Saudi Arabia nationals hacked the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and were the source of private information that was published by The National Enquirer, according to longtime security consultant Gavin de Becker, who works for Bezos.
In an op-ed in The Daily Beast, de Becker said that he and other security experts probed how anyone could access Bezos' private phone messages to his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, after some of them were published on The National Enquirer and became the subject of an extortion plot. American Media Inc., which publishes The National Enquirer, is led by David Pecker who has longstanding ties to President Trump.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details,” de Becker wrote in the op-ed.
De Becker has worked as an adviser to the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice,
According to de Becker, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, was not happy with The Washington Post's coverage of the murder of Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose brutal killing at the Saudi embassy in Turkey in October 2018 prompted international outrage and was linked to MBS by the CIA.
Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, also owns the Post.
De Becker continued in his op-ed: “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.”
Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in the Bezos affair.
De Becker also cited The Wall Street Journal's report that said Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos' mistress, was the source of the steamy text messages. However, the security expert said the real bombshell of the Journal's report is that it confirms her brother was contacted by the Enquirer first about the affair — not the other way around.
The National Enquirer pushed back on de Becker's claims in a statement to The Daily Beast on Sunday, which read in part:
"Despite the false and unsubstantiated claims of Mr. de Becker, American Media has, and continues to, refute the unsubstantiated claims that the materials for our report were acquired with the help of anyone other than the single source who first brought them to us."
De Becker cited a broad range of sources and methods for coming to his conclusion, including interviews with AMI executives and sources, discussions with cybersecurity and Middle East experts, interviews with Saudi whistleblowers and interviews with people who personally know MBS.
On Monday, one Israeli company that sells spyware to governments told Motherboard that its software "cannot be used on U.S. phone numbers" and that its technology "was not used by any of our customers to target Mr. Bezos' phone."