As had been rumored, now that Turkey has revealed it has audio and video evidence of journalist Jamal Khashoggi being tortured and killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi government is preparing to shift its story of Khashoggi’s disappearance. Previously the kingdom denied involvement; now, the New York Times reports, they are crafting a new story admitting to the murder but it was the fault of “rogue” elements, absolving the Saudi royal family itself.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the plans. But he said the royal court would soon put out a narrative that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services — who happened to be a friend of Prince Mohammed — had carried out the killing.
The person said Prince Mohammed had approved an interrogation or rendition of Mr. Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. But, he said, the Saudi intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he eagerly sought to prove himself in secretive operations.
Translation: Having been caught carrying out a political assassination of a United States resident that, under U.S. law, must be met with severe and potentially crippling sanctions, the Saudi government is preparing to blame and kill a group of underlings who, they will say, carried out the murder on Saudi Arabian consulate soil without the knowledge of the Saudi government itself. (Whether those to be accused will be the ones who actually carried out the murder or simply citizens who have been deemed expendable for other reasons is, as is usual in a dictatorship, unclear.)
Donald Trump himself laid the public groundwork for this new claim earlier today, when he hypothesized after talking to the Saudi government that “maybe these could have been rogue killers.”
The new would-be Saudi claim is contradicted by the available evidence. Khashoggi’s killers included an autopsy expert. They brought a bone saw with them—an unusual accessory in any interrogation. American intelligence intercepted communications describing a Saudi plan to capture or kill Khashoggi prior to the operation.