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Jeff Bezos tweets '#Jamal' image amid Crown Prince hacking scandal

by Johnnie Lambie (2020-05-14)

Jeff Bezos has tweeted an image of himself attending a memorial to Jamal Khashoggi as a pointed reminder that the journalist was killed by the Saudi state.

It will be seen as a direct swipe at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, amid claims from the United Nations that the Saudi royal hacked his phone as part of an intimidation campaign in the wake of the murder of Khasshogi, who worked for Bezos. 

The Amazon founder posted a picture which shows him alongside Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz as they placed their hands on a stone memorial outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where the journalist was tortured to death.

The picture was taken on October 2, 2019, the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi's death. Bezos included a single-word caption which read: '#Jamal'.

Bezos posted the image as two UN rapporteurs called for a US investigation into evidence that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince hacked his phone, as part of a wider 'campaign of intimidation' against critics of Saudi Arabia.

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Jeff Bezos has tweeted an image of himself alongside Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee at a memorial to the journalist that was taken on the one-year anniversary of his murder by the Saudi state 

Khasoggi was working for the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, at the time he was killed and was using his column to criticise Mohammed bin Salman 

Bezos (left) tweeted the image amid claims that Bin Salman (right) hacked his phone as part of a 'campaign of intimidation' against his critics

The tweet followed a day of high drama, where it was claimed that...

Mohammed bin Salman sent a corrupt video file from his personal phone to Bezos on May 1, 2018, after they swapped numbers at a Hollywood dinner

Bezos's phone then began transmitting data at three hundred times the normal rate, strongly suggesting he was hacked

Five months after the hack, the National Inquirer published revelations of Bezos's affair gleaned from data 'obtained' from his phone 

Saudi officials privately said they were aware of a plan to hack Bezos's phone, but not to blackmail him

Screenshots of the WhatsApp conversation revealed what appeared to be a veiled threat sent from MBS to Bezos following the hack

Saudi Arabia called claims it was involved in the hack 'absurd'

Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said Bezos was targeted as the owner of the Washington Post, the paper that Khashoggi was working for at the time of his death and where he had written columns critical of Bin Salman.

The hack happened nine months before the National Enquirer revealed that Bezos was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, leading to the collapse of his marriage.

Bezos has previously accused the Enquirer of blackmailing him by threatening to release nude photos, and suggested that the information was obtained because of links between the magazine's publisher and the Saudi government.

David Pecker, the publisher of AMI which owns the National Enquirer, has strenuously denied working with Saudi Arabia to attack Bezos in the past. 

Gavin de Becker, Bezos's long-time security consultant, said AMI were keen to pin the blame on Michael Sanchez - Lauren's brother - as the source of the leak.

'What was unusual was how hard AMI people worked to publicly reveal their source's identity... they practically pinned a 'kick me' sign on Michael,' he said. 

Bezos claimed in a blog post last year that AMI then tried to blackmail him with nude photos unless De Becker stated that they had not relied on hacking to get the information. 

UN experts demanded an immediate investigation by the US and other authorities into the hacking allegations

Saudi Arabia has flatly denied that it was behind the hack and that Bin Salman - known as MBS - was directly involved, calling both suggestions 'absurd'.

The Saudi embassy in Washington has called for an investigation 'so that we can have all the facts out.'  

But behind closed doors, Saudi officials told the Wall Street Journal that they were aware of efforts to hack Bezos's phone, but not to blackmail him.

According to the Journal, Salman's former senior adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, was also involved in the hacking as part of a broader intimidation campaign against Khashoggi.  

Forensic analysis of Bezos's phone carried out by firm FTI Consulting concluded with 'medium to high likelihood' that he was hacked after a video file was sent to him via WhatsApp by MBS in May 2018.  

After the video file was received, the amount of data transferred by Bezos's phone went up three hundred-fold, investigators say. It is not clear exactly what data was taken, nor where it was sent.  

At the time, the crown prince was being widely hailed for ushering in major social reforms to the kingdom, but Khashoggi was writing columns in the Post that highlighted the darker side of Salman's simultaneous clampdown on dissent.

UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said on Wednesday that they had reviewed the analysis as part of their investigations, and said it suggests that MBS was directly involved in a hacking attempt. 

Callamard, the special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression, said they believe the hack was carried out 'in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia'.

They called for an 'immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities'.

They added: 'The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.

'These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the crown prince's involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The first messages between Bezos, in green, and the Saudi prince were in April after they met at a dinner in Hollywood

This is the message that Salman sent Bezos on May 1 which is thought to have been the 'hack' that harvested data from his phone 

In November, he sent this one - a forwarded meme showing a woman with the words 'Arguing with a woman is like reading the software license agreement. In the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.' The cyber firm Bezos hired to look into his phone and whether or not it had been hacked say this suggested bin Salman knew he was getting a divorce - something that was not public at the time. The experts say she 'resembled' Lauren Sanchez

A final WhatsApp mesage sent to Bezos by bin Salman within hours of Bezos being told via phone call that Saudi Arabia had launched an online campaign against him. The cyber security experts say the timing of the message was suspicious given Bezos and Salman had not spoken for more than three months and he had just been told over the phone about the campaign

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