The license to train the Saudi royal guard was first issued in 2014, but there is no evidence that U.S. officials knew of the operation.
Four Saudis who took part the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 he received paramilitary training in the United States the previous year under a contract approved by the State Department, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The training was given by the Tier 1 group, owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, with a defensive character and designed to protect Saudi leaders, the Times reported.
Cerberus did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
In response to the Times report, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that under the law, the department cannot comment “on any of the licensed defense export license activities.” alleged in media reports “.
Price also said U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia “will prioritize the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote columns for the Washington Post criticizing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was assassinated and dismembered by a team of agents linked to the prince at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
A U.S. intelligence report in February said the Crown Prince had approved an operation to capture or kill the journalist.
Cerberus senior executive Louis Bremer confirmed his company’s role in training four members of Khashoggi’s assassination team last year in written answers to questions from members of Congress as part of his nomination for a Pentagon job in the administration of former President Donald Trump, according to the Times.
But lawmakers never received the responses because the Trump administration does not appear to have sent them to Congress before withdrawing Bremer’s candidacy, according to the Times, which said Bremer had provided it with the document.
Bremer said the U.S. State Department and other government agencies are responsible for verifying foreign forces trained on U.S. territory, the Times reported.
The New York Times report said there was no evidence that U.S. officials who approved the training, nor Tier 1 group executives, knew the Saudis were involved in repression in Saudi Arabia.
But he added that the Khashoggi-related case shows “the intensity of the US intertwining” with Saudi Arabia “even when its agents committed horrific human rights abuses.”
The report said the State Department first issued a license to provide paramilitary training to the Saudi Royal Guard in 2014, during the time of Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Then the formation continued at least until the first year of Trump’s tenure.
A recent Yahoo News report by investigative journalist Michael Isikoff also revealed this the team of Saudi assassins who allegedly killed Khashoggi they reportedly stopped in the Egyptian capital to collect the drugs they used to kill the dissident.
The report said a Gulfstream plane stopped in Cairo on October 2, 2018, before finally landing in Istanbul.
The report did not mention what kind of drugs were used to kill Khashoggi or who provided them to the killers.