WASHINGTON – Just after Jamal Khashoggi’s journalist was murdered last month, a member of parliament instructed a superintendent on the phone to “tell your boss” who believed to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia that the operatives had performed their mission, according to three People who are familiar with a record of Mr. Khashoggi’s death collected by Turkish intelligence.
The recording, shared last month with CIA director Gina Haspel, is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence that Prince Mohammed linked to the death of Mr Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and the Washington Post columnists, whose death led to an international impression.
Turkish intelligence officials have told US officials to believe that Mr. Mutreb, a security officer who often traveled with Prince Mohammed, spoke to one of the Prince’s assistants. While translations of Arabic may differ, they told people about the conversation that Mr. Mutreb also said to the aide that “the act was done.”
“A phone call is about as close to a smoking gun as you will receive,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA officer at Brookings Institution. “It’s quite a criminal offense.”
Turkish officials have said that the sound does not ultimately imply prince Mohammed, and the US intelligence and other officials have warned that convincing recording may be, it is still not undeniable evidence of his commitment to the death of Mr. Khashoggi.
Although Mr Mutreb believed that the killing was ordered by the crown prince, for example, he may have misunderstood the origin of the order. Prince Mohammed is not specifically mentioned on the recording, and intelligence officials do not have the obvious certainty that Mr. Mutreb referred to him.
In a statement on Monday, Saudi officials denied that the crown prince “had some knowledge” of Mr. Khashoggi’s death. With reference to Mr. Mutreb’s instructions to “tell your boss,” said the Saudi statement that Turkey had “allowed our intelligence services to hear recordings, and at no moment was referred to the said phrase in such recordings.”
The Turks can have multiple recordings, including surveillance of telephone calls, and the Turkish authorities may have shared the sound only selectively.
A CIA spokesman refused to comment.
The conversation was part of a recording that Turkish officials played for Ms Haspel during his visit to Ankara, Turkey’s capital in October, but they did not allow her to return it to the United Kingdom States. On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey announced that his government had shared the sound with Saudi Arabia, the United States and other western allies.
But while Turkish officials have recorded the recording for US and other intelligence services and provided transcripts, the Turks have not handed over the recording for independent analysis, according to Turkish officials.
Turkey shared evidence from the case of “a large number of friendly nations,” said a spokesman for Erdogan, Fahrettin Altun, on Monday. Hr. Altun said that the Turkish government had recorded an audio recording for French intelligence officials and given them transcriptions.
“Let’s not forget that this case would already have covered up if it had not been for Turkey’s determined efforts,” says Altun.
The growing evidence that Prince Mohammed was involved in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi is sure to intensify the pressure on the White House, which seemed to rely on a lack of concrete evidence of his commitment to preserving his relationship with the Crown Prince. Prince Mohammed has promoted a close relationship with the president’s son-in-law and senior counselor Jared Kushner, and the Trump administration has turned Saudi Arabia into Washington’s most crucial Arab partner.
Some drummers have argued that they would need undeniable evidence of Prince Mohammed’s involvement in Mr. Khashoggi’s killing before punishing him or the country more hard. Turkish officials have said that the recording contains evidence of a preventive killing, where the Saudi agents quickly strangled Mr.. Khashoggi and methodically disintegrated his body with a saw.
The administration, according to current and former officials, hopes to make some modest moves against sanctions and limiting support for the Saudi war effort in Yemen will satisfy critics, including those on Capitol Hill.
But the shift in power in Congress, where Democrats take charge of the Chamber in January, also increases the pressure on the administration taking more punishment. C.I.A. and other intelligence officials were put to short congress this week, and congressional leaders will press Mrs Haspel for his assessment of Prince Mohammed’s debt.
Mr. Trump himself has suggested more information would come out. “I will have a much stronger opinion on that topic next week,” he told reporters on Wednesday at the White House. “I form a very strong opinion.”
Signs of a curing attitude within the administration appear. The state department issued a tough statement on Sunday saying that Prime Minister Mike Pompeo had told President Mohammed in a phone call that “the United States will hold all those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi responsible”.
Saudi officials planned to release their own investigation in the coming days, but Turkey’s revelation that they and Western officials also transcribed the recordings could force Saudi people to shrink before each presentation they planned to do.
Even without definite evidence, intelligence services had already concluded that only Prince Mohammed could have ordered the operation to kill Mr Khashoggi, given the personal character of his rule and the depth of his control of the Kingdom. Evidence from the tape also showed that Mr Khashoggi was killed shortly after he entered the Saudi consulate’s room in Istanbul, where the security group was waiting for him, further proof that the killing was planned according to persons who informed the intelligence. 19659002] Present and former intelligence officials insisted that it is rare that all parts of a complex puzzle like Mr. Khashoggi were killed would ever be available. Intelligence, according to a former official, simply does not work as a spy thriller or TV cop show where a case turns on a crystal clear recording.
Investigators would unlikely gather evidence that undeniably links the crown prince to death, said the representative Adam B. Schiff, the Democrat of California, who will lead the House Intelligence Committee next year.
“You will not get any of the people who performed the murder speak openly about who they got their orders from or who is in the loop of it,” said Schiff in an interview. “It’s not realistic to expect.”
The absence of direct evidence does not prevent the intelligence society from imposing responsibility on Prince Mohammed’s feet. An intelligence assessment includes a bureau’s best assessment of what happened on the basis of available facts and experience of civil servants.
Mr. Schiff promised that when he takes responsibility for intelligence, he will investigate Khashoggi’s death and investigate Saudi Arabia’s actions to a greater extent in the Middle East, including its military campaign in Yemen, which has led to a humanitarian crisis.
“We need to make our own due diligence, we need to make sure we get good intelligence, and we must ensure that the government does not distort the country what foreign actors do,” says Mr. Schiff.
Still, current and former officials said they did not expect Trump to endorse Prince Mohammed.
“The Trump family and the president have built up such a overwhelming dependence on the Crown Prince that the relationship is now in their show, too big to fail, “said Mr. Schiff.
Policymakers – not Ms Haspel or Dan Coats, Head of National Intelligence – will determine what kind of relationship to have with Prince Mohammed and what punishment Saudi Arabia should meet for killing Khashoggi, current and former officials said .