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Biden administration will not identify Saudis excluded from US in Khashoggi fallout

Khashoggi’s ban was exposed during the release of a lengthy secret U.S. intelligence report which determined that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, had approved the operation that led to the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018.

POLITICO asked for identifying information on the 76 Saudis on Monday, but a State Department spokesperson declined to provide the data.

“Under US law, individual visa records are confidential and we cannot provide details of who is or will be included in the Khashoggi ban,” the spokesperson said. “We are not able to detail the identity of those who are currently subject to these measures, nor will we be able to get a glimpse of those who may be in the future.”

Asked how the public could be certain that the sanction was imposed and that the United States, they said, was engaging in activities deemed dangerous to dissidents, journalists and others, the spokesperson did not say. comment.

Khashoggi’s ban was part of a package of sanctions, including economic sanctions, unveiled by the Biden administration on Friday to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the journalist’s murder.

The Biden administration said it chose not to impose punishment on Crown Prince Mohammed himself, believing it was not in the US national interest to make a decision that could threaten the US relationship. Saudi Arabian wider.

Representative Tom Malinowski (DN.J.) said the crown prince should be subject to a visa ban. If necessary, Blinken could issue a waiver for the Saudi royal that would exempt him from the ban, but then he would have to notify Congress and provide a rationale, Malinowski said.

“I think the law already requires it,” Malinowski said, referring to existing US laws that could prevent the crown prince from US soil. Malinowski said he was in contact with the State Department and “hopes they will clarify this. I am also preparing a bill.

According to Blinken’s statement, the 76 unidentified Saudis were “involved in threats to dissidents abroad, including, but not limited to, the murder of Khashoggi.”

The Khashoggi ban, Blinken said, is a new visa restriction policy developed under authorities authorized by immigration and nationality law.

Blinken also added, however, that when deciding who to place under Khashoggi’s ban, the State Department would consider whether they should also be covered by a different legal mechanism “that allows visa denial for them and members. of their immediate family as well as their public identification. ”

This raises the possibility that some of the 76 could potentially be publicly appointed if the administration decides it can target them under this additional mechanism.

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist who wrote for the Washington Post. His concerns over growing political repression in Saudi Arabia put him at odds with Crown Prince Mohammed.

The Saudi government has rejected the findings of the US intelligence report blaming the murder of Khashoggi on the Saudi royal.

The Biden administration’s decision not to penalize Crown Prince Mohammed, often referred to by his initials, MBS, has not been welcomed by many members of Congress.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) Said, at the very least, “the Biden administration should make it public that it will not invite MBS to the United States and that the president will not meet with him.”

Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

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