This is an incredible spy story, the development of which could prove to be explosive. Has Saudi Arabia hacked the phone of Amazon founder and boss Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post ? Two UN experts estimated on Wednesday January 22 that "The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos' phone, and that of others, requires immediate investigation by the United States and other relevant authorities".
Agnès Callamard, rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and David Kaye, rapporteur on freedom of expression, have been appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to clarify this case, although they do not speak officially at name of the UN. They ask that the investigation particularly concerns "The Crown Prince's direct and personal involvement in efforts to target alleged opponents".
This intrusion into the device of the founder of Amazon, committed two years ago, led to the publication of intimate images of Mr. Bezos, owner of the Washington Post. This daily employed as columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critical of Riyadh who was assassinated on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
"Silencing the Washington Post"
UN rapporteurs say they have received information that "Suggest the possible involvement of the crown prince in the surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence the manner in which the Washington Post used to inform about Saudi Arabia or even silence (this journal) ". This alleged hacking "Reinforces reports of a targeted surveillance program of those perceived to be opponents and of those of strategic importance" in the eyes of Riyadh.
The UN special rapporteurs have also considered that the circumstances of this alleged hacking show that a thorough investigation into the "Allegations that the crown prince had ordered, encouraged or, at least, had knowledge of the preparations" of the operation to kill Jamal Khashoggi.
The two experts had access to the conclusions of the technical analysis of Mr. Bezos' iPhone carried out in 2019. According to this investigative work, the crown prince and the boss of Amazon had exchanged their phone numbers the month before digital intrusion, the 1st May 2018. It was on this date that Jeff Bezos received an MP4 video file sent from an account used by the Saudi Crown Prince. Shortly after receiving this message, a large amount of data was extracted from Mr. Bezos' phone, according to the Washington Post.
Experts claim that this data extraction continued unnoticed for several months. The analysis also showed that the hackers appear to have used a type of spyware used in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the NSO group's Pegasus-3 malware.
The survey of UN experts, whose conclusions are to be made public in June, corroborates the conclusions reached by the specialists mandated by Jeff Bezos. The American billionaire had in fact hired Gavin from Becker & Associates to discover how messages and private photographs had reached the National Enquirer. The publication by this tabloid newspaper of the passionate texts exchanged between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former television presenter with whom he had an extramarital relationship, had led Jeff Bezos to divorce.
Difficult questions for Riyadh
The news is likely to further damage relations between Bezos and the Saudi kingdom, which has admitted responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, widely covered by the Post. The Saudi Embassy in the United States denied all of this information on Twitter. Qualifying these allegations 'Absurd', the institution also requested an investigation "So that all the light can be shed on these facts".
Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for… https://t.co/KcuW4CrRwi
There is no doubt that the shock wave will be great, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. It could also undermine MBS’s efforts to lure more western investors to Saudi Arabia, where it has promised to transform the kingdom economically, even as it oversaw a crackdown on detractors and rivals.
For Gavin de Becker, the investigator in charge of this case by the CEO of Amazon, there is no doubt: " It's clear that "MBS" hold it Washington Post for a major enemy. "