TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – UN experts are demanding an immediate investigation into evidence indicating that Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of the Washington Post, was hacked with spyware deployed in a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The special rapporteurs – Agnès Callamard and David Kaye – said in a joint statement they were “gravely concerned” by evidence they had reviewed about the apparent surveillance of Bezos in what they described as a possible “effort to influence, if not silence, the Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia”.
The statement was released after the Guardian revealed on Tuesday that Bezos, who is chief executive of Amazon and the world’s richest man, appeared to have had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a message apparently sent from the personal WhatsApp account of Prince Mohammed.
In one of the most extraordinary disclosures, the UN rapporteurs said that, according to forensic analysis, the “crown prince sent WhatsApp messages” to Bezos, in November 2018 and February 2019, “in which he allegedly revealed private and confidential information about Bezos’ personal life that was not available from public sources,” the paper reported.
An annexe to their report provided further details of an alleged incident in November 2018 when a single photograph was texted to Bezos from the crown prince’s WhatsApp account “along with a sardonic caption”. The image, according to the UN rapporteurs, was of “a woman resembling the woman with whom Bezos is having an affair, months before the Bezos affair was known publicly”.
Two months later, in January 2019, the National Enquirer published a special edition that exposed the affair. AMI, which owns the US supermarket tabloid, has denied any “third party” was involved in influencing its reporting.
In a day of dramatic developments that threatened to deepen the crisis for Saudi Arabia, the UN rapporteurs released details of advanced technical analysis that established “grounds for a reasonable belief” that Bezos was the victim of “intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman”.
They added that Bezos’s iPhone was believed to have been infected by malware on May 1, 2018 via an MP4 video file sent from the crown prince. Within hours of receipt of the MP4 video file, a huge “exfiltration” of data began. The amount of data leaving the phone increased enormously and continued undetected for several months.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was killed in October 2018, five months after the alleged “hack” of Bezos’s iPhone.
Callamard said she had previously stopped short of making determinations about the precise nature of Prince Mohammed’s involvement in the Khashoggi murder.
But the latest information, if correct, placed “the crown prince at the heart of a campaign of surveillance and hacking”, she said.
Prior to the release of the UN statement on the suspected hacking, Saudi Arabia had dismissed the reports about the apparent involvement of the kingdom’s heir as “absurd”.
The kingdom’s embassy in Washington said, “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”