Who can avoid seeing National Enquirer in the checkout stand of the grocery store? Most of the headlines are pretty tired, like Jennifer Anniston still pining or being jealous about Brad Pitt years after their divorce. My own taste for weird is spoken to when I see BatBoy on the cover of Weekly World News. Regardless of how trashy and ridiculous National Enquirer is, it sure seems to sell a lot of copies to somebody(ies).
The question of just how National Enquirer got scoops is one thing. A second question is whether the publisher was working with Donald Trump to prevent unflattering articles from showing up on the newsstand. From December 2018, we know that National Enquirer's parent company, AMI (American Media) acknowledged that they paid hush money to one of the women, Karen McDougal, that had a sexual affair with Donald Trump to prevent the story from coming out before Trump's election. (That's besides Stormy Daniels, which is another sleazy story). The practice of paying moolah to hush up a person and then not ever letting that story see the light of day was called "catch and kill". In some of the articles about David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media, it was alleged that he has a safe that has a lot of unflattering information about Trump.
In any event, in December, 2018, federal prosecutors said they weren't going to prosecute AMI for its role in the scheme to try to manuever the elections for Trump to win. Here's that agreement between US Dept of Justice and AMI from Sept 20, 2018. Part of that agreement follows with highlights.
It's apparent that National Enquirer was doing all it could to help Trump's campaign, which is basically categorized as a campaign contribution. From Slate on December 17, 2018
The agreement recounted a yearlong scheme to use AMI’s corporate activity to assist Trump’s election. According to the agreement, AMI’s chairman and CEO, David Pecker, made an August 2015 offer to Cohen and an unnamed campaign official to use AMI to identify and resolve potential negative stories about then-candidate Trump. In June 2016, Pecker did just that when an attorney for Karen McDougal approached Pecker about her allegations of an affair with Trump. That August, AMI purchased McDougal’s limited life rights to the story in an attempt to suppress the news and prevent any damage to Trump’s campaign. Pecker then agreed to assign the rights to McDougal’s story to Cohen for $125,000 and ordered a consultant working for him to create a shell company to facilitate the payment. Pecker sent a signed assignment agreement to Cohen but (for some unknown reason) ended the deal before Cohen made the payment.
....Here, AMI played a key role in subverting a free and fair presidential election. The company’s chairman and CEO initiated the offer of assistance to the Trump campaign and—incredibly—he remains in place as the head of the company. In a country where people can lose their job for smoking marijuana, David Pecker admitted to engaging in election fraud in a presidential election but gets to stay in his multimillion dollar position and his company only has to develop new compliance programs.
Should AMI have been prosecuted? I agree with the above, AMI didn't even get a slap on the wrist, much less a fine. But there's an interesting part of that prosecution agreement that suddenly, stupidly, has come into play. That' s the section that says "It is understood that, should AMI commit any crimes subsequent to this Agreement... if the Government has determined that AMI has committed any crime after signing the Agreement...."
Enter Jeff Bezos. Bezos's company is Amazon and he also owns the Washington Post newspaper. And he announced recently he was getting a divorce from his wife of many years. Whatever people think of Amazon or Bezos, seems pretty standard to me to see articles about rich people divorcing. But not what Bezos wrote on February 7, 2019 on Medium. He alleges that David Pecker of AMI tried to extort him into dropping an investigation into how National Enquirer got Bezos text messages. Read it, it's an eye-popper, here's part.
AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.
And sometimes Mr. Pecker mixes it all together:
“After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…”
Update: Was it the brother, Michael Sanchez, of the woman, Lauren Sanchez, that Bezos was having an affair with that gave the text messages and photos to AMI? And was Roger Stone involved? Daily Beast
“Our investigation into what the National Enquirer and [publisher] AMI did after they received the initial texts—that investigation is ongoing,” he added.
The identity of the Enquirer’s source was only one of the many mysteries in a tale that is sordid and tangled, even by supermarket tabloid standards. Still unresolved: why Sanchez allegedly supplied the information to the Enquirer; why the Enquirer promoted a story about Bezos with such vigor; what, if anything this had to do with the Enquirer’s long-standing support for Trump; why its parent company was so bothered by the suggestion that it was motivated by “external forces, political or otherwise”; and why AMI tried to later coerce Bezos with a previously unreleased “d*ck pick.”..
Sanchez’s alleged involvement in the Bezos leak, and his ties to various Trumpworld figures, has informed investigators’ conclusions that the disclosure was at least in part politically motivated, a finding that drew intense efforts from AMI to insulate the Enquirer’s reporting from any allegations that they were seeking to please Trump, a close friend of AMI chief executive David Pecker.
More of Bezos "Medium" article. Bezos saw that intimate texts from him were published in the National Enquirer and engaged investigators to find out how the Enquirier got them (I mean, they were TEXT MESSAGES, not public info), and what the motives might have been for doing this. He was told a few days before he wrote the article that AMI said David Pecker was "apoplectic" about Bezos investigation, particularly about the Saudi angle.
A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.
