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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "FTI Consulting Inc"

Jeff Bezos’ Hack Inquiry Falls Short of Implicating National Enquirer

Westlake Legal Group 23bezos4-facebookJumbo-v2 Jeff Bezos’ Hack Inquiry Falls Short of Implicating National Enquirer Washington Post Sanchez, Michael (1965- ) Sanchez, Lauren (1969- ) Pecker, David J News and News Media national enquirer Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Khashoggi, Jamal Howard, Dylan FTI Consulting Inc de Becker, Gavin Cyberattacks and Hackers Bezos, Jeffrey P American Media Inc Amazon.com Inc

Almost a year ago, Jeff Bezos hinted that Saudi Arabia had played a role in The National Enquirer’s 11-page exposé of his affair with the Los Angeles television personality Lauren Sanchez. In making the case in a post on the website Medium, Mr. Bezos noted that his newspaper, The Washington Post, had published the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi and had also covered the kingdom’s suspected role in his murder.

In the post, Mr. Bezos said he had retained the security expert Gavin de Becker to investigate how the tabloid had obtained his text messages. This week, a forensic analysis commissioned by Mr. Bezos was made public, and it concluded with “medium to high confidence” that his iPhone X had been hacked after he received a video from a WhatsApp message sent to him from an account reportedly belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, with whom the billionaire had swapped contacts at a dinner in Los Angeles.

The Bezos report, compiled under Mr. de Becker by the digital security firm FTI Consulting, was so juicy that it overwhelmed traditional journalistic skepticism at some news outlets. The details were hard to resist: an allegedly murderous crown prince, the world’s richest man and his intimate texts splashed across the pages of a supermarket tabloid that has ties to Prince Mohammed and a longtime Bezos detractor, President Trump.

In the swirl of coverage, Mr. Bezos’ allegations took on a life of their own, with some news coverage veering into speculation. “The report offers one explanation of how The National Enquirer, a tabloid, obtained and published text messages Bezos had sent to his mistress,” CNBC reported. The BBC asserted that information extracted from Mr. Bezos’ phone was “leaked to the American tabloid.”

In fact, the report did not definitively link the hacking to the Enquirer exposé. Months of reporting by The New York Times and other publications, including information that has emerged in recent days, appears to refute the notion that The Enquirer, owned by American Media Inc., received the information for the exposé from a foreign hack of Mr. Bezos’ phone.

The hacking of an American by a foreign leader would count as an affront to national sovereignty and security under normal protocols. It also has legal implications: American Media is under the watch of federal law enforcement officials in New York, who have agreed not to prosecute the company for its role in aiding President Trump’s 2016 campaign as long as it does not break the law.

The widespread coverage of the report also has personal implications for Mr. Bezos, who has achieved something of a coup in this latest bit of news.

On Feb. 7, weeks after The Enquirer’s exposé appeared in supermarket racks, Mr. Bezos published the Medium article suggesting a possible connection between Saudi Arabia and the tabloid scoop. He noted that The Post was energetically covering Mr. Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi assassins weeks after he wrote the last in a series of columns sharply critical of the crown prince, who the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded had ordered his death.

About two weeks after Mr. Bezos’ Medium post, Mr. de Becker hired FTI Consulting to do the forensic analysis of the billionaire’s iPhone. In March, Mr. de Becker said he had “high confidence” that Saudi Arabia had hacked Mr. Bezos’ phone. The FTI Consulting report that was made public this week did not offer evidence of a link between the hacking and the Enquirer story.

American Media has said that it obtained information about the affair from Ms. Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent whom people at The Enquirer have described as a longtime source of information and tips.

Mr. Sanchez and American Media executed a nondisclosure agreement on Oct. 18, 2018, “concerning certain information, photographs and text messages documenting an affair between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez,” according to a contract between the two parties reviewed by The New York Times.

Eight days later, Mr. Sanchez granted American Media the right to publish and license the text messages and photographs he had provided in exchange for $200,000, according to the contract and four people with knowledge of the arrangement.

“The single source of our reporting has been well documented,” American Media said in a statement. “In September of 2018, Michael Sanchez began providing all materials and information to our reporters. Any suggestion that a third party was involved in or in any way influenced our reporting is false.”

