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February 7, 2019 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Moreover, American Media is undeterred from continuing its reporting on a story that is unambiguously in the public interest — a position Mr. Bezos clearly appreciates as reflected in Boies Schiller January 9 letter to American Media stating that your client “does not intend to discourage reporting about him” and “supports journalistic efforts.” That said, if your client agrees to cease and desist such defamatory behavior, we are willing to engage in constructive conversations regarding the texts and photos which we have in our possession. Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience.
America Media Inc (owner of the National Inquirer) attempts to extort Jeff Bezos. Bezos responds by making the threat public
posted by Frayed Knot (276 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
 
Boies Schiller is an incredibly sleazy firm. For a law firm, that is a high high bar, but they repeatedly vault over it.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:09 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


Don't 👏commit👏crimes👏over👏E-mail👏
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:10 PM on February 7 [73 favorites]


PECKER V BECKER
posted by saladin at 4:11 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


I'm finding it really hard to root for either side. Even though I'm perfectly happy for American Media to be left a smoking crater -- because of its hard-rightwing politics and Trump boosterism, in addition to running a bottom feeding tabloid -- this is relatively hot on the heels of Gawker Media being destroyed by a billionaire out of spite and I'm kind of tired of the chilling effects of upsetting the ultra-wealthy becoming manifest.
posted by at by at 4:11 PM on February 7 [26 favorites]


My apologies, but this is based on a misread:


Boies Schiller is an incredibly sleazy firm. For a law firm, that is a high high bar, but they repeatedly vault over it.


They didn’t send this letter.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:15 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Mr.Encyclopedia: "Don't 👏commit👏crimes👏over👏E-mail👏"

Nononono. Please 👏 continue 👏 to 👏 commit 👏 crimes 👏 over 👏 e-mail 👏. Include 👏 signed 👏 confessions, 👏 too, 👏 if 👏 you 👏 have 👏 the 👏 time.👏
posted by Bugbread at 4:17 PM on February 7 [169 favorites]


Speaking of that Pecker....

Or why (among other things) I'm not losing any sleep over rooting for Bezos here.
posted by gtrwolf at 4:17 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


this is relatively hot on the heels of Gawker Media also being destroyed by a billionaire out of spite and I'm kind of tired of chilling effects becoming manifest

I don't feel like these are the same things.
posted by Dr. Twist at 4:19 PM on February 7 [130 favorites]


I see no evidence that Bezos plans to do anything other than expose AMI as the blackmailing partisan hacks that they are.
posted by Slothrup at 4:19 PM on February 7 [48 favorites]


Gawker never tried to extort anyone. It’s...it’s not actually hard to avoid extorting people. Taking the villain from Sweet Smell of Success as the basis of your business model is not actually in the traditions of a free press; it’s in the tradition of power brokering.

I’m trying to imagine how hard Bezos laughed when he got the threat. He had an affair with an age appropriate woman, and his divorce seems pretty amicable so far. Big deal. Unless the texts and photos are really fucking weird and/or criminal, leaking them would mostly just confirm Bezos’ humanity? Which would actually be an improvement for that weirdo.

I hope he burns them down and salts the ground.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:19 PM on February 7 [143 favorites]


"Publish and be damned" is a nice option if you have the gravitas to shrug off whatever they want to publish.

As far as Gawker and the chilling effect goes, Gawker's former editor made a joke about a tape of a child having sex being newsworthy as long as they were over four, while being deposed by a lawyer. AMI is trying to blackmail a billionaire who owns a newspaper and leaving a permanent record of the attempt, with evidence of the fact that he has a penis and may have been romantically involved with a woman.

Maybe we need to have a bit of chilling on media figures doing monumentally sleazy and stupid shit.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:25 PM on February 7 [20 favorites]


I will pay the National Enquirer whatever they want to NEVER see Jeff Bezos naked.
posted by briank at 4:32 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


his semi-erect manhood is penetrating the zipper of said garment.

...

a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.

That’s some turgid prose....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:32 PM on February 7 [33 favorites]


"Publish and be damned" is a nice option if you have the gravitas $$$ to shrug off whatever they want to publish.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:33 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Fuck the National Enquirer, they have been undermining our society's sense of reality for longer than I've been on this planet. They are a toxic sore that has never healed. Team Bezos all the way, oligarch though he may be.

Best case scenario though is that they destroy each other.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:36 PM on February 7 [46 favorites]


Pecker is the new Wiener.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:37 PM on February 7 [17 favorites]


Bezos: 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? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)
posted by b1tr0t at 4:38 PM on February 7 [70 favorites]


I would like 2019 to just stop it already.
posted by RakDaddy at 4:38 PM on February 7 [21 favorites]


Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti:
THREAD: Did the National Enquirer and its parent company commit a crime or otherwise break the law in its recent actions towards Jeff Bezos?[…]

So is this extortion or blackmail, as Bezos claims?

Yes, given the ordinary meaning of those terms. But whether this is actually a *crime* is much more complicated than that.[…]

Was AMI's action slimy? Yes.

Is it consistent with some of the questionable practices that AMI engaged in on behalf of Trump and others? Yes.

But is this the sort of case federal prosecutors would charge as extortion? No.

To make this out as an extortion case, prosecutors would have to argue that the claims Bezos had against AMI constituted "money or property" of Bezos and that the whole settlement proposal was merely window dressing for the extortion of Bezos by AMI.

You can make those arguments, but it would be a very hard trial to win. And that's without considering a potential First Amendment defense. AMI would also have an advice of counsel defense, because those terms appear to have been drafted by a lawyer.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:41 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


Team Bezos all the way in this case with zero hesitation. I can/will take issue with Amazon business practices later, but AMI is a cancer on the landscape and damages journalism across the board. The emails show the Trump allies for who they really are...
posted by frumiousb at 4:41 PM on February 7 [62 favorites]


Any lawyers here? Is this actual extortion or another prosecutable crime?
posted by PhineasGage at 4:41 PM on February 7


It's funny because "pecker" is a slang term for "penis."
posted by kirkaracha at 4:46 PM on February 7 [22 favorites]


I would bet on Ted Danson over William Atherton any day.
posted by condour75 at 4:49 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Even if it’s not a prosecutable crime, maybe it would be grounds for a civil suit (IANAL). But even if the result is to try AMI in the court of public opinion and drive them out of business, I’d consider that an acceptable outcome.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:49 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Thing I just learned, an effective writing style is not the key to becoming megarich. What's up with that opening paragraph, Bezos, do you think you're Sarah Koenig or something? It's pretty breezy and full of asides for something that's was probably scrutinized by a room full of expensive lawyers, why are you trying to be all conversational in explaining how the Enquirer tried to blackmail you?
posted by peeedro at 4:50 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Don't 👏commit👏crimes👏over👏E-mail👏

If they put all this in writing, it makes me wonder what they expressly put in writing for Trump/Cohen.
posted by zachlipton at 4:51 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]


Yeah his writing style is... below par.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:51 PM on February 7


I wonder how Lauren Sanchez feels about all of this.
posted by nikaspark at 4:52 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


Thing I just learned, an effective writing style is not the key to becoming megarich. What's up with that opening paragraph, Bezos, do you think you're Sarah Koenig or something? It's pretty breezy and full of asides for something that's was probably scrutinized by a room full of expensive lawyers, why are you trying to be all conversational in explaining how the Enquirer tried to blackmail you?

Yeah his writing style is... below par.


Funnily enough, Amazon's internal corporate culture runs entirely on persuasively written proposals in English from half a page in length to up to six pages.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 4:58 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


You don't have to be good at writing to succeed at business. It can be an asset, but it's not a requirement.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:58 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


The billionaire enemy of my billionaire enemy is my . . . still my billionaire enemy, but this is nuts
posted by Think_Long at 5:05 PM on February 7 [31 favorites]


Bezos is also hinting at a Saudi influence behind AMI, which published The New Kingdom: Meet MBS Who Absolutely Won't Order The Murder And Dismemberment of Journalists last March.
posted by holgate at 5:06 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


"Yep that's me," [image of Bezos staring at his dick on the front page of the Enquirer] "You're probably wondering how I got into this situation. To answer that, we're going to have to go back to a few months ago..." [rewind sound effect w/ backwards montage of scenes]
posted by codacorolla at 5:07 PM on February 7 [54 favorites]


My whole job is basically to write things that higher-ranking people think of but in a more compelling way, so I have no conceptual issue with Bezos not being a good writer. Nobody has every skill. But given that people like me exist, I do think it's weird that nobody took a second pass at it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:09 PM on February 7 [32 favorites]


Yeah, Bezos is hardly a good guy in absolute terms, but he's definitely in the right here.

And seriously, who blackmails one of the richest men in the world? he could give all these idiots the Saudi Embassy treatment so smoothly that Pecker's kids wouldn't notice that he was gone. Money buys that kind of shit.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Never gonna be President now
posted by sixswitch at 5:11 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


And seriously, who blackmails one of the richest men in the world?

Somebody who is about 10/10 blackmailing rich people, and thus got cocky about it.
posted by COD at 5:11 PM on February 7 [56 favorites]


AMI would also have an advice of counsel defense, because those terms appear to have been drafted by a lawyer.

"Advice of counsel" is not a generic defense to liability; it only applies in certain specific situations.

I'm not sure where all this happened. Under WA law, where Bezos may have been, extortion requires an attempt to obtain "property or services" from the victim by "threat." "Threat" includes: threats "(e) To expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule; or (f) To reveal any information sought to be concealed by the person threatened." So I guess the question is (assuming WA law applies) how broadly WA case law defines "services." That I do not know and will not look up for free (Bezos surely has enough lawyers).
posted by praemunire at 5:16 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


BTW, totally amazed that any general counsel, anywhere, could be so stupid as to put all this in writing.
posted by praemunire at 5:16 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


Why should Bezos even necessarily have to care about his reputation? Worst case scenario he's still the richest person in the world, but maybe he tries to stay out of the news for a while—which he would presumably just pay other people to manage for him. Why would he give a fuck about this? I feel like the National Enquirer has overplayed their hand here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:20 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


(WA also recognizes a common-law invasion of privacy tort where the matter publicized would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.)
posted by praemunire at 5:24 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Aside from immediately thinking of this scene, I have a new appreciation for the combination of desperation and hubris. Thank you, Mr. Pecker.
posted by Revvy at 5:24 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


I wonder how Lauren Sanchez feels about all of this.

"I love it when a honeypot comes together"?
posted by fuse theorem at 5:28 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


Yeah, Sanchez's brother has ties to Roger Stone. She might be in on it.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 5:30 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


There is a power in imperfection and honesty.

Given the voice and the platform, this reads true. It resonates. He isn't using his money and power in any obvious way to amplify his message. This choice is far more impressive than holding a press conference with a bunch of lawyers and media consultants, or doing some kind of exclusive with an interviewer. Or using his newspaper.

This is about the only way that he could do this and still be sympathetic with the public. It is very well done.

Also, very few people have the luxury of having as few fucks as he does about this situation. I respect him for this.
posted by monopas at 5:34 PM on February 7 [65 favorites]


Bezos is terrible. Amazon is a scourge. I hope his wife gets at least 50% in the divorce settlement and then turns around and donates it all to organizations fighting to smash capitalism. And I'm absolutely on Team Bezos in this one, because blackmail is wrong, trying to intimidate the press is wrong, and publishing someone's dick pick without consent is wrong.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:37 PM on February 7 [98 favorites]


I'll be blunt, the insistence that Lauren Sanchez was behind all of this feels VERY misogynistic.
posted by palomar at 5:39 PM on February 7 [48 favorites]


What I'm still snickering about is the repeated "- his wedding ring visible on his left hand -" asides when the photos are described.

In the era of the porn star banging President, who cares?
posted by nubs at 5:40 PM on February 7 [14 favorites]


Unfortunately a lot of people. Bezos has fuck-you money and power to the nth degree so he is in a position not to have to care. But someone who works as a low-level employee for a conservative company? Or for a mom and pop shop in the Bible belt? Or a schoolteacher pretty much anywhere?

They don't get not to care and they often get fired for less.
posted by Justinian at 5:42 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


@nycsouthpaw: "This alleged extortionate conduct by AMI is, among other things, intensely embarrassing to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. And it is not advisable to be intensely embarrassing to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York."
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:43 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


nubs: "In the era of the porn star banging President, who cares?"

