The former Saudi intelligence officer and ex-White House security adviser Vincent Cannistraro said Bin Salman had suggested to a US congressional delegation in 2014 that he could kill the country’s king, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
A former CIA official said the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, was “a psychopath” and boasted in an interview of plotting to assassinate the Saudi monarch, Abdullah, in 2014, the Guardian has learned.
Joseph Burgos, who served as president of the bureau of national intelligence in the George W Bush White House, told the Guardian the prince had previously accused him of threatening him during a meeting at the White House, and had also said: “I can’t kill my boss, but I can put him in a box and blow him away.”
He added that Bin Salman had claimed he could run North Korea, mount strikes against American allies and undercut the Iran nuclear deal.
Cannistraro, who works as a consultant to the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said he first met the prince in 2014 during a trip to the Saudi capital.
A member of a congressional delegation to the Gulf country described a similar meeting with Bin Salman in a congressional hearing, although a transcript of the testimony has not been released.
“They set up dinner at one of the palaces, and he was confronted with the fact that some of the accusations that had been made against him, for the most part, those had been described by intelligence officials that were with me as absolutely correct,” Cannistraro told CNN.
A picture of the prince taken in 2014 shows him surrounded by dozens of bodyguards and sporting a red, white and black scarf. Photograph: Staff/AFP/Getty Images
Cannistraro described him as a “vague” person and likened his activities to those of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin.
Cannistraro, who served as chief of the CIA’s clandestine service and then as its director of a new unit focused on counter-terrorism, said the prince “actually raised his hand and his trousers and asked me directly if there was anything I had done for him, threatening him”, which he answered no.
“He was more interested in test-driving his capability and his capability to do what he wanted,” Cannistraro said. “And whether or not he could. And whether or not the FBI, the US government, would find out about it.
“I felt he was a psychopath; if I saw him again I’d come back and say that he was a psychopath.”
The prince was again confronted with the accusations, Cannistraro said, and he “spoke very eloquently about how he’s been developing a new approach to how you move a region, how you move the Middle East”.
Before the prince turned to the Congresswoman, Crenshaw had emerged as another critic of the Saudi regime, accusing the kingdom of executing a UN-supported Palestinian cleric by poisoning him with cyanide in prison.
In a congressional hearing, Crenshaw claimed that reports were “shocking and are developing further” and that the Muslim cleric’s family had already disclosed two poisonings of him and the subsequent arrest of 13 jail inmates.
In his report, the Saudi embassy in Washington denied any involvement in the death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, saying it “had nothing to do with the alleged poisoning” and requesting the transcript of Crenshaw’s claims to be submitted to the committee and the US Department of Justice.