After federal agents and prosecutors examined allegations of wrongdoing by American Media in connection with the Bezos story last year, the company provided evidence showing them that Ms. Sanchez had provided text messages and compromising photos of Mr. Bezos to her brother, who passed them along to the tabloid, according to four people with knowledge of the situation.

That does not preclude the possibility that Saudi Arabia could have sent other useful information to The Enquirer. Nor were Mr. Bezos and his investigators off-base in suspecting a possible link between the tabloid and the kingdom. American Media and Saudi Arabia had both tried to build relationships with Mr. Trump, and one way to the president’s heart could have been an attack on Mr. Bezos, whom Mr. Trump once referred to as “Jeff Bozo” in a Twitter post.

At the same time, the American Media chairman David J. Pecker sought business opportunities and financing in Saudi Arabia. He met with Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia in 2017 after attending a White House dinner with a well-connected contact of the crown prince. In March 2018, American Media published a 97-page glossy magazine, “The New Kingdom,” essentially a promotional brochure for the crown prince and the nation.

Starting in September 2017, The Post had published columns by Mr. Khashoggi in which he excoriated Prince Mohammed for “unbearable repression,” “behaving like Putin” and “squeezing” the Saudi news media.

Mr. Bezos, who had sought to build data centers in the desert kingdom before Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, met Prince Mohammed in person at a dinner in Los Angeles in April 2018. The two chatted and exchanged contacts. Mr. Bezos’ forensic team said that Prince Mohammed sent Mr. Bezos the suspect video shortly afterward.

The relationship between Mr. Bezos and the Saudis deteriorated after Mr. Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. The Post demanded answers amid a growing consensus in the intelligence community that Prince Mohammed was involved.

Mr. Sanchez has said that The Enquirer was already onto the story about the affair before he discussed it with the tabloid, suggesting there was another source. Saudi Arabia has said it had nothing to do with it and has also called suggestions it hacked Mr. Bezos’ phone “absurd.”

Two people with knowledge of The Enquirer’s reporting process said that its staff started trailing Mr. Bezos after one of its reporters received a tip on Sept. 10, 2018, from Mr. Sanchez that a well-known billionaire was having an affair with an actress. Mr. Sanchez didn’t disclose their identities, but the tabloid staff suspected he was referring to Mr. Bezos.

On Oct. 18, The Enquirer’s photographers snapped pictures of Mr. Bezos with Ms. Sanchez. That same day Mr. Sanchez and American Media executed their agreement to prevent him from shopping the story elsewhere.

The following month, according to the FTI Consulting report, which was reviewed by United Nations experts, Mr. Bezos received another message on his phone from the crown prince, this one featuring a photograph of a woman with a resemblance to Ms. Sanchez and a misogynistic joke: “Arguing with a woman is like reading the Software License agreement. In the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.” FTI interpreted the message as a veiled suggestion that the crown prince knew about his relationship with Ms. Sanchez, which had not yet been made public, according to the report.

At the time, American Media had just emerged from a cloud of suspicion for its role in buying and burying information from the former Playboy model Karen McDougal about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump. After American Media executives admitted that they had effectively paid her hush money to help Mr. Trump’s campaign — in violation of federal election law — they cooperated with an investigation into the payment. Federal prosecutors in New York agreed not to prosecute, at least as long as the company did not break the law again.

The Enquirer’s story about the Bezos affair, including intimate text messages sent by Mr. Bezos and photographs of the couple on the terrace of what the tabloid described as Ms. Sanchez’s “love nest,” upset the company’s majority investors, according to two people with knowledge of American Media.

In his Medium post, Mr. Bezos revealed that his team had received threatening emails from American Media’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, that described revealing photos of Mr. Bezos that the tabloid had yet to publish.

In the letter from Mr. Howard and a second letter from an American Media lawyer that Mr. Bezos included in his account, the company said that it would not publish the compromising selfies if Mr. Bezos publicly stated that he did not believe that the tabloid publisher was politically motivated in publishing the exposé.

Mr. Bezos called the offer “extortion and blackmail” in his Medium post. He added that he was motivated “to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” and Mr. de Becker went to work.