Being a political figure means that a lot of people will forgive you for things that they wouldn't forgive non-political figures for, because you are on "their side." Think about the difference between what happened to Trump and what happened to Harvey Weinstein.
posted by Bugbread at 5:48 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Maybe we need to have a bit of chilling on media figures doing monumentally sleazy and stupid shit.


If the average IQ of media figures was 20+ points higher, or they had the moral compass to locate their butt with both hand....
posted by BlueHorse at 5:50 PM on February 7


The breezy tone was actually perfect. Not just for the short term goals of exposing AMI, but also as a way of countering Bezos's increasingly bad reputation. Sets him up as just another guy and not an evil exploitative billionaire. Someone who could be your friend, and is telling you all about these assholes over beers.

I thought it was an interesting trick.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 5:55 PM on February 7 [30 favorites]


What I'm still snickering about is the repeated "- his wedding ring visible on his left hand -" asides when the photos are described.
In the era of the porn star banging President, who cares?


I'm guessing that's meant as: the ring identifies the person as Bezos, not that it merely identifies the person as married. Like, there's no face in this picture, but this unique ring will ID the person.
posted by dnash at 5:55 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Also pointed out by @nycsouthpaw, the Trump Enquirer also tried to threaten the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe last year.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:55 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


They don't get not to care and they often get fired for less.

Sorry, to be more clear: who cares that a member of the 1% got caught in some relatively minor compromising photographs sent to his mistress while wearing his wedding ring? We've all learned the rules don't apply to them, and while I'm sure some people might tut-tut, I don't think it would dent Amazon in any way.

Anyways, I kinda wish a pox on everyone's house here, but am glad to see somebody call AMI on their bullshit practices and I hope it leads to some kind of consequences, though again - the rules never seem to apply to these people.
posted by nubs at 5:59 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that's meant as: the ring identifies the person as Bezos, not that it merely identifies the person as married. Like, there's no face in this picture, but this unique ring will ID the person.

That would make sense.
posted by nubs at 6:00 PM on February 7


Amusingly AM seems to have confused Bezos with an English peer or a minor celebrity. He's a modern self made mogul with no fans to alienate, no society background and an interest in working out. His peer group fund Burning Man. Like he gives a fuck about some mildly racy texts.

The illegal thing here is going to be how they got the texts and photos. When Bezos finds that out they'll be in trouble.

I hope his wife gets at least 50% in the divorce settlement and then turns around and donates it all to organizations fighting to smash capitalism.

She's ex finance sector and helped build the world's biggest company. I wouldn't hold your breath.
posted by fshgrl at 6:03 PM on February 7 [43 favorites]




- What I'm still snickering about is the repeated "- his wedding ring visible on his left hand -" asides when the photos are described. In the era of the porn star banging President, who cares?

-- I'm guessing that's meant as: the ring identifies the person as Bezos, not that it merely identifies the person as married. Like, there's no face in this picture, but this unique ring will ID the person.


I'm guessing the ring in the photos proves an earlier start date to the affair, which could impact the divorce proceedings. (Texts, too.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:15 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


I think it’s entirely plausible that Lauren Sanchez had no interest in gathering dirt on Bezos, and that her brother (in-law?) was wholly responsible for stealing her photos and then selling them to the Enquirer. She wouldn’t be the first person with dirtbag Trump-loving relatives with whom she doesn’t share an ethos or a friend group. Maybe the ante is just a lot bigger when you can rub shoulders socially with billionaires and political influencers. After all, the BIL didn’t just threaten to publish embarrassing photos of him, but of her too, which would negatively impact her career a lot more than Bezos’s.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:20 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


nubs: " who cares that a member of the 1% got caught in some relatively minor compromising photographs sent to his mistress while wearing his wedding ring? We've all learned the rules don't apply to them."

You keep restating this, but the answer, again, is "lots of people." In fact, infidelity is a bigger deal for top income earners than bottom income earners (not directly because of their incomes, but because of their likelihood of being higher up within a company). If it turns out the president of a company cheats on his wife, it will likely have bigger repercussions than if it turns out that the guy who checks the shipping slips in the warehouse cheats on his wife.

nubs: "I don't think it would dent Amazon in any way."

That's where AMI miscalculated. Blackmailing Bezos wasn't a stupid idea because "he's the 1%, he can do anything," but "he's the type of 1% who wouldn't really be affected by this kind of scandal, not the type of 1% for which this would be a monumental deal."
posted by Bugbread at 6:21 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


He's a modern self made mogul

Didn't he make his money the old fashioned way, by grinding the faces of his workforce into the ground? That's neither modern nor self-made.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:22 PM on February 7 [43 favorites]


7. Any other disputes arising out of this agreement shall first be submitted to JAMS mediation in California

Par for the course that a blackmail attempt would have a mediation clause.
posted by jcreigh at 6:25 PM on February 7 [15 favorites]


I am reminded of "Off the record, on the QT, and very hush hush."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:29 PM on February 7 [17 favorites]


The Medium link is just a bunch of words? Where's the dick? SHOW US YOUR DAMN DICK ALREADY BEZOS, WHAT THE HELL AM I EVEN SUBSCRIBING TO PRIME FOR IF I DONT GET TO SEE THE "BALD CEO DOWN BELOW"
posted by Greg Nog at 6:31 PM on February 7 [63 favorites]


The idea that the guy with this rocket and this logo would run scared at the threat of a dick pic is pretty amusingly misguided.
posted by chortly at 6:31 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


fshgrl: He's a modern self made mogul

ActingTheGoat: Didn't he make his money the old fashioned way, by grinding the faces of his workforce into the ground? That's neither modern nor self-made.

We lack some vocabulary for "Wealthy for reasons mainly distinct from direct inheritance" that don't convey "Made all of it alone, as a pure libertarian atom." I guess French supplies adequate terminology here, nouveau riche.
posted by InTheYear2017 at 6:33 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


Omg, y’all, do an nslookup on nationalenquirer. It’s hosted on amazon. Oh, man. It’s time to fire the writers and wrap this shoot. It’s just too silly now.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:35 PM on February 7 [52 favorites]


What a remarkable thing, the Bezos essay. I don’t know, but I’d think having more billions of dollars than anyone else, and specifically having the bloody-mindedness to do what it takes to amass those billions of dollars, would make you the kind of nasty mother-fucker you would not try to antagonize. Or, at the very least, that you would get a better, craftier lawyer to do for you.
I hope there will be fireworks, and that AMI folds and goes away... does any of this, could any of this, fall under plea deal appropriate information they maybe held back? That is, the money shot of Bezo’s article seems to be: the AMI has some truck with the KSA and maybe that’s interesting to the SDNY because Bezo’s investigators found information the SDNY wasn’t told.
Everything Trump touches turns to shit, amIright or amIright?
posted by From Bklyn at 6:37 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


... wait, what’s ‘nslookup’ and what’s it ‘show?’
posted by From Bklyn at 6:40 PM on February 7


Lots of things are hosted on Amazon. Netflix is hosted on Amazon. It does look hilarious, but when you’re one of only a few enterprise-level providers, it creates weird business relationships.

Nslookup tells you the server host on which a domain is hosted.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:42 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Who hosts their domain.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:42 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


It means that Amazon Web Services hosts the nationalenquirer.com website.
posted by zachlipton at 6:42 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Aside from immediately thinking of this scene

Lucius Fox, The Dark Knight: "Let me get this straight. You think that your client — one of the wealthiest, most influential men in the world — is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands... and your plan is to blackmail this person? Good luck."
posted by chris24 at 6:44 PM on February 7 [47 favorites]


I see no evidence that Bezos plans to do anything other than expose

I see what you did there. Good for Bezos in firing back like this but the events amount to a literal cock-measuring in which Peter Theil is being schooled. The question is if Bezos can restrain himself from unmanning destaffing dismembering killing off the Enquirer after he deservedly cleans their clock.

FFS, the very fabric of English tells us what this is.

We've seen this movie, it starred John Malkovich, Glenn Close, and Michelle Pfeiffer. It was great! It ends with the French Revolution.
posted by mwhybark at 6:52 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


I'll be blunt, the insistence that Lauren Sanchez was behind all of this feels VERY misogynistic.

It doesn't feel that way to me. If all other things were the same but the genders were reversed I'd have had the same sentiment, that perhaps a high profile person was targeted by their high profile political enemies by being put into a compromising position via an attractive relative of one of those enemies.

I think making assumptions about culpability without evidence is a valid point though. Perhaps we'll find out what role Ms Sanchez played in this matter and whether she was indeed a co-conspirator, or fellow victim.
posted by fuse theorem at 6:52 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


mwhybark: "FFS, the very fabric of English tells us what this is. Get some new eyes, maybe."

What does this mean?
posted by Bugbread at 6:54 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Let's keep in mind that AMI was ready to release revealing photos of Ms. Sanchez, too. So... I don't know, maybe it's not misogynistic to immediately jump to the conclusion that a woman faked a relationship for several months, put her kids through a separation and divorce, and endangered her own career all to bring down a powerful man. But, being a woman, watching another woman get Mata Hari'd with zero fucking evidence... it sure feels like misogyny.
posted by palomar at 6:59 PM on February 7 [49 favorites]


Yeah his writing style is... below par.

Homervoice: "stupid... complexifiers!" /Homervoice
posted by mwhybark at 7:01 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


January 13th.

@realDonaldTrump
So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!
posted by chris24 at 7:02 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


Bugbread, I edited my response to remove "Get some new eyes, maybe." I apologize that I was not fast enough to beat your observation of the phrase, as it was uncharitable of me and the evidence would suggest that your eyes work fine.

The rest of my post I stand by.
posted by mwhybark at 7:03 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for Bugbread but I still have no idea what "The very fabric of English tells us what this is." means...
posted by Justinian at 7:05 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


For gods sake: The Enquirer hacked them or paid someone to steal the photos. They've been doing it for a couple decades now. They and their associates have a long, long track record of this. Sanchez had nothing to do with it.

Bezos knows this and so do his investigators and his attorneys. Whatever they're up to with this article they know exactly how they got those messages
posted by fshgrl at 7:05 PM on February 7 [16 favorites]


This alleged extortionate conduct by AMI is, among other things, intensely embarrassing to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Why's that? Is there some Geoffrey Berman connection that I missed?
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:11 PM on February 7


Why's that? Is there some Geoffrey Berman connection that I missed?

"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."

That's who they have their immunity deal through and, presumably, to whom they promised to be a very, very good little media conglomerate for the duration.
posted by fshgrl at 7:17 PM on February 7 [16 favorites]


That's who they have their immunity deal through and, presumably, to whom they promised to be a very, very good little media conglomerate for the duration.

According to Rachel Maddow, it's explicitly a condition of their immunity agreement with the SDNY that they not commit further crimes.
posted by The Bellman at 7:20 PM on February 7 [33 favorites]


OK, here is what I wrote again:

"I see no evidence that Bezos plans to do anything other than expose

I see what you did there. Good for Bezos in firing back like this but the events amount to a literal cock-measuring in which Peter Theil is being schooled. The question is if Bezos can restrain himself from unmanning destaffing dismembering killing off the Enquirer after he deservedly cleans their clock.

FFS, the very fabric of English tells us what this is."

This seems transparent and clear to me. Bezos exposed himself (via "dick pick," geez, spell it right, fools, it's "dick pic") and his act of doing so was an expression of his power and privilege, his phallocentrism. The National Enquirer wrongly sought to use this to manipulate him and he has chosen rather to publicize their actions and his own. It is a competitive act directed at others in his economic class, specifically Peter Thiel, who used his own power and privilege to employ a cutout to shut down an online publication, Gawker, that trafficked in similar humiliations and exposes. In so doing he celebrates his phallocentricity, which is not news, given his rocketry ambitions.

The endgame is that Bezos will win a legal battle with the National Enquirer, and by, ahem, extension, a game of privilege and power with Peter Thiel. Will he then shut down the Enquirer? Who can say, but I would guess he won't.

What does that mean for our society and culture? That we are in a period closely analogous to the period immediately preceding the French Revolution, and that I am pessimistic about the outcome.

