WASHINGTON—The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Committee to Protect Journalists today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the CIA, and the Public Interest Declassification Board seeking immediate release of a U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Earlier this year, the board—a panel of experts appointed by the president and Congress—recommended that the Biden administration publicly release the report in its entirety. Nevertheless, the White House continues to withhold it.
“The continued suppression of this report is an impediment to accountability for Khashoggi’s murder,” said Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute. “The declassification board’s recommendation confirms that there is no legitimate reason the report should not be released in its entirety.”
In early 2021, ODNI released two brief assessments based on the U.S. government’s investigation of Khashoggi’s murder—including the role played by Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The full U.S. intelligence report, however, remains classified. In June of this year, the board recommended that the report be declassified in its entirety. Despite that recommendation, President Biden has not declassified it. Today’s FOIA request seeks all records that the board recommended be declassified, including the report.
“Four years after Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the approval of the Saudi government, critical questions remain unanswered,” said Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The Biden administration should immediately release the entirety of the U.S. intelligence report into Khashoggi’s killing and finally make good on its commitment to hold his murderers to account.”
In late 2018, the Knight Institute and the Committee to Protect Journalists filed FOIA requests for records showing whether U.S. intelligence agencies fulfilled their “duty to warn” Khashoggi of threats to his life and liberty. After the intelligence agencies failed to release documents in response, the organizations filed a lawsuit. In response, the agencies released about 20 documents about their implementation of the duty to warn. However, the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, and ODNI refused to confirm or deny whether they possessed records specifically concerning their duty to warn Khashoggi, and the Department of State insisted that it did not. Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the lower court’s decision that the intelligence agencies’ responses satisfied FOIA’s requirements.
Subsequent lawsuits sought the release of the U.S. intelligence report on Khashoggi’s murder. Although those lawsuits were unsuccessful, they predate the declassification board’s recommendation.
Read today’s FOIA request here.
For more information, contact: Adriana Lamirande, [email protected].