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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images

Beginning in 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) authorized a secret campaign to crack down on dissidents, with at least a dozen of the operations carried out by members of the same team that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the New York Times reports, citing "American officials who have read classified intelligence reports about the campaign."

Details: The operations reportedly involved the kidnapping, detention, torture and, in some cases, the forced repatriation of Saudi citizens living abroad. Sources tell the Times that the team — known to American officials as the Saudi Rapid Intervention Group — was so busy that it requested holiday bonuses from a top adviser to MBS last June.

Why it matters: After a series of evolving explanations, the Saudi government ultimately settled on the narrative that Khashoggi's murder was a "rogue operation" gone wrong and is now in the process of prosecuting 11 members of the team. This report suggests that the Khashoggi episode was not an isolated case, but rather "a particularly egregious part of a wider campaign to silence Saudi dissidents."

The big picture: In February, President Trump refused to meet a congressional deadline for providing a report about who was responsible for Khashoggi's death. This follows a pattern of Trump refusing to condemn MBS — whom his administration has positioned as a key strategic ally — even in the face of reports that U.S. intelligence has concluded the young prince directly ordered the operation.

Go deeper

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.