Skip to main content

Bezos investigation finds Saudis obtained his private data: Report

Saudis said to be intent on harming Bezos since his Washington Post newspaper began its 'relentless coverage' of murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi
Washington Post owner Bezos wrote 2,000 word blogpost when threatened by National Enquirer (AFP/file photo)

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.

Jeff Bezos, David Pecker scandal may lead towards Trump and Saudi Arabia
Read More »

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 New Kingdom': Saudis push to address image issues
Read More »

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."

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.