Bezos’ security team has concluded his phone probably had been hacked with a tainted video sent from bin Salman’s, pictured, WhatsApp account.
Organization to recommend both Saudi Arabia and US investigate claims against Mohammed bin Salman. Saudis are said to be intent on harming Bezos since his Washington Post newspaper began its ‘relentless coverage’ of murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Two UN officials will report on Wednesday that there is enough evidence suggesting that Saudi Arabia hacked Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ phone and both the kingdom and the United States should investigate, a person familiar with the matter has said.
The United Nations’ officials plan a public statement asserting that they found credible a forensic report commissioned by Bezos’ security team which concluded that his phone probably had been hacked with a tainted video sent from a WhatsApp account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The report by FTI Consulting concluded that massive amounts of data began leaving Bezos’ phone about a month after the video was shared in mid-2018, the person told Reuters, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject.
Outside experts consulted by the UN agreed that while the case was not airtight, the evidence was strong enough to warrant a fuller investigation.
The report is set to worsen relations between the world’s richest man and the kingdom which had soured following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, who was also a columnist for Middle East Eye and the Bezos-owned Washington Post.
The UK’s Guardian newspaper first reported the crown prince’s alleged involvement on Tuesday.
It said the encrypted message from the number used by the crown prince is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone Bezos had used and extracted large amounts of data.
However, Saudi Arabia’s US embassy has dismissed the allegations.
“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” it said in a message posted on Twitter.
The UN statement will come from Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and David Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression.
The two officials are building toward a fuller report they expect to give to the UN in June, the person said.
The officials said in Twitter posts that they will be releasing a statement on Wednesday addressing the Guardian report.
Amazon declined to comment over the reports.
The relationship between Bezos and the Saudi government had soured since early last year after he alluded to Saudi Arabia’s displeasure at the Washington Post’s coverage of the murder of Khashoggi.
Bezos’ security chief said at the time that Saudi Arabia had access to his phone and gained private information from it involving text messages between him and a former television anchor, who the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper said Bezos was dating.
Riyadh had said it had nothing to do with the reporting.
In December, a Saudi court exonerated bin Salman’s top aides over the murder of Khashoggi, a verdict condemned globally as a travesty of justice but backed by Washington.
Both the CIA and Callamard have directly linked the prince to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
Bezos investigation finds Saudis obtained his private data
Gavin de Becker, longtime security chief for Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, wrote in an article published on Saturday by the Daily Beast and labelled “opinion” that the Saudi government had access to Bezos’s phone and had gained private information from it.
The Saudi government, he wrote, has been intent on harming Bezos since last October, when his Washington Post newspaper began its “relentless coverage” of the murder of its columnist and Middle East Eye contributor Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
De Becker wrote that experts with whom he consulted confirmed reports by the New York Times on the Saudi capability to “collect vast amounts of previously inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace – including phone calls, texts, emails” – and also confirmed that such hacking was a key part of the Saudi’s surveillance that ultimately led to Khashoggi’s slaying.
De Becker went on to say that he had studied the well-documented close relationship between the powerful de facto ruler, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), and AMI chairman David Pecker, who controls the supermarket tabloid National Enquirer.
That alliance included Pecker bringing MBS associate Kacy Grine to a private White House meeting with President Donald Trump. And to coincide with MBS’s US tour last March, AMI created a 100-page, ad-free, glossy magazine extolling the crown prince’s reforms called The New Kingdom, on which MEE has reported extensively.
De Becker wrote that as part of a court action, “AMI soon had to disclose to the Department of Justice National Security Division that their mystery magazine included content written by Grine, and that they also gave him the whole working draft for advance review, and that he suggested changes, and that they implemented his changes, and that he provided better photographs of MBS. With friends like AMI, you don’t need … publicists.”
When the National Enquirer earlier this year threatened to release lurid, intimate pictures of Bezos and his mistress unless he said in public that the supermarket tabloid’s reporting on him was not politically motivated, he fought back by releasing the details of his exchanges publicly in a 2,000-word blogpost published on the website Medium.
“If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” Bezos, the world’s richest man, wrote on Medium.
The bombshell from Bezos, 55, brought a tidal wave of reactions, many praising his decision to face down Pecker and the Enquirer, AFP reported.
“Not everyone can stand up to bullies, thugs and extortionists, but if you can, you should,” said rival tech entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.
De Becker wrote that his investigation was now complete, his results have been turned over to federal officials and Saturday’s Daily Beast article is intended to be his final public statement on the matter.
He concluded: “It’s clear that MBS considers the Washington Post to be a major enemy. Saudi Arabia is hardly the first repressive regime that seeks total control of the news media in its own country. Wanting to control the media in the United States – and using any means to do so – will hopefully prove to be an overreach.”