UN Experts Are Asking for an Investigation Into the Alleged Hacking of Jeff Bezos by Saudi Arabia

UN reporters Agnès Callamard and David Kaye claim to have received information that ‘points to the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in the hacking of Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos

Saudi Arabia has broken into the phone of the founder and boss of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Two United Nations experts said Wednesday that the alleged hacking of Bezos’ phone, and others, requires an immediate investigation.

Agnès Callamard, a reporter that specializes in extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye a reporter on freedom of expression, have been appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to look into the matter, although they do not speak officially on behalf of the UN. They insist that the investigation should also cover ‘the Crown Prince’s direct and personal involvement in attempts to deal with alleged opponents’.

This intrusion into the phone of Amazon’s founder led two years ago to the publication of intimate footage of Mr Bezos, owner of The Washington Post which employed Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist critic of Riyadh, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.

UN reporters say they have received reports that “suggest that the Crown Prince may have been involved in Mr Bezos’ surveillance in an attempt to influence the way the Washington Post has reported on Saudi Arabia or even to silence it. The alleged hacking “reinforces reports of a surveillance program aimed at alleged opponents and those of strategic importance” to Riyadh.

The UN Special reporters said the circumstances of the alleged hacking point to the need for a thorough investigation into allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, encouraged or at least was aware of preparations for the operation to assassinate Jamal Khashoggi.

Both experts had access to the findings of the technical analysis conducted by Mr Bezos for the iPhone in 2019. According to this analysis, the crown prince and the head of Amazon had exchanged phone numbers in the month prior to the hacking on May 1, 2018. It was on that date that Jeff Bezos received an MP4 video file from an account used by the Crown Prince. Shortly after receiving this message, a large amount of data was recovered from Mr. Bezos’ phone, according to the Washington Post.

Experts say that the data extraction went undetected for several months. Analysis also showed that hackers used NSO group’s Pegasus-3 malware a type of spyware used in other Saudi surveillance.

The investigation by UN experts, the findings of which will be published in June, confirms the conclusions of the experts commissioned by Jeff Bezos. The U.S. billionaire hired Gavin from Becker & Associates to find out how his private messages and photos reached the National Enquirer. The publication of Bezos’ passionate text messages with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV host with whom he had an extramarital relationship, led to Bezos’ divorce.

This information could worsen relations between Mr Bezos and the Saudi kingdom, which has admitted responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. In response the Saudi embassy called the accusations “absurd” and also asked for an investigation “to get to the bottom of these facts”.

There is no doubt that the shock wave will be great, from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. It could also undermine MBS’ efforts to attract more Western investors to Saudi Arabia, where it has promised to transform the kingdom economically.

For Gavin de Becker, the investigator in charge of this case by Amazon’s CEO; there is no doubt that MBS views The Washington Post as an enemy.

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