US judge orders partial disclosure of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder files

File photo | Protesters hold photographs of journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the White House in Washington, D.C.| Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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New York: A judge ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to turn over descriptions of a recording of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident and Washington Post columnist, and of a Central Intelligence Agency report on the killing.

Khashoggi, who lived in the U.S., was killed and dismembered in 2018 by Saudi agents inside the nation’s consulate in Istanbul. The CIA looked into claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the murder, straining relations between that country and the U.S. The Open Society Justice Initiative, an advocacy group, sued under the Freedom of Information Act last year to gain access to records tied to the U.S. investigation.

U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer in New York ruled Tuesday that the government must produce a “Vaughn index” that “enumerates and describes each withheld record,” rejecting the government’s claim that it could acknowledge only that it possesses “some documents” responsive to the FOIA request while withholding descriptions. The ruling does not require that the tape and the report be made public.

Engelmayer noted that President Donald Trump told Chris Wallace in a November 2018 interview on Fox News that the U.S. possessed a tape of the killing. The president “literally admitted that U.S. ‘intelligence agencies’ had reviewed the tape and that the government possesses it,” the judge wrote. Trump and CIA Director Gina Haspel also publicly referred to written materials connected to the agency’s investigation, which means both items must be described in a Vaughn index, Engelmayer said.

James Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the ruling.

The case is Open Society Justice Initiative v. Central Intelligence Agency, 19-cv-00243, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). -Bloomberg

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