March 3, 2020 / 8:20 PM / 3 months ago

'Open season on journalists': U.S. lawmakers want information on Saudi Khashoggi's death

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers renewed efforts this week to push President Donald Trump’s administration to make public information about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which U.S. intelligence officials blame on Saudi Arabia’s most senior leadership.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was killed in October 2018 at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. The CIA believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of the journalist, sources told Reuters weeks after his death.

Riyadh denies the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senators Richard Burr and Mark Warner, wrote to the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, urging him to reconsider the decision not to declassify information related to Khashoggi’s murder.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed the existence of the letter, which was first reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday.

Separately, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the intelligence panel, told a news conference on Tuesday that he would invoke a little-used 1970s-era authority under which the Senate itself could release information about Khashoggi’s death if it is determined that doing so is in the public interest.

“If our country and our friends and our partners do nothing in the face of this barbaric act, it sends a message around the world that it’s open season on journalists. Period, full stop,” Wyden told a news conference, standing beside Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee.

Lawmakers from both parties - Trump’s Republicans as well as Democrats - have been critical of the government in Riyadh for years despite its ties to the Trump administration, citing civilian casualties from the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, the killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi and other human rights abuses.

But efforts to pass legislation to press the Saudis have flagged in Congress, and the administration has pushed ahead with billions of dollars in weapons sales and declined to make public the intelligence findings on the journalist’s death.

The Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, has also written to Grenell saying information about the murder should not be classified.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said it is not releasing the information because doing so would inappropriately reveal intelligence sources and methods.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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