Saudi Arabia’s government gleaned private information from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s phone, security consultant Gavin de Becker said following an investigation into how texts and intimate photos from Bezos’s phone found their way to the National Enquirer.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, and gained private information,” de Becker, the CEO’s longtime security specialist, wrote in an article on the Daily Beast. “As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, [Enquirer owner] AMI was aware of the details.”
The Enquirer published texts between Bezos’s and his paramour Lauren Sanchez then threatened to publish the photos if Bezos didn’t cool a probe into the Enquirer’s dealings.
In a January blog post, Bezos revealed that “the top people at the National Enquirer” had pressured him to stop looking into the questionable practices of the tabloid and its parent company American Media, Inc. (AMI) after the Enquirer published some of Bezos’s personal texts.
AMI said “they will publish the personal photos unless [investigator and security specialist] Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces,’” Bezos wrote, noting that AMI had already struck an immunity deal with the Justice Department “related to their role in the so-called ‘Catch and Kill’ process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign” and is the subject of the investigations “for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi government.”
Instead of bending to the threats of personal embarrassment – the photos are intimate and revealing and come at a time when he and his wife are divorcing – Bezos decided to publicize them instead, including in his post correspondence from AMI Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard and Deputy General Counsel Jon Fine.
De Becker said Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, an associate of Trump campaign advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page, was a source for the Enquirer story, but that the publication approached him to confirm the affair between his sister and Bezos rather than the other way around, an assertion that AMI challenged.
“The fact of the matter is, it was Michael Sanchez who tipped the National Enquirer off to the affair on Sept. 10, 2018, and over the course of four months provided all of the materials for our investigation,” AMI said in a statement. “His continued efforts to discuss and falsely represent our reporting, and his role in it, has waived any source confidentiality. There was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.”
But de Becker noted an eight-page contract from AMI requiring him to “make a public statement, composed by them and then widely disseminated, saying that my investigation had concluded they hadn’t relied upon ‘any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process.’”
He also said the evidence, amassed from “a broad array of resources,” which included current and former AMI executives, “top Middle East experts in the intelligence community, leading cybersecurity experts who have tracked Saudi spyware, discussions with current and former advisers to President Trump, Saudi whistleblowers, people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS),” pointed to an effort by the Saudis probe to strike back at Bezos.
“Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the [Washington] Post, [which Bezos owns,] began its relentless coverage of [journalisty Jamal] Khashoggi’s murder,” de Becker wrote.