Touches highest levels of American power…


If it weren’t for impeachment, the country’s greatest story would be accusations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) hacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone.

Why it matters: This would be the nominal leader of an American ally spying on the head of among America’s largest business, who functions as the owner of among America’s a lot of prominent media outlets.

  • UN investigators concluded “with medium to high self-confidence” that MBS sent Bezos a video file via WhatsApp that included secret code established by Israeli spy software maker NSO Group.
  • The outcome was a gigantic, months-long data extraction, starting when Jamal Khashoggi was still alive and writing seriously about Saudi Arabia for the Bezos-owned Washington Post. Saudi Arabia highly denies the claims.
  • It was presumably done via the same messaging app that MBS has supposedly used to communicate with leading White Home aide Jared Kushner. Oh, and Michael Flynn, previous U.S. nationwide security consultant, was as soon as a paid consultant to Israel-based NSO Group.
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Flashback: Facebook last October took legal action against NSO Group, for apparently offering tools that allowed this extremely sort of hack. Apple and Microsoft have actually co-invested, or vowed to co-invest, with the Saudi government in SoftBank Vision Fund.

Context: At the time of the supposed hack, NSO Group was owned by private equity company Francisco Partners, whose investors include a few of America’s biggest public and business pension funds.

  • One could forgive Francisco if in some way it didn’t recognize that NSO’s innovation could be used for nefarious purposes, other than that it definitely knew (a minimum of by 2017, when it was exposed that NSO software was utilized by the Mexican federal government to spy on journalists and anti-corruption advocates).
  • Francisco, which also briefly employed Michael Flynn, yesterday continued its years-long practice of concealing behind “no comment” when it pertains to NSO Group, which in early 2019 was offered back to the company’s creators and European private equity company Novalpina.
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Yes, but: Once Again, the Saudis deny any participation. And there are some unanswered technical questions from the leaked forensics report, consisting of an absence of malware found on Bezos’ phone and no certainty on where the extracted information went.

The bottom line: This incident, if validated, touches the highest levels of American power, both personal and public. It’s difficult to picture that Twitter denials and buyout baron evasion will be enough.

Go much deeper: Bezos tweets image from Khashoggi memorial in the middle of MBS hacking claims

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