year federal prison sentence.
Following Alamoudi's conviction, Saffuri's ties to U.S.-based terror financing investigations, as well as his promotion of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami al-Arian, came under scrutiny:
Saffuri later received attention as an integral part of Jack Abramoff's extensive illegal lobbying schemes. As reported in the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money (posted below), Saffuri arranged for shady lobbying efforts on behalf of the Malaysian government (begins ~1:13:00):
As I noted earlier, one of the authors of today's Yahoo News article citing Khaled Saffuri is Michael Isikoff.
In April 2002 when he was still reporting for Newsweek, Isikoff co-authored an article titled "A Troubling Money Trail." It discussed Saffuri's role in promoting problematic Islamic leaders who were involved in organizations being investigated for terror financing, or that had already been shut down by the Bush administration following the 9/11 attacks:
The latest U.S. crackdown on terrorist finances could touch some raw political nerves. Last week federal agents raided several U.S.- based Islamic businesses and charities looking for ties to terror groups. NEWSWEEK has learned that one main target, a Saudi-backed charity called the SAFA Trust, has provided funding for an Islamic political group with close ties to the Republican Party and the Bush White House. The group, the Islamic Institute, which operates out of the same D.C. office suite as GOP activist Grover Norquist, was set up in 1999 to mobilize American Muslim support for the Republican Party. Since then, Norquist and the group's chairman, Khaled Saffuri, have arranged meetings between Islamic leaders and top Bush officials.
Funding for the institute could prove problematic. Saffuri confirmed the authenticity of checks obtained by NEWSWEEK showing the institute received $20,000 from the SAFA Trust and another $20,000 from Abdurhanman Alamoudi, a board member of the Success Foundation, whose offices were also raided. Steve Emerson, who tracks U.S.-based terror groups, said the checks "raise questions as to whether militant Islamic groups were trying to acquire political influence" in the United States. But Saffuri denied the funds came with any strings. Norquist, an institute board member, said the group "promotes democracy and free markets."
Sources close to the case told NEWSWEEK the raids were prompted by evidence showing the SAFA Trust and related groups transferred millions of dollars to obscure entities on the Isle of Man, a notorious money-laundering haven. Records also show that the president of SAFA Trust once served on the board of a firm associated with Al-Taqwa, an international financial network whose assets were frozen by President Bush. So far, no charges have been filed and U.S. Islamic groups called the raids an "outrageous" violation of their civil liberties.
Again -- none of Isikoff's earlier reporting on Khaled Saffuri is mentioned in his co-authored Yahoo News article today.
None of this information relates directly to the current Khashoggi imbroglio, but it does illuminate the role that Mr. Saffuri has played in the very Middle East intrigues that appear to have snared Khashoggi.
If Khaled Saffuri is going to be cited in a rash of media "scoops" about Saudi Arabia's presumed role in Khashoggi's disappearance, you would think media outlets would find it worth mentioning that Saffuri's mentor, longtime associate, and financial sponsor is currently in federal prison for his role in attempting to assassinate a Saudi Crown Prince.
At least at present, that doesn't appear to be the case.