Following the revelation that the The National Enquirer had obtained intimate texts and images between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanches, Bezos ordered an investigation into who was behind the data breach. In a post on The Daily Beast, Bezos’ security consultant Gavin De Becker says that his team of investigators have “concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone,” although he says that they haven’t been able to to link that access with the data that the Enquirer claimed to have.
In February, Bezos released a remarkable post on Medium, saying that Enquirer and its parent company, AMI, had attempted to extort and blackmail him with images that he had texted to a woman with which he was having an affair. The story is part of a much larger one that feeds into the rivalry between Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, and President Donald Trump, who has described the publication as a “lobbyist newspaper,” and includes an international angle involving Saudi Arabia, which reportedly sees Bezos and the Post as a threat.
After Bezos published his post, he directed de Becker to figure out how the tabloid had gained access to his images and texts. Word quickly emerged that it was Sanchez’s brother, Michael who provided the publication with the texts, but other theories have since emerged: that Bezos was hacked, that an intelligence agency leaked the images to the Trump Administration, or that it was from a foreign government agency, like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
In his post for The Daily Beast, de Becker pointed to details that indicates that Michael Sanchez might not have been the source of the texts: saying that the Enquirer had contacted Michael Sanchez after already seeing text exchanges between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, which “would mean, clearly and obviously, that the initial information came from other channels—another source or method.”
He goes on to say that his investigation concluded “with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information.” He says that they “did not reach our conclusions lightly,” and have since passed on their findings to federal officials. But, he also says that while they believe that Saudi Arabia might have accessed Bezo’s phone, it’s unclear if they passed that information on to AMI.
de Becker points to the Enquirer’s history and connections with the Kingdom, and paints a picture that the country is using AMI and its publications to put pressure on people it deems enemies, such as Bezos and The Washington Post.
Bezos alluded to Saudi Arabia in his post, saying that AMI had been investigated for “various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government,” pointed to The Washington Post’s coverage of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.” AMI has since released a statement, denying that Saudi Arabia was involved.