Saudi restructures intelligence service after Khashoggi murder

New government departments are meant to ensure that intelligence operations align with national security policy and international law.

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday the creation of three new government bodies aimed at improving the country's intelligence operations in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has sparked international outrage.

King Salman ordered a restructuring of the intelligence service in October after the authorities acknowledged that Khashoggi had been killed inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate by a team of Saudi intelligence and security agents.

Saudi officials have said that the 15-man team was put together by the deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency, Ahmed al-Asiri, whom the king fired along with royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani.

The 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.

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.

Intelligence and anti-radicalisation programmes are also vital parts of the Saudi counterterrorism efforts. The Kingdom leads a 41-member Muslim counter-terrorism alliance, which met for the first time in Riyadh last year.

The new intelligence bodies were created by a committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's defence minister. He has denied accusations of ordering the hit against Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of the crown prince.

Western allies have called on Riyadh to hold those responsible for the murder accountable. The Saudi public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five suspects, as the kingdom tries to contain its biggest political crisis for a generation.

The US Senate last week blamed Prince Mohammed for the murder, in a rare rebuke to President Donald Trump, who has said he wants Washington to stand by the 33-year-old de facto leader.