Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, is escalating his fight against whoever leaked his embarrassing texts and photos that the National Enquirer ran in January.
The March 30 headline in The Daily Beast laid it out: Bezos Investigation Finds the Saudis Obtained His Private Data.” Strictly speaking, the article was authored by Bezos’ security consultant, Gavin De Becker, and yet it’s evident that he is doing exactly what Bezos wants.
So it’s best to cue up the dramatic James Bond-type music, because Ernst Blofeld—oops, I mean, Jeff Bezos—is on the warpath. And anyone worth $146 billion can afford a pretty good private arsenal.
Back on March 10, when Virgil last checked in on Bezos, it seemed that the Amazon chief had concluded that Michael Sanchez was the source of the leaks. Sanchez, of course, is the now-estranged brother of Lauren Sanchez, who was, and perhaps still is, Bezos’ marriage-busting beloved.
And so last month, it seemed like a simple enough case closed: Michael Sanchez had gotten his mitts on his sister’s cell phone and had sold the titillating material to the Enquirer.
Yet now De Becker is going much further in his claims. He has evidence, he writes, that the Enquirer knew of the existence of naughty words and pictures before the tabloid got wind of them from Michael Sanchez.
And how would that be? How would the Enquirer gain such omniscience? As De Becker puts it, “The initial information came from other channels—another source or method.” And at least one of those “other channels,” he explains, was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which had somehow hacked Bezos’ phone:
Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information.
Saudi Arabia and Bezos have not been on good terms since at least last October, when Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. And as De Becker mentions, Amazon has a large presence in Saudi Arabia, through a subsidiary, Souq.com. So who knows all the possible angles here—after all, not everyone loves Amazon.
In any case, Bezos seems no longer satisfied with pinning the blame on Michael Sanchez; he’s now looking to pin bigger targets, including—but not limited to—the Saudi government, the White House, and American Media International (AMI), the parent company of the Enquirer. As De Becker notes:
The inquiry included a broad array of resources: investigative interviews with current and former AMI executives and sources, extensive discussions with top Middle East experts in the intelligence community, leading cybersecurity experts who have tracked Saudi spyware, discussions with current and former advisers to President Trump, Saudi whistleblowers, people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
To put it mildly, all this dot-connecting—true or not, provable or not—is expensive. But then, as De Becker wrote:
Bezos directed me to “spend whatever is needed” to learn who may have been complicit in the scheme, and why they did it.
Again, when someone worth $146 billion gives you a blank check, you can do a lot of digging.
So now De Becker continues, “My results have been turned over to federal officials.” And which federal officials would those be? The Justice Department? The Congress? Both?
De Becker doesn’t provide any details, and yet he declares, “I intend today’s writing to be my last public statement on the matter”—although, of course, he could always change his mind. Moreover, Bezos has access to plenty of other investigators, communicators, and litigators, who can help him get his points across. And oh yes, he also owns a well-known newspaper.
It’s worth noting that on April 1, the Enquirer denied that any third party (or third country) was involved; according to the tabloid, the leak was all the doing of Michael Sanchez.
So now it will be interesting to see which, if any, federal officials acknowledge that they have been in receipt of De Becker’s dossier, and what, if anything, they plan to do with it.
Yet Virgil is sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about this case; one way or another, Team Bezos will make sure of that. Indeed, when it’s all over, the original issue—those saucy “sexchanges” between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez—might be layered over in the public mind with all the new information and allegations that De Becker might have stirred up.
As a result, it seems evident that many people are now happy thinking about some far-flung conspiracy involving big shots in the White House and Riyadh, featuring sidebars in Los Angeles (home of Lauren Sanchez and Michael Sanchez) and New York City (home to AMI). Indeed, just on April 2, one of Bezos’ employees, Fred Ryan, publisher of the Post, wrote a tough op-ed for his newspaper headlined, “It’s been six months since Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, and Trump has done nothing”—the point being that the Bezos Post is still harping on the connection between the Saudis and Trump. And that’s a clear signal—go get ’em!—to investigative reporters, both at the Post and everywhere else.
So it’s not hard to envision that the whole skein of events, from Washington to Riyadh to wherever else, could well be remembered as some fantastic tale, like something that Ian Fleming might have written for his character James Bond.
By that reckoning, De Becker’s efforts could be seen as the laying down of an extensive—and expensive—red herring. That is, an effective way to throw folks off the trail of Bezos’ indiscretion, causing them to forget what the original issue was in the first place. If so, then De Becker’s investigation, with all its juicy new headlines, could ultimately be regarded as some very shrewd damage control.
Bezos may be careless at times, but nobody ever said he was dumb. In that vein, on April 4, Bezos reached a financial settlement with his ex-wife; okay, it cost him $35 billion, but he keeps control of Amazon and, crucially, he keeps control of the Post. So now, Bezos can eye his place in the history books and plot his plan: himself as not only the tycoon of tycoons, but also as the globalist hero who defeated Trump and the Saudis.
To Bezos, that will likely feel like good payback. Of course, there’s no certainty that he can make it happen. But one should never estimate his determination to try.