The Gentle Art of Blackmail

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The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby toucana on February 8th, 2019, 3:03 am 

Late yesterday afternoon, Jeff Bezos who is the founder, president, and CEO of Amazon, and also the proprietor of the Washington Post newspaper released this remarkable statement on the medium.com web platform.

https://medium.com/@jeffreypbezos/no-thank-you-mr-pecker-146e3922310f

It is a detailed account, complete with full email logs, of how AMI the company who own the tabloid newspaper National Enquirer recently attempted to blackmail him by threatening to release a number of intimate pictures of him and his mistress if Bezos and the WP did not desist from pursuing an ongoing investigation into connections between David Pecker of AMI and Saudi Arabia.

Jeff Bezos has called that bluff in no uncertain manner by publishing the entire correspondence between himself and AMI, regardless of any personal embarrassment and reputational damage that might ensue. As he observes in his post on medium.com
If I in my position can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can ?

Two points of particular political interest in this story are these :-
- David Pecker the head of AMI and the National Enquirer who is a close personal friend of Donald Trump had already previously cut a plea deal with SDNY prosecutors over his criminal exposure in the “Catch and Kill” scandal exposed by Michael Cohen’s confessions. Being implicated in a futher instance of blatant felony extortion is unlikely to help David Pecker’s chances of remaining out of prison.

- There is an ongoing mystery as to how the personal communications of a powerful figure like Jeff Bezos were compromised in the first place. It could not have happened in any lawful manner without a FISA warrant which is unlikely in the extreme. An intercept of this type quite conceivably could not have occurred at all without the professional resources of the NSA, and that would have required an illegal presidential order to accomplish.

The prominent investigative journalist Ronan Farrow who writes for The New Yorker has also confirmed late yesterday that both both he and another unnamed journalist also received similar blackmail threats from AMI after writing investigative stories about the National Enquirer and its involvement in the “catch and kill stories” about Donald Trump’s extramarital affairs.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/02/08/ronan-farrow-says-he-was-also-blackmail-target-after-reporting-national-enquirer-trump/?utm_term=.8c67daf7425e
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby BadgerJelly on February 8th, 2019, 6:28 am 

Is this ever going to stop?
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby TheVat on February 8th, 2019, 9:51 am 

A little off the theoretical topic but particularly fascinating look at the use of extortion as used by a political machine, so it's hard to dismiss. Perhaps this thread, to be topical, could look at some historical examples, too. Otherwise, i can move to Lounge.
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby toucana on February 8th, 2019, 12:03 pm 

Instances of major extortion at work in mainstream American politics can be rather hard to find, perhaps for obvious reasons.

One example that does come to mind was referenced obliquely in the famous film Citizen Kane (1941) directed by Orson Wells, when the central character, newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane is forced to abandon a promising political career after his scandalous extramarital relationship with a young woman is exposed by a ruthless political enemy Jim W. Gettys.

The character of Kane was drawn from a number of newspaper magnates such as William Randolph Hearst, Pulitzer and Northcliffe, as well as industrial magnates like Samuel Insull and Harold Fowler McCormick. The character of Gettys was said to be based on that of Charles F. Murphy who was a leader in New York’s infamous Tammany Hall political machine which was a byword for civic corruption at the time.
Hearst and Murphy were political allies in 1902, when Hearst was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but became enemies in 1905 when Hearst ran for mayor of New York. Hearst turned his muckraking newspapers on Tammany Hall in the person of Murphy, who was called "... the most hungry, selfish and extortionate boss Tammany has ever known." Murphy ordered that under no condition was Hearst to be elected. Hearst ballots were dumped into the East River, and new ballots were printed favoring his opponent. Hearst was defeated by some 3,000 votes and his newspapers bellowed against the election fraud.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sources_for_Citizen_Kane

Perhaps the most infamous example of hidden influence within the US political system was that of J. Edgar Hoover the founder and first director of the FBI from 1935 until his death in 1972. Hoover was widely regarded as completely untouchable because of his encyclopaedic collection of ‘dirt’ on every single political leader and activist of any significance during his lifetime. No one dared to confront or fire Hoover from office for fear of the damaging information he had in his personal private archive - much of it acquired by wholly illegal wiretaps and mail intercepts. Even sitting presidents went in fear of him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Edgar_Hoover

Hoover was notorious for targeting black civil rights leaders. In 1964 the FBI under Hoover’s leadership sent an anonymous blackmail letter to Martin Luther King Jr. urging him to commit suicide. (loc. cit.)
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby someguy1 on February 8th, 2019, 6:27 pm 

The always brilliant Glenn Greenwald notes that

Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of his Privacy as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State For Everyone Else

https://theintercept.com/2019/02/08/jef ... yone-else/

Or as the inimitable New York Post put it ... BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER

https://twitter.com/nypost/status/1093723253934309376
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby TheVat on February 9th, 2019, 10:24 am 

I believe several news outlets were unable to resist the headline. That guy's name is like some sort of gift to editors.
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Re: The Gentle Art of Blackmail

Postby toucana on March 31st, 2019, 7:45 am 

Online news website The Daily Beast has published a lengthy article by Gavin De Becker that provides a more detailed account of the investigation into how the private data of Jeff Bezos came to be hacked, and by whom.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeff-bezos-investigation-finds-the-saudis-obtained-his-private-information?ref=scroll

Gavin De Becker is a freelance security consultant retained by Jeff Bezos who gave him carte blanche to get to the bottom of who was responsible for providing his private texts to the National Enquirer.

According to De Becker, it took only a very short amount of time to establish that the person paid by the Enquirer as a source was man named Michael Sanchez, the now-estranged brother of Lauren Sanchez whom Bezos was dating.
What was unusual, very unusual, was how hard AMI people worked to publicly reveal their source’s identity. First through strong hints they gave to me, and later through direct statements, AMI practically pinned a “kick me” sign on Michael Sanchez.

Much was made about a recent front-page story in the Wall Street Journal, fingering Michael Sanchez as the Enquirer’s source, but further investigation soon showed that the information originally came from other channels.

According to De Becker his investigation is now complete and his results have been turned over to federal officials. His only public statement on the details of what his investigation unearthed is this:
Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details.

According to De Becker, the Saudi government has been intent on harming Jeff Bezos since last October, when the Washington Post (owned by Bezos) began its relentless coverage of the murder of their journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabian agents within the Saudi consulate
at Istanbul in Turkey.

The other motive for the Saudi attacks appears to be the WP’s ongoing detailed coverage of the close relationship between crown prince MBS and AMI chairman, David Pecker.

De Becker concludes
it’s clear that MBS considers the Washington Post to be a major enemy. Saudi Arabia is hardly the first repressive regime that seeks total control of the news media in its own country. Wanting to control the media in the United States—and using any means to do so—will hopefully prove to be an overreach.
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