Open Society Justice Initiative v. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) et al

Domestic Courts
United States

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was a Washington Post columnist and a U.S. resident who had been a vocal critic of the Saudi government and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  On October 2, 2018, he disappeared after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  After repeatedly saying that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive, the Saudi government finally acknowledged on October 19 that he had been killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  On November 16, 2018, the Washington Post reported that the CIA had “concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.”  

Yet, on November 20, 2018, President Trump issued a statement standing with Saudi Arabia.  He stated, “After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. . . . it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”  On another occasion, citing the CIA report in his possession, President Trump noted that the CIA “did not come to a conclusion” about the crown prince’s involvement in the murder, adding that “[t]hey have feelings certain ways, but they didn't -- I have the report.”    

The subject of accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has been the subject of intense public and Congressional debate. On December 4, 2018, the Open Society Justice Initiative filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking disclosure of the CIA’s findings, among other records relating to the murder.  We filed the requests with the CIA, the U.S. Departments of State, Justice and Defense, as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Justice Initiative sought expedited processing of the requests.

The agencies failed to issue determinations on the information requests within the statutory time limit required under FOIA. Accordingly, on January 9 and February 12, 2019, the Open Society Justice Initiative filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that the agencies had violated FOIA. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to compel the defendant agencies to immediately release records related to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Open Society Justice Initiative Involvement

The Open Society Justice Initiative is the plaintiff in the case. It is also co-counsel in the case along with the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

Accessing Released Documents

The relevant government departments and agencies began releasing documents covered by the FOIA request at the end of June. Documents released can be viewed via the Open Society Foundations account on Document Cloud.

April 22, 2019

Court scheduling order

Court Scheduling Order Scheduling Order for Processing of FOIA documents. Download
February 12, 2019

Complaints also filed against Departments of Defense and State.

January 08, 2019

The Open Society Justice Initiative files a complaint against defendants CIA, DOD, NSA and ODNI for failing to respond to FOIA requests in time period mandated by law. 

December 04, 2018

The Open Society Justice Initiative files FOIA requests with CIA, the U.S. Departments of State (DOS), Justice (DOJ) and Defense (DOD), as well as with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).  

April 22, 2019
Court Scheduling Order Scheduling Order for Processing of FOIA documents. Download

Related Work

Advocacy update

Khashoggi FOIA Case Documents Available Online

The Open Society Justice Initiative has begun to publish online materials released by the U.S. government, in response to a Freedom of Information Act petition seeking the release of records relating to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Advocacy update

In Light of U.N. Khashoggi Investigation, Open Society Justice Initiative Renews Calls for Accountability

A new UN report calls for the an international criminal investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, underlining the importance of efforts by the Justice Initiative to secure the release of all U.S. government documents relating to the case.

June 19, 2019
Press release

Open Society Justice Initiative Sues U.S. Government for Khashoggi Records

A lawsuit filed in federal court in the South District of New York seeks the immediate release of government records relating to the killing of U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

January 09, 2019
Press release

Freedom of Information Filing Seeks Disclosure of CIA Records on Khashoggi Killing

The CIA and other agencies should release records for a public evaluation of the federal government’s efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.

December 04, 2018
Press release

Open Society Justice Initiative Joins Call for Justice for Jamal Khashoggi

U.S. human rights and media freedom groups are calling on Washington for immediate concrete steps to pursue justice for Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist brutally murdered in Istanbul in October last year.

February 07, 2019

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