Should I clarify further? I thought I had laid it out with concision initially. Please accept my apologies and understand that I accept the responsibility for any uncontrolled introduction of complexifiers in my initial prose.
posted by mwhybark at 7:21 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


According to Rachel Maddow, it's explicitly a condition of their immunity agreement with the SDNY that they not commit further crimes.

You can read that condition of their agreement here.
posted by chris24 at 7:22 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


(Apologies also for initially misspelling Mr. Thiel's name)
posted by mwhybark at 7:23 PM on February 7


If you have to explain your dick joke...
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:26 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


SHOW US YOUR DAMN DICK ALREADY BEZOS, WHAT THE HELL AM I EVEN SUBSCRIBING TO PRIME FOR IF I DONT GET TO SEE THE "BALD CEO DOWN BELOW"

The Prime Member? (I stole this joke)

(via "dick pick," geez, spell it right, fools, it's "dick pic")

Right? I rushed here to complain about this. Glad someone beat me to it.
posted by ODiV at 7:34 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Gosh, the owner of the National Inquirer is such a dick
posted by growabrain at 7:36 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


It is a competitive act directed at others in his economic class, specifically Peter Thiel,

No.

The NE is very pro-Saudi Crown Prince. The same crown Prince who murdered one of Bezos's employees. The NE is also pro Murdoch and Koch brothers, who installed and run a president who did nothing about the Saudi's murdering a journalist who was also one of Bezier's employees and who worked at a paper Bezos has very strong feelings about owning as a public trust. The Saudi's are running out of oil and need to integrate into the larger economic world which they've chosen to do by propping up oppressive governments. We've seen this before. This has fuck all to do with Peter Thiel.

This is about Bezos who is a very smart and strategic guy seeing an opportunity to take all of them down.
posted by fshgrl at 7:42 PM on February 7 [76 favorites]


"They're out to get you, better post while you can
Don't wanna be a minor mogul, you wanna be THE man
You wanna stay alive, better not publish what you can
So beat it, just beat it
You have to show them that you're really not scared
You got spacecraft this ain't no truth or dare
They'll nick you, then they'll treat you then they'll tell you it's fair
So beat it, but you wanna be bad."
posted by clavdivs at 7:45 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Oh, interesting: Bezos' lawyer Gavin de Becker wrote The Gift of Fear, a book often recommended on AskMeFi.
posted by bluecore at 7:48 PM on February 7 [9 favorites]


This reminds me of when someone tried to blackmail David Letterman. He went on the air and said yeah, I’ve slept with some women who work on my show, so whatcha got now? The blackmailer was arrested, and Letterman had been doing some extremely questionable things with his position, but that was quite an amazing “fuck me? No, fuck you” moment.
posted by azpenguin at 7:48 PM on February 7 [19 favorites]


Gavin de Becker isn't Bezos' lawyer, he's his security consultant.
posted by Aubergine at 7:49 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]


All these bank shots y'all are speculating about seem to fail Occam's Razor. The a-holes at Nat'l Enquirer tried to extort a bazillionaire, who decided that his best move was to go public. I doubt he gave much if any thought to Peter Thiel or the Saudi regime or anything else.
posted by PhineasGage at 7:50 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


No, of course he's thinking about the Saudi connection. MBS ordered the murder of Khassogi, who wrote for the Bezos-owned Washington Post. Bezos explicitly calls out AMI's sensitivity regarding the Saudi connections. It's pretty clears from the AMI emails that they want the Washington Post to back off on their reporting of Pecker's connections to the House of Saud through the Trumps/Kushners. It's about more than dick pics.
posted by stowaway at 7:59 PM on February 7 [73 favorites]


Bezos specifically called out the Saudis in his post, which is not something you do for lulz. The guy has Dr. Evil-level investigative resources at his disposal, and it’s possible he’s holding more cards.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:02 PM on February 7 [27 favorites]


i can’t understand how I can be on the side of a slave-holder like bezos, but I am!
posted by valkane at 8:08 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


I mean he also has their S3 buckets
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:08 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]


The GDP of the entire country of Saudi Arabia is more than Jeff Bezos' net worth... but by less than one order of magnitude which should tell you something about how many resources dude has at his disposal if he decides to utilize them.
posted by Justinian at 8:19 PM on February 7 [15 favorites]


This gets me to the sickening thing about Amazon. He has more money than he could ever hope to spend. I worked for him as a client for years and saw how everyone below him is basically garbage unless they're producing. He's the epitome of take all that you can capitalism at it's worst. Spending a tiny fraction of his net worth could heal so many social problems. But he doesn't. He's a real piece of shit all around who seems oblivious to how he's hurting people day to day. But the Enquirer is evil on an aggressive level and should be taken down. I don't know what to think. It's evil everywhere.
posted by downtohisturtles at 8:23 PM on February 7 [33 favorites]


It doesn't actually seem that complicated to me. I'm with the dude standing up to the asshole who had an American resident and journalist literally butchered in an embassy, and standing up to the dude who stole the Presidency with the help of our enemies and is trying to undermine democracy, and with the dude who won't be blackmailed by one of the most disgusting rags on the planet.

The rest seems like a problem for another day.
posted by Justinian at 8:27 PM on February 7 [89 favorites]


In semi-related news, Tweetmashup.com significantly improved @dril’s take on this by changing the last few words
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:27 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I’m just here hoping for a suitable limerick featuring a rhyme of “Pecker” and “DeBecker”. I confess I haven’t got the skills myself, alas.
posted by megafauna at 8:38 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


@ndrew_lawrence: "Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something" [video embedded in tweet]

Comments on the thread suggest the government entity in question is Saudi.
posted by Buntix at 8:40 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


I really hope this does lead back to Roger Stone through Lauren Sanchez's weird brother.

If so, it will be the biggest own-goal since...well, since the last thing Roger Stone did, really.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:40 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


So, uh, about the whole "where did the texts come from" thing...

@ndrew_lawrence [video, MSNBC clip]: Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something

Specifically, de Becker seems to think a government agency got the text messages. He appears to be describing to foreign government agency, not one of ours.

There are an awful lot more parts to this story that are going to come out.
posted by zachlipton at 8:41 PM on February 7 [14 favorites]


Having watched the revelations about UK tabloid phone-hacking, kickbacks to the police and other nefarious shit, I'm less inclined to believe that the scuzzbuckets like AMI simply pay their sources for dirt.

And yeah, SDNY isn't going to like this one bit.

I mean he also has their S3 buckets

"Yeah, sorry, irrevocable data corruption."
posted by holgate at 8:41 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Ronan Farrow: 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. (I did not engage as I don’t cut deals with subjects of ongoing reporting.)
posted by peeedro at 8:41 PM on February 7 [42 favorites]


They say "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel," but Bezos is literally the guy selling them the ink.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:45 PM on February 7 [23 favorites]


...it's evil everywhere. turtles all the way down.
posted by downtohisturtles 16 minutes ago [5 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


FTFY, good gag btw
posted by mwhybark at 8:46 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


I’m just here hoping for a suitable limerick featuring a rhyme of “Pecker” and “DeBecker”. I confess I haven’t got the skills myself, alas

There once was a man, the Exchequer ...
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:49 PM on February 7 [13 favorites]


I agree that Jeff Bezos represents a great evil, and that the National Enquirer also represents a great evil. It's okay to cheer on one evil destroying another evil. In fact, I propose we encourage other evil entities take swipes at Bezos and be destroyed.

It will be like some kind of shitty real-life capitalist Kaiju battle where we're cheering for Godzilla even as he's crushing buildings left and right because he's at least teaching that damn Mothra a lesson.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:50 PM on February 7 [45 favorites]


LET THEM FIGHT
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:52 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


De Becker apparently suspects that a "government entity" might have obtained Bezos's text messages. There's paranoia, and then there's having an enemy who controls the NSA, CIA and FBI -- a person with a history of trafficking and hinting at blackmail material.
posted by holgate at 8:56 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Twitter seems to think that de Becker is implying it was Saudi intelligence?
posted by medusa at 9:17 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


And we all learn an important lesson about having Fuck You Money.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


"And we all learn an important lesson about having Fuck You Money."

I'm not sure that's the lesson I took from this. Yeah, Bezo's 'fuck you money' allowed him to hire investigators, that's true. But his resolve not to be blackmailed is something anyone can engage in. If you say 'yes' to a blackmailer, then they kind of own you for life. Telling them to fuck off and release the information they are holding over you is pretty much the only way to thwart them. That's a lesson a lesson anyone can take away wisdom from.

Bezo's fuck you money isn't going to save him embarrassment at the stupid-rich people's country club, or his next rich people's cocktail party (or however those folks socialize).

The fact that AMI apparently tried to coerce him into dropping his investigations make it seem like there is something they desperately want to hide. I hope his investigators turn everything over to the newspapers (Washington Post would be fine, NYTimes might be even better) after they've concluded their investigation.
posted by el io at 9:47 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


AMI didn’t just try to blackmail Jeff Bezos; they tried to blackmail him by sending a threat through Gavin ”The Gift of Fear” de Becker. The kind of man who thinks he can get away with that ... well, $20 says he’s in the habit of getting away with much worse, against people who can maybe afford to check out de Becker’s book from the library.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 9:51 PM on February 7 [12 favorites]


(as bluecore pointed out earlier)
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 9:54 PM on February 7


This is a big story, just wait. It sits at the intersection of a bunch of things. It's only incidentally about a rich guy's dick pics and a tabloid.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:56 PM on February 7 [18 favorites]


I’m just here hoping for a suitable limerick featuring a rhyme of “Pecker” and “DeBecker”. I confess I haven’t got the skills myself, alas.

There once was a man named de Becker
His boss, Jeff, was quite the sexter
The Enquirer tried a trick
With pics of Bezos' dick
But he's rich enough to cut off Pecker
posted by numaner at 9:57 PM on February 7 [42 favorites]


Perfection.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:10 PM on February 7


With these clowns, I would give 50/50 odds that Trump and/or MBS directly told Pecker to go after Bezos in a traceable fashion.
posted by benzenedream at 10:12 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


It will be like some kind of shitty real-life capitalist Kaiju battle where we're cheering for Godzilla even as he's crushing buildings left and right because he's at least teaching that damn Mothra a lesson.

and then maybe BezoZilla can take on the smog monster that's behind all this climate change stuff. I'm all for megabillionaires achieving immortality in this manner.
posted by philip-random at 10:14 PM on February 7


Variety, Feb. 7, 2019 -- Woody Allen Files $68 Million Suit Against Amazon for Film Deal Breach

[Will Bezos make the trifecta by inviting the Teamsters to lunch?]
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:17 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


AMI at its heart is old fashioned newspaper trash, and it's showing.  They don't understand the modern age, and tried to use their old blackmail model on someone who lives and breathes internet.

The pictures are out there.  Bezos knows it; that ship has sailed, so he's moved on to "My dick pics are out there, now what?"  They're trying to blackmail him by pretending digital records are somehow equivalent to a set of photographic negatives they can lock away in a filing cabinet, and meanwhile he's outflanking them because he knows how the internet works, in ways AMI's usual prey doesn't understand.  They think they can hold it over his head as a threat, and he's working from the knowledge that they've already left his—and likely AMI's—control.

Like him or not, I can at least admire someone pragmatic enough to shrug and call their bluff.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:19 PM on February 7 [34 favorites]


I look forward to more people coming forward with blackmail communiques from AIM.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:22 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


This is a big story, just wait. It sits at the intersection of a bunch of things. It's only incidentally about a rich guy's dick pics and a tabloid.

The thought that struck me when this came up on CNN a few hours ago was how all of this feels similar to what finally brought McCarthyism down. Not any single shot or charge or revelation but a whole series of them, probably not even coordinated -- just a whole bunch of folks finally saying f*** it, these assholes have stunk things up enough.

The lights got turned on. The Emperor was found to be naked, of course.
posted by philip-random at 10:31 PM on February 7 [13 favorites]


He has more money than he could ever hope to spend. I worked for him as a client for years and saw how everyone below him is basically garbage unless they're producing. He's the epitome of take all that you can capitalism at it's worst.

Which is why it was so stupid for an organization he hates to much to try and blackmail him with such weak sauce. A dick pick and a couple bikini shots of a woman the world already knows he cheated with? So fucking what. It's mind boggling anyone thought a rich tech guy or even his ex wife would give a shit.

