July 12, 2021 "Information
Clearing House" - Two lawsuits pitting
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler against a former
intelligence czar threaten to expose highly
sensitive US government secrets, prompting
Washington to consider a rare judicial intervention,
The cases in US and Canadian courts centre on
corruption allegations levelled by state-owned Saudi
companies against Saad Aljabri, a former spymaster
who long worked closely with American officials on
covert counterterrorism operations.
That marks the latest twist in a long-running
feud between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)
Aljabri's patron, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN),
is currently in Saudi detention after being deposed
as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup.
The legal drama sheds light on Shakespearean
rivalries in the top echelons of the Saudi royal
family, but Washington fears that a bitter courtroom
showdown risks exposing sensitive information
related to its covert operations.
A rare US Justice Department filing in a
Massachusetts court in April noted Aljabri's
intention to "describe information concerning
alleged national security activities".
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"The (US) government is considering whether and
how to participate in this action, including if
necessary and applicable, through an assertion of
appropriate governmental privileges," the filing
said, without elaborating.
In a second filing a month later, the Justice
Department asked the court for more time as national
security matters require "'delicate' and 'complex'
judgements by senior officials".
The filing said the government was prepared to
"provide further information" to the court in
Legal experts have said Washington could invoke
the "state secrets privilege", which would allow it
to resist a court-ordered disclosure of information
deemed harmful to US national security.
The CIA declined to comment to AFP. The Justice
Department, which experts say only rarely intervenes
in civil lawsuits, did not respond to a request for
- 'Vendetta' -
Last year, Aljabri alleged in another lawsuit
that MBS sent "Tiger Squad" assassins to kill him in
Canada, where he lives in exile, while detaining two
of his children to pressure him to return home.
The feud took a new turn this March when
state-run company Sakab Saudi Holding accused
Aljabri of embezzling $3.47 billion while working at
the Ministry of Interior under MBN. It urged the
Massachusetts court to freeze his $29 million Boston
This came weeks after multiple state-owned
companies sued Aljabri in Toronto on similar
allegations. A Canadian court subsequently announced
a worldwide freeze of Aljabri's assets.
While denying any financial wrongdoing, Aljabri's
legal team says he is caught in the rivalry between
MBS and MBN, who has not been publicly seen since
his detention in March 2020.
State-run Sakab, which court filings say was
established in 2008 by MBN, was part of a network of
front companies to provide cover for clandestine
security operations with the United States.
In order to prove his innocence, the court would
need to probe Sakab's finances, including how they
were used to "finance sensitive programs" operated
in partnership with the CIA, the US National
Security Agency and the US Defense Department, said
a filing by Aljabri.
"Dr Saad would never expose covert
counterterrorism projects that saved thousands of
lives, including Americans," a source close to the
former spymaster told AFP.
"Unfortunately, MBS's blind vendetta against Dr
Saad has cornered him in a position where he is
compelled to do so in order to defend himself in
- 'Endanger lives' -
While the Justice Department considers moves to
prevent any disclosure of state secrets in
Massachusetts, it remains unclear how it could do
the same in the Ontario court, over which it has no
The Aljabri source acknowledged any exposure
could endanger "those who participated in
(counterterrorism) operations, reveal sources and
methods, and hinder... similar operations in the
A US lawyer representing MBS declined to comment
on the litigation.
But a source close to the Saudi leadership
repeated multi-billion dollar corruption
allegations, while accusing Aljabri of "poisoning
the Saudi-US relationship".
Several US officials who have worked alongside
Aljabri have voiced support for him, with some
acknowledging that he was privy to sensitive
"Dr Saad worked directly with at least the CIA,
FBI, Department of Homeland Security, White House,
Department of State, and Department of the
Treasury," former CIA official Philip Mudd wrote in
a US court affidavit.
"When the United States had actionable
intelligence or tactical information, we gave it to
In its April filing, the Justice Department said
it anticipated engaging with both sides to
understand their positions, suggesting it was keen
for an out-of-court settlement.
"The more important thing for me is that MBS is
holding Dr Saad's kids, essentially extorting Dr
Saad," Daniel Hoffman, a former director of the
CIA's Middle East division, told AFP.
"That's very much against the humanitarian values
of the United States."
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