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NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. government must provide limited information about its withholding from the public a tape of the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and a CIA report on his death in a Freedom of Information Act case, a judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer said public statements, including by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the head of the Central Intelligence Agency have made clear that the items exist.
They are being sought as part of a FOIA lawsuit brought two years ago in Manhattan by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the legal team for the Open Society Foundations, created by billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was not seen alive after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018. Trump called the killing “horrible” but said Saudi Arabia has “been a terrific ally."
In a written ruling, Engelmayer said the case remained in an early stage and the limited disclosure of information about the items “will not reveal as-yet unrevealed information” pertaining to foreign relations or activities by the United States or its agencies' intelligence sources and methods.
He said Trump “literally admitted” that U.S. intelligence agencies had reviewed the tape and that the U.S. government has it. He said Pence had acknowledged that the CIA had the tape at the time of its investigation, even if the agency now tried to disclaim possession of the tape “as a fact not publicly known.”
A message for comment was sent to the U.S. Justice Department.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Initiative said disclosure of the records, including the tape, was necessary for the public to evaluate the federal government's response to the killing.
“Today’s court order is a crucial victory in addressing the Trump administration’s shameful cover-up of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder," Amrit Singh, a lawyer for the Justice Initiative, said in a statement. "The Court’s judgment is a vital step towards ending impunity for the murder.”