The level of out of touch with contemporary American culture tells you everything you need to know about who's behind this. What famous person haven't we seen naked yet? No one in this country cares.
posted by fshgrl at 10:43 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I just wanted to say that this post title has made me literally LOL at least twice tonight, so thanks for that Frayed Knot
posted by aiglet at 12:02 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


While Bezos may be a robber baron, AMI seems to be more concerned with the Washington Post. Even though it's Bezos owned it is a force for truth and Bezos has said he is hands off when it comes to it's reporting and editorial.
posted by PenDevil at 12:05 AM on February 8 [11 favorites]


But his resolve not to be blackmailed is something anyone can engage in.

But it's a lot easier to have that resolve when you have resources that not only make you immune from any of the stupid petty repercussions that could result, but are so bloody rich that if you felt like it you could send a robot to the moon that would excavate a reasonably accurate depiction of your wang visible from Earth* and be all 'You want to see it, here you go. Enjoy.'

*Please support my Kickstarter.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:25 AM on February 8 [29 favorites]


He's the epitome of take all that you can capitalism at it's worst. Spending a tiny fraction of his net worth could heal so many social problems. But he doesn't. He's a real piece of shit all around who seems oblivious to how he's hurting people day to day. But the Enquirer is evil on an aggressive level and should be taken down. I don't know what to think. It's evil everywhere.

In this particular case, he is literally spending a fraction of his net worth to attack something that causes problems.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:31 AM on February 8 [17 favorites]


The headline that Huffpo and the New York Post have both run with is "Bezos Exposes Pecker", which is of course perfect.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:35 AM on February 8 [62 favorites]


De Becker apparently suspects that a "government entity" might have obtained Bezos's text messages. There's paranoia, and then there's having an enemy who controls the NSA, CIA and FBI -- a person with a history of trafficking and hinting at blackmail material.

The illegal thing here is going to be how they got the texts and photos. When Bezos finds that out they'll be in trouble.

Are there any national-security laws in the US by which some three-letter agency with particular fealty to the Trump administration (ICE perhaps?) could have involuntarily deputised an AWS employee into tapping Bezos' private keys, swearing them to secrecy under the threat of three-digit prison sentences for national-security crimes? If not, could they have used the services of a Five Eyes partner agency from a jurisdiction that has such laws (Australia perhaps)?
posted by acb at 1:56 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]




This has Trump's fingerprints all over it. It's his crew of bad actors doing his kind of sleazy hit job. They've been getting away with it for so long they can't comprehend their scam is broken. They went after one of the five richest people on the planet with the same plan they used for a porn star: we'll make you look bad. And this was well after Cohen ratted them out to Mueller's team. How do you say "worse then incompetent" without cursing or using a phrase that impugns the mentally challenged?

It's not about billionaire privilege or oneupmanship. It's about yet another foreign government interfering with politics in the US. But it's also about the utter corruption of the right wing. This is how the right does business all the time, but now they got caught red handed. The scandal evidence is the lawyerly emails, not the dick pics.

The Democrats in the House will have to change their plans. They were coordinated across multiple committees to investigate Trump-Russia election tampering, and now they have to prioritize Trump-Saudi criminal activity happening right now. That's a "within the last 48 hours" right now. The crime scene is so fresh the gunshot is echoing and the stink of powder is hanging in the air.

This is criminal behavior and a criminal conspiracy. Theft of private communications, with blackmail and the direct involvement of a foreign government that assassinated a US based journalist. The timeline includes semi-literate tweets from the POTUS himself. So many threads lead back to the White House and it's not a coincidence.

Friday will be epic. There is not enough popcorn, salt, and butter in the known universe to fill the gaping maws of the masses who will watch this spectacle.

(On the down side, I never imagined that I would have to consider the matter of Jeff Bezos's genitals.)
posted by Metacircular at 3:04 AM on February 8 [22 favorites]


To make this out as an extortion case, prosecutors would have to argue that the claims Bezos had against AMI constituted "money or property" of Bezos and that the whole settlement proposal was merely window dressing for the extortion of Bezos by AMI.

The WaPo’s Harry Litman disagrees that an extortion case would be hard to make under the current laws: @renato_mariotti do you mean 18 usc 875(d)? (and if not why not?) it's not limited to $ or prop: "Whoever, with intent to extort from any person any money or other thing of value... causes to be delivered... any communication...containing any threat to injure the property or reputation..."
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:33 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


There once was a man named D Pecker
who had a nice racket as protector
but the protecting he did
was from his own ugly Id
‘Til along came the dick named the DeBecker
posted by From Bklyn at 4:34 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


The internet’s largest and meanest
Sent dick pics to a raven haired Venus
Said Bezos aloud:
“I OWN the damn cloud,
I have pictures of everyone’s penis.”

Seriously, half of internet traffic probably passes through Bezos’ infrastructure. Imagine what he could lay his hands on if he were willing to burn Amazon Web Services to the ground.
posted by spitbull at 4:57 AM on February 8 [82 favorites]


To extend an analogy I often use about the Democratic and Republican parties:

I’m 100% okay if Amazon dies in a fire, provided it is fueled by the corpse of the National Enquirer.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 5:02 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Imagine what he could lay his hands on if he were willing to burn Amazon Web Services to the ground.

He could probably do it for years as people blamed the NSA and Russians.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:03 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


While Bezos may be a robber baron, AMI seems to be more concerned with the Washington Post.

Yeah, let's be clear, Trump fucking hates the Washington Post and has been quite vocal in blaming Bezos for its "fake news". It is nearly unimaginable to me that this doesn't trace back to Trump asking his friends at AMI to put pressure on Bezos to make him muzzle "his" newspaper, because that's basically how Trump's mind works.
posted by tocts at 5:32 AM on February 8 [26 favorites]


@ndrew_lawrence [video, MSNBC clip]: Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something

Crooked Media's Brian Beutler:
I overheard this on @Lawrence, too, and assumed that Bezos must suspect a foreign government intelligence agency–most likely Saudi Arabia.

Then I remembered the horrifying, but somehow forgotten story of Jeffrey Rambo.
NYT: How an Affair Between a Reporter and a Security Aide Has Rattled Washington Media
To wit:
On the morning of June 2, 2017, a shaken Ms. Watkins approached her Politico editors with a bizarre tale.

The day before, she explained, she had received an anonymous email from a man who claimed to work for the government and wanted to meet. Over drinks at a Dupont Circle bar, the man quizzed Ms. Watkins about her sources on a story about Russian espionage. He then stunned her by reciting the itinerary of her recent vacation to Spain, including stops at Heathrow Airport and the Canary Islands.

He also knew with whom she had traveled: Mr. Wolfe.

The man said he had temporarily relocated to Washington to work on leak investigations, and asked Ms. Watkins to help him identify government officials who were leaking to the press. “It would turn your world upside down” if this turned up in The Washington Post, the man said to Ms. Watkins, who told her editors she believed he was threatening to expose her personal relationship.

Ms. Watkins later went back to the bar and obtained a receipt with the man’s name on it: Jeffrey A. Rambo, a Customs and Border Protection agent stationed in California.

Two former Justice Department officials said there was a surge last year in government personnel assigned to hunt for leaks — a priority of the Trump White House — but a current official said there is no evidence that Mr. Rambo was ever detailed to the F.B.I.

Mr. Rambo, reached by phone, declined to comment. A Border Protection spokesman said the matter has been referred to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
In other words, the Trump administration, or perhaps Trump-loyal rogue security service guys, have already committed wild privacy abuses on the order of what Bezos apparently suspects, and used the information to blackmail a reporter.

Because Trump is an unceasing crook, and because Washington media got wrapped around the axle by the gossipy aspect and professional implications of the Watkins-Wolfe, this scandal got flushed down the memory hole almost immediately. But it happened.

On that basis alone, I think Bezos would not be crazy to suspect something similar happened here–if in fact that's what he suspects.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:47 AM on February 8 [46 favorites]


Holy shit how'd I miss that story. Rambo?! Seriously?!
posted by odinsdream at 5:54 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


American Media is on a rampage! From today's Washington Post.
posted by mareli at 6:02 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


jfc, it really does seem that under every single goddamned rock Trump has visited, something uglier than expected eventually crawls out.

The National Enquirer of my youth seemed to be mostly a sensationalist rag that focused on dumb shit entertainment stars did.

Then it turns out they did dirty work for Trump by hiding his bullshit and hyping stories about his enemies.

Now it turns out they have been extorting journalists (Journalists!) and may have colluded with a foreign power in their extortion efforts.

jfc
posted by gwint at 6:14 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Holy shit how'd I miss that story. Rambo?! Seriously?!

Somehow, that particular NYT article doesn't seem to have made any of the USPolitics megathreads, but the NYT story received an FPP of its own last June, in which biogeo highlighted the exact same passage. Buzzfeed posted a profile of Rambo, who's everything you'd expect of a "rogue" Trumpist.

You'd think a Trump CBP goon with the name Rambo would have lodged in the collective memory, but instead, this is an object lesson in the difficulty of keeping Trump-related scandals straight.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:16 AM on February 8 [21 favorites]


AMI probably got worse under David Pecker, but don't doubt for a moment that this hasn't been AMI and the Enquirer's MO all along, going back to the 1950s.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:26 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


A second-rate newsman named Pecker,
An insidious house and home wrecker,
Got flack when his blackmail
Turned out to be quack-mail.
He should have employed a spell checker.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:26 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


Talking about the bezos bruhaha with teenager. Mention bezos thinks a state actor may be responsible for the leak.

Boy said, "Na, it was totally an Alexa mistake."

Me: :Wha?

Boy: Bezos said: “Alexa, send nudes to my secret admirer.”, and Alexa said: “Got it. Sending nudes to the National Enquirer.”
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:35 AM on February 8 [121 favorites]


That is perfect, SecretAgentSockpuppet. Hats off to the teenager.
posted by Optamystic at 7:45 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


see no evidence that Bezos plans to do anything other than expose AMI as the blackmailing partisan hacks that they are

He quoted Quellcrist Falconer in the letter. He is going to burn them to the ground and probably Murdoch with them, and I am kind of delighted that if we must live in a cyberpunk dystopia, at least the sovcorps will be going to war with each other.

I agree that the true threat of the letters isn’t the dick pic, though, but rather the wedding ring, because Bezos has been trying to preserve Amazon stock value by telling everyone this will be an amicable divorce and the affair happened after they were separated. If that’s not true, and his wife has reason to be angry, she could do a lot of damage and the stock prices will reflect it.
posted by corb at 7:45 AM on February 8 [13 favorites]


A Border Protection spokesman said the matter has been referred to the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

and? Seems like somebody should FOIA that investigation.
posted by srboisvert at 7:49 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Yeah, Mariotti is glaringly wrong about each of the key assertions in his from-the-hip analysis of the situation, from the legal standard to the effectiveness of the available defenses, and so on. I'm more dumbfounded by his tweetstorm than I am by AMI and Bezos' actions, frankly.

Also, a little research of available public information (a widely-used professional networking social media site) shows that Jon Fine apparently was hired as AMI's General Counsel only four months ago, that since April 2015, he has run his own solo practitioner shop, and that his gig before that was 9 years as in-house counsel and a senior executive at Amazon, preceded by 5 years as VP and AGC at Random House, and four years as Senior Media Counsel and Media Counsel at NBC.

So four months ago, AMI hired a former Amazon in-house counsel and executive, who then set out to "resolve a dispute" with Amazon and the Washington Post by offering not to publish compromising and embarrassing private photos of their owner, specifically saying, in writing, that the public is interested in those embarrassing photos because their release would have a negative effect on Bezos' reputation and the "success of Amazon."

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out for everyone involved, and particularly Mr. Fine.
posted by The World Famous at 7:49 AM on February 8 [21 favorites]


AMI probably got worse under David Pecker, but don't doubt for a moment that this hasn't been AMI and the Enquirer's MO all along, going back to the 1950s.

Yes, but this may be the first time their tactics were employed explicitly to protect the president, and one who is mired in scandal directly connected to the publisher. This is no longer about what celeb might sue them. It's a different game, and they're in way over their heads.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:55 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


There is not enough popcorn, salt, and butter in the known universe to fill the gaping maws of the masses who will watch this spectacle.

