The Washington Post is reporting that “U.S. and Turkish officials” are now confirming that Turkey has told the United States there is video and audio evidence of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s fate inside the Saudi consulate. It is apparently gruesome.
“You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic,” this person said. “You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered.”
That both U.S. and Turkish sources would reveal the existence of recordings from inside the Saudi Arabian consulate may suggest anger, frustration or desperation on the part of the Turkish government to prod the U.S. into action; the claim immediately reveals that the nation had an ability to capture such audio and video, presumably a high-level state secret. It also clarifies how the Turkish government was able to so quickly pin blame on Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s murder.
Donald Trump earlier today appeared to play down the importance of Khashoggi’s disappearance, noting that Khashoggi was not a U.S. citizen and that Saudi Arabia has purchased billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment. Angry senators, meanwhile, have formally requested the administration investigate the disappearance and apparent murder; if the Trump administration determines that the murder was indeed an act by Saudi officials, the Magnitsky Act would automatically be triggered, resulting in harsh sanctions against Saudi Arabia leaders.
Presuming this audio is determined to be authentic, leaking its existence makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the Trump administration to claim that there is insufficient evidence to make such a determination. The murder of a journalist is not something to be brushed aside, and a furious Congress—and a furious American press, angry that a worldwide wave of authoritarian murders has now taken someone they personally knew—may demand sanctions against Saudi Arabia above and beyond those triggered by the Magnitsky Act itself.