FOIA | Press Access

Knight Institute Sues Intelligence Agencies Over Release Of Records on Khashoggi Killing

Human rights activists and friends of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold his pictures during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The Knight First Amendment Institute is suing U.S. intelligence agencies to learn if they complied with a “duty to warn” journalist Jamal Khashoggi about threats to his life.

When an intelligence agency becomes aware of a threat of kidnapping or murder, it is obligated to inform the intended victim, and document and maintain records of its actions. The Knight Institute filed a FOIA request last month seeking records related to the murder, but none of the intelligence agencies have provided it with those documents.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says that before Khashoggi’s murder on October 2, 2018, U.S. intelligence agencies had apparently intercepted communications in which Saudi officials discussed a plan to kidnap Khashoggi. It is not clear, however, what the agencies learned from these conversations, or what steps they took to warn Khashoggi of the threats.

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined Knight in calling for the release of the records.

“The government must explain what it knew of the threat to Khashoggi before his killing, and what, if anything, it did to warn him of that threat,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in a statement.

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