Chris Murphy urges FBI and DNI to look into whether message from Saudi prince triggered hacking of Amazon founder’s phone
Kenya Evelyn in Washington
Wed 29 Jan 2020 22.14 GMT
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, has called on US intelligence agencies including the FBI and DNI to investigate the alleged cellphone hacking of the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man.
The tech tycoon’s phone was allegedly hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message apparently sent from the personal Whatsapp account of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
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In a letter dated 29 January, Murphy wrote to the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and the FBI director, Christopher Wray, urging the agencies to “investigate the allegations that a high-level Saudi government official illegally compromised and stole personal data” from Bezos.
“The operation against Mr Bezos raises serious concern that other American citizens may have been deliberately targeted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the senator wrote.
Last week, a UN investigation by two special rapporteurs said technical experts assessed with “medium to high confidence” that Bezos’s mobile device had been infiltrated via an MP4 video file sent from a WhatsApp account used by the crown prince.
UN officials said Bezos’s phone was infiltrated as part of a possible effort to “influence, if not silence, the Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia”.
The report also found that malware was sent to other critics of Saudi Arabia and its royal family, including a Norwegian official who was warned of potential danger.
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post who was a Saudi national and US permanent resident, was murdered in October 2018 after he wrote several columns critical of the kingdom and the crown prince. The CIA later determined that Prince Mohammed had ordered the killing.
“This new allegation indicates that Khashoggi’s murder may be part of a broader campaign to intimidate and silence opponents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Murphy said. He went on to call the investigations “critical” to understanding the “ongoing vulnerabilities to US national security.”
Saudi Arabia has dismissed the allegations.