Jamal Khashoggi

How the U.S. Covered Up the Murder of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Oscar-winning filmmaker Bryan Fogel fought Saudi censorship to make his new documentary, The Dissident.

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In October 2018, the world learned of the brutal murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi had been a government insider in his home country of Saudi Arabia, but his relationship with the ruling family—and particularly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—soured as Khashoggi became an influential advocate for free speech and human rights within the kingdom. In September 2017, fearing retaliation, he fled to the United States.

In 2018, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to obtain marriage papers and was ambushed by a team of operatives allegedly deployed by Prince Mohammed. As Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside for him to return, the Saudi team went to work.

"The global response, the U.S. response, the U.N. response, is basically 'bad boy, we're gonna let you get away with this one,'" says Bryan Fogel, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind the 2017 Netflix documentary Icarus

His new film, The Dissident, out now on most major VOD platforms, contains shocking audiotapes, transcripts, and video surveillance footage of the operation that ended with Khashoggi being strangled to death and his body disposed of in several trash bags.

The documentary features damning revelations, such as the Saudi team's alleged efforts to cover up the murder after the fact by dressing a Khashoggi body double in the slain man's clothes and parading him in front of security cameras. But surveillance footage featured in The Dissident also shows the alleged body double removing his fake mustache and clothes shortly thereafter.

Using a spyware tool called Pegasus that had been loaded onto Khashoggi's phone in order to eavesdrop on his conversations with other activists, Saudi operatives allegedly discovered that he was communicating with a young dissident living in Canada named Omar Abdulaziz. According to the film, Prince Mohammed also went after Abdulaziz, attempting to lure him back to Saudi Arabia with promises of fame and fortune, and sending a rendition team after him.

Fogel says he's most passionate about seeking justice and accountability for whistleblowers, dissidents, and other victims of totalitarian governments. The film for which he won an Oscar in 2017, Icarus, provided crucial evidence on the Russian Olympics doping scandal based on revelations from the former head of Moscow's internationally certified drug-testing laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who worked with Kremlin officials to implement the scheme.

The Dissident exposes widespread efforts by the Trump administration and political leaders around the world to cover up or gloss over the Saudis' alleged involvement in Khashoggi's killing. Though Fogel was fresh off an Oscar win for Icarus, he says it proved difficult to find partners willing to make his new documentary, and it was only made possible through the backing of the Human Rights Foundation. 

Though the documentary premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews, it was rejected by all major distributors before being picked up by Briarcliff Entertainment. Fogel says his experience making and distributing the film has convinced him that the fight for press freedoms around the globe must be led by a grassroots movement because it won't come from governments or corporations.

"I'm not mad at them," Fogel says of the distributors who declined to take on the film. "I understand the predicament. I just wish that we, as a society, were valuing human rights and valuing stories like this." 

Produced, written, and edited by Justin Monticello. Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Music: Which Way Is Up? by Silent Partner and The Path Starts Here by Cooper Cannell.

Photos: POOL New/REUTERS/Newscom; Abaca Press/Balkis Press/Abaca/Sipa USA/Newscom; Balkis Press/ABACA/Newscom; Ron Przysucha/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Anita Bugge/Geisler-Fotopress; AHMET SEL/SIPA/Newscom; Everett Collection/Newscom; Balkis Press / Sipa USA/Newscom; White House via CNP/Sipa USA/Newscom; Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom; Owen D.B. / BlackStar Photos/Newscom; Hubert Boesl/picture alliance / dpa/Newscom; Mikhail Japaridze/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom; SHEALAH CRAIGHEAD/UPI/Newscom; Louise MERESSE/SIPA/Newscom

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  2. convinced him that the fight for press freedoms around the globe must be led by a grassroots movement because it won’t come from governments or corporations.

    Ya think?

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  3. don’t care

    1. Trump didn’t care, why should you?

      1. Trump broke you this bad huh?

    2. Why don’t you care?

      1. “Look at how edgy I am!”

        That’s why.

        1. fuck off Sman

          1. I already jacked off to the new Resident Evil 8 vampire lady but thanks for looking after my sexual health I appreciate it.

      2. Foreigners, in foreign countries, get unjustly killed by foreign governments all the damn time, without any journalists caring enough to even give it one line of coverage in the US media.

