The security chief for Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos says the Saudi government had access to Bezos’s phone and gained private information from it.
Gavin de Becker, a longtime security consultant, said he had concluded his investigation into the publication in January of leaked text messages between Bezos and Lauren Sánchez, a former television anchor who the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper said Bezos was dating.
Shortly before their publication, Bezos had become the subject of tabloid stories after he and his wife MacKenzie, announced they were divorcing.
In February, Bezos accused the National Enquirer’s owner of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing “intimate photos” he allegedly sent to Sanchez unless he said in public that the tabloid’s reporting on him was not politically motivated.
In an article for The Daily Beast website, De Becker said the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc, had privately demanded De Becker deny finding any evidence of “electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news gathering process”.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s 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.”
De Becker alleged Saudi Arabia has targeted the Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, following the death last year of one of its columnists, Jamal Khashoggi, in Turkey. Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
“Some Americans will be surprised to learn that the Saudi government has been very intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Post began its relentless coverage of Khashoggi’s murder,” De Becker wrote.
The CIA has concluded that Khashoggi’s murder was probably ordered by the powerful Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not immediately return a request for comment. In February, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs said Saudi Arabia had “absolutely nothing to do” with the National Enquirer’s reporting on the affair.
A representative for AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. AMI has previously said that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the Bezos story.
De Becker said he has turned over the findings of his investigation to US federal officials, without elaborating.
Reuters contributed to this report