WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – The FBI has visited Saudi dissidents in the United States and others connected to Jamal Khashoggi in the weeks after the journalist's murder to warn them of a potential threat to their lives from the kingdom, Middle East Eye has revealed.
The visits began a month after Khashoggi was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad inside the country's consulate in Istanbul last October and have continued until as recently as six weeks ago, several of those approached told MEE.
At least four Saudi dissidents in multiple cities around the country received visits. At least one non-Saudi Arab activist was warned because of his connections with Khashoggi.
One of those warned runs a popular YouTube channel critical of the Saudi regime. Another had participated at a Saudi opposition conference, while a third was working with Khashoggi on a project to fight Saudi trolls online.
All of those who spoke to MEE did so on condition of anonymity and on the understanding that information about their locations would not be disclosed because of security concerns.
"They were like, ‘Yep, we are worried about your safety. Your name has been flagged here in certain circles and in Europe’,” said one of the Arab activists who had been working with Khashoggi.
It is already known that the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies have approached close associates of Khashoggi in Canada, Norway and the U.S. over fears for their lives, but this is the first time the FBI’s involvement has been reported.
An FBI spokesperson told MEE in an email that the agency "regularly interacts with members of the communities we serve to build mutual trust around protecting the American public”.
The spokesperson declined to comment on whether something specific, beyond Khashoggi’s killing, had triggered the visits or if they were conducted to comply with the directive.
None of those who spoke to MEE said they were made aware of specific threats and, in some cases, said agents sought to calm them during the approach, calling first and then meeting in a public location near their home – sometimes at Starbucks.
An Arab dissident was told by agents that they were sorry about the murder of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, and were "doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it”.
With another, agents sought to distance themselves from the Trump administration.
The FBI has visited Saudi dissidents in the U.S. and others connected to Jamal Khashoggi in the weeks after the journalist's murder to warn them of a potential threat to their lives from the kingdom.