The evidence in the resulting report shows evidence of Saudi intrusions into his iPhone X. But a direct link from the kingdom to the tabloid tale remains elusive.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Analysis Ties Hacking of Bezos’ Phone to Saudi Leader’s Account

Westlake Legal Group 21bezoshack-facebookJumbo Analysis Ties Hacking of Bezos’ Phone to Saudi Leader’s Account Text Messaging national enquirer Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Khashoggi, Jamal Instant Messaging FTI Consulting Inc Cyberwarfare and Defense Classified Information and State Secrets Bezos, Jeffrey P Assassinations and Attempted Assassinations American Media Inc Amazon.com Inc

SEATTLE — A forensic analysis of Jeff Bezos’ cellphone found with “medium to high confidence” that the Amazon chief’s device was hacked after he received a video from a WhatsApp account reportedly belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

After Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, got the video over the WhatsApp messaging platform in 2018, his phone began sending unusually large volumes of data, according to a report summing up investigators’ findings, which was reviewed by The New York Times.

The investigators believed Prince Mohammed was used as a conduit because the message would not raise suspicions if it came from him, said a person familiar with the investigation, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

According to the report, Mr. Bezos received a message from the crown prince’s account in late 2018 that suggested that the prince had intimate knowledge of Mr. Bezos’ private life.

The forensics investigation was completed on behalf of Mr. Bezos by Anthony Ferrante at the business advisory firm FTI Consulting. Mr. Ferrante declined to comment through a FTI spokesman.

After the findings were reported by The Guardian and The Financial Times, the Saudi Embassy denied that the Saudi government was involved.

“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Saudi Embassy said on Twitter. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”

Mr. Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker, had previously accused the Saudi government of hacking Mr. Bezos’ phone, saying the Saudi authorities targeted him because he owned The Washington Post. The Post has aggressively reported on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, one of its columnists, who was a critic of the Saudi government. The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

According to FTI’s report, Mr. Bezos and Prince Mohammed exchanged phone numbers at a dinner in Los Angeles in April 2018. The crown prince initiated a messaging conversation with Mr. Bezos that same day over WhatsApp.

About a month later, Mr. Bezos received an unexpected message from the crown prince that contained a video attachment, the report said.

The report did not say whether Mr. Bezos opened the video attachment, which had an image of Saudi and Swedish flags overlaid with Arabic text. But immediately after he received the file, the amount of data exiting his phone increased almost three hundredfold, according to the investigators’ analysis of Mr. Bezos’s data.

On two later occasions, according to the report, the crown prince appeared to send Mr. Bezos messages that suggested he had knowledge of the tech mogul’s private communications.

On Nov. 8, 2018, the report said, Mr. Bezos received a message from the account that included a single photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, with whom Mr. Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. The photo was captioned, “Arguing with a woman is like reading the software license agreement. In the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.”

At the time, Mr. Bezos and his wife were discussing a divorce, which would have been apparent to someone reading his text messages.

The second occasion, on Feb. 16 of last year, came two days after Mr. Bezos took part in phone conversations about the Saudis’ alleged online campaign against him. The message he received read, in part, that “there is nothing against you or Amazon from me or Saudi Arabia.”

The report concluded that advanced mobile spyware could have been used to compromise Mr. Bezos’ phone.

Two United Nations experts plan to release a public statement Wednesday morning “addressing serious allegations” that Mr. Bezos was hacked by receiving a WhatsApp message “reportedly from an account belonging to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia,” one of the experts, Agnes Callamard, said in an email.

Ms. Callamard, a specialist in extrajudicial killings, has been investigating Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, and David Kaye, an expert in human rights law, has been gathering information about violations of freedom of the press.

In its statement, the United Nations plans to say that it is raising concerns over the hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone directly with the Saudi government, said a person familiar with the statement. The United Nations did not conduct its own investigation into the hack and is basing its statement on the FTI report, the person said.

The United Nations began looking into the situation in June 2019 when someone close to Mr. Bezos shared the forensic analysis with them, the person added.

Amazon and Mr. de Becker declined to comment. William Isaacson, Mr. Bezos’ lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner, declined to comment beyond saying that Mr. Bezos was cooperating with continuing investigations.

The questions about who has had access to Mr. Bezos’ phone erupted a year ago, after The National Enquirer reported that the tech executive was romantically involved with Ms. Sanchez, a former TV anchor. At the time, The Enquirer published photos of the couple together, as well as intimate text messages.

