Transcript

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

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MARTIN SMITH, Correspondent:

It is December 2018.

It’s been less than three months since the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

But just outside of Riyadh, Saudi leaders and some of their friends are gathered for a celebration.

Featured is a big electric car race intended to showcase the kinds of reforms underway here.

I have managed to get into the royal box.

There’s Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister at the time;

Mohammed al-Sheikh, a former World Bank lawyer and now a minister of state;

multibillionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, among the world’s richest men.

And over there is Norman Roule, a former senior CIA official.

He is talking to the world’s largest private collector of Rembrandts, Thomas Kaplan.

And of course there’s distinguished royalty: the powerful Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi;

Princess Reema, now Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S.;

His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman, now deputy minister of defense;

and his big brother, the crown prince himself, Mohammed bin Salman.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

I hope I will do that, but if I do that I would be—

MARTIN SMITH:

I came here to understand who he is and where he is taking Saudi Arabia. I especially wanted to speak to him about the Khashoggi murder. But we’ll come back to that later.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

Now no, but in the first we have—

MARTIN SMITH:

For now, His Royal Highness just wants to watch the race below.

He wants to put the murder behind him.

MARTIN SMITH:

Much is already known about that day last October when Jamal Khashoggi and his fiancee took a taxi to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

He entered just after 1 p.m. to pick up some paperwork they needed for their wedding.

But when the office closed and Khashoggi had not emerged, word spread.

RANDA SLIM, Middle East Institute:

Here I was, looking at my Twitter feed, and somebody I follow, who is close to Jamal, saying that Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and he has not gone out. And I remember retweeting that message, saying, "WTH"—what the heck?

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

A prominent Saudi journalist disappeared in Istanbul.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian citizen and U.S.—

MARTIN SMITH:

At the time, Khashoggi was a regular contributor to "The Washington Post" and had written many pieces critical of the crown prince.

MALE NEWSREADER:

He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey—

MALE NEWSREADER:

Jamal Khashoggi hasn’t been seen since.

BERNARD HAYKEL, Princeton University:

I was baffled by the idea that he could walk into a consulate and disappear. I couldn't understand who would do that, because even if you wanted to kill a dissident, or someone that you felt was a dissident, why would you do it in your own consulate? You lose plausible deniability.

MALE NEWSREADER:

The mystery deepens tonight over the fate of Jamal Khashoggi.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The Saudi government claims that Jamal Khashoggi entered the consulate and left shortly afterwards.

HALA AL-DOSARI, Saudi activist:

Even among Saudis themselves, people were shocked by it. He's not a political opposition. He didn't ever call for ousting the regime. So it's something that was very much unprecedented.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

A Turkish newspaper claimed officials had an audio recording of Khashoggi being tortured—

MALE NEWSREADER:

More than a dozen Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi in the consulate.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Khashoggi’s body was carved up into little pieces.

DEBORAH AMOS, National Public Radio:

It's one thing to know that he'd been kidnapped. It was another thing to know not only had he been killed, but he'd been tortured. For anybody that you've known for a long time to end that way, it just—just didn't seem right.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Saudi Arabia is scrambling to carry out damage control.

MALE NEWSREADER:

The crown prince himself is the principal suspect.

MALE NEWSREADER:

This is a man who we’ve been trying to understand and cope with. Is he a modernizer or a tyrant?

MALE NEWSREADER:

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is now facing greater scrutiny than ever before. So who is the man in charge of Saudi Arabia?

MARTIN SMITH:

Our story begins with Prince Mohammed’s father, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. He was born in 1935 and is believed to be the 25th son of the kingdom’s founder. He was appointed governor of Riyadh at a young age, a position he held for almost half a century.

It was a time of extraordinary change.

BRUCE RIEDEL, Central Intelligence Agency, 1977-2006:

Salman as governor of Riyadh literally turned a small desert town into a thriving city. There were maybe 100,000 people living in Riyadh when he became governor back in the 1960s; today it's somewhere around 7 or 8 million people.

MARTIN SMITH:

It was during this period of growth that young Mohammed bin Salman, born in 1985, grew up. But little is known about his early years or why his father favored him.

He had many sons. He picked this particular son, the oldest of his third marriage. Why?

NORMAN ROULE, Central Intelligence Agency, 1983-2017:

I understand that the crown prince and the king have spent an awful lot of time together, and they have a similar way of looking at the world. The king appeared to groom him to share his view on issues such as corruption, the duties of the royal family and the responsibilities to sustain the Al Saud kingdom.

MARTIN SMITH:

Most young royals study abroad at some point. Not Prince Mohammed. He remained in Riyadh, by his father’s side, through high school and college.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL, Director, Saudi Intelligence, 1977-2001:

As I understand it, once he graduated he was employed by his father, working and I assume learning from that work, when his father was the governor.

KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE, Publisher, "The Wall Street Journal," 2002-06:

Apparently that's what he did for some years, was attend all of his father's meetings and make himself useful.

MARTIN SMITH:

Mohammed’s father, while governor, had the responsibility of settling disputes within the royal family.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED, Author, "Salman's Legacy":

So everybody who had a problem with a rival prince or had a dispute, they will go to him. And he was known to be very, very strict in terms of disciplining princes.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He was known, for instance, to discipline people that he didn't like, including physically slapping people.

NORMAN ROULE:

He was, according to the stories, famous for calling in princes who refused to pay bank loans and putting them in a rather luxurious villa and pressuring them to pay what they owed. And they did.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

And everything that was buried in the closet, he knew about it. And he had helped sweep it under or get rid of it or fix it or whatever.

Those files, of course, he has now transferred entirely over to his son, who has all of that information going back literally a half century. This gives them enormous influence within the House of Saud, because they know every peccadillo, every fault that every member of the family has had.

MARTIN SMITH:

In 2015, upon the death of his predecessor, Salman, at age 79, became king. He acted quickly to move his son Prince Mohammed into the line of succession.

First, Prince Muqrin, his predecessor’s choice for crown prince, was quickly removed.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

No explanation was ever offered; he was just removed and replaced by the then-deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef. Mohammed bin Nayef was a known quantity to the Central Intelligence Agency, to MI6, to every intelligence service around the world.

MARTIN SMITH:

And MBS is moved up behind him?

NORMAN ROULE:

Right.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS, or Mohammed bin Salman, was now second in line to the throne. He was 29.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

The Saudi system is an absolute monarchy. The king's will is absolute. And King Salman decided that MBS is going to be his successor. He shared his views, which are very aggressive, for instance, on Iran; he also has a toughness that I think the king didn't see in others.

MARTIN SMITH:

What do you mean by toughness?

BERNARD HAYKEL:

An ability to use coercive power if necessary against domestic enemies and regional enemies. I think the king has a view that Saudi Arabia is a country that cannot be ruled, you know, with kid gloves.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS wasted little time in putting his toughness on display. Freshly appointed minister of defense, he went on the offensive in neighboring Yemen.

MALE SPEAKER:

Allahu Akbar!

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

A new offensive to drive out Iranian-backed rebels who seized control of the capital and keep military sites.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Houthi rebels in Yemen were advancing with support from Saudi Arabia’s archenemy, Iran.

For MBS, this was an urgent national security threat.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Officials say the Saudi campaign was quickly planned, catching top U.S. military commanders off guard.

MARTIN SMITH:

He went ahead, giving the Obama administration little notice.

EMILE HOKAYEM, International Institute for Strategic Studies:

Suddenly, MBS comes and he says, "I'll define our national security interests," almost independently. It's not this risk-averse Saudi Arabia that we had gotten used to.

MARTIN SMITH:

Some elders in the royal family were said to have opposed the offensive, believing it was rash—Crown Prince bin Nayef among them. But young Prince Mohammed prevailed. It became known as MBS’s war.

DEBORAH AMOS:

And there was a groundswell of young Saudis that it was like, "Go, Mohammed, go." This is the first time that Saudi Arabia had ever fought in a war like this outside of their own borders, and it was hugely popular because the way that he framed it was, "Quick, in and out. We'll fix it. Done."

MARTIN SMITH:

Among the most ardent supporters of the Yemen campaign was this man.

I toast you.

Jamal Khashoggi.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Oh. It is coffee that roasted lightly with cardamom.

MARTIN SMITH:

Ah, with cardamom. And when you drink coffee in Saudi Arabia, where is the coffee from? Is it from Africa?

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Ah. Originally from Yemen, al-Mokha.

MARTIN SMITH:

I asked him why the rush to war in Yemen was necessary, especially in light of reports of many civilian casualties.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

If Saudi Arabia waited for Mr. Obama to approve an intervention in Yemen, Yemen would have been gone and lost a long time ago. It would be controlled by the Iranians and the Houthi. So we did not wait for Mr. Obama’s approval. And I think that empowers Saudi Arabia.

MARTIN SMITH:

Is Saudi Arabia committing human rights abuses in its bombing campaign?

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Look, for Saudi Arabia it is a 1939 moment.

MARTIN SMITH:

So you’re comparing Iran to Nazi Germany.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Yes. In Saudi Arabia we are at that moment. We either accept Iranian hegemony, control over Yemen and over our destiny, or freedom.

HALA GORANI, Newscaster:

Let’s get more on the Saudi position. I’m joined by Jamal Khashoggi—

MARTIN SMITH:

At the time, Khashoggi was not a big critic of the regime.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, Newscaster:

Jamal Khashoggi, welcome back to the program.

MARTIN SMITH:

He was for the most part a pro-government voice.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR:

What is Saudi Arabia’s aim—

BERNARD HAYKEL:

Jamal was a journalist, an analyst, but also a client of the Saudi government.

MARTIN SMITH:

An insider?

BERNARD HAYKEL:

Absolutely an insider.

HALA GORANI:

Is Saudi Arabia breaking diplomatically from its allies—

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He's someone you went to to understand the politics of the country—

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

The irony of things is that we are almost in total agreement. All what we need—

BERNARD HAYKEL:

—to understand the relationship with Islamism.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Blowing up himself, that is totally absurd in Islam.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He had always worked for one prince or another; was extremely close to Prince Turki al-Faisal, for instance.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

He was spokesman for the embassy in London and then in Washington when I was ambassador in both.

