Haspel and other leaders of the US intelligence community went before the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday to talk about various US national security issues, and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden took the opportunity to press the CIA director on the question of Khashoggi's murder.
"I'm very concerned that the DNI's [Director of National Intelligence] statement for the record barely mentions the threat posed by Saudi Arabia to the rule of law around the world," the Democratic senator said. "Director Haspel: the Senate unanimously passed a resolution stating that the crown prince was responsible for the murder of US resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi — is that correct?"
"Senator, we can go into a little bit more detail this afternoon, but as you know, during the fall months we spent a significant amount of time briefing and providing written products on our assessment of what happened to Mr. Jamal Khashoggi," Haspel replied. "As you know, and as the Saudi regime itself has acknowledged, 15 individuals traveled to Istanbul and he was murdered at their consulate and it was a premeditated murder on 2 October. The trial in Saudi Arabia, I believe, has begun, but in terms of further detail on our assessment of involvement, I'll hold it until the afternoon," in closed testimony.
However, Wyden wasn't satisfied with her answer, and he pressed her on the question of the veracity of the leak that emerged in November 2018, suggesting the CIA had concluded the Saudi crown prince had personally orchestrated the Istanbul murder. The revelation led to a sharp conflict between Congress and the executive branch, with US President Donald Trump and his staff sticking fast to their ally in Riyadh and Congress pressing forward with multiple resolutions to recognize the crown prince as responsible for the assassination and subsequent cover-up, as well as to extend Magnitsky Act sanctions against other Saudi officials to include the crown prince. Subsequent resolutions also pursued an end to US support for Riyadh's war in Yemen, the prosecution of which Mohammed bin Salman has made a major part of his administration since rising to the office in the summer of 2017. He is the effective power behind the throne of his father, King Salman.
"Respectfully, madam director, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that the crown prince was responsible," Wyden asked Haspel. "Was the Senate wrong?"
However, the spy agency chief remained tight-lipped, saying only that "it's my job to provide the intelligence to support the Senate's deliberations, and I think we've done that very adequately in this case, and will continue to do that, and we continue, by the way, to track this issue and to follow it very closely."