It seems nearly certain now that Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, died a slow and agonizing death, the kind that none of us could dare imagine for ourselves. It seems equally clear that Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered, probably on orders of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The latest evidence pointing to M.B.S.’s direct involvement is the identities of members of the team sent to Istanbul to kill him: several of the individuals identified by Turkish officials were part of the Royal Guard, responsible for protecting senior members of the House of Saud. “They answer directly to M.B.S.,’’ Bruce Riedel, a former Middle East specialist for the C.I.A. and National Security Council, told me.
Khashoggi was warm, generous, and funny—and loyal to his principles, like the virtues of open and accountable government. His refusal to compromise his values prompted the Saudi government, in 2016, to silence him, and it led him to conclude, the following year, that he needed to flee to America. I saw Jamal whenever I visited Washington. (Whenever he came to New York, we met at Katz’s Deli for giant reuben sandwiches.) Jamal and I spoke for the last time six days before he vanished. He was writing to tell me about the latest crackdown on the Saudi press, which had led to several reporters being imprisoned. He sent me clips from Saudi newspapers documenting their detention. “I hope you are interested in the story,” Jamal wrote in an e-mail. “Saudi authorities are making a mockery of justice while the world celebrates MBS’ reforms!”