MARTIN SMITH:

Right. Was he ever somebody— did he complain about the kingdom?

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

Jamal always had ideas, and he was very, very open with those ideas.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

[Speaking Arabic]

Your Royal Highness.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

[Speaking Arabic]

Yes.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

[Speaking Arabic]

For example, why don’t we support reformers within Iran?

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

[Speaking Arabic]

My brother, Jamal—

[Speaking English]

He was boisterous; he had a good sense of humor, sometimes laughing at himself, sometimes laughing with others. And he was a very professional journalist.

HALA GORANI:

Let’s get another perspective now, from Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He joins me—

MARTIN SMITH:

In those days Khashoggi was especially enthusiastic about MBS when he talked about the need for reform.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

And he is seen as a savior by young Saudis and by me.

RANDA SLIM:

The fact that you have a new king and a young adviser in the person of Mohammed bin Salman, that gave hope to Jamal.

MARTIN SMITH:

In 2016, after meeting with MBS, Khashoggi made a point of tweeting this; it’s the only photograph we’ve seen of the two of them together.

I’ve been coming to Saudi Arabia for many years; over that time I witnessed very little change. But in recent years I’ve been surprised.

One night, in March 2017, I was invited to an art studio. Young men were gathered for an evening of music. This was unusual in a place like Riyadh, where performances like this had long been banned by Saudi clerics.

In the past, hosting an evening like this could lead to arrests. MBS put an end to that.

Many Saudis knew that the country needed to change, both culturally and economically.

For years Saudi Arabia has derived most all of its income from oil sales. But oil prices have been falling, the private sector is weak, and youth unemployment is high.

NORMAN ROULE:

In Saudi Arabia there was very little change; the economy was highly inefficient; women played no role; there was a tremendous amount of corruption. It was exactly the sort of place you would expect if you had a government run by elderly men ruling by consensus.

MOHAMMED AL-SHEIKH, Minister of State:

Every single developmental plan, and these started in the late '60s, early '70s, had two main sentences in it: "diversifying the economy away from oil" and "less dependence on oil revenues for the government."

MARTIN SMITH:

It's always been the case; you've always pushed for that, and you've never gotten there.

MOHAMMED AL-SHEIKH:

We've always pushed for that, we’ve always talked about that, but we were never able to achieve that. This time we were doing something.

MARTIN SMITH:

The king gave MBS full rein. It was ambitious beyond anything Saudi Arabia had attempted before.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

Today we have opportunities that are beyond our imagination.

The challenge is that we are under pressure to achieve something new in a short time.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS’s plan was to import Western technology, Western entertainment, and to open up the notoriously closed kingdom to become a world-class tourist destination.

MOHAMMED AL-SHEIKH:

The crown prince, he has an imagination that I have never experienced anybody with. I'm about 17 years older than he is, but I really look up to him as a leader.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

And the most important element of all are the Saudi people, and the will and determination of Saudis.

MARTIN SMITH:

Many who met the young prince were initially impressed.

KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE, Author, "On Saudi Arabia":

He was confident, charismatic, decisive, with a vision. Not a plan, but a broad sort of "there's the lighthouse I have to get to."

MARTIN SMITH:

You thought he was a good thing.

KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE:

I thought he was a good thing. You did say, "I'm dealing with a different kind of Saudi than anything I've ever seen."

MARTIN SMITH:

Mohammed bin Salman planned to finance his Vision 2030 by taking Saudi Arabia’s oil giant, Saudi Aramco, public in an IPO.

MALE NEWSREADER:

The biggest investment banks in the world have been salivating over the prospects—

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

We are valuating Aramco along with some private firms and banks. We expect the valuation to be more than $2 trillion.

MARTIN SMITH:

To expand the economy, he also needed to introduce some major social reforms.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He stops the religious police from having the right to arrest anyone in public for alleged infringement against public morality. Women, for instance, were often targeted for not being appropriately dressed. Religious police can no longer do anything.

FAWZIAH AL-BAKR, King Saud University:

Now you go to the malls, and you’re relaxed. Total segregation that was in place in this society is cracking down. We were hidden, basically, for a very long time, you know, just work in very traditional jobs and within the family protection. So now we’re coming out in every aspect.

MARTIN SMITH:

And you credit Prince Mohammed?

FAWZIAH AL-BAKR:

For all this. For all this. And actually King Salman.

ALI SHIHABI, Founder, Arabia Foundation, 2017-19:

Reforming the religious cultural space; integrating women; these are historic things that leaders were unable to do over the last 50 years.

MARTIN SMITH:

Out of these changes would come a new Saudi identity.

STEVEN A. COOK, Council on Foreign Relations:

As they have reined in the religious police, Mohammed bin Salman and the people around him have de-emphasized religion. And in its place has been this idea of—that nationalism is most important.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

This hypernationalist narrative that Saudi Arabia is great.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN :

[Speaking Arabic]

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the next five years, will be completely transformed.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

It is in line of what is happening around the world. A new generation of leaders are using the same language and the same rhetoric.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

The next moment in the world, in the next 30 years, is the Middle East’s moment. This is the war of the Saudis; it's my personal war that I'm waging. I do not want to leave this life before I see the Middle East at the forefront as a global power. And I am 100% sure this goal will be achieved.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS, not his father the king or Crown Prince bin Nayef, became the emblem of that new Saudi Arabia both here and abroad.

But all the changes did not mean that Saudi Arabia would become more politically open or tolerant.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He looked like a very pro-Western, pro-technology guy. What I think was never properly interrogated was what kind of political system did he have in mind.

MARTIN SMITH:

Politically minded Saudis didn’t quite know what to expect. But for them, economic and social changes would be meaningless without real political reform.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

When King Salman took the throne, we were expecting, at least, that the political prisoners would be released. But King Salman was not like his siblings; the trials kept on going, and then new types of repression emerged.

MARTIN SMITH:

Yahya al-Assiri is a prominent human rights activist. I met him at a conference he organized of Saudis in London.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

Thank you all for coming to this gathering. This gathering represents everyone. If the regime won’t allow us to get together, we will get together anyway!

MARTIN SMITH:

In recent years, increasing numbers of Saudis have left the country—writers, academics and activists of all kinds.

SAHAR AL-FAIFI, Activist:

The main thing we’re calling for is we want freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement; where the people can have the right of self-determination.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

[Speaking Arabic]

We know that calling out the regime through our words and our articles is what they fear most. This is why they respond so aggressively.

MARTIN SMITH:

What kind of a man is Mohammed bin Salman?

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

Mohammed bin Salman is a man that wants to get power in the fastest way possible. He used PR to promote himself as a reformer.

MARTIN SMITH:

In March 2017, Mohammed bin Salman agreed to meet with me in his office at Riyadh’s Irqah Palace. I wanted to talk to him about political reforms.

But when I got there he talked mostly about his economic plans and the new U.S. president, Donald Trump. I asked for an on-camera interview; he said he wasn’t quite ready.

The next day, I was surprised to receive a text.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN [via text]:

This is my number. Mohammed bin Salman.

MARTIN SMITH [via text] :

I really enjoyed our meeting. Trust me I will be in touch.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN [via text]:

🙏🏻

MARTIN SMITH:

Meanwhile, Jamal Khashoggi continued to be sought after as a commentator. After America’s 2016 election, he video conferenced into a U.S. think tank from the Middle East.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Thank you, thank you for inviting me. I’m sure Saudi Arabian officials were caught off guard by the election of Mr. Trump.

MARTIN SMITH:

His comments weren’t especially negative, just cautionary.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

If we had difficulties with somebody like Mr. Obama, I’m sure we will have more difficulties with Mr. Trump.

RANDA SLIM:

He was advising Gulf governments, including Saudi Arabia, not to put all their eggs in Trump's basket—

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

The more chaos we have in the region, the more—

RANDA SLIM:

—but rather to diversify their relations.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

Mr. Trump has to choose. He cannot be critical of the Iran nuclear program and not see the chaos they are creating. It is not just—

MARTIN SMITH:

It is not clear if he realized he had crossed a red line. But he had.

In very clear terms, he told friends and colleagues, Saudi authorities ordered him to no longer write or tweet or appear on TV.

RANDA SLIM:

This speech in particular was seen by Mohammed bin Salman as likely to be interpreted as being anti-Trump and his inner circle.

MARTIN SMITH:

So, "Don't get between me and the Trump administration."

RANDA SLIM:

Yes.

MARTIN SMITH:

The importance of Donald Trump to the Saudis was made abundantly clear in the way they greeted him in Riyadh in May 2017.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The grandeur of this welcome is so different from past presidents.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Really just showing how excited this country is that President Trump has chosen Saudi Arabia to make his first stop. And I want to talk about—

BERNARD HAYKEL:

It's a huge coup for MBS and King Salman in that it's able to bring the most powerful person in the world to Saudi Arabia and to rekindle the strategic alliance that had frayed under President Obama. So for MBS, this is a massive victory.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis used the trip to influence the president on a variety of issues.

BRUCE RIEDEL, Author, "Kings and Presidents":

And the Saudis knew how to play Donald Trump. They'd seen this kind of person before; in many ways he's kind of a mirror image of many Saudi princes.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Everywhere you look there are posters welcoming Donald Trump—

BRUCE RIEDEL:

You put his picture up on big posters on the side of skyscrapers.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Pretty amazing welcome ceremony that President Trump is receiving—

BRUCE RIEDEL:

You put on the sword dance.

You put on a big display.

MALE ANNOUNCER:

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud confers King Abdulaziz medal on President Donald Trump.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

You play to his ego and he will do what you want him to do.

