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John Bolton is absolutely right about Khashoggi audio tape

S Summoned to reporters in the White House on Tuesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton (read my profile here) gave…

S Summoned to reporters in the White House on Tuesday, National Security Advisor John Bolton (read my profile here) gave a good reason not to listen to the Turkish sound recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. He does not speak Arabic so he does not understand what is said.

Khashoggi was murdered on 2 October by Saudi officials at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. But some now suggest that Bolton has not listened to the Khashoggi recording because he does not want to hear evidence that may imply Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for the murder. That assessment is incorrect. With the proviso that the Crown Prince never repeats such a measure, the Trump administration has rightly decided to prevent the Khashoggi case from destroying the US-Saudi Arabian relationship.

But when Bolton did not listen to the recording, he got an intelligence review of the “substance” of the recording. That should have been the end of the question. Apart from the US city radio reporter, April Ryan decided that Bolton’s apology was insufficient.

It is clear from the exchange that Ryan does not know what she is talking about in terms of intelligence issues. The Khashoggi recording report that Bolton received would have fully assessed the feelings, inference, context and content of what was recorded. In fact, the intelligence product of the recording would have been so heavily developed that the actual words just said were one element in the broader results. The CIA almost had a number of Arabic analysts listening to the audio band to identify local Saudi Arabian or regional inferences from each recorded speaker. This is small detail that even a floating Arabic speaker would be hard pressed to match.

In short, neither Bolton nor Trump need to listen to audio tape. They can simply rely on what the CIA has given them, the most accurate and accurate assessment possible.

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