Jeff Bezos’ security chief Gavin de Becker said in a column published Saturday that the Saudi government had access to the Amazon chief’s phone and gained private information from it.
De Becker wrote in The Daily Beast that he could confirm the connection after an extensive investigation into the publication, which was sparked by reports targeting Bezos in tabloids owned by American Media Inc.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information,” de Becker wrote. “As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.”
In February, Bezos alleged in a widely-read Medium post that the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him by threatening to publish intimate text messages and photos. He also revealed that he had launched an investigation after a January exposé on his relationship with Sanchez to find out how the paper obtained the private information in the piece.
Bezos drew a connection in the letter between the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and American Media Inc., specifically accusing owner David Pecker of trying to blackmail him unless he publicly declared that the tabloid’s reporting on him had no political motivation.
Days after Bezos’ post, AMI attorney Elkhan Ambramowitz doubled down on the paper’s commitment to their explanation that Sanchez’s brother had been the only source, flatly denying any connection to the Trump administration and the media company’s ties to Saudi Arabia.
De Becker points to an appearance by Abramowitz on ABC as perhaps the most concerted effort to throw blame on Sanchez’s brother for the revealing materials in the January story, when he insisted that the source was “not Saudi Arabia” but a “person that was known to both Bezos and Ms. Sanchez.”
This statement was marred by reports from the Wall Street Journal and Page Six that said the Enquirer came to Sanchez after it knew about the relationship, de Becker said, which suggests there were other sources.
Numerous outlets suggested that Saudi Arabia’s alleged role in AMI’s pursuit of Bezos was motivated by Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post, which created diplomatic issues for the country through its dogged reporting on the killing of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last October.
Bezos acknowledged in his February post that his ownership of the Post was a “complexifier,” and De Becker wrote in the Beast that the Saudi government had been threatening Bezos since October.
The kingdom reportedly denies any connection, as well as any responsibility for Khashoggi’s death.
De Becker also points to owner Pecker as a central figure in the paper’s Saudi connections, ushering in glowing coverage for Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, including an advanced copy of a magazine that the prince and his aides had a chance to edit.
De Becker’s investigation reportedly relied on interviews with “current and former AMI executives and sources,” “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,” and “people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”
De Becker also wrote that he has turned over his investigation’s findings to US federal officials and will be releasing no further details.