MARTIN SMITH:

What the Saudis wanted from Trump was U.S. help in beating back Iran and supporting Saudi ambitions to become the dominant player in the Middle East. In return, MBS made promises to help Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

DAVID IGNATIUS, "The Washington Post":

Mohammed bin Salman would tell people, "I see a Middle East that's going to include Israel. I'm prepared to recognize Israel; have trade relationships with Israel." And I think that was very seductive to the Trump administration and at the centerpiece of the peace plan that Kushner kept trying to push.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The president and his top aides taking steps to solidify relations with the Muslim world.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

To give credit to Mohammed bin Salman, of his many sought-after accomplishments, the grooming and wooing of Donald Trump has to be pretty close to the top.

MARTIN SMITH:

During the visit, Trump agreed to an arms deal worth over $100 billion.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We signed historic agreements with the kingdom, and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies.

MARTIN SMITH:

For the Saudis, the trip was a great triumph. They had been reassured that Trump had their back.

At the exact same time Trump was in Riyadh, I was in Yemen.

The war was in its third year.

The Saudis, with U.S. military assistance, were continuing their air campaign. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels were not retreating. But Prince Mohammed was, as he told me, confident that with just a little more time he could win here.

REFUGEE WOMAN 1:

We heard bombs, and we can afraid anything, anybody—

REFUGEE BOY:

Big, "boom," like that.

REFUGEE WOMAN 1:

I see the boys of my neighbor is died. And blood on the floor.

MARTIN SMITH:

I visited a Yemeni refugee camp.

REFUGEE WOMAN 2:

[Speaking Arabic]

This woman over here, during a wedding in her family people died. They were collecting the hair from the rubble. They were collecting the necks, the arms.

MARTIN SMITH:

Why are the Saudis doing this?

REFUGEE WOMAN 3:

[Speaking Arabic]

Only God knows. We're just farmers. We don’t have an army base or anything. It's just a village.

REFUGEE WOMAN 2:

[Speaking Arabic]

They destroyed our country, our lives. They killed our kids. Widowed our women. They made our children orphans. Why did these people deserve this? Because of Iran? Iran has a country. Fight them there.

MARTIN SMITH:

Then, with the war in Yemen at a stalemate, and within weeks of Trump's trip to the region, MBS launched a new foreign policy adventure against another neighbor: the very rich nation of Qatar.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, among others, broke off diplomatic contact and suspended—

MARTIN SMITH:

For years the Saudis had accused the Qataris of financing terrorist groups and being soft on Iran. Now MBS chose to act.

EMILE HOKAYEM:

Within a night, Saudi Arabia cut trading routes, transportation into Qatar. They severed diplomatic relations. It was a demand for total capitulation, turning Qatar into a vassal state. It was a very brutal move.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Countries blockading this nation have sent Qatar a 13-point list of demands—

MALE NEWSREADER :

Qatar has been asked to curb diplomatic and trade relations with Iran.

MARTIN SMITH:

Among their demands was that Qatar shut down its giant state-owned broadcasting network, Al-Jazeera.

EMILE HOKAYEM:

Saudi Arabia doesn't see why tiny countries like Qatar should have this disproportionate say in the region. So this time, they went for the jugular.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs:

The Qataris have pushed incitement and extremism through their media platforms in order to destabilize countries. This is why we are saying to the Qataris, "Enough is enough. This has got to stop if you want to have normal relations with us."

MARTIN SMITH:

Trump tweeted his support of the Saudis, seeming to agree with them that Qatar was funding terrorism. “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit...already paying off.... Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to horror of terrorism!”

What Trump seemed to have forgotten is that Qatar is a major U.S. ally that hosts the largest American military base in the Middle East.

Trump tried to negotiate a settlement, but the Qataris would not cave to Saudi demands.

STEVEN A. COOK, Author, "False Dawn":

To the benefit of the Qataris, they have a tremendous amount of financial resources. They have learned to live without their neighbors; they have weathered the blockade without any kind of major economic problems. They, in fact, have prospered.

MARTIN SMITH:

But MBS refused to lift the boycott.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He wants to be the most important leader who decides on policies of the region. It’s the desire, I think, by MBS to be the dominant regional figure.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS was also determined to be the dominant decision-maker at home. One man stood in his way: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

On the night of June 20, two weeks after the attack on Qatar, b in Nayef was summoned by the king. Saudi TV broadcast this carefully choreographed scene.

MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF:

[Speaking Arabic]

I pledge allegiance to you. May God support you. I pledge allegiance to you through the best and the worst.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

May God reward you and prolong your life.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Essentially, what MBS did was to break the personality and power of MBN as chief rival, humiliate him, and then make a show of kissing Mohammed bin Nayef's ring, as if he was being submissive.

MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF:

[Speaking Arabic]

May God help you.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

May God prolong your life.

MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF:

[Speaking Arabic]

I am relieved now and may God help you.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

We are always in need of your direction and guidance.

MOHAMMED BIN NAYEF:

[Speaking Arabic]

Good luck to all.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN:

[Speaking Arabic]

We will always seek your guidance.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

Mohammed bin Nayef went along with this little bit of choreography only to be moved into effectively house arrest. Now, it's a nice house; it's a palace. But he's held there incommunicado under essentially palace arrest.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The former crown prince was in charge of Saudi Arabia’s security services. He has been relieved of all position.

MARTIN SMITH:

Within hours of the news, Trump called Mohammed bin Salman to congratulate him.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Mohammed bin Nayef may have been the CIA's best friend, but he wasn't Donald Trump's best friend, let alone Jared Kushner's. The Trump White House had chosen its Saudi friend, and that was MBS.

MARTIN SMITH:

Overnight, MBS had engineered a hugely successful maneuver.

MARTIN SMITH:

As you understood it, and you're close to the Saudis, how did you understand the need to oust Mohammed bin Nayef?

NORMAN ROULE:

My sense is that the urgency that the king and the crown prince felt as to the need for changes in the kingdom's economic and political structure was such that it compelled them to make that decision.

MARTIN SMITH:

With Mohammed bin Nayef removed, the new crown prince, MBS, was now firmly in charge.

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, "The New York Times":

He became the guy running the royal court; he became the defense minister; and he had also taken over effective control of the interior ministry from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The whole ball of wax was now in the hands of one man in a way that was really unprecedented.

MARTIN SMITH:

Saudis were already getting a peek at what MBS’s reforms would look like.

This fun zone had opened inside a Riyadh mall. Along with all the rides and shops is a big multiplex movie theater showing all the latest features.

Cinemas were banned for decades. But now MBS’s plan was to open 350 theaters across the kingdom.

What people weren’t seeing at the time was the behind-the-scenes effort to control how much freedom would be allowed.

NORMAN ROULE:

The changes in the kingdom were going to unleash several different pressures. First, you were going to have thousands of religious police who would say, "I oppose this." You would inevitably also have thousands of other Saudis who would say, "I want far more than you're willing to give." I think the Saudis made a decision that they needed to somehow—somehow manage that.

MARTIN SMITH:

In Saudi Arabia, two-thirds of the country is under 30, with the largest population of Twitter users in the Middle East.

DEBORAH AMOS:

Saudi was a Twitter country. You know, they expressed themselves on Twitter. They used to call it "the Saudi Congress." And Twitter was fairly open.

MARTIN SMITH:

But when MBS became crown prince, that would change.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

MBS began to realize that shaping the debate on Twitter, manipulating the debate, intrusively watching what people were writing and thinking, was going to be part of how he would control power.

DEBORAH AMOS:

I think it would be a while before Saudis understood what was happening; that the entire landscape of Twitter in Saudi Arabia was shifting from this open platform where people felt comfortable to express opinions to something that was more like an instrument of oppression.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS would pick a close aide, Saud al-Qahtani, to police Twitter. Over time, MBS would rely on him to do much more.

MALE COMPETITION ANNOUNCER:

[Speaking Arabic]

MARTIN SMITH:

That’s him at a large software development competition that he organized in Jeddah.

MALE COMPETITION ANNOUNCER:

Saudi Federation for Cyber Security and Programming, you are officially amazing. Congratulations.

RANDA SLIM:

Mohammed bin Salman saw in him the kind of Saudi who's interested in high tech, who knows social media, who can promote, you know, Mohammed bin Salman's profile and visions and ideas through this medium.

MARTIN SMITH:

Qahtani had one of the most influential Twitter accounts in the kingdom. He is also a poet who has composed verse about the royal family.

MALE POETRY READER:

[Speaking Arabic]

Oh, my master, my love for you in unique. I always feel proud to be close to you.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

He is very sharp, very witty. Knows quite a lot about local culture, and knows all the journalists, knows all the intellectuals.

And he's very competent. In other words, if you task him with something, he will work very hard, very disciplined, and he will do it.

MARTIN SMITH:

One of the things he was tasked to do was to influence opinion on Twitter through hundreds of real or automated fake accounts, or bots.

A cybersecurity expert who has tracked Saudi digital operations is Bill Marczak.

BILL MARCZAK, Citizen Lab:

Saud al-Qahtani, he used a couple of aliases that people were able to trace, and they found him, you know, active on hacker forums bragging about his abilities to create Twitter bots and influence the social media discourse. So you say, "Oh, well, look, all the tweets, like 80% of the tweets on this hashtag are pro-MBS. Hmmm. Maybe all of Saudi is pro-MBS." But in reality, no, there's only a few dozen people behind that.

MARTIN SMITH:

Qahtani also used Twitter to go after critics, like Sa’ad al-Faqih.

SA’AD AL-FAQIH:

[Speaking Arabic]

Why would you accept to live in this oppression? The choice is in your hands to save yourself, your family and live a good life in the future.

MARTIN SMITH:

Faqih has been living in exile for decades. Three times a week he records a broadcast for his YouTube channel out of an improvised basement studio in North London.

SA’AD AL-FAQIH:

[Speaking Arabic]

So we pray to God that the fall of Mohammed bin Salman will be an incredible blessing to our nation and to our entire region.

MARTIN SMITH:

People like Faqih could be bombarded with scores of insults, and sometimes threats, in the space of a few hours. Qahtani’s electronic force became known as "an army of flies."

