With word now that the Saudis are preparing to admit that Jamal Khashoggi died in its Istanbul consulate as part of an unathorized interrogation gone wrong, it’s worth considering a few points.
First Khashoggi was 59 years old when he died – his 60th birthday came on the 13th, apparently after his death. Photos suggest he was portly. All evidence suggests he was the target of a highly planned operation involving multiple members of an elite military and/or security services team from Saudi Arabia. It is very difficult to accidentally kill someone in the process of what in conventional terms we’d call an interrogation. If you’re torturing the person, it’s not likely but it’s certainly possible. Unless of course, you’re trying to kill them or inflict severe injuries. If we assume that the idea was to exfiltrate Khashoggi and return him to Saudi Arabia, again, a trained team should be able to do that without the person dying.
What is important to focus on is that this was almost certainly not one person trying to subdue another person, in which case the targeted person resists and can possibly sustain a fatal injury in doing so. We’re likely talking at least half a dozen against one, in which case the half dozen are likely in prime physical condition and armed and the target is middle aged and unarmed.
The other layer of this is that the Saudis are apparently preparing to say that the operation was not authorized by the Saudi government. This is not really plausible. But the credibility of the claim is different since we can’t categorically rule out an unauthorized operation. Not likely. Not credible. But who knows what factions exist in the Saudi government? But on the issue of his dying, here we can make some common sense judgments. If he died in Saudi custody, it is highly, highly likely that the plan was either to kill him or that he was at a minimum undergoing torture of some sort.