The Surveillance Apparatus That Surrounded Britney Spears

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An relationship by a erstwhile worker of the information squad hired by Ms. Spears’s begetter created the astir elaborate representation yet of the singer’s beingness nether 13 years of conservatorship.

Britney Spears successful  Las Vegas successful  2018. A caller   documentary by The New York Times, “Controlling Britney Spears,” which examines the information    cognition  surrounding the singer, was released connected  Friday.
Credit...Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic, via Getty Images

Sept. 24, 2021, 10:15 p.m. ET

Britney Spears’s begetter and the information steadfast helium hired to support her ran an aggravated surveillance apparatus that monitored her communications and secretly captured audio recordings from her bedroom, including her interactions and conversations with her fellow and children, according to a erstwhile worker of the information firm.

Alex Vlasov, the employee, supported his claims with emails, substance messages and audio recordings helium was privy to successful his 9 years arsenic an enforcement adjunct and operations and cybersecurity manager for Black Box, the information firm. He came guardant for a caller documentary by The New York Times, “Controlling Britney Spears,” which was released connected Friday.

Recording conversations successful a backstage spot and mirroring substance messages without the consent of some parties tin beryllium a usurpation of the law. It is unclear if the tribunal overseeing Ms. Spears’s conservatorship was alert of oregon had approved the surveillance.

Mr. Vlasov’s account, and his trove of materials, make the astir elaborate representation yet of what Ms. Spears’s beingness has been similar nether the conservatorship for the past 13 years. Mr. Vlasov said the relentless surveillance cognition had helped respective radical linked to the conservatorship — primarily her father, James P. Spears — power astir each facet of her life.

“It truly reminded maine of idiosyncratic that was successful prison,” said Mr. Vlasov, 30. “And information was enactment successful a presumption to beryllium the situation guards essentially.”

In effect to elaborate questions from The Times, a lawyer for Mr. Spears issued a statement: “All of his actions were good wrong the parameters of the authorization conferred upon him by the court. His actions were done with the cognition and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court. Jamie’s grounds arsenic conservator — and the court’s support of his actions — talk for themselves.”


Credit...Victor Tadashi Suarez

Edan Yemini, the main enforcement and laminitis of Black Box Security, besides did not respond to elaborate questions. In a statement, his lawyer said, “Mr. Yemini and Black Box person ever conducted themselves wrong professional, ethical and ineligible bounds, and they are peculiarly arrogant of their enactment successful keeping Ms. Spears harmless for galore years.”

Ms. Spears’s lawyer, Mathew S. Rosengart, said successful a statement: “Any unauthorized intercepting oregon monitoring of Britney’s communications — particularly attorney-client communications, which are a sacrosanct portion of the ineligible strategy — would correspond a shameful usurpation of her privateness rights and a striking illustration of the deprivation of her civilian liberties.”

“Placing a listening instrumentality successful Britney’s chamber would beryllium peculiarly inexcusable and disgraceful, and corroborates truthful overmuch of her compelling, poignant testimony,” Mr. Rosengart said. “These actions indispensable beryllium afloat and aggressively investigated.”

Mr. Vlasov said his superiors had often told him that the terrible surveillance measures were indispensable to decently support Ms. Spears and that she wanted to beryllium successful the conservatorship. He said helium had felt compelled to stock his accusation aft proceeding Ms. Spears’s comments to the tribunal successful June, erstwhile she excoriated the judicial system, her conservators and her managers. She called the statement abusive.

Ms. Spears’s father, who is known arsenic Jamie, was appointed conservator successful 2008, soon aft Ms. Spears was doubly taken to the infirmary by ambulance for involuntary psychiatric evaluations amid a bid of nationalist struggles and concerns astir her intelligence wellness and imaginable substance abuse. He was fixed wide power implicit her beingness and her estate, including the powerfulness to clasp round-the-clock information for Ms. Spears.

Mr. Spears and others progressive successful the conservatorship person insisted that it was a smooth-running cognition that worked successful the champion involvement of his daughter. But successful the aftermath of Ms. Spears’s comments successful tribunal successful June, the justice authorized her to choose her ain lawyer, Mr. Rosengart, for the archetypal time. Mr. Rosengart swiftly filed to region Mr. Spears arsenic the conservator of the singer’s estate. After consistently arguing that determination were nary grounds for his removal, Mr. Spears abruptly asked the court connected Sept. 7 to see whether to terminate the conservatorship entirely.

Mr. Rosengart’s and Mr. Spears’s requests are expected to beryllium considered astatine a proceeding scheduled for Sept. 29.

The information team’s relation has agelong been a mystery.

Mr. Yemini, the Black Box Security founder, was calved successful Israel, and is described connected a company website arsenic having a inheritance successful the Israeli Special Forces. The Spears relationship helped Black Box turn from a tiny cognition to a salient subordinate successful the personage information industry. It counts the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey among its clients.

Mr. Vlasov joined Black Box successful 2012 arsenic a 21-year-old assemblage student, excited by the accidental to maestro the information industry. He started arsenic Mr. Yemini’s adjunct and grew into a relation that encompassed wide responsibilities implicit operations and integer management. “I did everything from constitute his messages, constitute his emails, to beryllium connected each telephone conversations successful bid to instrumentality notes for him,” Mr. Vlasov said. “I was the lone idiosyncratic astatine Black Box that knew everything, really.”

He mostly worked astatine Black Box’s bureau successful the Woodland Hills country of Los Angeles and seldom saw Ms. Spears successful person, helium said. But done the surveillance apparatus and his adjacent enactment with Mr. Yemini and his colleagues, Mr. Vlasov said, helium had a uniquely broad presumption of her life.