Um. That sure sounds like extortion, doesn't it? I'm not including this here, but Bezos publishes the emails that were sent after Bezos and his attorney didn't respond fast enough. The emails include a list of the salacious photos the Enquirier intended to publish. As Bezos says
Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? ..
In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”
If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.
Wow. Imagine not only Jeff Bezos standing up to the Enquirer about this, but how many people have not, either because whatever AMI was holding over their heads was hugely embarrassing or they didn't have the money to fight it. OR, as in the case of Karen McDougal, being told that if she just shut up, she'd get her own columns in the Enquirer, which never came to pass.
Others also came forward about receiving threats from the National Enquirer after Bezos post on Medium. That includes Ronan Farrow.
Farrow wrote several stories on the Enquirer for The New Yorker, including some that claimed AMI chairman and CEO David Pecker killed stories that could damage President Donald Trump.
“I and at least one other prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump fielded similar ‘stop digging or we’ll ruin you’ blackmail efforts from AMI,” Farrow tweeted. “(I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)”
Farrow, also noted for his coverage of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, had produced emails in his work on that story that showed that Dylan Howard, chief content officer of American Media Inc.’s Celebrity Group, had dispatched a reporter to uncover derogatory information about an actress who had accused Weinstein of rape, and then shared that information with Weinstein.
And Terry Crews
Crews said that AMI – who owns the tabloid National Enquirer – once threated to expose fabricated pictures of him with prostitutes in an attempt to get him to squash a lawsuit against Adam Venit, the WME talent agent who groped him in 2016. Crews tweeted on Friday that he, like Bezos, released the e-mail correspondence.
It sure appears that this is AMI's MO, eh?
The question arises, does AMI's attempted extortion of Bezos constitute a crime that negates the plea deal they had with the US Department of Justice over the McDougal hush money and campaign finance violatIon? I don't know, but I think it should. According to Deadline, the Feds have started an investigation.
Sources have confirmed to Deadline that officials at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York have begun looking into the alleged strong-arm tactics against Pecker and AMI that Bezos made public yesterday.
The actions of “extortion and blackmail” that the world’s richest man described yesterday may constitute a violation of a deal the feds made late last year. That agreement granted AMI freedom from criminal prosecution in exchange for Pecker and the publication providing “substantial and important assistance” to the U.S. Attorney’s office in its investigations into possible misconduct and financial impropriety by Donald Trump’s campaign during the the 2016 election.
Since then, it has been rumored that the blackmail against Bezos was aimed at killing the Post's coverage of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of agents of the Saudi government. People also are quick to point out that the Enquirer has been known to engage in so much private-sector ratfcking on behalf of Donald Trump that the publication, and its parent company, already have cut a cooperation deal with prosecutors back in New York. This, of course, would throw that agreement right into the woodchipper. My lord, it's grifters, bagmen, cheap gunsels, and pure, rancid sleaze, all the way down.
Moved the information in the original post about spying by Saudi Arabia on information on people smart phones down here. The question is whether , on the back end, any of this had to do with AMI.
I'll come back to that about Pecker,. Trump and Saudi Arabia, but put in a pin in this. You may remember that Pecker put out a glossy PR magazine that was also sold at the checkout stands, touting Saudi Arabia.
Ahead of that visit, A.M.I. published a 97-page glossy magazine that is essentially a promotional brochure for Saudi Arabia and the crown prince. It makes no mention of anything troubling, like the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, human rights concerns or the crown prince’s arrest last fall of many extended royals, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an influential client of Mr. Grine’s.
The magazine — which refers to Saudi Arabia throughout as “the Magic Kingdom” — includes an interview with Mr. Grine, accompanied by a photo of him posing with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office, taken during his visit with Mr. Pecker.
There is, however, another darker question in this. Why was AMI so eager to stop the investigation into how Bezos text messages were acquired? One possibility was that Trump may have been involved. Another might be re: this Reuters article referenced on NPR from Feb 3, 2019 entitled "Reuters Investigation finds UAE Employed Former NSA Hackers as Spies." It's funny because I was on my way to the grocery store on Thursday and heard Lori Stroud talking about this on the radio show I was listening to. Basically, she was a contractor that had been in the NSA and went to work for the UAE. She, and others, were hired to spy on enemy governments, including ISIS, but ended up spying on Americans. (This all part of Project Raven)
SCHECTMAN: Lori Stroud, who is the only person who'd go on the record on this story - she went straight from high school into U.S. Army Signals Intelligence Unit and very quickly into the NSA. And after their - several career setbacks at the NSA, you know, a former manager of hers from the NSA said, hey. You know, I have a very cool project that you might be interested in. And she jumped at it. I think that she really believed that this whole situation had been signed off on by the U.S. government and by the NSA.
But then once she arrived there, you know, I think it became clear very quickly that she was going to be working, really, for a foreign spy service quite directly. I think that she adapted to that situation. She adapted to those expectations. I think that she felt, you know, hey, this is not for me to decide why this person is of the priority they are. There might be things about that person that I don't know. And it's for this country to set its own kind of agenda in terms of who they see as being security threats.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lori Stroud worked for a few years as a contractor in Abu Dhabi, rising to become a lead analyst. This gave her more access to whom the Emiratis were targeting. She was becoming uncomfortable, though, with the work. I asked Joel Schectman, what was the breaking point?
