Democratic senator asks intelligence agencies to open probe into Bezos phone hack

Democratic senator asks intelligence agencies to open probe into Bezos phone hack
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IGs MORE (D-Conn.) on Wednesday asked the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to probe recent reports that Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosHillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Largest tech company CEOs made billions amid pandemic How the latest X-37B mission may change the world MORE’s phone was hacked by Saudi Arabian officials. 

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and acting DNI Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireTop intel official leaving post Grenell announces creation of intelligence community 'cyber executive' Ratcliffe refuses to say whether Russian election interference favored Trump MORE strongly urging them to open an investigation into the alleged hacking incident, which involved a malicious file being sent to Bezos’s phone from the WhatsApp account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Murphy also asked that the intelligence agencies brief Congress on “all preliminary and final conclusions” involved in a potential investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone.

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Top United Nations experts last week labeled the hacking as retaliation for criticism by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, over the killing of U.S.-based Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018. 

"The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post's reporting on Saudi Arabia,” Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a joint statement. 

A report from FTI Consulting detailed by Vice News found that after Bezos opened the file from bin Salman’s WhatsApp account, the data leaving his phone significantly spiked. 

The analysis by FTI also found that the device had been compromised by cybersecurity tools linked to Saud al Qahtani, a close friend of bin Salman and the former president and chairman of the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming and Drones.

Murphy wrote Wednesday that “the operation against Mr. Bezos raises serious concern that other American citizens may have been deliberately targeted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

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Murphy also warned that “cyber crimes committed by officials of the Saudi government could have serious ramifications on the U.S.-Saudi relationship.”

Both the FBI and the DNI declined to comment on Murphy's letter. 

The letter to the agency leaders came on the heels of a separate letter sent last week by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenPelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat FISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Hillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections MORE (D-Ore.) to National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Paul Nakasone that raised concerns around the security of devices owned by government officials, and in particular phones of White House officials such as Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump's strategy to stay in office Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances MORE.

Kushner reportedly communicated with bin Salman via WhatsApp in 2018. 

An official for Wyden told The Hill that, as of Wednesday, the senator had not received a response from the NSA. 

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Bezos has so far not commented on the alleged hack beyond tweeting a photo last week of himself standing outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey with Khashoggi’s fiancé.