Mr. Bezos later published emails from American Media, the parent company of The National Enquirer, which he said amounted to “extortion and blackmail.” He suggested that the leaks of photos and details of his private life could have been politically motivated to harm him because of his ownership of The Post.

In March, Mr. de Becker accused the Saudi government of hacking Mr. Bezos’s phone. In an opinion article in The Daily Beast, Mr. de Becker wrote that his “investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence” that the Saudis got private information from Mr. Bezos’ phone and that he turned the evidence they had uncovered over to law enforcement authorities.

Mr. de Becker did not detail specific evidence they uncovered, nor did he detail whether the leaked information was published by The Enquirer. American Media denied any Saudi involvement, saying Ms. Sanchez’s brother was the tabloid’s sole source.

Karen Weise reported from Seattle, Matthew Rosenberg from Washington and Sheera Frenkel from San Francisco. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Analysis Said to Tie Hacking of Bezos’ Phone to Saudi Leader’s Account

Westlake Legal Group 21bezoshack-facebookJumbo Analysis Said to Tie Hacking of Bezos’ Phone to Saudi Leader’s Account Text Messaging national enquirer Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Khashoggi, Jamal Instant Messaging FTI Consulting Inc Cyberwarfare and Defense Classified Information and State Secrets Bezos, Jeffrey P Assassinations and Attempted Assassinations American Media Inc Amazon.com Inc

SEATTLE — A forensic analysis of Jeff Bezos’ cellphone found with “medium to high confidence” that the Amazon chief’s device was hacked after he received a video from a WhatsApp account reportedly belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the Bezos-ordered investigation.

After Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, got the video over the WhatsApp messaging platform in 2018, his phone began sending unusually large volumes of data, said the person, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The person said the investigators believed Prince Mohammed was used as a conduit because the message would not raise suspicions if it came from him.

The findings of the forensics investigation, completed on behalf of Mr. Bezos by Anthony Ferrante at the business advisory firm FTI Consulting, could not be independently verified by The New York Times.

After the findings were reported by The Guardian and The Financial Times, the Saudi Embassy denied that the Saudi government was involved.

“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Saudi Embassy said on Twitter. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”

Mr. Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin de Becker, had previously accused the Saudi government of hacking Mr. Bezos’ phone, saying Saudi authorities targeted Mr. Bezos because he owned The Washington Post. The Post has aggressively reported on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, one of its columnists, who was a critic of the Saudi government. The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing.

Two United Nations experts plan to release a public statement Wednesday morning “addressing serious allegations” that Mr. Bezos was hacked by receiving a WhatsApp message “reportedly from an account belonging to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia,” one of the experts, Agnes Callamard, said in an email.

Ms. Callamard, a specialist in extrajudicial killings, has been investigating Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, and David Kaye, an expert in human rights law, has been gathering information about violations of freedom of the press.

Amazon and Mr. de Becker declined to comment. William Isaacson, Mr. Bezos’ lawyer at Boies Schiller Flexner, declined to comment beyond saying that Mr. Bezos was cooperating with continuing investigations. Mr. Ferrante declined to comment through a FTI spokesman.

“All FTI Consulting client work is confidential,” Matt Bashalany, a spokesman for FTI, said in a statement. “We do not comment on, confirm or deny client engagements or potential engagements.”

The questions about who has had access to Mr. Bezos’ phone erupted a year ago, after The National Enquirer reported that the tech executive was romantically involved with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor. At the time, The Enquirer published photos of the couple together, as well as intimate text messages.

Mr. Bezos later published emails from American Media, the parent company of The National Enquirer, which he said amounted to “extortion and blackmail.” He suggested that the leaks of photos and details of his private life could have been politically motivated to harm him because of his ownership of The Post.

In March, Mr. de Becker accused the Saudi government of hacking Mr. Bezos’s phone. In an opinion article in The Daily Beast, Mr. de Becker wrote that his “investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence” that the Saudis got private information from Mr. Bezos’ phone and that he turned the evidence they had uncovered over to law enforcement authorities.

Mr. de Becker did not detail specific evidence they uncovered, nor did he detail whether the leaked information was published by The Enquirer. American Media denied any Saudi involvement, saying Ms. Sanchez’s brother was the tabloid’s sole source.

Karen Weise reported from Seattle, and Matthew Rosenberg from Washington. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com