        The fact that journalists are convinced that it’s somehow special when members of their profession are killed indicates nothing more than their overinflated sense of class entitlement.

        1. What passes for journalists today are a lower form of life. I like all kinds of animals. I don’t like modern ‘journalists’.

          1. this is why their travails are not worthy of special attention. they are liars and hypocrites and propogandists … many, if not most.

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  4. Fogel says his experience making and distributing the film has convinced him that the fight for press freedoms around the globe must be led by a grassroots movement because it won’t come from governments or corporations.

    More specifically, the corporations that own the news media. Disney, AT+T, and Comcast have no interest in free speech.

    1. Well, they bought the government fair and square, so why shouldn’t they get to decide?

  5. The US covered up the murder? Then how was it reported almost immediately after it happened in US media outlets?

    1. This is the sloppy language that journalism comes down to. Pretty much every western country out there downplayed this. I am aware of no actual “Cover Ups” going on.

      And it should be very clear to everyone that if this was about “America” covering up the killing, you would have every distributor in the world beating down the doors to put this out, because it would have given Trump a black eye. The reason this was so difficult to publish was that the entire Western world is trying to get Saudi Arabia 1) to keep the peace (aka fighting a war so we don’t have to) in Yemen and 2) to continue down its moderate road of liberalization. In many ways the current crown prince is like Pinnochet- deeply flawed, authoritarian, but willing to move the country in the right direction.

      None of this excuses the murder of Khashoggi. Geopolitics is a bloody and brutal game, and this documentary- to the extent that it shows us the eggs broken in international omelet making- is quite welcome. But when you cover the documentary and fail to talk about these basic points of context, it makes you look like you are merely obsessed with grinding your anti-american axe.

      1. Your comment made me curious as to how other “Watch me grind my axe against America” media personalities have commented on Saudi Arabia.

        Noam Chomsky is surprisingly “based” when it comes to calling out SA: https://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/17/chomsky_saudi_arabia_is_the_center

        Of course, he can’t help but also name the US and Britain as accomplices to SA, but I think that’s actually fair.

      2. Not so much ‘sloppy’ as too lazy to make an honest argument. So they will instead characterize what amounted to a collective yawn as ‘coverup.’

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  6. I disagree. The news did cover this story and the news outlets found this story very offensive, as they obviously still do, since it is being brought up again. It just didn’t track because Trump was doing something more outrageous at the time. Can’t recall exactly what that was, not do I want to at this point. The USA gave the Saudi’s a pass because we want their oil and we want to sell them military hardware. It was horrible yet typical of the Saudis. What do you expect from the nation that bankrolled 9/11? Why do we keep trading with them at all?

    1. Because if we don’t, then China/Iran/Russia get the oil and arms contracts instead of us. It’s the great game, 21st century edition.

      1. wait, you think OIL is the 21st century game?

        1. You think maybe Russia and China and others are maybe pushing the Green agenda out of sincere belief?

          1. I think oil is dying regardless.

            1. There is no current replacement for petroleum based energy production.

  7. In other words, the Saudi government’s killing of Khashoggi was inconvenient to the foreign policy goals of the international diplomatic community. A traditional application of Realpolitik.

  8. Khashoggi had ties to or was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The murder investigation was conducted by Turkish authorities and just so happens to be the source the media relied on. It is very likely that Turkey murdered Khashoggi and pinned it on the Saudis because Erdogan has this fetish about reviving the Ottoman Empire. No surprise Reason decided to play along with the legacy media rather than do some actual reporting.

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    2. It is very likely that Turkey murdered Khashoggi and pinned it on the Saudis

      That is a sweet, well conceived, point-by-point dissection of the documentary. Or did you not see it? I look forward to your analysis of the deep fake Saudi body double.

    3. So according to you, Turkey strangled him and dismembered his body INSIDE the Saudi embassy? And then they got someone to put on his clothes and a fake moustache to walk out from inside the Saudi embassy to make it look like he hadn’t been killed in there and discreet the Saudis?

      Considering that Erdogan is, as you point out, trying to undermine the Saudi government, they are really going above and beyond to help Erdogan do that, letting their embassy he used that way.

