Court rules US must provide limited info on Khashoggi death tape, CIA report

NEW YORK (AP) — The US government must provide limited information about its withholding from the public a tape of the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and a CIA report on his death in a Freedom of Information Act case, a judge said Tuesday.

US District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer said public statements, including by US President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency have made clear that the items exist.

They are being sought as part of a FOIA lawsuit brought two years ago in Manhattan by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the legal team for the Open Society Foundations, created by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Khashoggi, a US resident, was not seen alive after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018. Trump called the killing “horrible” but said Saudi Arabia has “been a terrific ally.”

Turkish forensics and police officers arrive to the Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 15, 2018, to search the premises in the investigation over missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (OZAN KOSE / AFP)

In a written ruling, Engelmayer said the case remained in an early stage and the limited disclosure of information about the items “will not reveal as-yet unrevealed information” pertaining to foreign relations or activities by the United States or its agencies’ intelligence sources and methods.

He said Trump “literally admitted” that US intelligence agencies had reviewed the tape and that the US government has it. He said Pence had acknowledged that the CIA had the tape at the time of its investigation, even if the agency now tried to disclaim possession of the tape “as a fact not publicly known.”

A message for comment was sent to the US Justice Department.

US President Donald Trump speaks with reporters after participating in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving, at the White House in Washington, November 26, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

In its lawsuit, the Justice Initiative said disclosure of the records, including the tape, was necessary for the public to evaluate the federal government’s response to the killing.

“Today’s court order is a crucial victory in addressing the Trump administration’s shameful cover-up of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Amrit Singh, a lawyer for the Justice Initiative, said in a statement. “The Court’s judgment is a vital step towards ending impunity for the murder.”

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