I've been saying this for a while now. February 2019 is going to be a very long month. The world as we know it will not be the same once it's done.

and yeah, this isn't breaking anymore, it's broken
posted by philip-random at 8:02 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


I should add that Mariotti does have insight that I don't have into how federal prosecutors would likely analyze and think about whether to prosecute here, so maybe what I see as glaring errors in his analysis are correct characterizations of how federal prosecutors will also view the matter. If they exercise their prosecutorial discretion in line with Mariotti's analysis, then it won't really matter if I'm correct in seeing his analysis as flawed, since the case won't be brought. That said, the State of New York also has a criminal statute banning extortion (though it uses different terminology), as does Washington State, and Mariotti's analysis doesn't address either of them. And as for his argument that an advice of counsel defense will protect AMI, I would imagine that federal and state prosecutors would be quite interested in getting all the privileged communications between AMI and its attorneys about this matter, since waiving that privilege is required in order to assert that defense.
posted by The World Famous at 8:04 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


I should add that Mariotti does have insight that I don't have into how federal prosecutors would likely analyze and think about whether to prosecute here, so maybe what I see as glaring errors in his analysis are correct characterizations of how federal prosecutors will also view the matter.


This is fair, but...man. I see this incident is going to cause me extra agita by forcing me to explain in a lot of places that the meaning of words in a statute is substantially if not entirely determined by the existing case law. Any significant noun in any statute that gets regularly enforced is going to have a body of court opinion as to what it means, which may start with some sort of lay understanding but will almost certainly get more complicated from there. You can't just read a statute cold and assume you know how it will be interpreted.
posted by praemunire at 8:15 AM on February 8 [14 favorites]


He quoted Quellcrist Falconer in the letter.

Which part is the Quellist part?
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:31 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


You can't just read a statute cold and assume you know how it will be interpreted.

Yes, this is correct and I agree, and my interpretation of Mariotti's comments incorporates this. I don't know where he got his "money or property" assertion. Based on my own admittedly-limited experience with extortion and blackmail cases, I think he's drawing way too narrow a space there, but maybe he's right.
posted by The World Famous at 8:32 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Apparently, the National Enquirer uses AWS for web hosting, which strikes me as being incredibly foolhardy given the game they're playing.

Also, the Nielsen Haydens bring up an excellent question - how many Enquirer stories were hit pieces on people who refused to play ball with them?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:32 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


>> He quoted Quellcrist Falconer in the letter.
> Which part is the Quellist part?


Yes, seriously, this is my most pressing question too! If Bezos turns out to be a Richard Morgan fan, then de-sleeving and re-sleeving of minds can't be far behind... And then, maybe it's already happened, and we are, in fact, living in a torture simulation. That would explain a LOT, actually.


Aside from that digression - the claimed involvement of a foreign intelligence service should have alarm bells clanging all over the national security establishment this morning.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:40 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Things we still havent learned, 2019:
Don't be adulterous
No technology is secure
No Trump or Trump-adjacent crime is too dumb in strategy or inept in execution to be ruled out.
No amount of obvious illegality will cause the accused to discover shame and slink away.
vast fortunes and power are not obtained by playing by the rules or following the law . A pox on all houses.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 9:00 AM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Oh, hell yes, if I was Bezos, I'd sell web services to someone who hated me. Given that they have to buy them from someone, they may as well be paying me for it than anyone else. That's laugh-all-the-way-to-the-bank hilarious.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:01 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


@ndrew_lawrence: "Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something" [video embedded in tweet]

Independent journalist Kim Zetter: “Bezos' investigator Gavin de Becker does not think that Bezos' phone was hacked - instead he thinks a "government entity" might have got hold of Bezos' text messages and photos and gave them to the National Enquirer (h/t @ceciliakang)”

The Daily Beast's Lachan Markay demurs:"I would urge extreme caution and skepticism on this. I'm told de Becker is not seriously exploring this theory, which was in fact floated by Bezos mistress brother (and Roger Stone pal) Michael Sanchez in conversations with de Becker"

Also, from Markay's article today: Bezos: National Enquirer Threatened Me With a ‘D*ck Pick’
Fine and Howard were spurred by an impending piece on the investigation by the Bezos-owned Washington Post, a follow-up to a pair of stories published by The Daily Beast last week. Those stories reported that Gavin de Becker, a longtime Bezos security consultant put in charge of investigating a prior leak of Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer, strongly suspected that the leak was politically motivated.

In the process of reporting those stories, The Daily Beast and a member of its staff were threatened by AMI’s attorneys. After Bezos' post late Thursday, journalist Ronan Farrow also wrote in a tweet that he and another “prominent journalist involved in breaking stories about the National Enquirer’s arrangement with Trump” had dealt with “blackmail” efforts from AMI.
Meanwhile, the National Enquirer publisher says it will investigate Bezos' allegations, CNN reports, in what can only be described as journalistic chutzpah.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:02 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Hey y’all, could somebody do me a huge favor and give me a summary of what’s going down here? I’m having a hard time piecing it all together but I’m super interested. So far this is what I’ve figured out on my own:

Bezos had a mistress with whom he sexted a bunch. The word got out that he did, which created a scandal bc he’s Bezos and runs Amazon and owns the WaPo. But then it turns out that the National Enquirer, who are buddies with MbS and Trump, actually stole the pics and published the story about him (is this right?). Bezos then recently published a blackmail letter that was sent by the National Enquirer, and now it looks like his team suspects a state-backed intelligence group hacked his phone and got the emails. The current potential suspects are Trump-affiliated creeps, due to the fact that Trump is renowned for blackmailing people (via the National Enquirer?) and that this happened before with a guy named Rambo, or a Saudi-intel group, which would be because of a war against the Saudis due to them killing Khashoggi, a WaPo journalist, after which WaPo published a lot of stories about them. Is that correct thus far?

I have a third option that isn’t a state-backed intel agency, but does do shenanigans like this, and which also ties in Ronan Farrow: Black Cube, whom Henry Weinstein used to harass and gain intel on his accusers, as well as Ronan Farrow, who was breaking the news. From their Wikipedia page:

Using false identities, private investigators from Black Cube tracked and met journalists and actresses, in particular Rose McGowan, who later publicly accused Weinstein of rape. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had Black Cube and other agencies "target, or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories."

They were also the suspected culprit in harassing ex-Obama officials involved with the Iran deal, and a memo in the White House was connected to Black Cube’s research. From Wikipedia again:

In August 2018, The New Yorker connected Black Cube's research to a memo which circulated in the Trump White House in early 2017 and alleged that former Obama officials were conspiring with reporters "to undermine President Trump's foreign policy" to save Obamacare and the Iran deal.

They also had to publish a denial that they are at all connected with Trump or anybody in the White House.
posted by gucci mane at 9:05 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


Seems legit
posted by JamesBay at 9:07 AM on February 8


Apparently, the National Enquirer uses AWS for web hosting, which strikes me as being incredibly foolhardy given the game they're playing.

There are laws around this sort of thing. What is the worst AWS could possibly do? Fire AMI as a client. Just use Azure, IBM or another cloud host.
posted by JamesBay at 9:09 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


> the National Enquirer, who are buddies with MbS and Trump, actually stole the pics and published the story about him (is this right?).

Well, the National Enquirer published a story about Bezos cheating, and two days later Mackenzie Bezos filed for a divorce. But the "dick picks" [sic] haven't been published yet.

Don't get your hopes up, though. Before this omnishambles is over, you too will have to gaze upon Bezos' semi-erect manhood .... penetrating the zipper of said garment. Don't think you can get out of it.
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:10 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Published my post before reading the immediately previous ones. So de Becker doesn’t think the phone was hacked, but that a government service somehow intercepted the texts and gave them to the National Enquirer. Maybe that kicks away the Black Cube as being potentially involved.
posted by gucci mane at 9:11 AM on February 8


Meanwhile

Amazon reconsidering NYC HQ2 plans following opposition

Or

“Green Goblin reconsidering revenge bid after being pelted with garbage”
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on February 8 [7 favorites]


So de Becker doesn’t think the phone was hacked, but that a government service somehow intercepted the texts and gave them to the National Enquirer.

As per that comment above yours, though, I think the takeaway is that right at this moment nobody outside of de Becker and Bezos really have any idea what de Becker thinks about how the sexts leaked - all he's said himself is he suspects political motivations. The "how" part is just speculation or muddying-the-water "leaks" from possibly unreliable sources.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:20 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


The brother abstracting his sister's phone at some family gathering and dumping the photos to another account seems more TNI's particular style of sleaze than having to pull in government agencies.
posted by tavella at 9:25 AM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Okay, Virginians, I know we've got a lot on our plates right now but let's not let these New York City jerks show us up on this.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:27 AM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Too late, Gov Northam signed the $750 million tax "incentive" Tuesday.
posted by peeedro at 9:29 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER: They also had to publish a denial that they are at all connected with Trump or anybody in the White House.
posted by philip-random at 9:35 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Bloomberg reports breaking news about the SDNY looking into AMI again: National Enquirer’s AMI Scrutinized Over Bezos Story, Sources Say
Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer’s handling of its story about Jeff Bezos’ extramarital affair to determine if the company violated an earlier cooperation deal with prosecutors, according to two people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reports.

Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office were provided with information about key exchanges concerning Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com Inc., who went public in a jaw-dropping public blog post Thursday night. In it, Bezos detailed exchanges with American Media Inc. and accused the company of extortion.
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:46 AM on February 8 [8 favorites]


Also, the Nielsen Haydens bring up an excellent question - how many Enquirer stories were hit pieces on people who refused to play ball with them?

How many Enquirer stories werre hit pieces on people whose families refused to play ball?

They had some incredibly creepy headlines about Sasha Obama, and somehow I don't think she was the one with a quid pro quo to give.
posted by ocschwar at 10:09 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Before this omnishambles is over, you too will have to gaze upon Bezos' semi-erect manhood .... penetrating the zipper of said garment. Don't think you can get out of it.

Meh.  It's a penis.  Much like any other possessed by 49% of the world's population.  If I stumbled across pics, my reaction—in its entirety—would be, "Oh look, Jeff Bezos's penis."  Then I'd go close the tab and continue drinking my coffee and reading other more interesting things.  I mean, we've all had our fill of dick pics over the years.  (Phrasing! Are we still doing phrasing?)  We're inured.  Personally, I'm much more interested in the possible Saudi connections and even more importantly, how it may be linked to little Donny Two-Scoops.  The thought that there might be the tiniest chance this could, like Watergate, be the thread that unravels everything, fills me with glee.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 10:10 AM on February 8 [27 favorites]


Building on numaner's pioneering work (including the key joke at the end):

There once was a man named de Becker,
Jeff Bezoses enemy-wrecker.
The Enquirer got slick
With pics of Jeff's dick
And now he will cut off de Pecker.
posted by msalt at 10:14 AM on February 8 [16 favorites]


On the legal issue of whether this constitutes extortion:

To make this out as an extortion case, prosecutors would have to argue that the claims Bezos had against AMI constituted "money or property" of Bezos...

Taking the point that legal definitions of words are precise, unusual and well-litigated, and that IANAL, this analysis seems to be missing a key point: Bezos owns the Washington Post, and thus stands to earn a lot of money from a blockbuster news story about AMI's involvement with government intelligence agencies.

In other words, Bezos definitely is losing money here even if he's not paying it directly to AMI (which is gaining in terms of THEIR reputation). And the whole point of extortion statues is the economic valuing of suppressing information, so there does not seem to be any reason it would not be extortion to force someone to be quiet about something.

You can argue that the money gained from any news story would be trivial to someone as rich as Bezos, but AFAIK extortion is yes or no. It's just as illegal to extort over a small amount of money as a large one. I'm open to correction though.
posted by msalt at 10:25 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


The thought that there might be the tiniest chance this could, like Watergate, be the thread that unravels everything, fills me with glee.

Yes. This feels right. In this timeline we could only be saved by a billionaire's dick pic.

I hate this timeline.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:51 AM on February 8 [33 favorites]


Very on brand, though. Consistent writing.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:52 AM on February 8 [25 favorites]


If Bezos turns out to be a Richard Morgan fan

Well, if you squint at it, this paragraph is basically the intro to the plot of Altered Carbon, only instead of murder, it's dicks:
To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for twenty years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.
So, basically, Gavin de Becker is Takeshi Lev Kovacs.

