Remember the story of photographs of Jeff Bezos that the National Enquirer and its parent organization AMI was trying to use to blackmail Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos to stop his investigation into how they got the photos and issue a statement saying that he absolved them of all wrongdoing? Instead Bezos went public and gave his investigator Gavin De Becker all the resources he needed to continue his investigation.
Now De Becker says that he has completed his investigation and issued a statement that is quite extraordinary.
That investigation is now complete. As has been reported elsewhere, my results have been turned over to federal officials. Since it is now out of my hands, I intend today’s writing to be my last public statement on the matter. Further, to respect officials pursuing this case, I won’t disclose details from our investigation. I am, however, comfortable confirming one key fact:
Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.
Experts with whom we consulted confirmed New York Times reports 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 confirmed that hacking was a key part of the Saudi’s “extensive surveillance efforts that ultimately led to the killing of [Washington Post] journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder. The Saudi campaign against Bezos has already been reported by CNN International, Bloomberg, The Daily Beast, and others.
As for the Saudi side of the equation: Not only does the kingdom have a close alliance with AMI—which owns the Enquirer, Us Weekly, the Star, Globe, Radar Online, and many other publications—but the Saudis have pursued investmentsand partnerships involving Rolling Stone, Variety, Deadline, the Robb Report, and National Geographic, among others.
Unlike these publications, 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.
What De Becker is clearly implying is that the Saudis are buying influence in US media outlets and also have the technology to eavesdrop on pretty much everyone in the US and are using it to target those whom they perceive as enemies. The paper Bezos owns is the one that murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi worked for and has been relentlessly pursuing, drawing the net around Mohammed bin Salman.
It should of course be noted that Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have close to bin Salman.
One tiny, targeted, limited element of the Saudi spying operation in the US. You think Bezos is their only person of interest?
Come now, Mohammed bin Salman is a close friend of Jared Kushner. Surely the Saudis would not spy in people in the USA.
I must admit I never really thought of the National Enquirer blackmail being Saudi sponsored but that may be because I don’t normally read the WP. I had not realised it was being a bit annoying just because someone dismembered one of their reporters.
Reginald Selkirk says
This sounds like Stingray.
Now the question is how well this holds up when the Feds investigate.