WASHINGTON – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia authorized a secret campaign to silence dissidents – including surveillance, abduction, detention and torture of Saudi citizens – more than a year before the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, according to American authorities, have read the secret intelligence reports about the campaign.
At least some of the secret missions were carried out by members of the same team that killed and dismembered Mr. Khashoggi in October in Istanbul, suggesting that his killing was a particularly formidable part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi Arabian dissidents according to the officials and staff of some of the Saudi victims.
Some of the operations involving the forced repatriation of Saudis from o The Arab countries and the detention and ill-treatment of prisoners in palaces of the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman, officials and collaborators said.
One of the Saudis who were arrested by the group, a university lecturer in linguistics, about whom he wrote a blog Last year, women in Saudi Arabia have tried to kill themselves after being sent to US intelligence reports and others who were informed of their situation and were subjected to psychological torture.
The Rapid Intervention team was so busy that its leader asked a top advisor to Prince Mohammed last June if the Crown Prince would give the Team Boni for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, according to American officials familiar with intelligence reports.
Details of the operations are from American officials who have read classified intelligence ratings on the Saudi campaign and Saudis with direct knowledge of some operations. They spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions on the disclosure of classified information or, in the case of the Saudis, on the government of the Saudis.
A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington said the kingdom "takes all allegations of the disease on treatment of defendants awaiting trial or convicts who take their prison sentences very seriously. "
Saudi law prohibits torture and makes those responsible for such abuses of power accountable, the spokesman said, and judges can not accept coercive confessions. The Procuratorate of the Kingdom and the Saudi Human Rights Commission are investigating the "recent allegations." 19659002] The Saudi government insists that killing Khashoggi, a United States-based journalist who wrote for the Washington Post, was not killing Riyadh. The decision to kill him was made by the local team, government officials say, and the perpetrators are prosecuted. Turkey and the US intelligence agencies state that the killing was deliberate.
The Kingdom says eleven Saudis are being prosecuted for killing and prosecutors are demanding the death penalty for five of them, but the defendants have not been publicly identified. 19659006] After the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, the Saudi officials confirmed that the Saudi intelligence service had a permanent order to bring dissidents home. What they did not recognize was that a specific team had been created for it.
Saudi officials refused to confirm or contest the existence of such a team or to answer questions about their work.
Saudi Arabia has a history of going abroad for dissidents and other Saudi citizens abroad, but it came to a swift confrontation when Prince Mohammed was promoted to crown prince in 2017. At a time when he was rapidly consolidating power. He pushed aside Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who overseen the security services, and sent the young prince swinging over the intelligence services.
Since then, Saudi security forces have arrested dozens of clerics, intellectuals, and activists as a threat, as well as those who made critical or sarcastic commentary on the government on Twitter.
"We have never seen it on such a scale," said the former CIA, Bruce Riedel analyst now at the Brookings Institution. "A dissident like Jamal Khashoggi in the past would not have been worth the effort."
Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and dismembered with a bone saw. Turkey used surveillance videos and audio recordings to expose the crime, identify the performing team and forward their names and photos to the news media.
Mr. Riedel said the team's sloppiness shows that it's used to being free in the kingdom and not under the watchful eye of an opponent's intelligence service.
The Rapid Intervention Group was authorized by Prince Mohammed and overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, a top American official said, an aide whose official job was media czar at the royal court. His deputy, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, an intelligence officer who had traveled abroad with the Crown Prince, led the team.
Another member of the team was Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, a member of the Royal Guard who was emboldened in 2017 during an attack on a palace by Prince Mohammed.
Mr. Mutreb and Mr. al-Harbi are being charged in Riyadh for charges of killing Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi official said while Mr. Qahtani is under house arrest, expelled from the trip and under investigation for investigation The team is still operational.
The US intelligence reports did not specify how much of the involvement of Prince Mohammed in the work of the group, but said that the staff saw Mr. al-Qahtani as the "conduit" to the Prince.
In March 2017, as Prince Mohammed detained hundreds of princes, businessmen, and former officials at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton for allegations of corruption, Mr. al-Qahtani and Mr. Mutreb worked at the hotel and helped the detainees sign assets for detainees they saw.
Many of the people detained in Ritz were exposed to physical abuse and one died on testimony. It is not known if members of the quick intervention team were involved in the abuse. The Saudi government denied that physical abuse had taken place there.
