Do you remember that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was hacked by the Saudi regime? A Guardian report says it is really a hacker of the Saudi government — the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) himself might be.
Sources say that MBS could have sent Bezos directly a video file through a WhatsApp chat on 1 May 2018. The Guardian says that it is not clear what the video was. But a forensic analysis of the file revealed that malware that had infiltrated the mobile phone of Bezos and expelled large amounts of data in hours.
It is also unclear what information was taken from Jeff Bezos’ phone during the hack and how it might have been used.
Jeff Bezos accused American Media Inc.
But last February, Jeff Bezos accused American Media Inc., then the parent company of the National Enquirer, of trying to scam Bezos after the publication had approached him saying it had text messages and photos that revealed Jeff Bezos had an affair. AMI repeatedly said that his tipster was Michael Sanchez, the brother of Jeff Bezos ‘ wife, who allegedly had an affair with him. (David Pecker, CEO of AMI, is close to President Trump, and AMI was involved in the saga of hush-money payments to two women who said they were dealing with Trump.)
Saudis had access to the phone and private information of Jeff Bezos
Gavin de Becker, chief of security of Bezos, said in March 2019 that he had evidence that the Saudis had access to the phone and private information of Bezos. As Becker said in the daily beast: our researchers and several experts were confident that the Saudis had access to the cellphone of Bezos and were able to access private information. At present, the degree to which AMI knew the information is not clear, if any.
Jamal Khashoggi, killed in Turkey in 2018
The Guardian’s report adds more steam to the very troubling accusation of the foreign government punching a privately owned person (Bezos), the CIA’s attack, suspected MBS itself, by columnist Jamal Khashoggi, killed in Turkey in 2018.
Further concerns, also posed on MBS’s personal relationships, including Trump adviser and lawyer Jared Kushner. Kushner says that through WhatsApp, like MBS, he connects with foreign leaders — something cybersecurity experts are saying he’s still vulnerable to hacking.
Why would MBS hack Jeff Bezos?
Bezos announced in January 2019 he was preparing for divorce with his wife. The National Enquirer reported only a few hours later that a four-month investigation into a separatist affair. Between Jeff Bezos and Laura Sanchez, a former anchor of a Fox affiliate in Los Angeles had concluded.
As Anna North from Vox reported earlier on, the national investigator revealed what it said were “sleazy text messages” sent by Bezos to Sanchez, saying he saw’ a list of the obscene selfies’ sent by the CEO of Amazon, too.
Jeff Bezos has become a regular punching bag for President Donald Trump, who dislikes the Washington Post–and its publisher by the way–for what he sees as negative reporting of his Presidency.
A “catch and kill” Deal
Pecker, CEO of AMI (and until now the owner of the National Enquirer), is a long-time friend of Trump’s. A “catch and kill” deal with former playboy model Karen McDougal. Alleging that she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, arranged by the tabloids in August 2016.
In charging documents Federal prosecution officers also found that AMI had involved in illegally paying the hush money to Stormy Daniels, a porn actress. Such two payments, aimed at protecting Trump and influencing elections in 2016. AMI agreed to cooperate with prosecutors to avoid prosecution in December 2018.
Bezos wrote a long post in February 2019 on Medium
Back to Bezos, Bezos wrote a long post in February 2019 on Medium, accusing AMI of attempting to blackmail him. Bezos said that he had retained researchers (including de Becker) to look at his private messages. He claimed when AMI learned about the Bezo investigation, that it had contacted him saying that it had more text messages and photographs of Bezos and that it threatened to publish them unless Bezos had stopped the inquiry.
Bezos published the crossings, including some interesting AMI demands. That Bezos acknowledges publicly: “he has no understanding to suggest that the coverage of AMI, politically motivated or influenced by political forces. And an agreement that they are not to mention this opportunity.”
In its correspondence with Bezos, AMI also claimed that it “announced that it had not conducted any electronic eavesdropping in connection with its coverage and had no knowledge of such actions.” Bezos denied what he considered “blackmail.” Meanwhile, de Becker continued his inquiry. He said the Saudi government had access to the telephone of Bezos in March 2019 explosively.
AMI denied any information it got from the Saudis calling the accusations “false” and said the material had gathered from Michael Sanchez, a single source. “A third party hasn’t get involved,” read the AMI Declaration.
AMI has a Relationship with the Saudi Administration
But AMI has a relationship with the Saudi administration. Last year as North explained:
According to the[ New Yorker’s] Farrow, Pecker continues his relationship with Trump. The reporter had informed by AMI staff that Trump partners had brought Pecker to the company’s potential funding sources. In 2017, he had dinner with “a French businessman known for negotiating with Saudi Arabia,” writes Farrow. The businessman and Pecker met Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi prince, two months later.
As reported by Spencer Ackerman at the Daily Beast in 2018. AMI published a nearly 100-page ad-free newspaper full of articles, many of which were unspent, loving MBS. AMI said that it had no outside support in publishing the magazine and compares it with the specific issues on “The Royals, Elvis, The Kennedy, The Olympia, etc.” (All subjects more common to American people than MBS, Ackerman notes). The newspaper was known as “The Royals, Elvis, The Kennedys, The Olympics, etc.” including coverage on “New Rights for Saudi Women.”
In the spring of 2018, when the Crown Prince went on a goodwill press tour across the US, AMI reported the favorable coverage of the MBS, which sought to reframe him as a modernist reformer. Upon his visit to the USA, Bezos encountered MBS.
The Brutal Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Another major event occurred in 2018, albeit later that year: the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi dissident, and journalist. In October, Khashoggi who worked for the Post disappeared. But a horrific murder plot had soon uncovered. Khashoggi’s death, connected with MBS by intelligence agencies, including the CIA. The Post reported on the assassination of its columnist, a reporting which was always poor for MBS.
MBS itself could have led to a hacking
A lot of unanswered questions still exist. But it poses some troubling questions in the Guardian that a message from the MBS itself could have led to a hacking. If true, it would be explosive to a foreign leader aiming at a US private citizen. The government of Trump formed close ties with the Saudi government and effectively discouraged Riyadh from keeping him responsible, including the killing of Khashoggi.
What’s more, MBS and Jared Kushner— the president’s son-in-law and chief adviser— also allegedly communicate through encrypted messaging apps, including WhatsApp. House Democrats tried to access certain documents, arguing that through these devices Kushner carried out official government operations. Nonetheless, the question could be whether MBS posted any videos.