CIA Director Gina Haspel arrived in Turkey on Tuesday to help local authorities investigate the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence confirmed.
Speaking at an event sponsored by the Washington Post, where Khashoggi served as a contributor, Pence declared:
President Trump has already expressed his concern that there have been lies, there’s been deception. He dispatched the Secretary of State to the region early on. And the Director of the CIA is there, in Turkey now, reviewing the evidence. And we’re going to follow the facts. We’re going to demand that those responsible are held accountable. And once we have all the facts, President Trump will make the decision based upon the values of the American people and our vital national interests.
Haspel arrived in Turkey as local security agencies looked into the role Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) may have played in the murder.
I know that when the CIA Director returns, she’ll be briefing the President, myself, and our entire team on what the Turks have assembled. But look, I want to assure all of your colleagues here, I want to assure the American people: We’re going to get to the bottom of it. This brutal murder of a journalist, of an innocent man, of a dissident, will not go without an American response and, I expect, without an international response.
Pence indicated that Saudi Arabia has lied about its involvement in the gruesome murder, which Turkish authorities say involved the dismembering of Khashoggi’s body while he was still alive.
“The word from [Turkish] President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated, preplanned days in advance, flies in the face of earlier assertions that have been made by the Saudi regime,” the vice-president proclaimed, adding the “full resources” of the U.S. intelligence services were working with Turkey.
Washington Post columnist and Saudi kingdom critic Khashoggi, who was living in self-imposed exile in the United States, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to retrieve documents for his scheduled marriage.
Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed at its consulate in Istanbul, claiming he started a “fistfight” that led to his demise.
CBS News reports:
Two [unnamed] Saudi officials claimed to CBS News’ Kylie Atwood that the people at the consulate wanted to negotiate with Khashoggi and convince him to return to the Kingdom.
Instead, these officials claim, discussions got heated, and Khashoggi was put in a chokehold that led to his death at the consulate.
“There was no clear order to kill him or to kidnap him,” one of the officials claimed.
Turkish authorities say the victim was dismembered alive by his killers, a claim that the Saudi kingdom denies.
Western security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were far from having a complete picture of what happened to Khashoggi. They do not know how he died and where his body was taken.
Despite extensive news leaks alleging that Turkey has audio recordings documenting Khashoggi’s torture and murder, neither U.S. nor allied government agencies had been granted access as of Oct. 22 to such evidence, the officials said.
Although Saudi Crown Prince MBS, who has presented himself as a reformer, denies involvement in the killing, the anonymous Western security officials who spoke to Reuters believe he is to blame given his role overseeing the Saudi security apparatus.
“Difficult to say MBS did not know about this,” a Western security source told Reuters.
Nevertheless, Reuters learned from its anonymous sources that “U.S. and allied intelligence reporting that details any specific instructions the crown prince might have issued about the Khashoggi incident is not conclusive.”
“I spoke to the crown prince. We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey. We’re going to see what we have. I’ll know a lot tomorrow,” President Donald Trump declared on Monday.
Trump indicated he is not satisfied with what he has heard from Saudi Arabia about the killing.
One European security source told Reuters the information Turkey had shared with Western officials verbally was “very detailed and they sound confident” about Saudi Arabia’s involvement.
“The United States and its allies also have some independent intelligence reporting supporting media reports that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate by a military squad sent from Saudi Arabia to Istanbul, two sources said,” Reuters reported.