TEL AVIV – The Biden administration is under increasing pressure to aid a former Saudi intelligence chief credited with saving American lives who was originally jailed by the Saudi government during the Trump administration. Two sources familiar with the matter claim that he has been abused to the point that he cannot walk without help.
Mohammed bin Nayef, 61, was Saudi Arabia’s interior minister and, after September 11, a close partner of the US intelligence services in the fight against al-Qaeda. After surviving four terrorist attacks, he was arrested by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman in March 2020 when the de facto Saudi leader, also known as MBS, tried to consolidate power and sideline his rivals.
Former U.S. intelligence agencies who worked with bin Nayef are angry that the Trump administration did not seem to come to their aid and say President Joe Biden should do more.
“The Trump White House did nothing, absolutely nothing to help him,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who now works at the Brookings Institution.
President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner had a close relationship with MBS. However, Biden released a U.S. intelligence assessment claiming that MBS ordered the 2018 assassination of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. citizen who was killed by Saudis in Turkey.
It’s unclear whether the Biden government intervened behind the scenes, but bin Nayef’s detention conditions have recently improved and family members have been able to see him, sources say.
Bin Nayef was arrested without charge. A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that there is evidence that bin Nayef was recently detained in a government building next to al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh, the official seat of the Saudi royal court, just a few hundred meters away from where MBS was hosts foreign dignitaries.
Two people familiar with his situation, who asked for anonymity to avoid consequences for bin Nayef, said he had lost more than 50 pounds and could no longer walk without help. The two sources claim that he suffered severe foot injuries from the beating, adding that he was withdrawn from pain medication due to previous injuries.
“He is not allowed out and is limited to his own area,” said one of the sources. “During the day he sees no one and has no access to his personal doctor or his legal representatives.”
The alleged mistreatment of Bin Nayef was first reported in the UK’s Sunday Times.
Bin Nayef was recognized by the CIA in 2017 for his support for U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Former intelligence officials say he played a vital role in repelling attacks on Americans. Many are outraged by his treatment and frustrated that the United States government has done nothing more to help him.
“What happened to him was terrible,” said Riedel. “This is a man who saved the lives of dozens of Americans.”
Marc Polymeropoulos, who led the CIA’s main operations in the Middle East, said bin Nayef was particularly helpful when the United States was trying to prevent credible al-Qaeda attacks in the Arabian Peninsula to shoot down an American plane.
In October 2010, for example, bin Nayef played a key role in the failure of a last-minute attack by the al-Qaeda subsidiary in Yemen to bomb FedEx and UPS cargo planes from Yemen to Chicago. Officials said at the time that Saudi intelligence chief had called John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism adviser, and given him tracking numbers for packages containing nifty bombs disguised as print cartridges. The explosives were intercepted and safely disarmed in Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates.
And in 2012, the Saudi secret service under bin Nayef helped smuggle an agent into Yemen to salvage the latest design of clothes bombs to smuggle into an airplane. The agent successfully smuggled the bomb, which was dismantled and analyzed by FBI experts, intelligence officials said at the time.
I can attest from my personal experience that his efforts … directly saved numerous American lives, “said Polymeropoulos, author of a new book,” Clarity in Crisis “.
In 2009, bin Nayef was nearly killed by a suicide bomber who set off an underwear bomb after posing as a reformed terrorist who defied secret