Mohammed bin Salman’s Phone Hacking
The Guardian reports that Mohammed bin Salman was personally involved in hacking Jeff Bezos’ phone:
According to sources who have spoken to the Guardian, the message sent to Bezos on that Tuesday 1 May from the personal account of the crown prince contained a video file – of what, it is not clear.
But a forensic technical analysis of the file has found that it is “highly probable” it contained malware that penetrated Bezos’s mobile phone and exfiltrated a large amount of data within hours.
Bezos, it seems, had been hacked.
The Guardian has no knowledge about the precise nature of the material that was allegedly taken or what was done with it.
The apparent hack took place in May 2018 during the crown prince’s grand tour around the U.S. back when he was still being feted as a great reformer. It isn’t all that surprising that the Saudis would try to compromise the businessmen and other prominent figures that met with the crown prince, but it shows the arrogance and recklessness of the crown prince that he thought he wouldn’t be found out. The Saudis were already suspected of being responsible for publicizing personal information about Bezos last year in retaliation for the Post‘s extensive coverage of the Khashoggi murder and their intensified criticism of other Saudi crimes and human rights abuses, and this latest report supports that conclusion.
Iyad el-Baghdadi, the prominent political activist who has also been threatened by the Saudi government, says that this story is just the tip of the iceberg:
This is the investigation I worked on all of last year, and it's the reason MBS wants me dead. A lot more coming. https://t.co/KjoCov6tN9
— İyad el-Baghdadi | إياد البغدادي (@iyad_elbaghdadi) January 21, 2020
If the crown prince took advantage of his personal communications with Bezos this way, it is reasonable to assume that he has done the same thing with many others. It seems safe to assume that he would have done the same thing with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. It well-known that Kushner has also communicated frequently with the crown prince via WhatsApp, so there have likely been many opportunities for the Saudis to gain access to Kushner’s devices and private information. There is no telling how badly compromised Kushner may be, but if he is it would help to account for why he and his father-in-law have been such constant and shameless defenders of the Saudis over the last three years.
The Saudi government has been intensifying its efforts to intimidate critics and suppress dissent in recent years, and they have become more aggressive in targeting critics wherever they may be in the world. According to el-Baghdadi, the Bezos hack is directly related to this ongoing campaign of intimidation and threats. This is just the latest evidence of the kind of government that the crown prince is running, and it is another reminder of why the U.S. should disentangle itself from the relationship with the Saudis as quickly as possible.