When Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of blackmailing him over personal messages he sent to his lover while married to his then-wife, many pointed the finger at his lover's brother, noted asshole Michael Sanchez, suggesting Sanchez received $200,000 from the Enquirer for stealing the data from his sister's phone — but Bezos's own investigative team said that they suspected an unspecified government actor had played a role in the leak.
Now, Bezos's independent forensics team say that they believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud infected Bezos's mobile device with malware that rode along with a video the prince sent to Bezos over Whatsapp, and that shortly after, gigabytes of data were exfiltrated from Bezos's phone.
According to the team, The National Enquirer's David Pecker — another noted asshole and Trump fixer who spent years using kompromat to make political stories disappear in order to protect the reputations of high-placed conservative monsters — worked with Bin Salman to use the stolen data in a bid to force Bezos to order Washington Post reporters to cast doubt on the link between Bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi, the US-based Saudi journalist who was lured to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, kidnapped, tortured and dismembered
The malware that Bin Salman is accused of using bears a striking resemblance to the tools that NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, used to hack Whatsapp users in more than 20 countries, primarily journalist, activists and human rights workers, on behalf of dictators and corporate spies.
The Saudi government and the National Enquirer deny the allegations.
The Guardian understands a forensic analysis of Bezos's phone, and the indications that the "hack" began within an infected file from the crown prince's account, has been reviewed by Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings. It is understood that it is considered credible enough for investigators to be considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation.
Callamard, whose own investigation into the murder of Khashoggi found "credible evidence" the crown prince and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing, confirmed to the Guardian she was still pursuing "several leads" into the murder, but declined to comment on the alleged Bezos link.
Jeff Bezos hack: Amazon boss's phone 'hacked by Saudi crown prince' [Stephanie Kirchgaessner/The Guardian]
Report: Bezos phone uploaded GBs of personal data after getting Saudi prince's WhatsApp message [Dan Goodin/Ars Technica]