Saudi Arabia is threatening to give 5-year prison terms and heavy fines to anyone caught spreading “fake news” online, a warning to those discussing the suspected murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The threat, published over the weekend in the Saudi Gazette, echoes one of President Trump’s favourite phrases to demean any journalism that he finds unfavorable to his regime.
The Saudi Gazette cited Article 6 of the Saudi Arabia’s cybercrimes regulations which makes it against the law to breach “public order, religious values, public morals and privacy.” The law makes no distinction between Saudi citizens and foreign nationals found to be in violation of the draconian rules.
Saudi Arabia is currently at the center of an international controversy over the suspected death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi-born U.S. permanent resident who disappeared on October 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Khashoggi has been critical of the Saudi regime and is believed to have been killed in the consulate before being cut into pieces with a bone saw and smuggled back to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government vehemently denies that it had anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance.
A Turkish newspaper claims that Khashoggi’s Apple Watch may have recorded audio of his own murder, but that claim hasn’t been verified independently. The paper claims that the audio recording may have been uploaded to iCloud. There’s speculation that Turkish intelligence agencies had the Saudi consulate wired for sound and are using the Apple Watch as an excuse so that they can release any potential audio of the murder in the future.
Former CIA director John Brennan appeared on Meet the Press yesterday to talk about the Saudi-U.S. relationship, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (commonly called MBS), and the disappearance of Khashoggi. Brennan said that it’s up to the Saudis to explain what happened.
“If Khashoggi had disappeared in Turkey when he was at a hotel or a private residence, I think there is plausible deniability on the part of the Saudi government,” Brennan told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd. “But he disappeared when there is video evidence of him being at the consulate.”
“So their denials ring hollow. Very much ring hollow,” Brennan continued.
President Trump has claimed that if Saudi Arabia is responsible for the disappearance of the journalist, the kingdom will face “severe punishment.” But the president dismissed calls for sanctions or the cessation of lucrative arms sales. Trump, in his rambling and sometimes incoherent discussions, has made it clear that there’s no higher principle than money.
“I’ll tell you what I don’t want to do,” Trump said on 60 Minutes last night. “I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that. And you know what, there are other ways of punishing.”
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his kingdom have invested heavily in Silicon Valley, but numerous leaders in the tech community have recently backed out of a high-profile conference in Saudi Arabia called the Future Investment Initiative.
Informally called Davos in the Desert, people like former AOL CEO Steve Case and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi have said that they won’t be attending this year. CEO of JP Morgan Jamie Dimon announced this morning that he’ll also be pulling out of the conference.
Trump regime lackey and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is still planning to attend. Again, there’s no higher principle than money in the Trump regime.