WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The security chief of Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said on Saturday that the Saudi government had access to Bezos' phone and gained private information from it.
Gavin De Becker, a long-time security consultant, said he had been involved in the publication in January of text messages between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, forming television coverage of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper, said Bezos was dating.
Last month, the newspaper's owner was either trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing "intimate photos" he allegedly sent to Sanchez unless he said in public that the tabloid's reporting on him was not politically motivated.
An article for The Daily Beast website, The Becker said the parent company of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., had privately demanded that De Becker found any evidence of "electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news gathering process."
"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos phone, and gained private information," De Becker wrote. "As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details."
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A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington did not return a request for comment. In February, the nation's minister of state for foreign affairs said Saudi Arabia had "nothing to do" with the National Enquirer's reporting on the affair.
A representative of AMI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. AMI has previously said that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the Bezos story.
De Becker said he has been reviewing the findings of his investigation to U.S. federal officials, without elaborating.
(Reporting by Christopher Bing; Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O'Brien)