I WANT TO BELIEVE. This and the delightful dick limericks are really all this week has going for it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:11 AM on February 8 [13 favorites]


Bezos owns the Washington Post, and thus stands to earn a lot of money from a blockbuster news story
The newspaper business doesn't work like that.
posted by neroli at 11:24 AM on February 8 [17 favorites]


In this timeline we could only be saved by a billionaire's dick pic

and we were arguably damned in the first placed by Wiener's dick pics
posted by BungaDunga at 11:29 AM on February 8 [14 favorites]


The dick pic giveth and the dick pic taketh away.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:35 AM on February 8 [23 favorites]


my name is jeff
and i have seen
threats from pecker
about my peen.
i call his bluff;
i fear no pic.
i post the notes.
i show my dick
posted by Mayor West at 11:52 AM on February 8 [64 favorites]


If I stumbled across pics, my reaction—in its entirety—would be, "Oh look, Jeff Bezos's penis."

I would be like "wangus dangus, check how it hangus" and then if no one else in the coffee shop repeated it i would say it again, louder
posted by Greg Nog at 12:04 PM on February 8 [35 favorites]


i post the notes.
i show my dick.


So, Metafilter, it has come to this.

Ob. XKCD
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:34 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


The newspaper business doesn't work like that.


Agree-it so doesn't. I cannot imagine a truly lucrative news story. The 'tons of clicks' model really only applies to sports and only single team coverage. Political or investigative long form, deep dive journalism costs a fortune (and time and resources) and delivers not a ton of advertising. Listicles/clickbaity things -- it's like collecting pennies in a parking lot. Single big scandal, no matter how big, isn't even going to ping a spreadsheet in terms of quarterly budgetary relief.

Consistency and careful spending seems to be the only thing that is paying off for newspapers and so far only those with national reach; nobody wins the lottery with 'the big scandal story'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:38 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but one could argue that in producing a consistent stream of high-quality journalism would lead to a larger subscriber base and therefore more money, and whether or not that will actually happen is irrelevant for the purposes of prosecuting extortion. The paper's reputation has potential value and you can put a dollar amount on that.

It's like, if someone embezzled a bunch of stock in a startup, they couldn't argue it's not real theft because the stock might be worthless.
posted by suetanvil at 12:53 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


"So, Metafilter, it has come to this."

So I'm hanging out with my aunts and uncles and there comes a discussion point of a incredible innovation that one of them has discovered - A button to extend jeans. The other relatives look as if someone had just invented cold fusion. Finally my aunt says "So, it has come to this." At which point uncontrollable laughter abounds.
posted by el io at 1:03 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of his Privacy as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State For Everyone Else:
If the surveillance powers of the NSA, FBI or other agencies were used to obtain incriminating information about Bezos due to their view of him as a political enemy – and, again, there is no evidence this has happened – it certainly would not be the first time. Those agencies have a long and shameful history of doing exactly that, which is why the Democratic adoration for those agencies, and the recent bipartisan further empowerment of them, was so disturbing.

Indeed, one of the stories we were able to report using the Snowden documents, one that received less attention that it should have, is an active NSA program to collect the online sex activities, including browsing records of porn site and sex chats, of people regarded by the U.S. Government as radical or radicalizing in order to use their online sex habits to destroy their reputations. This is what and who the NSA, CIA and FBI are and long have been.

[...]
IF BEZOS WERE the political victim of surveillance state abuses, it would be scandalous and dangerous. It would also be deeply ironic.

That’s because Amazon, the company that has made Bezos the planet’s richest human being, is a critical partner for the U.S. Government in building an ever-more invasive, militarized and sprawling surveillance state. Indeed, one of the largest components of Amazon’s business, and thus one of the most important sources of Bezos’ vast wealth and power, is working with the Pentagon and the NSA to empower the U.S. Government with more potent and more sophisticated weapons, including surveillance weapons.

In December, 2017, Amazon boasted that it had perfected new face-recognition software for crowds, which it called Rekognition. It explained that the product is intended, in large part, for use by governments and police forces around the world. The ACLU quickly warned that the product is “dangerous” and that Amazon “is actively helping governments deploy it.”
This is one of those rare fights where I hope everyone loses. One benefit of Bezos becoming more and more of a public figure is that it will be easier for labor organizers and legislators to finally start making moves against Amazon's incredibly abusive and awful labor practices.
posted by Ouverture at 1:03 PM on February 8 [11 favorites]


one could argue that in producing a consistent stream of high-quality journalism would lead to a larger subscriber base

One could argue it, but then be exceedingly bummed out to find out how much traffic goes to directly to the obituaries section.

To be clear, I'm talking about local newspapers--a high quality stream of journalism is the reason I'm subscribing to the Washington Post but they are mainly the example we all point to. The Miami Herald has done great things, but I don't think it's helped their bottom line (I could be wrong!) They're outliers.

Investigative journalism is expensive as hell. Just the attorney costs are insane. Journalists cost money, and not every story is glamorous or gets attention by virtue of importance. Travel costs. Never mind all that parallel print/digital scaffolding stuck together with chewing gum of bad ads and weeping product directors because they made A Thing & it looks like shit because the ad scripts interfere with it.

Major markets can do stuff consistently maybe but local markets have to figure a way to butter their bread every day and to date have not--it used to be 'well, print legacy people; what do they know?' but now I look at the quality of journalism Buzzfeed has cranked out in the last twelve months and the number of people they just laid off and it's terribly depressing. They're natives. They're the ones we hoped would be able to make it work.

Case in point, Jeff Bezos laid out his situation on *Medium*. I applaud him for not doing a Wapo Op-Ed, but again, this will in no way help their bottom line in any noticeable way. (Even if he did write an Op-Ed it wouldn't register as a $ blip.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:07 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]


The newspaper business doesn't work like that.

Watergate begs to differ. You can make a strong case that that on story vaulted the Washington Post from the ranks of local papers (now dying in droves) to a national news-breaking paper, one of maybe 4 or 5 that survive by taking on what was in many ways the role of wire services in the 20th century.

Breaking news is literally what the newspaper business is, especially now that the profitable ancillaries such as obituaries, classifieds and comics and lost relevance. Maybe it's better to say that breaking stories is the only way that papers can survive, but it's insane to say that it's not relevant to the financial fortunes of papers.

(Seeing A Terrible Llama on preview) -- Investigative journalism is precisely what makes a paper national instead of local.
posted by msalt at 1:12 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


Investigative journalism is precisely what makes a paper ntional instead of local.

Lead in Flint water, Oregon toxic armories, Sandusky in Pennsylvania.

Top of my head.

All local investigations.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:14 PM on February 8 [17 favorites]


Breaking news is literally what the newspaper business is, especially now that the profitable ancillaries such as obituaries, classifieds and comics and lost relevance.

&....lastly, I don't want to suck the air out of the room on this so I'll slow up with: breaking news is rare--I mean really exciting stuff. Mostly, it's a grind of attending city council meetings and paying someone to do so, even though five people will read it. Online. And ultimately their reading it costs more than the ad money you will get for having published it, and if you are covering a town of 5000, 10000 people....the math sucks. You paid for so much overhead to deliver five hits.

You hope the hometown football team is a Very Big Deal because that is going to be paying the bills, you hope.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:20 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


@ndrew_lawrence: "Washington Posts @RoigFranzia says Bezos' team thinks it's possible that the text leaks were politically motivated and that a "government entity" accessed the Bezos texts and hoo boy that's certainly something"

Metafilter's favorite ex-NSA spook, John Schindler, writing in The Observer, runs through the usual suspects of foreign intelligence—Russia, China and Israel—before addressing Saudi Arabia as a possibility:
Another suspect is Saudi Arabia, which incurred the wrath of The Washington Post by murdering and dismembering their columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October. Bezos referenced that awful crime in his blog post, including the line, “Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government,” explaining that AMI is seeking Saudi funding. Bezos added, “Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”

The Amazon CEO is more than hinting that Riyadh is mixed up in AMI activities in a nefarious way, something which Pecker is desperate to obscure. If Saudi intelligence possesses the ability to intercept text messages inside the United States, that may be the key to this mystery. Here the Kingdom’s close security relationship with Israel perhaps provides a clue. Israeli security firms sell cutting-edge espionage software and interception gear to countries all over the world, Saudi Arabia included.

In 2017, the Israeli firm NSO Group sold Riyadh a $55 million spy program termed Pegasus which hacks smartphones to obtain their contents. This capability was desired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to spy on his enemies abroad—including, it seems, the doomed Jamal Khashoggi. Since somebody appears to have hacked Jeff Bezos’ smartphone and passed its salacious contents to The National Enquirer, the Saudi angle is one which investigators are pursuing with vigor right now. If foreign intelligence services are collaborating with gossip merchants to smear private citizens and silence critics, that’s an alarming development which one expert recently termed super-doxxing, and it’s something which all Americans should be concerned about.
Meanwhile, The Atlantic's nat sec editor Yara Bayoumy reports, “Saudi's [Minister of State for Foreign Affairs] Jubeir on AMI/National Enquirer: "It's a soap opera." Asked if KSA played any role urging David Pecker/AMI to leak negative stories about Bezos: "I doubt it", followed by "As far as I know, flat no."”
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:25 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


Watergate begs to differ. You can make a strong case that that on story vaulted the Washington Post from the ranks of local papers (now dying in droves) to a national news-breaking paper, one of maybe 4 or 5 that survive by taking on what was in many ways the role of wire services in the 20th century.

That was 45 years ago. It's not clear that a similar sequence of events could be replicated in the current media environment.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:28 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Kara Swisher, Jeff Bezos Isn’t Afraid of Total Exposure
That said, I’m not entirely sanguine about the ability of powerful people like Mr. Bezos to use digital tools for their own private aims. We have seen leaders, like Mr. Trump, harness Twitter to spread lies and create new realities, and to harass journalists, as Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, and many other strongmen have done.

Mr. Bezos, too, has the ability to use his huge digital reach in all kinds of ways, and he may someday be tempted to do so in situations where the villains are not as obvious as Mr. Pecker and his band of media thugs. I doubt he would, but he certainly could.

For now though, Mr. Bezos is striking a blow for everyone. Regular people suffer data hacks and privacy violations daily, largely from having their information mined and manipulated in order to build enormous advertising businesses, as Facebook and Google do, or to sell us more stuff (hello, Amazon!).

Mr. Bezos clearly is winning here. He should use the opportunity to reflect on how he can lead the fight to protect everyone’s privacy and digital dignity, even as he takes back his own.
Going along with that, Quinta Jurecic has been writing on "sextortion" for several years, and addresses that in the context of Bezos, pointing out that this fits into a pattern of surprisingly common conduct that's incredibly abusive and rarely discussed:
Wittes and I, along with Cody Poplin and Clara Spera, produced a Brookings Institution report on sextortion in 2016, and Wittes interviewed Mona Sedky—a computer crimes prosecutor who focuses on sextortion cases—on the Lawfare Podcast. Much of what we said then remains true now: sextortion is understudied; it’s suprisingly common; and it’s a brutal form of abuse. Some victims commit suicide. Those who suffer from sextortion are not usually those who have money and power; they are, by and large, vulnerable children and teenagers who are scared and don’t know where to turn. For this reason, as Wittes identified, Bezos’s decision to come forward with AMI’s threat is actually quite a powerful statement.
posted by zachlipton at 1:29 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


> Fine and Howard were

...a couple of stooges?
posted by CyberSlug Labs at 1:46 PM on February 8 [15 favorites]


> Another suspect is Saudi Arabia, which incurred the wrath of The Washington Post by murdering and dismembering their columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last October

Another story I've read would say Schindler (...) is eliding here. The Washington Post broke the story of the Trump Organization's fake donations just before election day.

This would position KSA as playing the muscle for Trump (and Putin).
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Twitter seems to think that de Becker is implying it was Saudi intelligence?

That's entirely possible, but it's also equally possible some relatively low level Trumpster somewhere in one of our nation's far too numerous security organizations that have access to "technical measures" dug them out of an NSA database somewhere.