But it was only after the killing of Mr. Khashoggi that the extent of the team's work began to emerge. Mr. Mutreb and Mr. al-Harbi were both at the consulate when Khashoggi was killed, according to Turkish authorities. American intelligence agencies on the team's earlier operations informed C.I.A. In November, Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination of Mr. Khashoggi, said United States officials.
The C.I.A. declined to comment.
The United States intelligence agencies do not seem to have conclusive evidence that Prince Mohammed ordered the assassination, but they have assembled a pattern of similar operations carried out by Saudi agents under the prince's authority. The agencies continue to gather evidence about the role of Prince Mohammed in the operations, and in December, the National Security Agency issued a report stating that the Prince told a top adviser in 2017 that he wanted "a bullet" on Mr. Khashoggi He did not return to the kingdom and ended his criticism of the government.
Intelligence analysts concluded that Prince Mohammed may not have spoken literally – that he had not ordered to be shot to kill Mr. Khashoggi – but that he wanted to silence the journalist by killing him when circumstances required it.
The CIA The review has created tensions between American spy agencies and President Trump, who has made relations with the Saudis a cornerstone of his foreign policy. The Crown Prince was a close ally of Trump White House, in particular Jared Kushner, son-in-law of the president and high-ranking adviser. Despite the CIA's assessment that Prince Mohammed had ordered the operation, Trump repeatedly said that the evidence was inconclusive.
The brutal murder of Mr. Khashoggi led to a storm of indignation in the foreign capitals and a renewed review by the powerful Crown Prince, who considered himself a progressive reformist with a grand vision for the modernization of the kingdom. However, the journalist's murder was only the latest in a series of secret operations against lesser-known Saudis, including members of the royal family.
American intelligence officials said some of those arrested in these operations were held in secret locations, including opulent palaces used by King Salman and his son, until November 2017, when many moved to the area around Riyadh Ritz-Carlton were relocated. At the time, the hotel was used as a five-star prison in the Kingdom's anti-corruption campaign.
This crackdown was used to protect secret operations against Saudi dissidents who were imprisoned at the Ritz at the time. according to American officials.
The Rapid Intervention Group appears to be involved in the detention and abuse of about a dozen women's rights activists who were detained last spring and summer. Activists working to lift the ban on women in the kingdom included several prominent figures: Loujain al-Hathloul, who had been detained for attempting to drive his car from the United Arab Emirates to the Kingdom; Aziza al-Yousef, retired professor of computer science; and Eman al-Nafjan, Linguistics Lecturer.
At first the women were not held in a prison but were held informally in a seemingly unused palace in the Jidda of the Red Sea. Al-Hathloul's sister Alia. Every woman was locked in a small room and the windows were hidden. Some of the women were often brought down for interrogation, including beatings, electric shocks, waterboarding and threats of rape and murder.
In an article from the Op-Ed for the New York Times (19459012), Alia al-Hathloul wrote that Mr. al-Qahtani was "several times present" when his sister was tortured and he threatened to kill her and her body to throw in the sewer.
The treatment was so harsh that Ms. al-Nafjan, according to a US intelligence estimate, wanted to commit suicide.
The women were later Ms. Al-Hathloul sank into the Dhahban Prison in Jidda, where the physical abuse stopped and their relatives were allowed to visit.
On Wednesday opened trial in Riyadh, journalists and diplomats were not allowed to attend The government did not announce this indictment against them.
The Saudi official said that Ms. al-Hathloul, Ms. al-Yousef and Ms. al-Nafjan "are being brought to justice in connection with activities that threaten the national security of the kingdom".
The Kingdom's efforts to forcibly return Saudi Arabians living abroad to their country were not always clear on which operations were carried out by the Rapid Intervention Team and which of other parts of the security services Rami al-Naimi, a son of a former Saudi oil minister, was forcibly returned from the United Arab Emirates in November 2017. At midnight, a staff member of a high-ranking member of the royal family, Faisal al-Jarba, was kidnapped for raiding an apartment in Jordan last June and returning to Saudi Arabia. His family struggled to get information about where he is and why he was detained.
In August 2017, a small prince, Saud bin al-Muntasir bin Saud, was sent back from Morocco to the Kingdom. Last May, a university student who had dual citizenship from Saudi-Qatar was arrested during a visit to Kuwait and sent home .