SA'AD AL-FAQIH:

Saud al-Qahtani, he has got an army. Their job is to face the computer and either write tweets or write comments on YouTube; write comments on Facebook. These comments are directed by him or by his team either to promote the regime or to write things against what we write.

MARTIN SMITH:

What's the nature of these comments?

SA'AD AL-FAQIH:

That is the nature. The nature is that Mohammed bin Salman is a great man, Mohammed bin Salman is a hero, and Dr. al-Faqih and Mr. So-and-So are all traitors.

MARTIN SMITH:

Is it effective in discrediting you?

SA'AD AL-FAQIH:

It's not effective in terms of discrediting, but it is effective in terms of intimidation.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis may have even eventually successfully infiltrated Twitter. In 2015, Western intelligence officials learned that the Saudis had developed ties with a Twitter engineer. According to three sources who spoke to "The New York Times," they “persuaded him to peer into several user accounts.” Twitter alerted al-Faqih that he may have been among those targeted.

MARK MAZZETTI, "The New York Times":

We found out that there was an investigation into this Saudi individual actually being a mole of sorts inside Twitter for the royal court.

BILL MARCZAK:

So being someone inside Twitter, this employee could allegedly access private details of accounts.

MARTIN SMITH:

And that could be valuable in terms of identifying a network of activists, let's say.

BILL MARCZAK:

Absolutely. I think to a large extent they sort of know who the activists are. But what are they saying? What are they planning? What's gonna happen next?

MARTIN SMITH:

The suspected mole was inside Twitter for around two years.

How unusual is it for Twitter to have a mole inside the company, downloading private messages and taking profile information?

BILL MARCZAK:

Well, it's the first case we've heard of something like this. This was the first time that Twitter had ever sent out one of these, you know, "state-sponsored threat messages" saying, "Oh, some nation-state is trying to access your account."

MARTIN SMITH:

Although there was no evidence that he shared information with the Saudi government, Twitter, with no public comment, fired the engineer, Ali al-Zabarah. We were unable to reach him.

MARK MAZZETTI:

He has left the United States, and he is now inside Saudi Arabia, working in an affiliated organization to the royal court.

MARTIN SMITH:

While at the royal court’s media office, Qahtani also created a special hashtag on Twitter. It started as a register of all those opposed to Prince Mohammed’s Qatar boycott. But it grew to become much more.

“The official hashtag is #Blacklist. Every name on it will be looked into.”

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

The blacklist invites every citizen of Saudi Arabia to become an accomplice in identifying a person to be put on blacklist. Whether it is policy to open up the economy; whether it is about women's driving; or simply about his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You might have a dispute with someone; you might actually inform the authorities that they are critical of the regime. And this is, basically, the deepest point in repression, when it sinks so much that it makes citizens its own arm in controlling the population.

MARTIN SMITH:

A specific blacklist was put together to target journalists. Saudis learned about it on Saudi state TV.

MALE NEWSREADER:

[Speaking Arabic]

Twitter followers have reacted to a hashtag called “The Black List for Offensive Journalists.”

DAVID IGNATIUS:

On that blacklist were people who Qahtani thought were speaking against the crown prince; speaking against existing power structure in Saudi Arabia.

MARTIN SMITH:

As the blacklist expanded, Qahtani made sure everyone knew who was directing him. “Do you think I’m acting on my own whim? I am a civil servant and a faithful executioner of the orders of the King and the Crown Prince.”

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Interesting thing about MBS is that you'd think with all the power that he'd consolidated, he would have begun to relax. The opposite happened. He seemed to get more hyper, more intense, more committed to going after his enemies, the more powerful he became.

MALE HACKING TEAM ANNOUNCER:

Your target may be outside your monitoring domain. Is passive monitoring enough? You need more.

MARTIN SMITH:

The royal court also reached out to an Italian surveillance outfit, Hacking Team.

MALE HACKING TEAM ANNOUNCER:

You have to hack your target. Exactly what we do.

MARTIN SMITH:

Companies that sell hacking and tracking software to governments who want to spy on their citizens is a multimillion-dollar business.

MALE HACKING TEAM ANNOUNCER:

Rely on us.

MARTIN SMITH:

Hacking Team received an email from a Saudi address in 2015.

“Considering your esteemed reputation and professionalism, we here at the Center for Media Monitoring and Analysis at the Saudi Royal Court...would like to be in productive cooperation with you...be so kind as to send us the complete list of services that your esteemed company offers. Saud Al-Qahtani.”

We couldn’t reach Hacking Team. But it was just one of the surveillance companies the Saudis reached out to.

SAHAR AL-FAIFI :

[Speaking Arabic]

MARTIN SMITH:

At that London conference I attended, dissidents discussed their fears of being surveilled.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

Today, Saudi human rights activists are proud to call themselves human rights activists, but they are afraid of the government

MARTIN SMITH:

Today, the Saudi government has the power to hack any of its citizens.

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

I’ve noticed that in the last few months so many people who communicate over the internet, phone or email have become so scared.

MARTIN SMITH:

In May 2018, Yahya al-Assiri received a text message from a source he did not recognize.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

I received a message on my mobile. It said to me, "You have hearing in front of the Saudi court." I was eager to understand what's going on, because I don't have any issue inside any Saudi courts. Then I opened it from my mobile. In the same day, I felt my mobile is very hot and very, very slow.

MARTIN SMITH:

Al-Assiri was put in touch with Bill Marczak at Citizen Lab.

BILL MARCZAK:

We were able to both identify the link that he'd received was connected to NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.

MARTIN SMITH:

NSO is an Israeli company that develops spyware called Pegasus.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

It can turn your phone microphone on. It can turn on your phone camera. It turns your earphone into a spy device. It can break any encrypted message on your phone. That's technology MBS got from his new friends, in secret, in Israel.

MARTIN SMITH:

Is there much an activist like Yahya al-Assiri can do to prevent themselves from being hacked?

BILL MARCZAK:

Unfortunately, there's really not. For these sorts of top-tier targets, when the government is willing to expend essentially unlimited resources to go after these guys, there's really not all that much they can do.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

I know the government can follow up my steps and they know where I am going. And they know where is my office, where is my house. If I take it serious, I must stop my work. I don’t want to stop my work.

MARTIN SMITH:

NSO did not comment on Assiri's case but told us it does not tolerate misuse of its software or permit it to be used for spying on critics or journalists.

Back in Saudi Arabia, Jamal Khashoggi had not been able to work for months. He could travel, but he was still banned from writing, tweeting or appearing on TV.

RANDA SLIM :

He was still hoping that this decree or order will be reversed. So he said, "Maybe if I toe the line for a while, then they change." And then I see him later, and still the order has not been changed. I remember him saying, "You know, I have to do something about this. Me being at home, not being able to, you know, tweet, write—especially write—is no longer bearable."

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

What has been described as a coordinated crackdown on dissent in the country, Saudi authorities have carried out arrests of over 40 clerics.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

More than a dozen prominent women’s activists were arrested, but the—

MARTIN SMITH:

Then, in September 2017, Mohammed bin Salman’s purges began.

MALE NEWSREADER:

They arrested a huge number of liberal-minded reformers—

MARTIN SMITH:

Dozens of men and women—writers, academics, businesspeople and an economist—were rounded up.

MALE NEWSREADER:

The crown prince is clear: Anybody who goes against him, they’re in trouble—

MARTIN SMITH:

Essam al-Zamil had just returned from the U.S., where he had been part of an official Saudi delegation.

ESSAM AL-ZAMIL:

[Speaking Arabic]

Vision 2030 is extremely important for—

MARTIN SMITH:

But in a series of posts on social media, he had cast doubt on Prince Mohammed’s valuation of a Saudi Aramco IPO.

ESSAM AL-ZAMIL:

[Speaking Arabic]

Aramco's value can never reach two or three trillion dollars—

MARTIN SMITH:

That would lead to his arrest.

After a year in prison he was charged for “seeking to stir up sedition in the kingdom through his Twitter account.”

Prominent religious figures were also arrested. One of the most well-known was Salman Alaoudh.

MARTIN SMITH:

Among those outside of the official clerical establishment, does anyone compare to your father in terms of popularity?

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH, Georgetown University:

None whatsoever. I mean, he's being followed by 14 million followers; the king has 6 or 7 million followers.

MARTIN SMITH:

At the time of his arrest, the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar was in its third month. In this tweet Alaoudh expressed hope that the two leaders—MBS and the emir of Qatar—could be reconciled.

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH:

He was just praying. And they said literally to him, "Neutrality in this crisis is treason."

MARTIN SMITH:

That led to his arrest, in fact.

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH:

Yeah. That's why they are seeking death penalty against him right now. For Mohammed bin Salman, these are threats to his absolute authority.

MARTIN SMITH:

Alaoudh was charged with a total of 37 offenses, including “spreading discord and inciting against the ruler.”

DAVID KIRKPATRICK:

He was probably the foremost figure in Saudi Arabia associated with a kind of religious reform current that leaned towards democracy. So whatever the kingdom says they've arrested him for, they've really arrested him for being Salman Alaoudh.

MARTIN SMITH:

Tell me how your father was treated when he was arrested.

ABDULLAH ALAOUDH:

He was treated really, really badly, He was blindfolded; handcuffed all the time, even in the cell; chains were put on his feet. He was interrogated for days continuously without allowing him to sleep.

MARTIN SMITH:

As reports of the arrests appeared, Jamal Khashoggi’s name began surfacing in articles. An editor at "The Washington Post" took notice.

KAREN ATTIAH, "The Washington Post":

We were hearing the reports about the crackdown and I saw Jamal Khashoggi's name being quoted a few pieces about the situation. And I just figured, "Well, why not reach out to him?" And so I gave him a call.

MARTIN SMITH:

Khashoggi had recently left Saudi Arabia. When he'd settled in D.C., I sat down to talk with him. Before all our cameras were rolling he spoke personally for a moment. He told me he was uncertain about what he would do here.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

So basically, what I'm doing right now is just restructuring my life. I don't want to be a dissident, but in the same time, I don't want to go back home and be—

MARTIN SMITH :

Muzzled.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI:

—silent again. And also I could be banned from traveling.

