U.N. Experts Urge Probe Of Reported Hacking Of Jeff Bezos' Phone By Saudi Arabia
United Nations human rights experts on Wednesday condemned the reported hacking of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone via a WhatsApp account held by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia denied that it was responsible for hacking Bezos' phone.
"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 experts said in a news release accompanying a report on the incident. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.
The experts — Agnes Callamard, U.N. Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression — said they were "gravely concerned" and called for an "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 allegations raise the possibility that Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, was targeted by the Saudis months before the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi's death has been linked to the crown prince.
The U.N. experts said: "The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by US 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."
Saudi Arabia denied that it was behind the hacking of Bezos' phone and also called for an investigation.
"Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd," the Saudi Embassy in the U.S. said in a tweet Tuesday night. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out."
The Guardian newspaper, citing anonymous sources, reported Tuesday that Bezos' mobile phone was hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message "that had apparently been sent from the personal account" of the Saudi crown prince.
The Guardian went on to report:
"Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos's phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Guardian has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used."
In February 2019, Bezos accused the parent company of the National Enquirer, of extortion. He said American Media Inc. threatened to publish potentially embarrassing personal photos of him if he did not stop an investigation into how the tabloid obtained other private photos and texts of him and his girlfriend. American Media denied the accusation. [Copyright 2020 NPR]