The Slatest

Jeff Bezos’ Investigator Says Saudi Arabia Accessed Amazon Chief’s Phone

Bezos in front of a wall covered in Amazon Prime Video logos.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attends Amazon Prime Video’s Golden Globe Awards After Party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 6. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

After the revelation that the National Enquirer obtained personal images and messages between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, the Amazon CEO ordered a thorough investigation to figure out how it could have happened. Writing in the Daily Beast, Bezos’ security consultant Gavin de Becker says that he and his team “concluded with high confidence” that Saudi officials had access to the phone of the world’s richest man. Becker emphasized, though, that “it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.”

Why would Saudi Arabia be interested in Bezos? De Becker claims that the Saudi government “has been intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October” because of the Washington Post’s “relentless coverage” of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In addition, de Becker mentions in his piece that the investigators analyzed the “well-documented and close relationship” between the Saudi government and American Media chief David Pecker. American Media Inc. owns the National Enquirer.

In February, Bezos shocked the world with an extraordinary post on Medium that detailed his accusations against AMI of attempting to extort and blackmail him by threatening to publish embarrassing photos and text messages illustrating his affair with Sanchez. In that post, Bezos mentioned Saudi Arabia. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve” with AMI executives, Bezos wrote.

Looking back on it, several aspects of AMI’s conditions to not publish the private messages and photos seemed strange at the time, noted de Becker. As part of an eight-page contract, AMI wanted Becker to say he had concluded the firm had not relied on “any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process.” That seemed odd considering Becker had never publicly mentioned the issue of hacking. “They also wanted me to say our investigation had concluded that their Bezos story was “not ‘instigated, dictated or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise,’ ” Becker wrote. “External forces? Such a strange phrase.”

AMI issued a statement Sunday saying that its reports on Bezos relied on a single source: Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez. “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,” the statement reads. “His continued efforts to discuss and falsely represent our reporting, and his role in it, has waived any source confidentiality. There was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.”

De Becker points out in his piece that AMI has long said Michael Sanchez was the only source even though certain things don’t quite add up. Michael Sanchez has said the Enquirer was the one that first approached him for the story and that when it did so, it had already seen text messages that Bezos and his sisters had exchanged.