      1. *discredit* not discreet

      2. Careful, Green Jihad’s a moron, you can’t make him smarter but he can make you dumber.

  9. I can’t resolve the conflict of “he was a journalist” and “he worked for the Washington Post”.

  10. If selling weapons and remaining friends with the Saudis was in the best interests of American foreign policy, then that’s exactly what we should have done. Cancel culture has no place in foreign policy. If it’s in the best interests of the United States to make an alliance with Stalin to defeat the Nazis and push the Japanese out of China, then that’s exactly what we should have done, too.

    Incidentally, the reason the Saudis decided not to normalize relations with Israel during the Trump administration was because they didn’t want to potentially alienate the Biden administration by giving Trump a campaign issue. If the neoconservative idiots in the Biden administration fuck that up in the name of neoconservative ideals, it’ll be a real shame–for American security.

    If the United States manages to avoid becoming the target of a nuclear Iran, it will largely be due to our good relationship with the Saudis.

    1. “If the United States manages to avoid becoming the target of a nuclear Iran, it will largely be due to our good relationship with the Saudis.”

      Point taken, but I think the desire of Iranians to avoid becoming quickest genocide in history will have the most to do with that.

      1. I’d like to think the religious fanatics that run Iran, with a terrorist army in Hezbollah and the willingness to use all sorts of methods in Syria, would be concerned about obliteration, but I’m not sure we can bank on that.

        What we can bank on is that a nuclear deterrent would give Iran a free hand in using conventional forces. That’s what happened during the Cold War. The U.S. and the Soviet Union having ICBMs pointed at each other did not usher in an era of peace. It meant a never ending series of proxy wars using conventional weapons.

        And it isn’t just that Israel shouldn’t be just one of our proxies in the region. It’s that the more Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and other band together with Israel to defend themselves against Iranian aggression, the less necessary it is for the United States to guarantee their security. We want these countries to be friends with each other, so that they won’t be dependent on us for security anymore–which has been the case since before Kuwait.

        We started guaranteeing their security back during the Carter and Reagan administrations–building ports, airports, and military bases for American spec equipment–long before Kuwait. Saudi oil used to be much more important in the pre-fracking era before the Iranian Revolution and during the oil shocks. They were concerned that the Mullahs wanted Mecca. We were concerned about Saudi oil leaving world markets and disappearing into the Soviet Union in the wake of an Iranian invasion of Saudi Arabia.

        We don’t need to be the guarantors of security in the Middle East anymore. Being friends with the Saudis and letting our defense contractors sell them all the conventional weapons they want is a good thing for American security and American foreign policy. It’s the road to getting us out of that situation where we’re responsible for guaranteeing everyone’s security in the Middle East. And the idea that we would abandon that because the leader is a vicious dictator is ridiculous cancel culture bullshit.

        The legitimate purpose of foreign policy is not to protect our rights from foreign threats. It is not to guarantee that everyone everywhere in the world has a free press–regardless of what that means for American security interests.

        1. Latest word is Biden is going forward with a fracking ban. Moving us back towards dependence on foreign sources of energy.

          Thus elevating the Saudis profile.

          Yet Reason will no doubt blame Trump for whatever carnage follows.

          1. It’s not just bad for American security. It’s economic suicide. It’s shooting ourselves in the foot.

            This is what they wanted when they wanted Trump to lose–whether they realized it or not.

            Meanwhile, China and India have more in the way of coal producing plants under construction than we could possibly close.

            https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-worlds-coal-power-plants

            Slide it out to 2020.

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              1. ^ Proudly and loudly profiting off the immiseration of his countrymen.

                1. Hate the game, not the player.

                  1. Now we can add scumbag to liar on your list of descriptives.

                    1. Where’s the lie?

                      And I suppose you boycott tobacco stocks, energy stocks, arms makers, etc.? Or are you just using any personal information I make available into a weak and childish jab?

                    2. He’s probably referring to some of your previous dishonesty. Like when you pretended to be a SF vet.

            2. I’m assuming all those planned ones in Africa are part of Chinese belt and road efforts. Which will be awesome for the kleptocrats in Botswana and Mozambique.

        2. To frame this in traditional international relations terms, I believe that Iranians are rational actors. The religious stuff is useful for controlling their own population, and they may really believe it, but at the end of the day they want their children to grow up (to dominate the world and kill all the Jews, maybe, but grow up all the same) and thrive.