MARTIN SMITH:

Soon after, Khashoggi decided what to do. He published his first column in "The Washington Post."

“Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable.”

RANDA SLIM:

He was upset when Salman Alaoudh was arrested. He was upset when other activists was arrested. And he kept saying, "These are moderate people; these are not the extremists. And they are arresting the moderate people."

KAREN ATTIAH:

I think he was in some ways confused about the situation. I mean, he really supported the vision of the reforms that Mohammed bin Salman had. I mean, it was a very personal essay. You see that he was wrestling with his decision to speak out or not.

And we decided to translate it into Arabic so that people in the whole Arab world could read it.

MARTIN SMITH:

Did you recognize at that point that there was any danger in this for him?

KAREN ATTIAH:

Mortal danger? No. Personal sacrifices? Yes, of course.

MARTIN SMITH:

Then came November.

First, the prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, was ordered to come to Riyadh.

RANDA SLIM:

He was asked to come to the palace for a meeting, and he was taken away, put in a room.

MARTIN SMITH:

He's handcuffed, he's—

RANDA SLIM:

He’s slapped, he’s maltreated.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis charged that Hariri had not done enough to counter Iranian influence in Lebanon.

SAAD HARIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

To the great Lebanese people—

MARTIN SMITH:

He was put on a Saudi TV channel reading a resignation letter.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

A truly remarkable event. Prime Minister Hariri is essentially ordered, more or less at gunpoint, to give up his job.

SAAD HARIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

Without a doubt to Iran, which does not—

MARTIN SMITH:

He says he was resigning because Iran was interfering in Lebanon and fomenting “discord and destruction” in the region.

SAAD HARIRI:

[Speaking Arabic]

—this is proven by Iran's intervention in the internal affairs of the Arab countries.

RANDA SLIM:

The kind of aggressive tone against Iran is not something that Hariri has endorsed or will endorse. And so they knew it was a forced resignation.

MARTIN SMITH:

He was eventually released and would rescind his resignation.

But there was more.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Mohammed bin Salman is flexing his political muscle in ways not seen before—

MARTIN SMITH:

On the very same day Hariri was detained, MBS began rounding up 200 of the kingdom’s richest businessmen and most powerful princes.

MALE NEWSREADER:

These are incredible times in Saudi Arabia.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Some of the detainees reportedly held here, Riyadh’s glamorous Ritz-Carlton.

MALE NEWSREADER:

—especially the older guard, are extremely worried by these changes that are happening—

NORMAN ROULE:

The Ritz was, in essence, the big bang. It brought in a massive number of people; they were presented with very detailed files of their financial shenanigans and were in essence told, "You need to repay what you have taken from the kingdom by exploiting your position or your contacts."

MARTIN SMITH:

And if they pushed back or they refused to pay, what was the consequence?

NORMAN ROULE:

They didn't leave.

ALI SHIHABI:

I have a personal friend who was arrested.

MARTIN SMITH:

Who was that?

ALI SHIHABI:

I'm not going to name him, but I mean, he went through in detail. He brought to the Ritz at 4 a.m. in the morning. He said it was extremely well-organized. They checked him in, gave him a medical test, asked him if he had any medicines that he needed and then gave him a room where the door had to be kept open. But he had full access to room service and a TV. And he was interrogated I think for a month.

And then he was released. Now, I don't know if he settled anything, but by standards—frankly, I would have rather been arrested like him than be arrested in a jail in America.

MALE NEWSREADER:

They say it’s all about corruption. I really don’t believe that.

MALE NEWSREADER:

There are others who are whispering about whether this is really about a consolidation of power.

MARTIN SMITH:

Corruption was pervasive in the kingdom.

How can you describe the level of corruption that you were facing, that you were confronted with? How do you make the point?

MOHAMMED AL-SHEIKH:

It was so bad that it was actually truly impacting the development of the country. We're talking about billions and billions and billions of dollars. And when we looked at all the various options, this was probably the best option available. Was it perfect? Absolutely not.

MARTIN SMITH:

President Trump condoned the round-up.

But for Jamal Khashoggi, it wasn’t just about corruption.

“What is absolutely clear after Saturday’s 'Night of the Long Knives' is that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is centralizing all power within his position as crown prince."

KAREN ATTIAH :

He likened MBS to to Putin. He just saw things getting worse and worse and worse.

MARTIN SMITH:

He was very upset by the events at the Ritz-Carlton.

RANDA SLIM:

And especially by what happened to Waleed bin Talal.

MARTIN SMITH:

Al-Waleed bin Talal, a longtime friend and supporter of Khashoggi’s and Saudi Arabia’s most famous investor.

RANDA SLIM:

Jamal Khashoggi’s feeling was, as he would refer to MBS, "If this kid was able to go that far and arrest somebody like Waleed bin Talal," you know, then there are no bounds to what he's going to do to people like him.

MARTIN SMITH:

But it would take time for the rest of the world to understand the Ritz-Carlton purge as Khashoggi had.

Prince Al-Waleed was held for 83 days.

MALE INTERVIEWER:

What was it like, Your Royal Highness, being held captive by your own cousin?

AL-WALEED BIN TALAL:

Frankly speaking, it was not easy, you know, I have to confess that—to be held against your will.

MALE INTERVIEWER:

How would you describe your relationship?

AL-WALEED BIN TALAL :

No one will believe it. My relationship right now with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this guy, is not only as strong as before—stronger. And this is shocking to many people.

MALE INTERVIEWER:

You’ve forgiven him?

AL-WALEED BIN TALAL:

I didn’t say "forgiven." I forgot, and forgiven the whole process completely; it's behind me completely. Completely.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Reports of the Ritz indicate that the Saudi government tortured detainees, and coerced—

MARTIN SMITH:

But as other people were released, reports of abuse and torture seeped out to the press.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Inmates required to sign over their fortunes in order to be released—

MARTIN SMITH:

Family members of detainees have told reporters that MBS’s close aide, Saud al-Qahtani, acted as their interrogator.

MARK MAZZETTI:

What's been pretty clear is that he played a principal role in the Ritz-Carlton being turned into this gold-plated prison. There were gradations of treatment and the death of at least one person in custody, a general. The story was that he died of a heart attack, but according to family members, he had been beaten severely.

MARTIN SMITH:

There were reports of harsh treatment, beatings and even death.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL :

I heard those reports, but I've never seen any reflection of that.

MARTIN SMITH:

You have no suspicion about beatings?

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL :

None whatsoever. None whatsoever. And the fact, that these people were put up in the Ritz-Carlton to me indicates that the intention is not to inflict physical or emotional harm on them. But rather to get to the truth.

MARTIN SMITH:

Do you believe anybody was coerced physically at the Ritz-Carlton?

NORMAN ROULE:

I don't know.

MARTIN SMITH:

It's possible.

NORMAN ROULE:

Anything is possible. All I can say is that the exercise was to bring in very senior members of the Saudi financial business community and say, “You have money which doesn't belong to you; it belongs to the Saudi people. We would like that back. Now go out and live your life the way you did previously."

MARTIN SMITH:

Easier said than done.

KAREN ELLIOTT HOUSE, Harvard Kennedy School of Government:

You know, now, ministers and princes and big business people are locked up. Even once they're let out. I'm told, at least, most of them have ankle bracelets; they cannot fly. They have been publicly humiliated and put under constant observation.

MARTIN SMITH:

Just after the Ritz-Carlton arrests, I had asked MBS again to sit down for an interview.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN [via text]:

I can’t do on record now but you know you are welcome anytime to talk about anything...

MARTIN SMITH [via text]:

Well, good to hear back. Thanks. I will think about whether an off the record interview is helpful.

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN [via text]:

Anytime, just let me know

MARTIN SMITH [via text]:

I will add that the entire world is waiting to hear the answers only you can give.

MARTIN SMITH:

Meanwhile, MBS’s war in Yemen had gone from bad to worse.

In November 2017, after a Houthi missile landed near Riyadh, the Saudis imposed a blockade, making it impossible for food or fuel to get through.

Two-thirds of the country’s population was already facing food shortages; hospitals were overwhelmed with an outbreak of cholera.

After international pressure, the Saudis eased the blockade. But civilian casualties from air attacks and land mines continued to mount.

FEMALE TRANSLATOR:

[Speaking Arabic]

Can you tell me what happened?

GIRL IN HOSPITAL BED:

[Speaking Arabic]

I was walking, and then the mine exploded. My leg was amputated immediately.

MARTIN SMITH:

Spokesman for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.

AHMED AL-ASSIRI:

Let me tell you something: When you conduct a military operation, mistake would happen. And there is no single allegation we does not investigate.

MARTIN SMITH:

Do you have a count of the number of civilian deaths that have resulted from your operations? How many civilians have died as a result—

AHMED AL-ASSIRI:

No, we don't have numbers of civilian death—of cause of the—the Yemeni government have this.

MARTIN SMITH:

OK, what was their number?

AHMED AL-ASSIRI:

Ask the Yemeni government.

MARTIN SMITH:

By the end of 2017, thousands of civilians had already been killed, many more wounded.

Despite the rising death toll, when Prince Mohammed arrived at the White House a few months later, President Trump was pushing him to buy more weapons.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

We make the best military product in the world. Whether it’s missiles or planes or anything else, there's nobody that even comes close.

Some of the things that have been approved and are currently under construction and will be delivered to Saudi Arabia very soon, and that’s for their protection; but if you look in terms of dollars—$3 billion, $533 million, $525 million—that’s peanuts for you, should have increased it—$880 million—

MARTIN SMITH:

The visit was the beginning of a nearly three-week tour of the U.S.

Even with his purges and the war in Yemen, Prince Mohammed’s popularity as a reformer was reaching its peak.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

You'll remember, he came to the United States and was lauded, literally from coast to coast.

