The Jamal Khashoggi case – a digital forensic analysis

Google today is used and embedded in almost all activities of our daily life. This doesn’t exclude terroristic planning or murder conspiracy. When looking for information or intelligence the subsequent culprits can’t completely avoid to leave some digital traces, which can be uncovered using Google.

In the following article we collected digital indications which may  describe the role of the Saudi-arabian leaders relating to the murder of the regime critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi. For that puropse we are using mainly the analytical potential of Google Trends, with which the search volumes can be broken down chronologically as well as referring to the origin.

At this point we like to emphasize that the quality of the data is different depending on the time window we look at. Low search volumes can only be determined for the last seven days preceeding the respective request. Data lying further away in the past will be clustered and compressed which leads to a loss of quality. 

Search queries in the “khashoggi” context

Jamal Khashoggi disppeared October 2, 2018 in the buildig of the Saudi-Arabic consulate in Istanbul. Turkish media indicated that one day before a 15-headed team came flying in from Saudi-Arabia.  We will check now if we can find indications that may relate to planning this trip. So, first, we take a look at the search volume out of Saudi-Aabia concerning the affected person:

What we see is that even before October 2, 2018 searches on “jamal khashoggi” were executed. We can also state that, besides the general Google Search, Videos on Youtube were also target of searching for the person. Perhaps with the intent of making it easier to identify the person later on: 

The Saudi-Arabic consulate in Istanbul 

On October 1, one day before the murder, we can clearly see an increase of search queries coming from Saudi-Arabia concerning the consulate in Istanbul.  They may have been executed in preparation of a vistit or travel:

There were inquiries from Saudi-Arabia concerning the city of Istanbul as well:

Search queries on one of the consulate’s employees, al-Otaibi, don’t show signs of a relationship to the case. The name was queried sporadically from Riyadh:


The same ist the case for turkish requests. There was just a very low level amount of queries, which also indicates no relation: 

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