The White House will not allow CIA Director Gina Haspel, or any other intelligence official, to brief the Senate on the killing of Saudi journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, according to The Guardian.
The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the defence secretary, James Mattis, are due to give a briefing on US relations with Saudi Arabia to the entire Senate behind closed doors on Wednesday, ahead of a vote that could cut off US support for Riyadh’s military campaign in Yemen.
On a national security issue of such importance, it would be customary for a senior intelligence official to take part. On this occasion, the absence of the intelligence community is all the more glaring, as Haspel travelled to Istanbul to hear audio tapes of Khashoggi’s murder provided by Turkish intelligence, and then briefed Donald Trump.
Trump has said the U.S. intelligence communities assessment is inconclusive, despite the fact that “tapes and other intelligence material point clearly to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as having ordered Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.”
Nevertheless, senators were informed by the administration that only Pompeo and Mattis will attend the hearing — Haspel will not join them.
“There is always an intel person there for a briefing like this,” a Senate staffer told the Guardian. “It is totally unprecedented and should be interpreted as nothing less than the Trump administration trying to silence the intelligence community.”
Bruce Riedel, a veteran CIA official and an expert on the US-Saudi relationship at the Brookings Institution, said: “Gina [Haspel] has been the case officer on this. She traveled to Turkey and she is the one who listened to the tapes and is reported to have briefed the president multiple times.
“This is further evidence that the White House is trying to outdo the Saudis in carrying out the worst cover-up in modern history,” Riedel added.