MALE NEWSREADER:

He will have visited five states, four presidents, five newspapers, uncounted moguls and Oprah.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

He was praised as a revolutionary; as the Saudi reformer; as the head of what would be the Saudi Spring.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Should America, should the world buy what the crown prince is selling?

MALE NEWSREADER:

He seems to be sincere.

AMBASSADOR MARTIN INDYK, Council on Foreign Relations:

It was a major PR operation. Part of that operation was Wall Street titans, Silicon Valley and Hollywood.

DEBORAH AMOS:

The tech people, the movie people—their eyes were quite glittering. There was this new opening of people who hadn’t made money there before.

HALA AL-DOSARI:

People were mesmerized.

MALE NEWS ANCHOR:

You did have this sit-down with MBS, the first interview with him—

HALA AL-DOSARI:

Notable journalists in the U.S.—Thomas Friedman has actually embraced him big time.

THOMAS FRIEDMAN:

He’s not just leading this from the top down, whoa! It is exploding from the bottom up.

MARTIN SMITH:

He also made a point of meeting with Jewish American groups in New York.

MARTIN INDYK:

To win the support of Jewish leadership, he needed to say something different about Israel and about the Palestinians. And he did.

MALE NEWSREADER:

The crown prince says that the Israelis should have the right to their own land. This will be the prelude of a new era, a new relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel—

MARTIN SMITH:

He also granted his first-ever American TV interview to "60 Minutes."

NORAH O’DONNELL:

His reforms inside Saudi Arabia have been revolutionary.

MARTIN SMITH:

MBS brought his media adviser along with him: Saud al-Qahtani.

NORAH O’DONNELL:

Are women equal to men?

MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN :

[Speaking Arabic]

Absolutely—we are all human beings, and there’s no difference.

MALE NEWSREADER:

He’s pushing through reforms that have expanded freedoms, including those of women; he’s a fierce opponent of Iran—

HALA AL-DOSARI:

He said, "Women are equal to men. We're gonna lift the women driving ban. We're gonna allow more women in leadership position." So he's saying all the right things, but you can only deceive people that far.

MARTIN SMITH:

Shortly after his return home, the ban against women driving was due to be lifted.

One of the activists who had campaigned for it was Loujain al-Hathloul.

LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL:

[Speaking Arabic]

I am now on Ghweifat Highway, trying to cross over the Saudi border.

MARTIN SMITH:

She made headlines in 2014 when she posted a video of herself driving from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.

LOUJAIN AL-HATHLOUL:

[Speaking Arabic]

—let’s see what happens.

MARTIN SMITH:

She was arrested and held for 73 days in a Saudi jail, and then released.

But as Saudi women waited for the driving ban to end, the royal court ordered Loujain to be rearrested along with other prominent women’s rights activists.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

We are very much concerned about what's going on in Saudi Arabia right now.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Security forces swept up one of the kingdom's early feminists—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

—but it has come at the cost—

MADAWI AL-RASHEED:

I think Mohammed bin Salman realized that the women’s movement in Saudi Arabia is not simply about driving, it’s about rights, and they were not going to stop at driving a car. The car was a symbol of their oppression.

MARTIN SMITH:

We spoke to Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister from her home outside Saudi Arabia.

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL, Sister of Loujain al-Hathloul:

When I learned that Loujain was arrested, I was so scared. It was in the middle of the day. Five men and five women came. They were blocking the street, so all neighbors witnessed what happened. My parents, they were extremely panicked. My mom said, "Why you are arresting my daughter?" But they just went up and they grab her from her bedroom; they—they took her.

MARTIN SMITH:

The other arrests were similarly staged.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

They are telling the women a message that you should not ask for more rights.

DEBORAH AMOS:

When they went to Hatoon al-Fassi's house they brought klieg lights and and lit up the neighborhood. And they did it in front of her children. They don't—they don't do that. Jamal was the one who showed me the Saudi newspaper that has all of their faces and "Traitor, traitor, traitor." I mean, I cannot tell you how shocking that was.

MARTIN SMITH:

At least 12 women and three men were put on trial because of their activism; human rights groups believe the number to be much higher.

Khashoggi wrote, "Repression and intimidation are not—and never should be—the acceptable companions of reform." He urged MBS to order the release of Hathloul and the other women who campaigned for women’s right to drive.

But they were not released. Hathloul’s parents were not allowed to start visiting her until months later.

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL:

My mom and my father went to Jeddah; they took the plane to visit Loujain at Dhahban Prison. When they saw her she was weak, very weak, and there was red marks over her face. They asked her, "Did they torture you?" And she said—she said, "No, I am fine, you know. Don’t worry about me." And they insisted. And after that she just start crying, crying, crying; she couldn't stop. And at moment she stopped—she start breathing, and she showed them her thighs. And it was not only bruises; it was burns; it was so dark. And she said, "They were going to throw me in the sewage system." And they were repeating this to her; she thought she was going to die. And during the torture session, she recognized specifically one man, and he is a highly ranked adviser.

MARTIN SMITH:

Who was that?

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL:

His name is known everywhere. It was Saud al-Qahtani.

MARTIN SMITH:

Some of the other women arrested also endured torture: Samar Badawi, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Shadan al-Onezi and Nouf al-Dosari. There are also reports of sexual harassment and assault. Details were sent by multiple sources to human rights groups outside Saudi Arabia.

HALA AL-DOSARI:

The statement that we got from many of the sources, that all of the women were tortured. And placed, of course, in solitary confinement. Women would be stripped naked and assaulted sexually; they would be beaten, electrocuted. To see those women who have for years been really a source of strength for other women, to see them treated this way—for me, I know these women. I know how dignified, how caring and concerned about their country they are. There is no other way, except that they want to put them into a position where they're completely broken and silenced.

MARTIN SMITH:

Qahtani has not commented on any torture allegations. Al-Hathloul attempted to report her torture to officers of the Saudi Human Rights Commission who had visited her in prison.

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL:

The Human Rights Commission visited her. And she said, "Are you going to protect me?" Because she gave them the name of Saud al-Qahtani, and she is so scared of that. They said, "Of course we can't."

MARTIN SMITH:

We cannot.

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL:

We cannot, no; of course we cannot.

MARTIN SMITH:

I tried to call the Human Rights Commission to get a comment; they didn’t respond.

We decided to just go over there.

MARTIN SMITH:

[Speaking Arabic]

Is Dr. Aiban here? I am a journalist.

GUARD 1:

[Speaking Arabic]

No.

MARTIN SMITH:

[Speaking Arabic]

No? No. OK?

[Speaking English]

I was ushered into what I hoped was Dr. Aiban’s office; he heads the Human Rights Commission.

They don’t know what to do with us.

Hello!

AZIZ, Translator:

[Speaking Arabic]

Sabah al-noor.

MARTIN SMITH:

Finally, I was greeted by a translator, Aziz, and an office assistant.

As you know, there’s lots of controversy right now about the handling of prisoners, and we wanted to ask questions about the conditions in the prisons, about the conditions for the women particularly.

AZIZ:

Dr. Bandar, I think, is the best to answer such questions.

MARTIN SMITH:

OK, is he here?

AZIZ:

We are trying to—

MARTIN SMITH:

He’s trying to call him.

Why is it so difficult to get an appointment to see Dr. Aiban?

AZIZ:

Me, myself, I don’t know. Really. Really.

MARTIN SMITH:

Despite it being a workday, I got nowhere.

MALE OFFICE ASSISTANT:

[Speaking Arabic]

We will try to get them an appointment and we will call them.

MARTIN SMITH:

Well, good luck to you.

[Speaking Arabic]

Goodbye.

[Speaking English]

I never received a call back. But I kept trying.

[on telephone]

Hello?

Hello? Yeah. I am looking to speak to Dr. Aiban.

[Speaking Arabic]

Dr. Aiban, please?

Dr. Aiban!

Number's wrong? OK, thank you.

FEMALE VOICE ON PHONE:

Hallo?

MARTIN SMITH:

Yes, hi. I want to speak with Dr. Aiban—

I also tried to contact the public prosecutor and the minister of justice.

By the time I spoke to Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, eight months had gone by since Hathloul and the other women were arrested.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

We refuse the charge of torture. I don't believe that's the case. The prosecutor has said this. And I think the procedures—legal procedures in Saudi Arabia have to play out.

MARTIN SMITH:

They've been held without trial.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Well, they will be going through the courts. They are not activists. There's evidence of links to foreign entities. There's evidence of attempting to recruit people in sensitive positions.

MARTIN SMITH:

That's the charge, but that hasn't been proven.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

It will be proven in court.

MARTIN SMITH:

Who do you hold responsible for what's happened to your sister?

ALIA AL-HATHLOUL:

Good question. I have some idea, but I don't know if I can share it.

Every time I talk, every time I accept to be interviewed, I have to see if there are consequences on me, on my sister, my family.

Saudi Arabia was never a democracy. However, it was never a police state. And I feel it's becoming kind of a police state, unfortunately.

BERNARD HAYKEL:

The Saudi government never went after family members. Now the system is actually engaged in collective forms of punishment.

MARTIN SMITH:

In D.C., Khashoggi was also feeling the wrath of MBS. His son Salah, the only one of his children still in Saudi Arabia, had been forbidden to travel.

DEBORAH AMOS :

One of the first things he said to me is, "They've put my son on a travel ban. And it's just not fair. He's not political at all. And there's nothing I can do about it."

HALA AL-DOSARI:

And my understanding is that he sent a message to Saud al-Qahtani, telling him, "This has come to very low standards that you are now going after my son." But he received no response from Saud al-Qahtani.

MARTIN SMITH:

His wife, fearing for her and her family’s safety, asked for a divorce.

RANDA SLIM:

And that was—that was extremely painful to him.

MARTIN SMITH:

Jamal was also being harassed on Twitter by Qahtani’s notorious army of flies.

DEBORAH AMOS:

What we talked about is, did I know anybody at Twitter to turn it off?

