The previously undisclosed letter was sent by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.). At the same time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is moving to invoke a rarely used legislative procedure that would enable the Senate to release the requested material if it is deemed in the public interest.
“It has been more than a year since agents of the Saudi government murdered Jamal Khashoggi . . . in Turkey,” Wyden said in a statement to The Post. “And yet the Trump administration refuses to publicly acknowledge who ordered that assassination. It is choosing to protect an authoritarian government.”
The three are among a number of lawmakers calling on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to make public its private assessment of responsibility for Khashoggi’s death.
President Trump, who has established a close working relationship with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, has been reluctant to publicly blame the crown prince — the country’s de facto leader — for the killing, which sparked global outrage.
In December, Congress passed a law requiring the director of national intelligence within 30 days to provide an unclassified report identifying those who carried out, participated in or were otherwise responsible for the death of Khashoggi, who was probably suffocated and then dismembered, according to intelligence assessments of a recording of the incident. A separate provision allowed for a classified annex.
Last month, shortly after Trump replaced acting DNI Joseph Maguire with Grenell, the ODNI sent its report to Congress, according to U.S. officials.
“The response said simply that ODNI would not provide any unclassified information,” Wyden said. “A total and complete coverup.”
The classified annex, however, made clear what CIA Director Gina Haspel and other officials have briefed to lawmakers in classified sessions — that Mohammed played a direct role in Khashoggi’s killing, according to three U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the information remains secret.
ODNI “has no specific detail to offer” concerning its response, a spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the office believes the report meets Congress’s requirement. “The [intelligence community] has consistently provided our oversight committees with all relevant intelligence,” the statement said. “This particular request asks us to make that intelligence available to the public. That is something that cannot be done without jeopardizing sources and methods.”
The spokesperson stressed that the ODNI’s decision not to declassify any information was “following the recommendation of nonpartisan career intelligence officials.”
There is no reason that the information should be classified, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a letter last week to Grenell. He noted that “there is a robust body of credible unclassified reporting” regarding Khashoggi’s killing, including a report issued in June by the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Thus, the committee does not anticipate that any harm to national security would result from declassifying the findings, with redactions as necessary, he said.
“Failure to declassify the annex and produce an unclassified report could give rise to concerns that ODNI is using the classification process impermissibly in order to shield information of intense public interest from public release,” Schiff said.
A public attribution by the government is important in setting foreign policy, other lawmakers said. “It’s highly relevant to decisions we need to make about our relationship with Saudi Arabia — a debate that requires public input,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a State Department official in the Obama administration. “Therefore, it should absolutely be declassified.”
He noted that there are “authorities and requirements” in U.S. law to sanction people when the secretary of state has credible evidence that they have committed serious human rights abuses.
“Now that the administration has formally determined and reported to Congress who was likely responsible for this crime, I believe they are obligated to sanction those people under the relevant authorities,” he said.
Malinowski and Wyden noted that there has been strong bipartisan support in Congress calling for accountability for Khashoggi’s death.
At a news conference Tuesday, Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancee, who was waiting for him outside the Saudi consulate on the day he was killed, joined Wyden and Malinowski’s demand to release the report. “It has been 518 days since my future husband, Jamal . . . walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and never came out. It has been 518 days we have been denied the truth.”
Michael De Dora, Washington advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said at the news conference that the killing violated both U.S. and international law. “Continued inaction by the U.S. government sends a message to the Saudis that the United States will tolerate this behavior,” he said.
The ODNI submission to Congress also included a list of other people who were involved in Khashoggi’s killing. Some of these people were placed on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list in November 2018 for having a role in the death. They were designated pursuant to an executive order targeting perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.
The report, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act, was delivered to the Senate and House intelligence panels and both chambers’ foreign affairs committees.
Shane Harris contributed to this report.