          “The legitimate purpose of foreign policy is not to protect our rights from foreign threats. It is not to guarantee that everyone everywhere in the world has a free press–regardless of what that means for American security interests.”

          A agree wholeheartedly with that. But I’m not so sure that SA’s use of our weapons will not result in blow back for the US in the future. What’s going on in Yemen currently is rather disgusting, and I would not be the least bit surprised if we were to suffer a terrorist attack from a motivated Houthi in the future.

          In other words, it’s complicated. Iran is far from the only issue or potential bad actor in the region. Doing anything we can that hobbles Iran isn’t necessarily supporting of the objective you stated. There is also the whole connection to 9/11 and Bin Laden thing, and the whole worldwide sponsorship of Wahhabism thing that are problematic with SA.

          In short, it would be nice if we could have our cake and eat it too. perhaps add a stick to the carrot and stick approach with SA.

        3. “The legitimate purpose of foreign policy is not to protect our rights from foreign threats. It is not to guarantee that everyone everywhere in the world has a free press–regardless of what that means for American security interests.

          —-Ken Shultz

          Y’all probably knew what I meant. Just for the record, I fixed it.

          1. Woops. I even quoted it without catching it. Same goes for my quotation and responses to.

    2. How about not trusting either the Saudis or the Iranians with glow-in-the-dark paint, let alone Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical (NBC) weapons? As long as either nation holds to Mohammed’s call to kill the unbeliever wherever Muslims find the unbeliever, neither are worth our time or resources.

  11. The hardest job in journalism: Having to write a story that evokes sympathy for a dead journalist.

  12. “If the United States manages to avoid becoming the target of a nuclear Iran,”

    What’s to stop America from forming a relationship with Iran as close as or closer to the one we currently enjoy with Saudi Arabia? Close ties with murderous regimes are entirely appropriate, after all. The best interests of an empire are served by playing minor players against each other, not kowtowing to ‘friends.’

    1. The fact that the Iranian regime has spent forty years telling its populace that all its problems were caused by America, making it incredibly difficult for them to change their foreign policy without provoking a revolution.

      1. “making it incredibly difficult for them to change their foreign policy”

        It was a change in American foreign policy that put the kibosh on the agreement hammered out between the ayatollahs and Barack Hussein Obama, whose VP was Joe Biden, America’s current president since yesterday. Hard to keep up with these things,

    2. The reason we’re at odds with Iran is because they’ve chosen to consistently act in a way that’s a threat against international security, and they’ve been stuck on this course since 1979 because its embedded in their Revolutionary propaganda. You know Israel even sent Iran arms during the Iran-Iraq war because they wanted to try to be friendly with the regime? That didn’t work, because the propaganda value of blaming Israel for everything was too important, as is the propaganda value of blaming America for everything. Still, you know, the West would be OK if it was just words, but then there’s a matter of them funding terrorist proxies and pushing their nuclear goals.

      On the other hand, the reason we work with Saudi Arabia is because we believe they work with our security interests. A lot of people try to turn this upside down by pointing to the fact that the 9/11 attackers were Saudis. But everyone also has to understand that one of al-Qaeda’s chief complaints against the US was our relationship with the Saudi king. These were Saudis, but they were Saudis working against their own government; we believe with funding from Saudi princes who were also working against the king’s policies. This is what the ‘anti-corruption’ drive by MbS was all about — to root out those people — and Khashoggi got caught up in that because of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

      There is an argument nonetheless that participation with the Saudis, even well-intentioned, leads to blowback, and that’s at least a legitimate argument. But nonetheless : the fact that we have a relationship with the Saudi govt and not Iran isn’t something random or arbitrary; it comes from the behavior of the two governments.

      1. “The reason we’re at odds with Iran is because they’ve chosen to consistently act in a way that’s a threat against international security,”

        You’ve heard the news? The Democrats hold the house, the senate and the presidency. They hate Israel and Saudi Arabia, and love Iran and Hezbollah, too. If Obama’s cozying up to them is forgotten history, it’s time to hit the books again.

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  14. Who gives a shit about “journalists”?

  15. A person not a citizen of this country was killed by a person not a citizen of this country and across the world from this country. So, why exactly should we clutch our pearls on this? Because he was a journalist? I’m afraid many of us have more sympathy for the perpetrators.