It was the bots; the army; the flies.

NORMAN ROULE:

I can say that there was certainly a sense of animus towards Jamal Khashoggi because of his unrelenting criticism of the kingdom in a national newspaper in the capital of the Saudis' closest partner.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

And I think MBS felt genuinely threatened by this "Washington Post"-supported journalist who was criticizing MBS himself personally.

RANDA SLIM:

He talked about the kind of threats he was getting, but he was also heartened by the positive feedback he was getting from Saudis he never met; and people reaching out to him and saying, "Yes, you are doing the right thing; yes, you are speaking on all of our behalf. Thank you for doing what you are doing."

MARTIN SMITH:

And he had, with time, found a new love, someone who shared his interest in Arab politics: a Turkish academic, Hatice Cengiz.

RANDA SLIM:

When I saw him the last time, he was happy. He said, "Well, I'm thinking I'm going to spend more time in Turkey now."

MARTIN SMITH:

And he kept writing about the prince he had once supported.

KAREN ATTIAH:

I think his ultimate desire was to see his people enjoy some of the same freedoms that he had here, in Washington, in the U.S.

MARTIN SMITH:

He submitted his last article on Sept. 28, 2018.

DAVID IGNATIUS:

Over time, I think Jamal felt more and more that independent journalism was the way to achieve what he'd wanted since he was a young man.

George Orwell gave as a title of a column that he wrote "As I Please"—you know, "I write as I please."

Jamal Khashoggi was a version of that. He was somebody who wrote what he thought; wrote what he believed.

MARTIN SMITH:

Do you think Jamal had any idea that he was playing with fire?

BERNARD HAYKEL:

I think that Jamal hadn't fully realized how different the system had become. I think that he thought that this was a regime that didn't draw blood unnecessarily; that did not kill dissidents overseas. And I think he was wrong. He misjudged how things had changed.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

He was last seen in Istanbul. Angela, where do you think he’s gone to?

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Well, this is the question that everybody is asking. Jamal Khashoggi; he went missing on Tuesday; he went to the consulate building of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul—

MALE NEWSREADER:

Speaking on Turkish television, Ms. Cengiz explained he was going to the consulate to collect documents for the marriage, and for that she felt—

MARTIN SMITH:

The murder took place on Oct. 2. Four days later, the Saudi consul general gave a reporter a tour of the consulate.

The Saudis’ story was that Khashoggi had walked out of the building alive.

MOHAMMED AL-OTAIBI, Consul General:

[Speaking Arabic]

I would like to assure you that the citizen Jamal is not at the consulate, and the embassy is working to search for him. And we are worried about his case.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis were saying he had gone missing somewhere in Turkey. Turkish officials were furious.

RAGIP SOYLU, Middle East Eye:

They’re like, instead of their providing answers to us, they're actually saying that, “Uh oh, it's your problem now. He's missing in Turkey." That was the tipping point for Turkish officials.

MARTIN SMITH:

At the pro-government Turkish newspaper, "Sabah," reporters started getting details from Turkish intelligence and the police. Nazif Karaman.

NAZIF KARAMAN:

[Speaking Turkish]

Soon, we received information from one of our sources about two passenger jets which were owned by the Saudi government and used in this case.

MARTIN SMITH:

By the time the reporters had learned about the two Saudi planes, the jets had left Istanbul.

Then they were told more. Abdurrahman Şimşek.

ABDURRAHMAN ŞIMŞEK:

[Speaking Turkish]

We were informed that Khashoggi was subjected to a cruel murder. I asked them how can that happen and what kind of savagery are you talking about? Such a thing was not possible. Such a murder in a diplomatic building. I didn't believe it at first.

MARTIN SMITH:

Yasin Aktay, adviser to Turkey’s President Erdogan, heard details of the murder.

When you learned that the police had concluded that he had been murdered. Can you describe that moment?

YASIN AKTAY:

That moment was very, very difficult for me. They said me, "They are animals. They are animals. They're worse than animals. They killed him like dogs, and they—" He was crying. And I cried.

RAGIP SOYLU:

I just couldn't come to myself for a couple of minutes. I just couldn't believe the fact that they cut him into pieces.

MARTIN SMITH:

I texted MBS.

[via text]

Hello sir. Martin here. What can you tell us about Khashoggi? Anything?

[via text]

Turks are saying he was killed in your consulate in Istanbul.

There was no response. I tried again.

[via text]

I am not sure how to interpret your silence. Do you believe that Jamal is alive?

MARTIN SMITH:

Did you know Jamal Khashoggi?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Yes. I've known him since the late '80s.

MARTIN SMITH:

And what kind of man was he?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

He was a journalist; he was an editor; he was a kind person. And he was—he had family, he had children.

MARTIN SMITH:

And what happened to him?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

He was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in what is a huge mistake that has shocked the whole country. And that we have expressed our commitment to hold those accountable, and to make sure work on procedures to reform the security services so that we minimize the occurrence of such a tragic mistake in the future.

MARTIN SMITH:

Jubeir says they are committed to investigating what happened. But from the beginning, the Saudis tried to cover it up.

ASLI AYDINTAŞBAŞ, Contributor, "The Washington Post":

The Saudis' story kept changing over the course of two weeks. The inconsistencies were really clear.

MALE NEWSREADER:

This is one of the most peculiar, perplexing news events that I can recall in some time—

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The evidence keeps building: Newly released video shows a Saudi man who looks a little like Khashoggi—

MALE NEWSREADER:

Here’s he’s caught on CCTV arriving at the consulate wearing a—

MARTIN SMITH:

Surveillance footage showed how the team initially tried to fool the police into believing Khashoggi left the consulate alive.

MALE NEWSREADER:

—he walks outside, in Khashoggi’s clothes and glasses.

MARTIN SMITH:

But the police immediately spotted what was a body double.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Same clothes, same glasses, same beard, same age and build. Everything but the shoes.

MARTIN SMITH:

Why did the double not take Khashoggi's shoes?

FERHAT KALEMINDEN, "Sabah":

He took the shoes, actually, but he couldn’t—

MARTIN SMITH:

They wouldn't fit?

FERHAT KALEMINDEN:

Yeah, and head of the Istanbul police, he realized that the, you know, shoes is different.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis had clung to the lie that Khashoggi was alive.

MALE NEWSREADER:

It’s more drip-fed uncorroboratable intelligence that has sent Riyadh into a panic.

MARTIN SMITH:

Then Turkish intelligence revealed they had audio tapes.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Turkish and U.S. officials said the recordings offer proof that Khashoggi was interrogated, tortured and murdered.

MARTIN SMITH:

The details revealed were gruesome; the audio was not released to the public. But some reporters learned about its contents.

ASLI AYDINTAŞBAŞ:

To be honest, I don't think it's something that could really be shared with the public because it just involves so much violence, even though it's just an audio recording.

ABDURRAHMAN ŞIMŞEK:

[Speaking Turkish]

They made Jamal Khashoggi sit on a chair and then held his hands from the back. Five people were holding his knees and legs, and somebody puts the bag on his head from the back. Tubaygi, who is the head of forensic institute, was watching him being suffocated from across the room. Five people on top of Khashoggi to suffocate him. He’s saying, “I am suffocating; let me go, I cannot breathe." But his decapitators took his life in less than five minutes.

FEMALE REPORTER:

Have you heard that tape? And does it conclusively point to the crown prince as ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi?

JOHN BOLTON:

No, I haven’t listened to it. And I guess I should ask you: Why do you think I should? What do you think I’ll learn from it? Unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it?

MARTIN SMITH:

Within a week, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Jared Kushner had called Riyadh. Soon after, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince.

Meanwhile, the case for Prince Mohammed’s involvement was tightening.

MALE NEWSREADER:

After weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia is changing its tune.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Saudi Arabia now going further, admitting that the killing looks to have been premeditated.

MALE NEWSREADER:

These were not low-ranking figures, so they couldn’t have done what they did oblivious to the prince, could they?

MARTIN SMITH:

The Turkish media had identified all 15 of the Saudis who flew into Istanbul.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

Who are these people who are on this 15-man team? One of whom, a forensics autopsy expert—

MARTIN SMITH:

Five of them are reported to have worked under MBS’s aide Saud al-Qahtani at the royal court.

And one key team member was on the crown prince’s personal security detail—the alleged ringleader on the ground, Maher Mutreb.

MALE NEWSREADER:

One man, Maher Mutreb, he’s been seen traveling with the crown prince all over the world, potentially as a bodyguard—

MALE NEWSREADER:

After the murder, the Saudis called MBS’s private office. It's inconceivable that Mohammed bin Salman didn’t know—

MARTIN SMITH:

You went on television on FOX News on Oct. 21 and you said that none of those involved in Khashoggi's death had close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Because he has—Prince Mo—these were security individuals. Security people have rotations; they sometimes serve for specific times in terms of security or other issues.

MARTIN SMITH:

But these weren't just security individuals. Mutreb, who traveled extensively with the crown prince, including in the United States, was on the scene. Are you saying that you didn't know that the people that were involved in the murder were close to the crown prince at the time that you said that?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

They—the crown prince has a lot of people who are close to him or who claim to be close to him. He has a lot of people who take their pictures with him—

MARTIN SMITH:

Then I asked about Qahtani; Qahtani allegedly ran the operation from outside Turkey.

MARTIN SMITH:

Qahtani wasn't just one of a lot of people.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Look, this is—you’re asking all these questions

MARTIN SMITH:

He's a—he was a close aide to the crown prince. Where is he now?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

You should ask the public prosecutor.

MARTIN SMITH:

The public prosecutor won't talk to us.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Then—then—you should call him again.

MARTIN SMITH:

How is it possible that Mohammed bin Salman did not know of this operation?

NORMAN ROULE:

Well, I have stated that I believe it's very unlikely he did not know of at least a rendition.I can easily imagine that the decision making might've been as simple as Saud al-Qahtani saying, "We have this dissident. We will conduct a rendition operation from Istanbul," and being told, "Go ahead."

