New intelligence bodies established in Saudi Arabia

Three new government departments are meant to ensure that intelligence operations align with national security policy, international law and human rights treaties.
Friday 21/12/2018
A security officer stands guard at the meeting of the defence ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in Riyadh, last November. (AFP)
Aligned with policies. A security officer stands guard at the meeting of the defence ministers of the 41-member Saudi-led Muslim counter-terrorism alliance in Riyadh, last November. (AFP)

RIYADH – Saudi Arabia announced December 20 the creation of new government bodies aimed at improving the country’s intelligence operations, which have been scrutinised after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Saudi King King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the restructuring of the intelligence service in October after authorities in the kingdom acknowledged that Khashoggi had been killed inside his country’s consulate in what is said was a rogue operation by a team of Saudi intelligence and security agents.

Three new government departments — for strategy and development, legal affairs, and performance evaluation and internal review — are meant to ensure that intelligence operations align with national security policy, international law and human rights treaties, state news agency SPA reported.

They were created by the Saudi Intelligence Restructuring Committee headed by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is also the kingdom’s defence minister.

Saudi Arabia will also activate the Intelligence Activity Committee and set up a mechanism for its tasks to ensure preliminary review and selection of appropriate competencies for the tasks.

In the wake of Khashoggi’s killing, Saudi Arabia detained 21 Saudi nationals and dismissed two senior officials — Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to the crown prince.

Eleven people have so far been charged over the journalist’s death and the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five of them, although none of those officially charged has been identified.

Intelligence and anti-radicalisation programmes are also vital parts of the Saudi counterterrorism efforts.

Saudi Arabia leads a 41-member Muslim counter-terrorism alliance, which met for the first time in Riyadh last year.