    1. People were murdered by BLM/Antifa. People lost their homes and livelihoods due to BLM/Antifa. Let me know when Reason puts together an expose.

      Until then journalist is just another word for someone who chose a side.

      If they get killed why should I give two shits? Not like anyone has my back.

      1. “If they get killed why should I give two shits? ”

        It made Trump look like an ineffectual stooge. Is there a better reason?

        1. Because he refused to dance when partisans tried to make this something other than what it was?

          1. “what it was?”

            Whatever it was. it was worth at least 3 shits. Two is evidently not enough.

  16. “Terrorist spook working for the CIA and Muslim Brotherhood gets killed”

    Cry me a river

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  18. How come this terrorist-apologizing jackass is still being talked about that wasn’t an American, wasn’t killed in America, and wasn’t killed by Americans or the American government, but the terrorist-apologizing jackass that was a US citizen that Obama murdered with the full might of the US military and intelligence apparatus wasn’t even talked about at the time?

    1. “How come this terrorist-apologizing jackass is still being talked about ”

      Because come someone made a movie about the murder. Here is a torrent link to the film you may appreciate:

      https://thepiratebay.org/description.php?id=40105028

  19. Does it go into his ties and work with the Qatar government and the Muslim Brotherhood?

    He wasn’t killed because he was a journalist fighting for human rights, he was a player in the power struggle in the Middle East

    1. “Does it go into his ties and work with the Qatar government and the Muslim Brotherhood?”

      I don’t know. My advice, watch the film and decide for yourself. Here is a link:

      https://thepiratebay.org/description.php?id=40105028

      You need a bittorrent client to download the file. I recommend Transmission, but there are many others.

  20. Putting aside the fact that the killing wasn’t covered up, as it was widely reported with almost saturation coverage, I am curious what the author and the filmmaker think Trump should have done.

    Khashoggi was a Saudi citizen, and the murder happened in Turkey. So what is the US responsibility exactly? I thought libertarians were opposed to the US being the world’s policeman. Should Trump have bombed Saudia Arabia? Sanctions? Aren’t libertarians opposed to sanctions too?

    1. “I am curious what the author and the filmmaker think Trump should have done.”

      Fortunately, the film is available for download here:
      https://thepiratebay.org/description.php?id=40105028

      ” So what is the US responsibility exactly”

      USA is the hegemon, KSA is the client. Not the other way round.

      1. Why can’t you answer the question? I am not watching a pirated film.

        OK, USA is the hegemon. We have plenty of military and economic influence. But I repeat, short of military retaliation or curbing free trade, what other options are available?

        And why specifically over Khashoggi, when Saudi Arabia executes it’s own citizens for things like witchcraft, adultery, and homosexuality?

        1. ” I am not watching a pirated film.”

          Maybe you could email those involved with the film and ask permission to view the film.

          ” But I repeat, short of military retaliation or curbing free trade, what other options are available? ”

          The president could have criticized the Saudi behavior, and maybe warned them not to do this sort of thing again. America doesn’t need this sort of embarrassment.

          “And why specifically over Khashoggi,”

          He was an employee of an American company, working for the CIA, apparently. He was murdered in Turkey, America’s only ally in the region.

      2. He cannot answer the question because he is a hard leftist and has no clue how to address the issue from a libertarian perspective.

  21. Given that he was not a US citizen, I don’t give a fuck! I’m more concerned with the media covering up the corruption of the Biden crime syndicate!

  22. Bloggers in the Islamic world who denounce Islam and espouse Atheism, get everything from torture to imprisonment to death either by extrajudicial violence or judicial Sha’ria🙂 violence. Why don’t these victims get the attention that this supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood got?

    1. No smile intended there. Bad hypertext. Sha’ria law is no smiling matter.

  23. Not saying what happened to this guy was right…BUT

    The killing of Jamal Khashoggi (A Saudi National) was hardly a surprise given his open opposition to the new Saudi leader.

    His constant efforts to back groups from the Kingdoms “old Gaurd” to re-take the country, coupled with his open backing of Hamas and other terrorist groups, yeah he was going to get killed. Simple. He was a pretty bad guy and was involved with violent opposition groups against his own country. The Prince was pushing reforms for women, and other human rights (such as they are over there) Jamal wanted to back to the stone age, so he was liquidated.

  24. Any form of killing without proper trial, is a threat to all human

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