MARTIN SMITH:

So you have contacts within Saudi Arabia at high levels that tell you that this was a rendition.

NORMAN ROULE:

Yes.

MARTIN SMITH:

But the Saudis insist MBS gave no such authorization. They say it was a rogue operation.

MARTIN SMITH:

You're saying that this is being investigated by the public prosecutor?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Yes.

MARTIN SMITH:

But at the same time, you have declared it a rogue operation. So you've reached a conclusion that this was a rogue operation before the investigation is complete.

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

Of course it's a rogue operation. Nobody authorized this. Who would authorize the murder of a citizen in our own consulate?

MARTIN SMITH:

How do we know until there is an investigation?

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

It seems to me that you have made up your mind before you watched the due process—

MARTIN SMITH:

No, you've made up your mind that it's a rogue operation—

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

It is a rogue operation because there is no authorization for them to commit this crime. There was no authorization for them to commit this crime. That's why it's a rogue operation.

MARTIN SMITH:

How do we know that this was a rogue operation? You say it's a rogue operation.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

Ah, because our leadership says it was a rogue operation, and our leadership has not lied to us before. So we believe them.

MARTIN SMITH:

There were a series of statements made immediately after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi that have proven to be false, that have proven to be lies.

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL:

That were based on reporting by this rogue element. And they're going to be taken to court and face their fate.

MARTIN SMITH:

The Saudis have been unclear about who authorized the operation. But they have said one man, Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the former spokesman for MBS’s war in Yemen, was involved in the planning.

MARTIN SMITH:

You know Gen. Assiri.

BRUCE RIEDEL:

Yes.

MARTIN SMITH:

Do you think he's in any way capable of mounting an operation like this?

BRUCE RIEDEL:

On his own? Absolutely not. He wouldn't dream up a plot like this. This is a servant of the state, used to taking orders. It's just not in the nature of how the Saudi bureaucracy works.

They got caught red-handed. They attempted to come up with a cover story. But the cover story doesn’t add up.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

—it was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups—

MARTIN SMITH:

There are so many holes in in your story, the story that you put out there. Even the president in the United States said, "This is the worst cover-up I've ever seen.”

ADEL AL-JUBEIR:

With all due respect, we put out the stories as we have it based on the facts that were established. We have never, in the history of Saudi Arabia, had a situation where a Saudi citizen was murdered. This is not how we operate, and this is not what our values are.

MARTIN SMITH:

Is there anything about this young prince that worries you?

PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL :

You know what my only worry is? I've reached an age where I don't know if I'll be around when the fruits of what is happening in Saudi Arabia will be picked. Because I see the kingdom moving in a very, very straight way towards the well-being of Saudis, and hopefully the well-being of the world.

MARTIN SMITH:

On Nov. 16, the CIA concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the murder of Khashoggi. They refused to comment publicly about it. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did.

MIKE POMPEO:

I’ve read every piece of intelligence, unless it's come in the last few hours. There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. And that’s all I can say in an unclassified setting.

MARTIN SMITH:

But immediately after Pompeo’s comments, someone leaked a summary of the report to a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, Warren Strobel.

Yeah, I’ve got it right here.

You're the only reporter that I'm aware of that has seen that CIA report.

WARREN STROBEL, "The Wall Street Journal":

I believe I am the only reporter, even to this day, who has seen the CIA report.

MARTIN SMITH:

Why were you shown this report?

WARREN STROBEL:

I don't know to this day; I can only speculate. My analysis is that this person was upset that the intelligence was being portrayed differently by the president of the United States and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. But there's no—that was another part of the false reporting.

WARREN STROBEL:

President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over and over have pointed to the fact that U.S. intelligence does not have evidence of a kill order. But they sort of stop there. And if you actually read the CIA assessment, as I have, everything else in that points a finger at the crown prince as having a role.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

The CIA has looked at it; they’ve studied it a lot; they have nothing definitive.

We are with Saudi Arabia. We're staying with Saudi Arabia. Have a good time everybody! Thank you.

FEMALE NEWSREADER:

The president here is positioning himself to be able to not take tougher measures against Saudi Arabia.

MALE NEWSREADER:

Trump’s response is a slap in the face to the intelligence community—

MARTIN SMITH:

And there was more. It was reported that on the day of the murder, Maher Mutreb made a call. He said, in effect, “Tell your boss the deed was done.”

BRUCE RIEDEL:

The phone number that was being called in Riyadh was the crown prince's office. Doesn't get much better than that. If you call the White House Situation Room, I come to the conclusion the White House knows what's going on.

MARTIN SMITH:

Last December I talked to Prince Mohammed at the racetrack. He spoke about his role in the Khashoggi murder for the first time.

My camera was outside, but he said:

“It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch. I really take it very seriously. I don't want to tell you, no, I didn't do it, or I did do it, or whatever. That's just words.”

I asked how it could happen without him knowing about it.

“Accidents happen. Can you imagine? We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees. I am not Google or a supercomputer to watch over 3 million.”

They can take one of your planes? I asked.

“I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible. They have the authority to do that.”

But during it Qahtani is texting you, right? I asked.

"Yeah, he texts me every day."

I was curious about those texts; they had been cited in the CIA report linking MBS to the killing of Khashoggi.

MBS insisted they were innocent.

Later I learned that the Saudis had hired a business intelligence firm, Kroll, to examine the texts. MBS wanted to share them with the CIA. I was allowed to look at Kroll’s report in Washington.

The texts don’t refer to Khashoggi or say anything about a kidnapping or a murder.

But then the NSA discovered they had had some damning evidence all along. They just didn’t realize it.

MARK MAZZETTI:

After Khashoggi's killed, the United States intelligence community starts looking backwards, scrubbing intercepts that they had picked up over years.

MARTIN SMITH:

And they find MBS chatting with Qahtani back in 2017.

MARK MAZZETTI:

Mohammed bin Salman is expressing frustration and annoyance about Khashoggi, saying he’s becoming more influential.

MARTIN SMITH:

Qahtani cautioned Prince Mohammed that any move against Khashoggi was risky and could create an international uproar. MBS scolded Qahtani for being too cautious.

And then—

MARK MAZZETTI:

There’s a conversation between Mohammed bin Salman and another influential adviser, and Prince Mohammed says, "If we can’t bring Jamal back by force, we should show him a bullet."

FEMALE AIRPORT ANNOUNCER:

Thank you for waiting. Saudia flight service to Riyadh would like to continue boarding. Would all passengers sitting in the rows 2, 3, and 4—

MARTIN SMITH:

I returned to Saudi Arabia one last time in April 2019. The crown prince had promised to meet with me again. I came prepared with many more questions.

When I arrived, he changed his mind. I was not able to ask any more questions about the Khashoggi murder.

But more evidence kept on coming. In June, Agnès Callamard, a United Nations human rights expert, issued the most detailed report to date on the Khashoggi killing.

I saw her in London at a conference.

AGNÈS CALLAMARD, UN Special Rapporteur:

—killing of Mr. Khashoggi, 15 agents flew to Turkey, eight of them in a private jet which had diplomatic clearance; two of them had diplomatic passports. There is no other conclusion but that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi is a state killing. It should be seen to constitute an international crime for which universal jurisdiction attract.

MARTIN SMITH:

In preparing her report, Callamard was granted access to the audio recordings of the hit team as they discussed their plans.

AGNÈS CALLAMARD:

I listened to the tapes within the premise of the Turkish intelligence.

MARTIN SMITH:

And you heard a conversation. Tell us about that conversation.

AGNÈS CALLAMARD:

So that conversation is within an hour before the killing. Mutreb is asking whether or not the trunk of the body will fit into a normal bag. Does it need a stronger bag? How do you disjoint a body? That, too, is being discussed. Tubaigy, the doctor, raises some issues regarding having to cut on the ground, because he's never done that. They are seemingly rehearsing, planning the act of killing an hour later.

HATICE CENGIZ:

—since the horrible murder of Jamal—

MARTIN SMITH:

At the London conference, Callamard joined Khashoggi’s fiancee and others, calling for her report to spur further action.

HATICE CENGIZ:

I would like to ask you all to use this report as a means to prevent an attempt to silence us or push the matter under the carpet.

YAHYA AL-ASSIRI:

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it is not the first crime from the Saudi regime. So what we want from you is to pressure your politicians, your media to stand with the Saudi heroes behind the bars and to ask the justice for Jamal Khashoggi.

KAREN ATTIAH:

This is about the freedom of people to say what they want, to tweet what they want, to blog what they want, to speak about what they want without fear that they will be executed for it.

AGNÈS CALLAMARD:

The fact that the killing of Jamal Khashoggi is still making the news, that needs to continue, because that’s what is going to annoy the hell out of them and be the mosquito in the tent that they can’t ever get rid of.

FEMALE MODERATOR:

Thank you very much, Agnès.

MARTIN SMITH:

To date, MBS has offered no apology for the killing of Khashoggi, and he still insists those responsible will be brought to justice for what he calls a “heinous crime.” In the meantime, he continues to pursue his Vision 2030.

MALE DJ:

—here we go: one, two, one two three four!

MARTIN SMITH:

With sporting events and big concerts, he is trying to win the hearts of young Saudis.

CONCERT CROWD:

[Speaking Arabic]

Long live Salman!

MARTIN SMITH:

His defenders say that the Khashoggi murder and his campaign against dissent should not outweigh everything else he has achieved.

CONCERT CROWD:

[Speaking Arabic]

Long live Salman! Long live Salman!

Currently, at least nine members of the hit team that went to Istanbul are on trial. The courtroom is closed to the public and reporters.

Salman al-Awdah remains in prison and is still facing possible execution.

Loujain al-Hathloul is still being held. According to her family, authorities asked her to confess on video that she was not tortured. She refused.

Saud al-Qahtani faces no charges. A high-level adviser to MBS told FRONTLINE that prosecuting someone so close to the crown prince would be politically disruptive.

The royal court declines to say where he is.

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