A dangerous development has occurred in the judicial dispute between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saad Al-Jabri, a former Saudi intelligence official, that may force the US authorities to intervene rarely in the judiciary.
According to news reports, the lawsuit filed by Saad al-Jabri threatens to reveal highly sensitive US government documents and secrets.
The cases in US and Canadian courts center on corruption charges brought by Saudi-owned companies against Saad al-Jabri, a former intelligence official who worked closely with US officials on covert counterterrorism operations.
Saad Al-Jabri and the Saudi royal family
The legal dispute highlights high-level rivalries from the Saudi royal family.
But Washington fears that a bitter courtroom standoff could expose highly sensitive US government secrets.
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Agence France-Presse said that a rare lawsuit brought by the US Department of Justice to a Massachusetts court, last April, indicated Jabri’s intention to “report information related to relevant national security activities.”
“The US government is considering whether and how it can participate in this action, including, if necessary and feasible, the confirmation of relevant government concessions,” the lawsuit said, without elaborating.
In a second lawsuit a month later, the Justice Department asked the court for more time because matters of national security required “nuanced and complex” judgments by senior officials.
The lawsuit also said that the government was willing to “disclose more information” to the court.
Amtiar State Secrets
Legal experts say Washington could invoke a “state secrets privilege,” which would allow it to resist a court order to release information deemed harmful to US national security.
It is noteworthy that last year, Jabri alleged in another lawsuit that Mohammed bin Salman sent an assassination team from the “Tiger Squad” to kill him in Canada, where he lives in exile, while holding two of his sons to pressure him to return home.
The dispute took a new turn in March, when Saudi state-linked Scape Holdings accused Al-Jabri of embezzling $3.47 billion while working for the Interior Ministry under Mohammed bin Nayef, and asked a Massachusetts court to freeze his $29 million Boston real estate assets.
This came weeks after several Saudi state-owned companies filed lawsuits against Al-Jabri in Toronto over similar allegations. A Canadian court later announced a global freeze of al-Jabri’s assets.
While Al-Jabri’s legal team denied any financial wrongdoing, he said that he is a victim of the deteriorating relationship between Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Nayef, who has not been seen in public since his arrest in March 2020.
Scape, which court files say was set up by Mohammed bin Nayef in 2008, was part of a network of companies that provided cover for covert security operations with the United States.
In order to prove his innocence, the court will need to investigate Scape’s finances, including how it was used to “finance sensitive programs” carried out in partnership with the CIA, National Security Agency and the US Department of Defense, according to a memo provided by Jabri.
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A source close to the former intelligence official said, “Dr. Saad will never expose secret counter-terrorism projects that have saved thousands of lives, including Americans.”
He added, “Unfortunately, Mohammed bin Salman’s blind retaliation against Dr. Saad has trapped him in a position where he is forced to do so, in order to defend himself in court.”
While the Department of Justice is considering steps to prevent any disclosure of state secrets in Massachusetts, it is not yet clear how it might do the same in the Ontario court, over which it has no direct influence.
The source close to al-Jabri acknowledged that any disclosure of information could endanger “those who participated in (anti-terrorist) operations and reveal sources and methods of similar operations in the future.”
A Saudi official said the lawsuits were “between private parties” and “the Saudi government is not involved.”
A source close to the Saudi leadership repeated allegations of billions of dollars in corruption, accusing Al-Jabri of “poisoning Saudi-American relations.”
Several US officials who worked with Jabri expressed support for him, and some admitted that he had access to sensitive information.
“Dr. Saad has worked at least directly with the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, the State Department and the Treasury Department,” former CIA official Philip Mood wrote in an affidavit in a US court.
He added, “When the United States had actionable intelligence or tactical information, we gave it to Dr. Saad.”
The Justice Department said in its lawsuit in April that it expects to communicate with the two sides to understand their positions, indicating that it is eager for an out-of-court settlement.
“The most important thing to me is that MBS is holding Dr. Saad’s children, so he is basically blackmailing him,” said Daniel Hoffman, the former director of the CIA’s Middle East division. This is very contrary to the humanitarian values of the United States.”
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