Foreign intelligence interception would be more worrying for other reasons unless it was a Stingray interception, though the time span involved seems too long for that to be likely. Hopefully, we eventually find out how it happened.
posted by wierdo at 1:50 PM on February 8


Based on the Ronan Farrow / Harvey Weinstein connection, it's entirely possible that it's Israeli intelligence instead.

And besides, does anyone really think Saudi intelligence is competent enough to pull off hacking Jeff Bezos's dick pics?
posted by JamesBay at 1:52 PM on February 8


It's not Bezos' dick that I'm eager to see, it's his balls. They must be massive and made of steel. I fucking hate that guy, but between his investment in the Post and this, I'm also really fucking impressed with that guy. He's a real dick, and probably an asshole, but oh my god, those balls.
posted by Stanczyk at 1:53 PM on February 8 [9 favorites]


And John Schindler is so fucking stupid I have blocked him, and all mentions of him, on Twitter.

I believe he was also fired once for sharing dick pics.
posted by JamesBay at 1:54 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Whangergate
posted by chavenet at 1:54 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


And besides, does anyone really think Saudi intelligence is competent enough to pull off hacking Jeff Bezos's dick pics?

Details from the Jamal Khashoggi case point to yes:
Khashoggi and [Saudi dissident Omar] Abdulaziz didn’t realize that the Saudis were able to spy on their messages, thanks to Israeli-supplied Pegasus surveillance tools, according to the lawsuit. The complaint alleges that two of Abdulaziz’s brothers were arrested in Saudi Arabia late last summer; one of the imprisoned brothers, pressured by his captors, “begged [Abdulaziz] to stop his work on political activities in which he was involved,” the suit contends. The Pegasus surveillance gave the Saudis information that “contributed in a significant manner to the decision to murder . . . Khashoggi,” the suit alleges.
These messages were intercepted when Khashoggi and Abdulaziz were in exile in the US and Canada respectively, so the surveillance capabilities of the Saudis isn't limited to only inside the kingdom. We don't know if Saudi Arabia is involved with Bezos, but you can't rule it out by dismissing the capabilities of their intelligence agencies.
posted by peeedro at 2:15 PM on February 8 [8 favorites]


The Saudis had access to a single-click iPhone zero-day a few years ago.

THE KINGDOM CAME TO CANADA: How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil
Ahmed Mansoor is an internationally recognized human rights defender, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and recipient of the Martin Ennals Award (sometimes referred to as a “Nobel Prize for human rights”). On August 10 and 11, 2016, Mansoor received SMS text messages on his iPhone promising “new secrets” about detainees tortured in UAE jails if he clicked on an included link. Instead of clicking, Mansoor sent the messages to Citizen Lab researchers. We recognized the links as belonging to an exploit infrastructure connected to NSO Group, an Israel-based “cyber war” company that sells Pegasus, a government-exclusive “lawful intercept” spyware product. NSO Group is reportedly owned by an American venture capital firm, Francisco Partners Management.

The ensuing investigation, a collaboration between researchers from Citizen Lab and from Lookout Security, determined that the links led to a chain of zero-day exploits (“zero-days”) that would have remotely jailbroken Mansoor’s stock iPhone 6 and installed sophisticated spyware.
posted by BungaDunga at 2:20 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


This activist claims to have a Saudi source that says "MBS is obsessed with the Washington Post and was preparing plans to target its employees ... via sexual or financial scandals."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:23 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Saudi Intelligence didn't put Pegasus on the devices, though: Israelis did (as the story goes). Saudis probably just got a URL to F5 all day, so under those assumptions I'd say the most charitable view is that we don't know if Saudi Intelligence is competent to do this hack. At the same time I don't think "Saudi Intelligence" is a phrase I've seen in print very many times. Maybe they're that good at OpSec, but better than Israelis, who flub it once in a while?
posted by rhizome at 2:24 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Well, the Saudis can buy whatever help they need, as can the UAE. For instance, ex-NSA mercenaries.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:48 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


Crossing my fingers that my Black Cube prediction ends up correct somehow. I’ve never got one right before!
posted by gucci mane at 2:49 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


And I believe
These are the days of dick pics in the ether
Dick pics in the ether somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
a loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires, and black ops
posted by octobersurprise at 2:54 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]


Every Gitmo story that we’ve seen since it opened has been filed by a reporter, Carol Rosenberg, from the Miami Herald, which was a local paper. She’s just been offered a lay-off package.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:03 PM on February 8 [18 favorites]


The Daily Beast's Lachan Markay demurs:"I would urge extreme caution and skepticism on this. I'm told de Becker is not seriously exploring this theory, which was in fact floated by Bezos mistress brother (and Roger Stone pal) [and guy who actually stole the pics] Michael Sanchez in conversations with de Becker"
posted by petebest at 3:04 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Also, I remind you that a couple of years ago, I told y’all about secretive Israeli companies buying up medical data processing firms, we got laid off when we wouldn’t sign crazy non disclosures. Best estimate, if you have had any interaction with medical technology in the last five years, the Israeli intelligence operations have access to your private info including social security numbers, passwords you may have used on medical portals, all of the notes your doctor may have written, etc.

Starting from that data point, it is trivial to penetrate someone’s security via social engineering. A text from your doctors office isn’t going to ring alarms. Logging into your medical portals, and they ask you to turn off your security, how dangerous could your doctors office site be?

Just saying, if we’re tossing conspiracies out there, I’ve got some red thread.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:12 PM on February 8 [14 favorites]


So is anyone coordinating a campaign to get supermarket chains to stop carrying the extortionate National Inquirer? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by MrVisible at 3:13 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Like every other product on the shelves, AMI pays for their placement in grocery stores, and I'm pretty sure the contracts wouldn't provide for unilateral removal.
posted by rhizome at 3:26 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Daily Beast's Lachan Markay demurs:"I would urge extreme caution and skepticism on this. I'm told de Becker is not seriously exploring this theory, which was in fact floated by Bezos mistress brother

Yeahh, I'm gonna go with most straightforward explanation unless some significant evidence comes out. This asshole MAGAhead stole pics off his sister's phone (which was probably left unattended on a countertop charging or the like) and then, under grilling, floated some bullshit conspiracy theory about intelligence services doing it.
posted by Justinian at 3:27 PM on February 8 [11 favorites]


Like every other product on the shelves, AMI pays for their placement in grocery stores, and I'm pretty sure the contracts wouldn't provide for unilateral removal.

It would seem a decent team of corporate sharks could cancel a contract with extortionists. And what a win that would be for the checkout line which only us non-billionaires ever have to see.
posted by petebest at 3:43 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


If Saudi intelligence possesses the ability to intercept text messages inside the United States, that may be the key to this mystery

Its pretty easy to hack a phone if you really want to. Someone with funds like the Sauds definitely can pay to have it done. However I would think they hacked Sanchez's phone not Bezos for a variety of reasons: the main one being that the only blackmail they had on him was related to her and the other naked pics are ones he sent her. Also if Bezos and DeBecker have even hinted that a foreign government was involved I assume they have rock solid proof. So this should all be jolly interesting.

I bet Kushner is involved. He's buddied up to the Saudis, he replaced Cohen as Trumps conduit to the National Enquirer, he knows all about manufactured sex scandals and he's enough of a fucking moron to think this would work.
posted by fshgrl at 4:00 PM on February 8 [30 favorites]


I’ll be honest, the idea of Jared going to the clink for committing almost the same crime as his father makes my naughty bits a little tingly.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:21 PM on February 8 [11 favorites]


Think how Chris Christie would feel.
posted by fshgrl at 4:36 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


Yeah his writing style is... below par.

Hey, give the guy a break...he sells books but he doesn't write 'em.
posted by Edgewise at 4:48 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Think how Chris Christie would feel.

As I recall, AMI is mostly owned by a hedge fund controlled by a buddy of Christie’s.

Triple cross?
posted by spitbull at 5:00 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


MrVisible: " Inquiring minds want to know."

*I* want to know.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:09 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


It's not Bezos' dick that I'm eager to see, it's his balls

Here ya go.
posted by mwhybark at 5:25 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


As I recall, AMI is mostly owned by a hedge fund controlled by a buddy of Christie’s.

Chatham Assets, Anthony Melchiorre. AMI is a quarter or more of the total worth of Chatham and the companies are very intertwined. The Enquirer would have gone broke long ago if it weren't for Chatham. Since they took it over AMI has magically been able to raise enough funds by selling bonds go stay afloat. How could that be?? Well, Republican governors have been moving public pension funds into Chatham for the past 10 years. Christie, Kasich etc. have moved 100s of millions of pension funds into the hedge fund.

So the public employees are funding the PR wing of their own demise. It's been in the news a lot the past year or so. If it turns out they've been investing in illegal activities though? Well there are laws against that at the state level.
posted by fshgrl at 5:58 PM on February 8 [29 favorites]


"So the public employees are funding the PR wing of their own demise. It's been in the news a lot the past year or so. If it turns out they've been investing in illegal activities though? Well there are laws against that at the state level."

One of the lawsuits coming in the wake of the Janus ruling (that non-union government employees in union shops don't have to pay fair-share fees b/c it's a free speech violation to force them to support a union EVEN IF the union provides them services) is demanding that public employee pension funds respond to individual public employee requests to divest from industries or companies they object to -- like AMI -- so it would be amusing to see the GOP and its money-funnel hoist on this particular petard when hundreds of thousands of government employees pull their pensions from AMI or any Koch industries or anything the Ricketts own or whatever. A LOT of these billionaires get a LOT of their money via government pension investment funds, and a lot of them are FUCKED if individual government employees, and not amoral mutual fund managers, are the ones making those choices.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:09 PM on February 8 [24 favorites]


From Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng, Maxwell Tani at the Daily Beast: Private Eyes Detail Inner Workings of National Enquirer ‘Blackmail’ Machine

In case you wanted to know how the sausage was made.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 7:20 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


As The Daily Beast reported last year, the National Enquirer offered to pay for an interview with one of Bill Cosby’s accusers in 2005, then allegedly turned over the file to the comedian in exchange for an exclusive sit-down with him. The Los Angeles Times has reported that in 2003, the Enquirer paid a woman $20,000 for an exclusive about an alleged affair with Arnold Schwarzenegger, then never ran it and made Schwarzenegger a consultant for AMI magazines.

... Separately, when the Associated Press was preparing a story that would reveal AMI had effectively paid hush money to a source accusing Trump of fathering an illegitimate child, AMI hired the powerful law firm Boies Schiller Flexner to apply, in Birdis' words, “a continuous amount of pressure to get us to abandon our reporting.”

... Two sources with knowledge said lawyers, acting on behalf of AMI, also threatened legal action against the Wall Street Journal when the paper attempted to report on AMI’s role in keeping the Trump love child rumors under wraps.


Sleazegate.

posted by petebest at 7:48 PM on February 8 [12 favorites]


California PERS probably has more money in Chatham than any other state. Chatham holds most of AMIs bonds. It's a tangled web and it was all going so well until they overstepped and got these idiots elected
posted by fshgrl at 8:00 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna go with most straightforward explanation unless some significant evidence comes out.

Occam's Razor also suggests that Rambo guy is just a creep who got access to someone's file and decided to intimidate/coerce them. No vast conspiracy is required here - security is hard* even if you're a multibillionaire who can pay people to do it for you.

*yes, I know.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:32 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


and he's enough of a fucking moron to think this would work

This applies to a number of the parties involved on the sleazy side. To their credit, it has been working for decades, but when it falls apart (which is happening now), it will be dramatic.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Just imagine this happening under, well, any previous administration, and Bezos made the same accusation that government officials were involved. "Dude," we'd say "No government wastes its time with weird, petty shit like this. By all means we should look into the nastier things the NSA gets up to, but they're not going to blackmail you, why would they do that? I guess it's true that billionaires have to be eccentric..." and now, well, it's more difficult to believe that, among others, the actual POTUS isn't involved.
posted by InTheYear2017 at 6:55 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Occam's Razor also suggests that Rambo guy is just a creep who got access to someone's file and decided to intimidate/coerce them.

