Chairman Schiff Statement on Release of Report on Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder
Washington, February 26, 2021
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement:
“For years, the House and Senate have pressed for this measure of accountability, and I’m grateful to President Biden and Director of National Intelligence Haines for making this report public as we requested.
“The highest levels of the Saudi government, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are culpable in the murder of journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi, and there is no escaping that stark truth laid bare in the Intelligence Community’s long overdue public assessment. It should not have taken this long for the United States to publicly share what we knew about the brutal murder of a U.S. resident and journalist, and this report underscores why Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s repeated claims that he was either unknowing or uninvolved in this heinous crime are in no way credible.
“As the Crown Prince continues to demonstrate no remorse for his actions and to shield senior Saudi officials from accountability for their role in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, the Biden Administration will need to follow this attribution of responsibility with serious repercussions against all of the responsible parties it has identified, and also reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. We must ensure that if foreign governments target journalists simply for doing their jobs, they are not immune to serious repercussions and sanctions, because restoring confidence in American leadership requires we act in accordance with the values that have long set America apart.
“The Administration should take further steps to diminish the United States’ reliance on Riyadh and reinforce that our partnership with the Kingdom is a not a blank check.”
For more than two years, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under the leadership of Chairman Schiff, has consistently pushed for additional transparency and accountability for the brutal murder of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In January 2019, Schiff led a bicameral and bipartisan event marking 100 days since the murder of Khashoggi. At the event, Members of Congress advocated for the safety of journalists and press freedom around the globe. In May 2019, the bipartisan Freedom of the Press Caucus and Schiff welcomed Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, for her first visit to the U.S. Capitol.
In 2019, the Committee authored and passed two provisions in the FY2020 Intelligence Authorization Act requiring the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to produce an unclassified report on Khashoggi’s murder and Saudi Arabia's culpability.
In February 2020, Schiff sent Acting DNI Grenell a letter expressing his view that ODNI’s submission of a classified annex on February 20, 2020 did not constitute full compliance with the law – which required an unclassified report – and requested the ODNI immediately declassify the annex. The Acting DNI refused to comply, and Schiff commented in April 2020, “There can be no accountability for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi until the Administration makes public what the U.S. government knows regarding who in the Saudi government ordered, carried out, and attempted to cover-up the killing. Since ODNI has failed to comply with [the law], Congress will need to take further legislative and budgetary steps to ensure declassification of a report the Intelligence Community provided to Congress earlier this year.”
Consistent with Schiff’s pledge, in July 2020 the Committee voted out the FY 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) with a provision that reaffirmed the requirement the ODNI to provide an unclassified report, consistent with protection of sources and methods, on the murder of U.S. resident and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Significantly, the bill also withheld funding for Intelligence Community engagement with Saudi intelligence and security services until the unclassified report is provided.
The Committee held a hearing in September 2020 to apply further pressure to ODNI to release the unclassified annex, inviting United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard to testify and entering into the Congressional Record the UN’s official investigation into the murder of Khashoggi. In his opening statement, Schiff said: “ [T]his Committee is not in the practice of taking self-interested and implausible denials at face value. And I am confident that neither Democrats nor Republicans in Congress are going to stop insisting on an accounting and accountability for his murder—or stop demanding that the Director of National Intelligence make public its assessment of Saudi officials’ culpability for the killing. Justice—as well as the law—require no less.”
In October 2020, Schiff introduced the Jamal Khashoggi Press Freedom Act. It built on a bill passed by Congress in 2010, the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which requires the State Department to report on press freedom around the world. The Khashoggi Act takes the next step by prohibiting U.S. foreign assistance to government entities that perpetrate gross human rights violations against journalists, and by levying sanctions on individuals and foreign leaders who do the same. It would also require the State Department to document incidents of online harassment and electronic surveillance of journalists in its annual Human Rights Reports.
In December 2020, the Congress passed the omnibus spending bill which contained the FY2021 IAA, to include a Committee provision (Section 625) expressing the Sense of Congress that the ODNI failed to comply with the law and should have been able to provide an unclassified report.
In January 2021, Schiff spoke with newly-confirmed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and raised the need for ODNI to declassify the report and make it public. Schiff followed up that conversation in a letter pressing the DNI to declassify the annex without further delay, writing that he looks “forward to working closely with you and President Biden to fulfill that commitment, as well as to Congress receiving the unclassified report, together with any additional assessment that Intelligence Community analysts have produced.”