For the past year, Jeff Bezos, the super-rich and influential owner of Amazon and The Washington Post, has been engaged in an ongoing, relentless and baseless smear campaign against Saudi Arabia and its government, claiming a grand conspiracy at Riyadh's highest levels to blackmail him and smear his character. But the ironic truth about this whole saga, in the end, is that Saudi Arabia should not even be a party to this story. They simply got dragged into it.
This was more a personal story, one about a man who would not own up to his personal indiscretions, and instead decided to smear an entire nation in the hope of redirecting the spotlight onto the Middle East.
It has become particularly clear, as more evidence has emerged to debunk his claims, that Jeff Bezos was never interested in a real investigation, but only information to support a predetermined anti-Saudi narrative. Instead of owning up to his personal missteps, Bezos directed his team of pseudo-investigators to find information that could damage Saudi Arabia. This involved assembling a team of yes-men and vicious partisans to get the job done. Jeff Bezos’s smear campaign against Saudi Arabia, and specifically, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, draws incredible parallels to the “Trump-Russia” smears that have been attached to President Trump.
Since the beginning, Team Bezos had a bias problem, a knowledge problem, and a credibility problem. The individuals and organizations hired by Bezos were solely interested in finding information to support a predetermined conclusion, which was that the Saudis, and only the Saudis, were to blame for the events of his personal life.
The suspicions started with Iyad El Baghdadi, the lead media and public relations man for Jeff Bezos’s anti-Saudi crusade. He was responsible for disseminating the provably false accusations in the media that the Saudis were behind sending his lewd photos to the press. El Baghdadi is also responsible for advancing the latest baseless accusation, leveled earlier this week, that the Saudis hacked Mr Bezos’s iPhone.
El Baghdadi has a history of making false and outlandish claims about Saudi Arabia.
For starters, he claims that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) told him the Saudis are out to get him because of his advocacy efforts against Riyadh. He never provided any evidence to support these claims, but that didn’t stop media outlets from publishing them. Interestingly, the same The Guardian reporter who wrote the “exclusive” story about Bezos supposedly being hacked by the Crown Prince got the scoop from El Baghdadi that he was an apparent target of Saudi Arabia. Both stories are baseless, and the evidence suggests they are both false. There have been no corrections or retractions issued. When challenged on his baseless accusations, and his continuing falsehoods, claims that the evidence is forthcoming. He has never delivered on the evidence.
Next we have Gavin De Becker, the physical security specialist who has worked for Mr. Bezos for over two decades, He’s spearheading the case against the Saudis as his “lead investigator.” Since March, De Becker has been insisting, without evidence, that the Saudis were behind the leaks of his lewd photos to the press. De Becker, a longtime physical security specialist who somehow became a cyber intrusion specialist overnight, spoke with certainty, but with no proof, that he was certain about the culprit.
“Bezos directed me to ‘spend whatever is needed’ to learn who may have been complicit in the scheme, and why they did it,” De Becker wrote in March, in coming to his conclusion that Saudi Arabia was guilty of a grand conspiracy to intimidate and hack Mr Bezos.
We do know that Mark Sanchez, the brother of Mr. Bezos’s mistress-turned-girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, leaked the photos he had been sending to her to the press. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal became the latest major news outlet to confirm these facts, which has no Saudi connection whatsoever.
“Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have evidence indicating Jeff Bezos ’ girlfriend provided text messages to her brother that he then sold to the National Enquirer for its article about the Amazon.com Inc. founder’s affair,” the Journal reported. No Saudi angle there.
In a normal media environment, this revelation would create a massive credibility problem for Gavin De Becker, who swore on his reputation that the Saudis were to blame.
As for the latest “Mohammed bin Salman hacked my phone” accusation advanced by Team Bezos, they pointed to a report from FTI Consulting and U.N. “human rights experts” to solidify their credibility.
Countless media reports cited an FTI-conducted “forensics report” on behalf of Mr. Bezos. But after the firm published their report, cybersecurity experts were quick to notice the lack of sophistication in their analysis, with some pointing out that FTI Consulting does not seem to have any expertise in the field whatsoever. Others pointed to data that there was no actual evidence that Mr. Bezos had been hacked at all. Additionally, there was zero evidence provided that Saudi Arabia had any connection to this affair. But once again, similar to the aforementioned parties hired by Mr. Bezos, they blamed Saudi Arabia anyway.
An additional media hook for the accusations against the Crown Prince was provided by the inflammatory remarks made by two U.N. employees, who, it should be noted, have no expertise in cyber security, and claim to be human rights specialists. They produced a short report that provided no evidence of Saudi wrongdoing. Still, The New York Times, the Bezos-owned The Washington Post, and several other outlets were happy to print these accusations as if they were facts.
In the end, Jeff Bezos and his assembled team of yes-men and anti-Saudi partisans were never interested in the truth, because the real truth points to the reality that Jeff Bezos, and only Jeff Bezos, is the guilty party in this story.
Jordan Schachtel is an investigative journalist and foreign policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel