That report, in turn, prompted two United Nations human rights investigators to call on Wednesday for “immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities” of the alleged hack, which they said “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.” We have an obvious interest in such a probe, as does our owner. But so, too, do all governments and international companies doing business with the kingdom and its ruler, who has demonstrated a reckless willingness to commit crimes and violate international boundaries.
The forensic analysis of Mr. Bezos’s iPhone X, overseen by Anthony J. Ferrante of FTI Consulting, is not definitive in its conclusions about the hacking. Some cybersecurity experts have raised questions about the analysis, which was completed in November. Yet what the investigation did find is highly suggestive.
In addition to the export of data from Mr. Bezos’s phone following the crown prince’s video text, Mr. Bezos subsequently received two texts from Mohammed bin Salman’s WhatsApp account indicating familiarity with then-undisclosed information, including divorce discussions Mr. Bezos was engaged in. Texts and photographs that could have come from his phone were published by the National Enquirer, whose owner had ties to the crown prince.
If Mohammed bin Salman did target Mr. Bezos for surveillance, it would not be an isolated case. As U.N. investigators Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said in their statement, “the allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.” Any investigation, they said, ought to encompass “the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.”
Mr. Bezos, of course, is not only the owner of The Post but also the founder of Amazon, one of the world’s largest tech companies. Executives of other firms that, like Amazon, have thought about investing in Saudi Arabia ought to be wondering whether they will become targets of hacking attacks ordered by the crown prince. And what of Jared Kushner, son-in-law and aide to President Trump, who is known to have exchanged text messages with Mohammed bin Salman? Has his phone been checked? If the Trump administration takes its own security and that of U.S. businesses seriously, it will follow the U.N. advice and thoroughly investigate the alleged Saudi hacks.