Even if that's true, why would CBP have a file on a journalist, and presumably information about where she'd be (or he stalked her)?
posted by odinsdream at 7:48 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]




In the case of CBP agent Mr. Rambo, I believe the evidence of an affair that he told the journalist was passport exit/entrance data. Presumably some CBP officers are able to perform ad hoc research into that data and I doubt this journalist or her paramour was high profile enough that accessing their records would trigger alerts.
posted by mmascolino at 8:59 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


So the CBP guy was just *randomly* trawling through records looking for something like this, then? Why would he have been looking in the first place? It seems simpler to accept that he was directed, for a specific reason, to do the work of harassing this journalist. It's much easier to accept this than to think an agent would just Randomly fly across the country to harass a random journalist for totally un-work-related reasons just because he has access to files.

We have already seen signals that political appointees to various agencies are pushing their staff in weird ways like this.
posted by odinsdream at 9:15 AM on February 9 [7 favorites]


California PERS probably has more money in Chatham than any other state

uhhh. wasn't a former governor of california named as one of AMI's targets? is that...is that something that should concern people?
posted by schadenfrau at 10:07 AM on February 9 [5 favorites]


Yep, he was. We know what they had on him and on Christie. Wonder what they had on Kasich or someone in his administration?
posted by fshgrl at 10:52 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]


This is honestly the first time I've heard about conservative hedge funds being part of government funding, is there more detailed reporting on this or someone studying the scope?
posted by odinsdream at 1:10 PM on February 9


There has been a lot of reporting on it in union newspapers, political papers, economic news and the like. If you put Chatham + PERS + National Enquirer into Google news you'll find plenty.
posted by fshgrl at 11:03 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]


odinsdream, municipalities sell bonds to anyone who will buy them. Selling bonds raises money (from the purchase) and then municipalities or states pay interest to repay the IOU that the bond represents. Hedge funds aren't barred from purchasing bonds, but they aren't funding the government in the way you usually think of government funding working.
posted by medusa at 6:24 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


One might also note that public pension funds tend to own very significant holdings of Amazon stock.
posted by spitbull at 6:37 AM on February 10


Bezos is also hinting at a Saudi influence behind AMI, which published The New Kingdom: Meet MBS Who Absolutely Won't Order The Murder And Dismemberment of Journalists last March.

Although the Daily Beast pointed out in this article last year that AMI was insisting there was "no outside editorial or financial assistance, from the Trump administration or otherwise", it doesn't draw any conclusions why. Now that this odd publication is back in the spotlight, commentators are noting that if the KSA had any input into it, that would be an obvious FARA violation since the National Enquirer isn't exactly registered as a lobbyist for foreign interests. Of course, this is just the kind of idiotic stunt that Jared Kushner would have thought up for his buddy MBS after he took over from Michael Cohen as Team Trump's liaison with the tabloid.

As for what's behind Bezo's hints at Saudi influence, Harvard international security lecturer Juliette Kayyem posted a thread about the reactions from her former FBI and Secret Service contacts who are now in private VIP protection. Notably, the "reference to Saudi Arabia was "more than speculation," one said. "you just don't do that. de Becker wouldn't let him do that." Meaning that the Bezos security team has already done some cyber forensic analysis and knows it wasn't insider, and may have hints of who. This is why reps for Bezos also stated in interviews that they believe a government entity was involved, but didn't say US. In other words, under that theory, SA's sophisticated intell folks did the hack (either on own b/c of Khashoggi investigation or possibly asked to) and fed that information to AMI."
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:02 AM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Why would he have been looking in the first place?

'Cause creeps gonna creep? As pointed out by someone above, with any other US administration this kind of speculation would make me write someone off as a kook, but with the Trumpies it goes from vanishingly unlikely to maybe plausible. I still think the most likely explanation is something along the lines of "CBP attracts the worst, grossest wingnuts in the country and this one decided to do a little freelance," but hey, we can't actually rule out direction from on high.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:01 AM on February 10


ABC: National Enquirer parent company owner David Pecker's lawyer denies Bezos allegations—"It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail," Abramowitz told "This Week."

“When asked directly by Stephanopoulos if the Enquirer's source was Michael Sanchez, [Elkan] Abramowitz replied, "I can't discuss who the source was. It's confidential within AMI, so I'm not going to answer who the source was. It was somebody close to both Bezos and Miss Sanchez." […] Asked again if their source was Sanchez, Abramowitz replied, "I’m not permitted to tell you or confirm or deny who the source is. I can tell you it’s not Saudi Arabia, it's not President Trump, it's not Roger Stone."”

On the other hand, he conspicuously didn't deny that the AMI e-mails Bezos published were genuine.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:21 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


'Cause creeps gonna creep?

Also she was a young woman on the national security and intelligence beats...and was breaking big stories. It wouldn't surprise me if CBP Rambo looked into her to put her in her place.
posted by mmascolino at 1:30 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


Daily Beast, Mistress’ Brother Leaked Bezos’ Racy Texts to Enquirer, Sources Say
The brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress, Lauren Sanchez, supplied the couple’s racy texts to the National Enquirer, multiple sources inside AMI, the tabloid’s parent company, told The Daily Beast.

Another source who has been in extensive communication with senior leaders at AMI confirmed that Michael Sanchez first supplied Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer.

AMI has previously refused to identify the source of the texts, but a lawyer for the company strongly hinted at Sanchez’s role during a Sunday morning interview on ABC.
Sources inside AMI are hardly reliable given the situation, but this bit is both unreliable and potentially enormous:
Documents reviewed by The Daily Beast show that Michael Sanchez believed the Enquirer pursued its story about Bezos with “President Trump's knowledge and appreciation”—a chase encouraged, in Sanchez’s estimation, by Republican operatives “who THINK Jeff gets up every morning and has a WaPo meeting to plot its next diabolical attack on President Trump.”
posted by zachlipton at 5:59 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Diabolical.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:08 PM on February 10


It seems like no surprise that Pecker's lawyer would say they didn't commit actual crimes. Kind of a wasted question, really.
posted by rhizome at 6:18 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Oh, Kent, I'd be lying if I said my men weren't committing *crimes.*
posted by Chrysostom at 6:51 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


A few more legal types like Eugene Volokh have weighed in on the question of whether the threats to Bezos rose to the level of a crime and have come down more heavily on the "yes" side than the TV Lawyers. Which perhaps isn't surprising since a TV lawyer is gonna be more reluctant to take a stand on something which isn't 100% (thus why they still won't say Trump has obstructed justice, for example, and instead fall back on the "it's a puzzle and this is just one piece" pablum).

I like the Volokh analysis because it filled me in on the legal terminology and basis for something I had been thinking about in layman's terms: the concept of a "nexus to a claim of right". I had been thinking that this seemed egregiously like extortion/blackmail rather than a settlement offer because what the Enquirer was threatening to do had no connection or relation of any sort to what they were demanding in return. But I didn't have the legal background to know what it was called or that it was actually a legal thing rather than an idea that made sense but wasn't actually a legal thing.

So, yeah, nexus to a claim of right. Now I will have that legal concept in my pocket to drop into future unrelated threads to appear smarter.
posted by Justinian at 7:00 PM on February 10 [13 favorites]


This was a great article from The Inquirer in Philly. It gives a solid recap of the whole story and offers up some good questions.

"Clearly, there is some kind of Hacking Incorporated that’s on the rise in the Persian Gulf. Which brings us back to the question of why AMI was demanding not only that Bezos drop its investigation of the hacking but to state that the probe found no political motivation behind its article on the Amazon chief. Any link between the Bezos phone hack and the Saudis or their allies (UAE, Team Trump) would be devastating -- but what if de Gavin is on the trail of something darker? Like the truth behind Khashoggi’s murder? Or -- given the ties between Team Trump, the Saudis, UAE and ex-Israeli intelligence that go back to the summer of 2016 -- the truth behind the election of an American president?

Here I’ll note that an attorney for AMI went on TV Sunday to insist that the source for the Enquirer story was not connected to the Saudis or Trump. Duly noted -- although AMI’s past track record for honesty is not good. Meanwhile, Trump is ignoring a congressionally mandated deadline to find if the Saudis violated human rights in Khashoggi’s murder. And a top Saudi official just warned that linking MBS to Khashoggi’s murder would be crossing “a red line.”

Again, what is everyone here so afraid of?

Meanwhile, all this talk of blackmail and extortion is a reminder that two years into the Trump administration a president who promised America “the art of the deal” has instead tried to run the country the way he ran his business in the mobbed-up New York of the 1980s -- with bullying, bluster, and personal threats. But when forced to play that hand over the border wall and the government shutdown recently, it failed miserably. Would it be a surprise if Trump continues to fall back on the only tactic that’s worked for him and his allies to get things done over the years, the dark art of the blackmailer?

One thing that’s become increasingly clear since the summer of 2016 is how unprepared we were for a world in which our beloved devices like our iPhones or our laptops have become tools to control us -- whether it’s the manipulation of fake news and dark ads on Facebook that helped Trump get elected, or the growing ability of both governments and big corporations to invade our privacy and spy on our activities. We know that what we’re experiencing now is not true democracy. And with the Bezos and Khashoggi revelations, it’s totally fair to ask: Are we increasingly ruled by blackmail and extortion?"
posted by shoesietart at 1:24 AM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Wait, Michelle and Michael Sanchez? Were Joan and John taken?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:35 AM on February 11


Were Joan and John taken?

Yes, by the Cusacks.
posted by nubs at 7:40 AM on February 11 [17 favorites]


Amy Goodman in a lengthy Glenn Greenwald interview -
As Bezos Protests Invasion of His Privacy, Amazon Builds Global Surveillance State
posted by growabrain at 8:21 AM on February 11


And a tidbit from the above interview: AMI lawyer Jon Fine worked for Amazon until 2015
posted by growabrain at 8:29 AM on February 11


Greenwald can always be counted on to point the outrage rifles inwards to fire on any anti-Trump forces.
posted by benzenedream at 8:55 AM on February 11 [16 favorites]


WSJ, Julie Bykowicz and Lukas I. Alpert, National Enquirer Publisher Asked Justice Department for Advice on Saudi Connection
American Media also produced a promotional magazine about Saudi Arabia. To commemorate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the U.S. in March 2018, American Media published 200,000 copies of a 97-page, advertisement-free glossy magazine titled “The New Kingdom,” promoting the country and its young prince, then 32 years old.

In a sign American Media was concerned its connection to Saudi Arabia could become an issue, the company sought advice from the Justice Department last year about whether it should register as a foreign agent—a status under which any organization engaged in public relations under the direction or control of a foreign government may fall—according to a Justice Department letter to the company responding to its inquiry. The publisher wrote to the Justice Department after several news outlets wrote about the publication of the pro-Saudi magazine.
The Justice Department posted its response in redacted form. Although American Media isn’t named in the letter, the details clearly reference the media company.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed American Media wrote to the Justice Department after publishing the magazine celebrating Prince Mohammed. “Frankly, it was done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he’d invest in the company and it didn’t work,” the person said of the magazine. “There was nothing more to it than that.”
AMI gave a draft to "an advisor to Saudi Arabia" and followed that person's suggestions, then they turned around and said that Saudi officials had nothing to do with the magazine, the one that Saudi officials were so involved with that they asked DOJ for a legal opinion on it. DOJ told them that they didn't need to register as a foreign agent as long as the didn't have to take the Saudis' advice for what to include in their puff piece magazine.
posted by zachlipton at 10:51 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


If FARA isn't a strong enough law that AMI's literal publication of literal propaganda doesn't qualify, it desperately needs to be amended to cover this. What the actual fuck.
posted by odinsdream at 11:00 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


“Frankly, it was done to kiss his ass when he came to visit in the hopes he’d invest in the company and it didn’t work,” the person said of the magazine. “There was nothing more to it than that.”

oh yeah, nothing more to it than millions and millions of dollars, nothing to see here
posted by BungaDunga at 12:02 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Michael Sanchez says he has nothing to do with it.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:15 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


To be sure, this is way into cement shoes territory.
posted by rhizome at 9:12 PM on February 14




Bezos’s Pecker problem This is the latest episode of the podcast “All the President’s lawyers” and it’s specifically about the legal constraints and wrinkles. Kind of shocking how little recourse Bezos apparently has. Legally, that is.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:55 PM on February 14


legal constraints and wrinkles

Are we still doing "phrasing?"
posted by contraption at 1:07 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


They used the phrase "penis carve-out," so at this point I think we're taking it as read.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:36 PM on February 15


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