Litigation

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

Court
Domestic Courts
Country
United States
Status
Active

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.

On August 19, the Justice Initiative filed a related case against the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) seeking disclosure of congressionally mandated ODNI reports determining who is responsible for the Khashoggi murder.

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.

March 19, 2021

The U.S. government provides Open Society Justice Initiative with a redacted February 2020 copy of the ODNI report, which assessed who is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The report had previously been delivered to Congress in classified form.

February 2020 ODNI Report Download the 2-page report Download
March 10, 2021

The U.S. Department of Justice issues a Vaughn Index on the CIA Report.

DOJ Vaughn Index on the CIA Report Download the 3-page document Download
March 09, 2021

Judge Engelmayer had previously ordered the CIA and ODNI to produce a Vaughn index limited to two items, one of which is the tape of the killing of Khashoggi. Judge reviews agencies' classified submissions and relieves the agencies of obligation to file a Vaughn Index with respect to the tape.


Court Order on Motion for Partial Reconsideration of December 8 Decision Download the 2-page document Download
February 26, 2021

The Biden administration's Director of National Intelligence releases a declassified report assessing the Saudi government's role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The report finds that Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Khashoggi.

February 18, 2021

The Court grants the U.S. government the requested two-week extension to produce an update on the status of the ODNI report on the Khashoggi murder. 

February 17, 2021

The U.S. government asks for an extension until March 3, 2021 to provide an update on the status of the ODNI report on the Khashoggi murder. Open Society Justice Initiative opposed the delay. 


U.S. Government Extension Request and OSJI Response Download the 3-page document Download
February 10, 2021

Open Society Justice Initiative requests a status conference for the week following March 10 for an update on how the government’s declassification of information in the ODNI Khashoggi report could affect its withholding of other records relating to the Khashoggi murder.

OSJI response to the U.S. State Department Request for Extension Download the 2-page document Download
February 08, 2021

The U.S. government asks for an extension until March 10, 2021 to provide a Vaughn Index for its withholding of the CIA report on the Khashoggi murder.

U.S. State Department Request for Extension Download the 2-page document Download
January 13, 2021

Open Society Justice Initiative files brief arguing for disclosure of the Congressionally-mandated ODNI report on Khashoggi's murder.  

Memorandum of Law in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and in Opposition to the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment Download the 32-page document Download
December 08, 2020

Judge Engelmayer orders the CIA and ODNI to acknowledge and explain their withholding of the tape recording the murder of Khashoggi, as well as the CIA’s report on the murder. 

Second Decision in Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA et al. Download the 29-page document. Download
August 19, 2020

On August 19, the Justice Initiative filed a related case against the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) seeking disclosure of congressionally mandated ODNI reports determining who is responsible for the Khashoggi murder.

Open Society Justice Initiative v. ODNI Download the 35-page document. Download
July 20, 2020

Open Society Justice Initiative files a FOIA request for ODNI's report on Khashoggi's murder, mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act Fiscal Year 2020.

FOIA Request for ODNI report on Jamal Khashoggi Download the 12-page document Download
August 06, 2019

Judge Engelmayer, a federal district court judge in the Southern District of New York, issues his first judgement. The court rejected the government’s attempt to slow down the disclosure of such records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

First Decision in Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA et al. Download the 14-page document Download
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 Justice and State.

Open Society Justice Initiative v. Department of Justice and Department of State Download the 39-page document Download
January 09, 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. 

Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA, DOD, NSA, ODNI Download the 63-page document Download
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).  


March 19, 2021
February 2020 ODNI Report Download the 2-page report Download
March 10, 2021
DOJ Vaughn Index on the CIA Report Download the 3-page document Download
March 09, 2021
Court Order on Motion for Partial Reconsideration of December 8 Decision Download the 2-page document Download
February 17, 2021
U.S. Government Extension Request and OSJI Response Download the 3-page document Download
February 10, 2021
OSJI response to the U.S. State Department Request for Extension Download the 2-page document Download
February 08, 2021
U.S. State Department Request for Extension Download the 2-page document Download
January 13, 2021
Memorandum of Law in Support of Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and in Opposition to the Government's Motion for Summary Judgment Download the 32-page document Download
December 08, 2020
Second Decision in Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA et al. Download the 29-page document. Download
August 19, 2020
Open Society Justice Initiative v. ODNI Download the 35-page document. Download
July 20, 2020
FOIA Request for ODNI report on Jamal Khashoggi Download the 12-page document Download
August 06, 2019
First Decision in Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA et al. Download the 14-page document Download
April 22, 2019
Court Scheduling Order Scheduling Order for Processing of FOIA documents. Download
February 12, 2019
Open Society Justice Initiative v. Department of Justice and Department of State Download the 39-page document Download
January 09, 2019
Open Society Justice Initiative v. CIA, DOD, NSA, ODNI Download the 63-page document Download

Related Work

Press release

Justice Initiative Sues Office of the Director of National Intelligence for Khashoggi Report

The Open Society Justice Initiative has filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to immediately make public its assessment of who is responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

August 19, 2020
Press release

Federal Court Issues First Decision Against U.S. Government in Khashoggi Records Case

A federal district court in New York issued its first judgement on Open Society Justice Initiative’s lawsuit seeking the immediate release of government records related to Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

August 07, 2019
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.

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

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