The United Nations on Wednesday called for an investigation into the alleged hacking of Jeff Bezos’ phone in 2018, with an emphasis on the “possible involvement” of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The statement confirmed shocking reports that Bezos — the Amazon CEO, Washington Post owner, and world’s richest person — may have been hacked. The international body reviewed a forensic report from Bezos’ security team asserting his phone was hacked via a malicious video sent from the personal WhatsApp account of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“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,” according to the statement from U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression.
The Guardian first reported on the alleged phone hack Tuesday. Hours later, the Saudi embassy called the report “absurd” and demanded a full investigation.
Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020
“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents,” the U.N. statement said.
The Guardian report raises questions about how The National Enquirer obtained text messages sent between Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez that were published last year. A private investigator hired by Bezos asserted in March 2019 that the Saudi government hacked Bezos’ phone.
The Daily Beast previously reported that the Saudis were targeting Bezos, who owns The Washington Post. The Bezos phone hack occurred five months before Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
“The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul,” according to the U.N. statement.
The FBI is investigating the hack, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Wired noted that “such brazen targeting of a private citizen — the richest man in the world, no less — is alarming to say the least.”
“It underscores the dangers of an unchecked private market for digital surveillance, and raises serious questions about other prominent U.S. figures who have known relationships with the crown prince, like White House adviser Jared Kushner and President Donald Trump himself,” Wired wrote.
Bezos tweeted a photo from a memorial service for Khashoggi Wednesday following the U.N. revelations.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 22, 2020