The acting director of national intelligence will have 30 days to present a formal determination on the killers of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi under the military bill passed by the House this week. Though the White House was insistent that punitive measures against the Saudi regime be stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act, the final bill does require acting DNI Joseph Maguire to comment on whether Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the October 2018 murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, reports the Guardian. CIA Director Gina Haspel said as much in a closed-door briefing a year ago as the Senate unanimously voted to condemn MBS over the murder.
"We know that the intelligence community has assessed with high confidence that MBS bears at least some responsibility," Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, tells the Guardian. But "I wouldn't be surprised if the White House put some pressure on [Maguire] to come to a different conclusion." The bill also requires a Defense Department report on whether Saudi Arabia violated the laws of war in Yemen. "If performed credibly, these assessments might open the door for a future administration ... to take appropriate action," Rob Berschinski of Human Rights First writes in a Washington Post op-ed. But for now, "Congress has signaled to dictators that they're free to assassinate journalists and dissidents, and to wantonly kill civilians in war, so long as they have convinced Trump that they are his friends," he writes. (Read more Jamal Khashoggi stories.)