international intrigue

Bezos Security Chief Says Saudis Gained Access to Amazon Founder’s Phone, Data

If the allegation is true, and a foreign government can hack the world’s richest man — where does that leave the rest of us? Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

The security specialist who led an investigation into how AMI’s National Enquirer exposed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s extramarital affair said on Saturday that “our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence” that Saudi Arabia “had access to [Bezos’s] phone and gained private information.” In a post at the Daily Beast, Bezos’s security chief Gavin de Becker emphasized that it was still “unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details” of the breach, but outlined why there was plenty of smoke to suggest that they were.

We did not reach our conclusions lightly. The inquiry included a broad array of resources: investigative interviews with current and former AMI executives and sources, extensive discussions with 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), people who work with his close associate Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi dissidents, and other targets of Saudi action, including writer/activist Iyad el-Baghdadi.

He also wrote that these experts confirmed that, as the New York Times reported earlier this month, the Saudi intelligence apparatus has the capability to “collect vast amounts of previously inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace — including phone calls, texts, emails.”

As far as hard evidence, de Becker said that he wouldn’t “disclose details from our investigation” out of “respect” for the federal officials pursuing the case. He also confirmed that he had submitted all his findings to them, and said the Beast post would be his last statement on the matter.

On Sunday, AMI responded to de Becker’s allegations with a statement refuting 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.” That “single source,” AMI maintains, was Michael Sanchez, the Trump-loving (now estranged) brother of Bezos’s girlfriend, news anchor Lauren Sanchez. The company claimed that Mr. Sanchez was the one who tipped them off in September, and was the sole source of information and evidence that resulted in the Enquirer exposé in mid-January.

According to de Becker, his investigation quickly determined that Sanchez had indeed been the Enquirer’s paid source for the story, but he highlighted several reasons why it was unlikely Sanchez was the publication’s only source. De Becker pointed to the Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that the Enquirer was already investigating the alleged affair when they reached out to Sanchez, and that “Page Six” reported that an AMI official had already seen texts between Bezos and Ms. Sanchez as of last July. In addition, de Becker found it “very unusual” how hard AMI insiders had worked to reveal their source.

Even more unusual to de Becker was how AMI, in its now-infamous dick-pic-leveraging effort to quash both the Bezos-initiated investigation and the one being undertaken by reporters at the Bezos-owned Washington Post, wanted de Becker and Bezos to agree to publicly dismiss the possibility that AMI had obtained information about Bezos via external forces or the use of “electronic eavesdropping or hacking.” De Becker found that complexifier telling, considering the links between AMI and its chairman, David Pecker, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as the regime’s reported efforts to target Bezos and Amazon over the Washington Post’s coverage of the allegedly MBS-ordered assassination of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia has previously denied any involvement with the Enquirer story.

Saudis Had Access to Bezos’s Phone, Security Chief Concludes