SCHECTMAN: There was one line that she felt she couldn't cross and that she had always told she wasn't going to have to cross, which was spying on Americans. And it was made very clear. Yeah, you're not going to be targeting Americans. You don't have to worry about that. As time went on, she started to see that there was collection being done on Americans. This is something that kind of flipped the switch for her, I think, and realized how shady the whole situation was, how untenable it was to be this American NSA operative who's, like, working, essentially, as a mercenary for a foreign country.
What was or is Project Raven? Turns out it used a program, Karma, that was able to access text messages on Iphones. From Reuters "Exclusive: UAE used cyber super-weapon to spy on iPhones of foes"
The ex-Raven operatives described Karma as a tool that could remotely grant access to iPhones simply by uploading phone numbers or email accounts into an automated targeting system. The tool has limits — it doesn’t work on Android devices and doesn’t intercept phone calls. But it was unusually potent because, unlike many exploits, Karma did not require a target to click on a link sent to an iPhone, they said.
In 2016 and 2017, Karma was used to obtain photos, emails, text messages and location information from targets’ iPhones. The technique also helped the hackers harvest saved passwords, which could be used for other intrusions.
It isn’t clear whether the Karma hack remains in use. The former operatives said that by the end of 2017, security updates to Apple Inc’s iPhone software had made Karma far less effective.
Lori Stroud, a former Raven operative who also previously worked at the U.S. National Security Agency, told Reuters of the excitement when Karma was introduced in 2016. “It was like, ‘We have this great new exploit that we just bought. Get us a huge list of targets that have iPhones now,’” she said. “It was like Christmas.”
To re-emphasize. Access through text messages on Iphones was being done by ex-NSA contract operatives FOR the UAE. Did that include Jeff Bezos as one of the targets? How DID AMI get those text messages off Bezos phone? Note that the Karma program allowed access to other parts of an iphone, including photos, without the person receiving the text message to even have to click the link. And it was used by the UAE to spy on Americans.
Even more recently, Israeli software helped Saudis spy on Jamal Khashoggi, who was a reporter for ... the Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos.
LONDON — A Saudi dissident close to the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has filed a lawsuit charging that an Israeli software company helped the royal court take over his smartphone and spy on his communications with Mr. Khashoggi.
The lawsuit puts new pressure on the company, the NSO Group, and on the government of Israel, which licenses the company’s sales to foreign governments of its spyware, known as Pegasus. More broadly, the suit also calls new attention to Israel’s increasingly open alliance with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies.
The lawsuit, filed in Israel by the Montreal-based Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, follows parallel suits by journalists, activists and others charging that the NSO Group improperly helped the governments of Mexico and the United Arab Emirates spy on their smartphones even though the individuals had no criminal records and posed no threat of violence....
The spyware allows its customers to secretly listen to calls, record keystrokes, read messages, and track internet history on a targeted phone. It also enables customers to use a phone’s microphone and camera as surveillance devices.
Because of those sweepingly invasive capabilities, Israel classifies the spyware as a weapon. The company must obtain approval from the Defense Ministry for its sale to foreign governments. Saudi Arabia paid $55 million last year for its use, according to Israeli news reports
Was this software used as well by the Saudis to spy on other Americans, such as Jeff Bezos?
(Side note not to forget that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia said Jared Kushner was in his pocket and Kushner was said to have given a list of names of people disloyal to M B S ) In fact, Bezos hints that the murder to Jamal Khashoggi was tied to this extortion. In case somehow you have been under a rock and missed the savage murder of Khashoggi with a bone saw, start here where yesterday Trump was required to provide Congress a report determining who killed him, and he refused. Ask yourself why, is Trump trying to protect the Saudis? And if so, why? BBC
Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.
He was a strong critic of the Saudi government. His body was reportedly dismembered and has still not been found.
US intelligence officials have reportedly said such an operation would have needed the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In fact, MBS said a year before Khashoggi was killed that he would use a "bullet" on him.
Democratic senators told the New York Times the president was in breach of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which requires a response within 120 days to requests from Senate committee leaders. That deadline passed on Friday.
Trump breaks the law... again. But why? Hope Congress holds him accountable.
Evidence shows Khashoggi murder planned, carried out by Saudi officials: UN (Reuters)
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Crown Prince Mohammed ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, a critic and Washington Post columnist, and say his body was dismembered and removed to a location still publicly unknown. Riyadh denies the prince had any involvement in the murder.
“Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows prime facie case that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, said in statement issued in Geneva.
And the Foreign Ministry on Twitter warns off others about the murder.
Apparently Khashoggi committed the cardinal Crime According to Trump in that he criticized Trump. "Jamal Khashoggi was barred from writing in Saudi Arabia after he criticized Trump, then left his native country"