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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 MurphyOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Senate Democrats seek to alleviate public concern about some results not being available on election night 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 BezosBlue Origin takes one small step toward being a competitor to SpaceX Democrats question Amazon over reported interference of workers' rights to organize Hillicon Valley: Twitter lacked adequate cybersecurity protection ahead of July hacks, regulator says | Twitter, Facebook clamp down on New York Post article about Hunter Biden | YouTube bans COVID-19 vaccine misinformation 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 MaguireRetired Navy admiral behind bin Laden raid says he voted for Biden Congressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones 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 WydenPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing House Democrats slam FCC chairman over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump 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 KushnerIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Kushner friend arrested on cyberstalking charges Chris Wallace teases Sunday interview with 'bestie' Ice Cube 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. 

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.