U.S. intelligence officials reportedly intercepted Saudi communications indicating a plan to lure missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi from his home in the United States back to Saudi Arabia, but it remains unclear whether American officials warned the Washington Post writer that he was in potential danger.
> The intelligence, described by U.S. officials familiar with it, is another piece of evidence implicating the Saudi regime in Khashoggi's disappearance last week after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say that a Saudi security team lay in wait for the journalist and killed him.
> The intelligence pointing to a plan to detain Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia has fueled speculation by officials and analysts in multiple countries that what transpired at the consulate was a backup plan to capture Khashoggi that may have gone wrong.
Turkish officials claim that regardless of the intent of the operation, Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, though they have not found his body.
They point to video evidence showing the journalist entering the consulate but no subsequent footage showing him leave.
> The intelligence about Saudi Arabia's earlier plans to detain Khashoggi have raised questions about whether the Trump administration should have warned the journalist that he might be in danger.
> Intelligence agencies have a "duty to warn" people who might be kidnapped, seriously injured or killed, according to a directive signed in 2015. The obligation applies regardless of whether the person is a U.S. citizen. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident.
> "Duty to warn applies if harm is intended toward an individual," said a former senior intelligence official. But that duty also depends on whether the intelligence clearly indicated Khashoggi was in danger, the former official said.
> "Capturing him, which could have been interpreted as arresting him, would not have triggered a duty-to-warn obligation," the former official said. "If something in the reported intercept indicated that violence was planned, then, yes, he should have been warned."
So far, U.S. officials have not commented publicly or anonymously as to whether Khashoggi was warned of potential danger or if Saudi Arabia was warned to keep their hands off the journalist.
John R. Schindler with The Observer said he received confirmation from a National Security Agency official that communications were intercepted but was unable to confirm what, if any, warning was given.
> I can confirm that the National Security Agency, America’s big ear, indeed intercepted Saudi communications that indicated Riyadh had something unpleasant in store for Khashoggi. Listening in on foreign governments, after all, is NSA’s main job, and that includes frenemies like Saudi Arabia as well as hostile regimes. At least a day before Khashoggi appeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, an NSA official told me, the agency had Top Secret information that Riyadh was planning something nefarious—though exactly what was not clear from the intercepts. This was deemed important because Khashoggi is a legal resident of the United States, and is therefore entitled to protection. According to the NSA official, this threat warning was communicated to the White House through official intelligence channels.
> It needs to be asked what, if anything, the White House did with this Top Secret warning. Intelligence without action is merely expensive noise, and if no action was taken in this case, Congress should ask why not. If action was taken—meaning a warning was issued to Saudi officials to keep their hands of Khashoggi—and Riyadh ignored it, that too is something worth investigating. Saudi Arabia is a difficult ally of the United States, but our influence in Riyadh remains significant. This is particularly the case due to the close relationship between President Donald Trump’s administration and MBS, which is reported to becordial and then some. At press time, the White House had not responded to a request for comment.