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Jeff Bezos’ investigator into how the Amazon executive’s private texts were leaked to the National Enquirer has concluded that Saudi Arabia gained access to his client’s phone.
“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,” Gavin De Becker writes in a story about the investigation for The Daily Beast, published Saturday.
De Becker, who has worked with Bezos for over 22 years, argues that though Michael Sanchez (the brother of Lauren Sanchez who was in a relationship with Bezos) was identified as the National Enquirer‘s source for learning of the affair, that’s not the true “reality.”
“Reality is complicated, and can’t always be boiled down to a simple narrative like ‘the brother did it,’ even when that brother is a person who certainly supplied some information to a supermarket tabloid, and even when that brother is an associate of Roger Stone and Carter Page. Though interesting, it turns out those truths are also too simple,” De Becker wrote in the op-ed.
Though he assures that the results of his investigation have been turned over to the federal officials, De Becker admits that he did not “reach conclusions lightly” because he had to utilize a “broad array of resources,” such as investigative interviews with current and former AMI executives and sources, extensive discussions with top Middle East experts in the intelligence community and leading cybersecurity experts who have tracked Saudi spyware, among others.
De Becker also wrote that he and Bezos consulted with experts who “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.” The experts also confirmed that hacking was a key part of Saudi’s “extensive surveillance efforts that ultimately led to the killing of [Washington Post] journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Bezos is a prominent critic of President Donald Trump and owner of The Washington Post, which in October mourned the assassination of Khashoggi. U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered his killing. AMI CEO David Pecker is a close friend of Trump.
In his investigation, De Becker studied the “well-documented and close relationship” between MBS and Pecker. It was reported that Pecker brought MBS intermediary Kacy Grine to a private White House meeting with Trump and Jared Kushner. Pecker also traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with the Crown Prince. The Associated Press also reported that “AMI sent an advance digital copy of their laudatory magazine to the Saudi Embassy three weeks before printing and distributing 200,000 issues.”
De Becker emphasizes that it was telling that AMI disclosed to the Department of Justice National Security Division that “their mystery magazine included content written by Grine,” who also conducted an “advanced review” of the draft and “suggested changes” that were implemented.
De Becker writes that though a secret work connection was evident, the Saudi government have also been “intent on harming” Bezos since last October “when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder.” According to De Becker, the Saudi government “unleashed its cyber army on Bezos” and him by making “public calls for boycotts against Amazon.com and its Saudi subsidiary, Souq.com.”
To support his claims, De Becker then quotes a statement from the government that reads: “We as Saudis will never accept to be attacked by The Washington Post in the morning, only to buy products from Amazon and Souq.com by night! Strange that all three companies are owned by the same Jew who attacks us by day, and sells us products by night!”
“Bezos is not Jewish, but you get the point,” De Becker adds.
On Sunday, an American Media Inc. spokesman responded to The Daily Beast piece with a statement to the outlet, slamming De Becker’s claims: “Despite the false and unsubstantiated claims of Mr. de Becker, American Media has, and continues to, refute the unsubstantiated claims that the materials for our report were acquired with the help of anyone other than the single source who first brought them to us. 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. 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.”
March 31, 10:30 a.m. Updated with AMI’s statement.
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