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

The Hill

Sen. Chris Murphy (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 Bezos’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 Maguirestrongly 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.

Top United Nations experts last week labeled the hacking as retaliationfor 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.”

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 lettersent last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (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 Kushner.

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.