CIA chief to brief senators on Khashoggi murder: US media
Reports come after Gina Haspel failed to take part in last week’s briefing by the secretary of state and defence chief.
CIA Director Gina Haspel will give a closed-door briefing to leaders of several US Senate committees this week on the killing of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, US media reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the briefing will take place on Tuesday.
Reuters news agency, citing a source familiar with the planned meeting, said Haspel will brief the Republican and Democratic leaders of the United States Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Appropriations. The Reuters source added that the Senate Intelligence Committee already had been briefed by the CIA chief.
A Senate source also said Senate leaders would also participate in the briefing, which is scheduled for 11:30am local time (16:30 GMT).
The CIA would not confirm or deny whether the briefing would take place.
The expected meeting comes after senators from both parties expressed anger that Haspel, who has listened to an audio tape of the killing and reviewed evidence assembled by Turkish authorities, was not part of a closed-door briefing last week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the issue.
The CIA has reportedly assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, ordered the killing of Khashoggi.
The 59-year-old journalist, a critic of MBS, was killed on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents needed for his planned marriage.
After offering contradictory statements, Saudi Arabia admitted last month that Khashoggi was killed inside its consulate and his body was dismembered. The kingdom has repeatedly said Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey said was ordered at the highest level of Saudi leadership.
At last week’s briefing, Pompeo and Mattis said there was no hard evidence the crown prince was behind the killing and urged senators not to downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia over the incident.
Hours after that briefing the Senate voted 63-37 to take up a resolution aimed at limiting US involvement in the war in Yemen, where a Washington-backed Saudi-UAE coalition launched an intervention in 2015 through a massive air campaign targeting Houthi rebels. The next vote on the bill could come as early as Thursday.
Trump’s ‘shockingly intimate relationship’ with MBS
Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Washington, DC, said Haspel’s expected briefing was due to “Congressional pressure” after senators “felt they were getting a party line” from the administration of President Donald Trump during last week’s briefing by Mattis and Pompeo.
“Many of them pointed out that intelligence rarely comes to definitive conclusions but the CIA has reportedly concluded with a high degree of confidence that the killing was indeed ordered by the crown prince,” said Hendren.
“They wanted to hear from Haspel; she, after all, is the only one of those three who actually flew to Turkey and heard the tapes that the Turkish government has of the killing.
“Senators were very upset about the CIA chief not being present and they ended up demanding to hear from Haspel or they threatened to take action against Saudi Arabia – and that seems to be what’s motivated the Trump administration to go ahead and allow her to testify.”
Glenn Carle, former CIA officer, said he does not anticipate any new revelations from Haspel.
“I don’t expect that she would go any further than anything that we know – she will never reveal in a briefing like this the sources or the methods, but she will reveal the substance,” he told Al Jazeera.
Carle said the appearance is an attempt by the Trump administration “to get out from some of the pressure that is now under from the Congress” and an effort by Congress “to reassure its prerogatives”.
“Clearly, what Trump is doing is trying to relieve the pressure on him from Congress with gestures – his standard pattern is to deny and then to make a cosmetic change or backing down, to change the subject and then to move on. So he will do what he can to maintain his shockingly intimate relationship with MBS while Congress may pressure him some more, but the advantage in foreign policy always rests with the executive.”