Weekend Review: Intel Reports Saudi Prince Approved ‘Capture or Kill’ of Jamal Khashoggi
A report by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill” Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. It confirms speculation which has long implicated MBS as instrumental in Khashoggi’s death and subsequent dismemberment.
The report was released on Friday and said that of 15 Saudi agents who were part of the operation’s team, seven worked as part of an “elite personal protective detail” for MBS of which he was in “absolute control.” Also part of that team were a forensic doctor, a bone saw, and a lookalike to wear Khashoggi’s clothes from the building as a decoy.
The office found that the Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat due to his columns for The Washington Post which were highly critical of the Saudi government. MBS reportedly “supported using violent measures if necessary to silence” Khashoggi, and the report concludes that the operation would have likely required and received authorization from the Crown Prince.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden’s intention “is to recalibrate our engagement with Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is imposing visa restrictions and sanctions against specific Saudi nationals, including members of the Crown Prince’s security detail, but not MBS himself.
The Saudi government has denied the validity of the report.
Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved for emergency use by FDA
On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the U.S.
This is the third vaccine to receive authorization but the first which provides significant protection in just one shot. While it is expected to be available for ordering on Sunday, the company announced that less than four million vaccines were ready to ship.
So far, about 70 million vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. but approximately three million people did not get their second dose within the recommended time frame. Studies find that lengthening the time between doses would lead to more infections, but having a one-dose option will alleviate some of that concern.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused of sexual harassment
Two former aides to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have come forward with sexual harassment allegations.
A former health policy adviser, Charlotte Bennett, alleged to The New York Times that Cuomo asked about her sex life, specifically with older men. Though Bennett said the misconduct never escalated to touching, she told the times that she “understood that the governor wanted to sleep with (her) and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared.”
Another accuser, Lindsey Boylan, is a former deputy secretary for economic development who claims Cuomo subjected her to years of sexual harassment. Boylan said the governor would go “out of his way” to touch her, even stepping in front of her and kissing her on the lips once.
Cuomo was called upon by N.Y. lawmakers and others to answer to the allegations, which he denied. He asked the public to await the findings of an outside review, which he has ordered. “Know the facts before making any judgements,” he suggested in a statement.
US airstrikes in Syria bring criticism for Biden
On Thursday, the U.S. military carried out airstrikes in Syria, the first known military action under President Joe Biden. The site was allegedly used by Iranian-backed militant groups tied to recent attacks on American forces in the area, and more than a dozen militants were reportedly killed.
The decision came directly from President Biden, according to statements from individuals at the Pentagon. The strikes received praise from those who hope to see the U.S. assert power over Iran, but also drew criticism from lawmakers who believe Biden acted without authority.
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said in a statement that “offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances. Congress must be fully briefed on this matter expeditiously.”
Many Democrats agree with Kaine’s statement that Biden lacked explicit authorization from Congress. Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, shared concerns that Biden is “the fifth consecutive US president to order strikes in the Middle East” which perpetuate, instead of de-escalate, the ongoing war.
Nigeria: armed attacks on schoolchildren on the rise
Schoolchildren in Nigeria are more frequently being targeted by armed gunmen, and more than 300 more children were kidnapped on Friday. According to reports, 317 children were taken during an armed attack at Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe, Zamfara.
A member of the school’s staff reportedly told local outlets that the gunmen forced their way into hostels where the students were housed and “forcefully evacuated” them, firing at random. The attack comes a week after a student was shot and killed during an attack in Niger and is the latest in a string of abductions across Northern Nigeria.
On Saturday, 38 abductees who were taken from the Government Science College of Kagara on Feb. 17 were rescued, according to the state government.