- United Nations human rights investigators said they received information suggesting a WhatsApp account belonging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was used to hack Jeff Bezos in 2018.
- After the hack, the account sent Bezos a picture of a woman who looked like the woman Bezos was having an affair with “months before the Bezos affair was known publicly.”
- The report comes from an analysis of an investigation into how the National Enquirer obtained Bezos’ private text messages and photos that the outlet threatened to leak.
UN Investigator’s Release Statement
United Nations human rights investigators said in a statement Wednesday that they received information suggesting a WhatsApp account belonging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was used to hack Amazon CEO and Jeff Bezos in 2018.
In the statement, the investigator’s detail alleged efforts by the Crown Prince, also known as MBS, to target Bezos due to his ownership of the Washington Post, which has published extensive coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” the investigators said.
“These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the Crown Prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi,” the statement continued.
The investigators also noted that the report was based on forensic analysis from an investigation ordered by Bezos, and called for further investigations of the matter.
National Enquirer & Bezos Leaks
Bezos called for the investigation early last year after the National Enquirer published text messages between himself and a woman named Lauren Sanchez, with whom he was allegedly having an affair.
Following that publication, Bezos published a Medium post where he argued that the leaks were a politically motivated hit job because he owns the Post, and accused the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail.”
In the post, Bezos describes the relationship between President Donald Trump and David Pecker, who owns American Media Incorporated (AMI) which in turn owns the National Enquirer.
In 2016, AMI spent $150,000 to buy the story of former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Trump, so that the story would not be made public— a practice called catch and kill.
Bezos mentions McDougal, adding that Pecker and his company have been “investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.”
He also cited an excerpt from a New York Times article that said Trump invited Pecker to a White House dinner, and Pecker brought “a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia.”
Bezos argued that because of his ownership of the Post, people the newspaper covers might “conclude I am their enemy.”
“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweet,” he elaborated. “Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”
He noted that there were several investigations into how his texts were obtained and that he was also launching his own investigation.
“Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation,” he wrote. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”
The Amazon CEO went on to say that AMI told him they had more of his messages and photos and that they would publish them if he did not stop his investigation.
He then provided what appeared to be a series of copy-paste of emails from AMI. One of those emails described the content they would leak, including “a d*ck pick” and “a naked selfie in a bathroom” of Bezos, as well as several personal pictures of Sanchez.
Another email contained a list of “proposed terms” from AMI, which basically said they would not publish the content if Bezos agreed to a number of things.
This included making a public statement “affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
Bezos refused to end his investigation or back down from the claim that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated.
In March 2019, Gavin De Becker, the man Bezos chose to lead his investigation, published an op-ed in the Daily Beast.
In the article, De Becker said that he had concluded the investigation and handed it over to federal officials, and while he wrote that he would not disclose details, he said he would confirm one key fact from the investigation.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information,” he wrote. “As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.”
But De Becker did note that when AMI was threatening to release the photos and texts, they sent him a contract that would require him to publicly say his investigation had concluded there was not “any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process.”
After both Bezos’ Medium post and De Becker’s op-ed, Saudi Arabia denied the allegations, as did AMI.
Following De Becker’s article, AMI told CNN in a statement that it only had one source, Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, and that there “was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.”
Michael Sanchez, however, has repeatedly denied that gave the Enquirer all of the content they claimed to have.
“I had nothing to do with leak of the dick pics. That’s the important thing,” he told Variety in an interview last year. “I never had access.”
However, the findings released in the UN report once again bring up questions about how AMI obtained the text messages and photos.
The timeline of events after the alleged hack and leading up to the National Enquirer securing the texts and pictures raises some red flags
In an analysis of the report, the UN experts found that in April 2018, Bezos and MBS exchanged phone numbers that corresponded with their WhatsApps accounts.
Then, a month later, a message was sent “from the Crown Prince account is sent to Mr. Bezos through WhatsApp. The message is an encrypted video file. It is later established, with reasonable certainty, that the video’s downloader infects Mr. Bezos’ phone with malicious code.”
The report then continues to go through the timeline of events, noting Khashoggi’s death on October 2, 2018.
Then, about a month later, “A single photograph is texted to Mr. Bezos from the Crown Prince’s WhatsApp account, along with a sardonic caption. It is an image of a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly.”
Because the details of the affair were not public yet, these allegations indicate that MBS could have gotten the information from Bezos’ texts with Sanchez.
While this does not directly tie AMI or the National Enquirer to the hack or to the Saudi’s, if true, it would mean that MBS had in his possession text messages and photos sent between Bezos and Sanchez, including potentially incriminating photos like the ones mentioned in the AMI email.
Of course, that does not rule out the possibility that AMI did, in fact, receive the texts from Sanchez’s brother as they claim. But it does call into question Pecker’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, especially when paired with Bezos’ allegation that AMI was trying to kill the Saudi Arabia angle of the story.
Regardless, the claim that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia hacked Jeff Bezos because of the Post’s coverage of the Khashoggi killing is chilling on its own.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, denied the allegations in a tweet on Tuesday, when the story first surfaced before the UN report was released.
“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Embassy said. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Daily Beast)
Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations
Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.
Musk Takes on Impersonations
Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.
Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”
Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark.
The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified.
Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.
“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote.
His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines.
“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.”
Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control
For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”
Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.
The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk.
“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.
“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend.
AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk
“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.
AOC Vs. Elon Musk
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.
Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification.
“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.
“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.
Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts.
“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”
In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.
AOC’s Mentions Not Working
On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”
“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.”
The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results.
“Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”
Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.
South Carolina County Votes Against Moving LGBTQ+ Friendly Books Away from Children’s Section
Efforts to limit LGBTQ+ content in libraries first began over the summer.
Attempts to Restrict LGBTQ+ Displays
The county council in Greenville County, South Carolina this week voted against discussing a resolution that would move all books “promoting sexuality” to the adult section.
This resolution is the culmination of months of turmoil in Greenville County. In June, libraries in the county removed Pride displays at the direction of library officials. Then in September, the county’s Republican Party executive board passed a resolution to call on the County Council to restrict access to books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters.
The resolution was proposed by Joe Dill, an outgoing council member, as well as a member of the county’s Republican Party executive board. It proposed the council “officially order that no books or content, including digital copies or online accessible materials, promoting sexuality be allowed in the Children’s Sections of our public libraries.”
However, the resolution required the council to suspend its regular rules in order to discuss it as it was not submitted to the council via committee. The final vote was 9 to 3 against the suspension of the rules and effectively killed the resolution.
Those that voted against it viewed the resolution as an overreach.
“We just do not believe that’s our job to get involved in the library’s business,” Council member Ennis Fett said to a local news outlet. “We appoint a board. We can not set a precedent of micromanaging the library board, because if we do that, then, we will be micromanaging all boards and commissions that we appoint.”
Although the council decided not to get involved, the library still has the final decision to make regarding these books. Their meeting to discuss the matter is scheduled for December 5.