A newly declassified FBI memo reveals that the government of Saudi Arabia engages in a scheme to get its citizens out of the U.S. after they are accused of serious crimes, and the Trump administration does nothing to stop it. The memo was called “shocking” by the Oregon senator whose legislation forced its release. According to report by The Oregonian, the repeated and illegal spiriting away of accused criminals is allowed to continue “in part, to spare the wealthy Persian Gulf kingdom embarrassment.”
Trump’s relationship with the Saudi government was called into question after the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Trump generally refused to take action against the Saudis, despite a CIA assessment that the country’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing, which was carried out by a Saudi assassination squad.
Saudis inside the U.S. who are accused of serious crimes are also fleeing justice and returning to their home country, according to the declassified memo.
“Intelligence officials believe the escapes from justice will continue without intervention by the American government,” The Oregonian reported.
The revelations came in an intelligence bulletin dated August 29, 2019, according to the paper. The bulletin was released under a law proposed by Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, which was passed as part of a spending bill required to prevent a government shutdown last December.
“I am shocked and appalled at what this memo describes,” Wyden said on Friday, via his official Twitter account. “The Trump administration is out of excuses for sitting on its hands while the Saudi government helps these fugitives evade justice.”
It’s not only the Trump administration that has turned a blind eye to the fleeing Saudi fugitives. The practice of looking the other way as Saudi nationals accused of serious crimes seemingly vanish has been going on for “at least a decade,” according to an earlier Oregonian investigative report.
Most of the escaped Saudi nationals have been university students, according to the paper. They have been charged with a wide variety of crimes including murder and rape. But “Saudi diplomats, intelligence officers and other operatives,” have helped the accused criminals flee the country, according to the Oregonian investigation.
The government does not discount the issue of escaped Saudi fugitives, retired FBI agent Jeffrey Danik told the paper.
“It’s that the security relationship was so much more important,” Danik said. The U.S. sought Saudi Arabia’s assistance on issues of counterterrorism and opposing Iran, the former agent added.