The C.I.A. There is evidence that Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, repeatedly communicated with a key advisor during the time a team under the command of aide-de-camp Jamal Khashoggi had been killed, according to former intelligence officials.
The Advisor, Saud al-Qahtani, tops the list of Saudis targeted for US sanctions last month on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of Mr. Khashoggi. American intelligence agencies have evidence that Prince Salman and Mr. Qahtani had eleven exchanges that roughly coincided with the squad's advance into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was assassinated.
"This is the smoking gun or at least the smoking phone call," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA now officially at the Brookings Institution. "There is only one thing you could possibly talk about. This shows that the Crown Prince had a premeditated murder.
The existence of the sections was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which is a highly classified document on C.I.A. Assessment of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. The leakage of the secret report annoyed Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. Director. It has also reinforced the demands of members of Congress to send Ms. Haspel to Capitol Hill to brief her.
Mr. Qahtani was one of Prince Mohammed's closest advisers. When the leader of the hit team, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was recorded by the Turkish secret service and told "tell your boss" that the team had carried out the mission, the American intelligence agencies believed that he had communicated with Qahtani. Current and past officials insisted that the communications were suggestive and reinforcing The secret service's conclusions about the Crown Prince's guilt are not definitive, direct evidences that President Trump deemed necessary to convince him that Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination.
Such evidence, which current and former officials said, is rarely collected, and the CIA and other agencies often make their conclusions based on incomplete information. The C.I.A. has told legislators that there is moderate to high confidence that Prince Mohammed ordered the murder. Medium to high security is a level of lack of trust, and shows that the agency lacks a record in which the Crown Prince orders the murder.
The White House and Mr. Trump have shown little willingness to break away from their policy of continuing support for Saudi Arabia and Prince Mohammed. Even some Capitol Hill Republicans who believe that Prince Mohammed ordered the murder have said they support the government's decision not to impose significant costs on Saudi Arabia and argue that the Kingdom's support is needed, To counter threats from Iran, the White House abandons the cover-up of the cover-up? I see no sign that they are ready to change their tune, "said Mr. Riedel. "However, this will certainly increase the pressure to get Gina Haspel to testify on the hill."
Congressmen were unhappy that Ms. Haspel had not briefed the Senate last week in a closed session with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo. Government officials said Ms. Haspel could testify to Congress early next year, but representatives of the congress said they wanted Ms. Haspel to appear before members of the Intelligence Committee earlier this week.
Senior C.I.A. Officials have informed the heads of the committees, but not Ms Haspel herself. The nature of the sections, whether they are from calls or text messages, are extremely sensitive information, and the C.I.A. may hesitate to pass on everything he has collected or how he did it.
It is not clear whether the C.I.A. has the content of communication between the two men. It is possible that American intelligence agencies know the content of the communication, but it is also possible that they have collected only so-called metadata about them.
A number of other important questions remain open. One of them was exactly what Mr. Qahtani told the crown prince in the eleven interviews – the two men could have been in constant communication most days, not just at the time Mr. Khashoggi was killed.
Following the murder, Mr. Qahtani was deprived of the title of Advisor to the Royal Court and accused of contributing to the joke language against Khashoggi. However, he is not one of those accused in Saudi Arabia of his murder.
Mr. Responsible for social media campaigns in the kingdom, Qahtani has been involved in the power games that have consolidated Prince Mohammed's influence on the country, including the arrests of Royals and business people at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
Mr. Qahtani began working at the royal court a decade ago and later became Prince Propagandist of Prince Mohammed. With his large Twitter entourage, he helped create a blacklist of the Crown Prince's enemies and led massive mass social media attacks against them.