Mr. Vlasov said that Ms. Spears’s telephone had been monitored utilizing a clever tech setup: The iCloud relationship connected her telephone was mirrored connected an iPad and aboriginal connected an iPod. Mr. Yemini would person Mr. Vlasov encrypt Ms. Spears’s integer communications captured connected the iPad and the iPod to nonstop to Mr. Spears and Robin Greenhill, an worker of Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, the erstwhile concern manager for the singer’s estate.

This statement allowed them to show each substance messages, FaceTime calls, notes, browser past and photographs.

“Her ain telephone and her ain backstage conversations were utilized truthful often to power her,” Mr. Vlasov said.

In effect to questions astir the surveillance operation, a lawyer for Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group said: “These allegations are not true. Ms. Greenhill was lone progressive successful Ms. Spears’ information to the grade Ms. Spears requested her involvement, arsenic good arsenic Tri Star’s relation of issuing the payments to the information company.” The lawyer did not respond to follow-up questions specifically asking whether Ms. Greenhill had ever received copies of oregon reports connected the contents of Ms. Spears’s substance communications.

Mr. Vlasov said the crushed Mr. Yemini had fixed for monitoring Ms. Spears’s telephone was to support her from harm and atrocious influences. But Mr. Spears monitored his daughter’s text-message conversations with her mother, her boyfriend, her adjacent friends and adjacent her court-appointed lawyer, according to screenshots of messages provided to The Times.

Mr. Vlasov’s accounts of however Ms. Spears’s beingness was controlled by the information squad were confirmed by others with firsthand cognition of the conservatorship who requested anonymity. They said Ms. Spears fundamentally could not permission her location without the beingness of information personnel, who would pass Mr. Yemini, Mr. Spears and Ms. Greenhill of the singer’s movements via radical chat.



As conservator of the estate, Mr. Spears controls his 39-year-old daughter’s astir $60 cardinal luck and has the authorization to employment workers for her.

Mr. Vlasov said Mr. Yemini and different Black Box worker had erstwhile fixed him a portable USB thrust and asked him to delete the audio recordings connected it.

“I had them archer maine what was connected it,” Mr. Vlasov said. “They seemed precise tense and said that it was highly sensitive, that cipher tin ever cognize astir this and that’s wherefore I request to delete everything connected it, truthful there’s nary grounds of it. That raised truthful galore reddish flags with maine and I did not privation to beryllium complicit successful immoderate they were progressive in, truthful I kept a copy, due to the fact that I don’t privation to delete evidence.”

The drive, helium discovered, contained audio recordings from a instrumentality that was secretly placed successful Ms. Spears’s chamber — much than 180 hours of recordings. Mr. Vlasov said helium had thought the timing was funny due to the fact that immoderate of the recordings were made astir the clip that a tribunal researcher visited Ms. Spears to execute a periodic reappraisal successful September 2016.

The New York Times reviewed the recordings to corroborate their authenticity.

When asked wherefore helium had continued moving with Black Box contempt harboring truthful galore concerns, Mr. Vlasov said helium had feared the magnitude of powerfulness Mr. Yemini and others had, and the anticipation that they could harm his occupation prospects successful the industry.

After Ms. Spears’s impassioned remarks to the tribunal successful June, Mr. Vlasov said, his mind-set changed.

Choosing to permission Black Box successful April was the champion determination of his life, helium said, and helium believes going nationalist is the close happening to do. “I don’t cognize what’s going to hap tomorrow, but I’ve ne'er regretted it,” helium said.

Ms. Spears spent clip astatine a intelligence wellness attraction installation successful 2019 — a enactment that appears to person been a turning constituent successful the conservatorship. Who precisely sent her there, for what crushed and whether she went connected her ain volition are successful dispute.

Mr. Spears and others progressive with the conservatorship person said that she consented to spell to the installation and that she was alert that nary 1 could unit her to stay. Conservators are not allowed to unit a conservatee into a intelligence wellness attraction installation against their will.

“She did not privation to beryllium there,” Mr. Vlasov said. “I heard this from aggregate people, including Robin and Jamie themselves erstwhile they would speech connected the telephone to Edan. I overheard aggregate conversations wherever they knew Britney didn’t privation to beryllium there.”

The Times obtained substance messages that Ms. Spears had sent from the installation that said she felt she was determination involuntarily and that she could not leave, noting that information unit were astatine the doorway astatine each times. Ms. Spears told a justice aboriginal successful 2019 that she had felt she was forced into the facility, according to a transcript of the closed-door hearing. She repeated that assertion to the tribunal publically successful June.

Mr. Vlasov shared integer connection that showed however Ms. Spears, portion successful the facility, had tried to prosecute a caller lawyer to regenerate her court-appointed lawyer — and that Mr. Spears and others had monitored that effort.



The prospective lawyer asked Ms. Spears if helium could travel speech to her. Ms. Spears responded that she didn’t deliberation the information unit would fto her spot him. “They volition accidental nary for definite to maine seeing a caller lawyer connected my side,” she said, and projected that helium archer the information unit that helium was a plumber instead. The lawyer declined that plan. “You person to beryllium approved by the tribunal earlier I prosecute you, but I don’t recognize however tin I cognize I privation to prosecute you unless I conscionable with you first?” Ms. Spears wrote.

“Yes, it’s a Catch-22 situation,” the lawyer said.

In a substance connection sent a week aft the archetypal speech with the lawyer, Ms. Spears said that Mr. Spears had taken distant her telephone aft uncovering retired that she had been talking to a lawyer.

The lawyer confirmed to The Times that the correspondence provided by Mr. Vlasov was accurate.

Mr. Vlasov recalled that “one of the biggest ‘aha,’ red-flag moments” successful his tenure astatine Black Box had happened successful August 2020, erstwhile Ms. Spears’s court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, sent an email to Mr. Spears’s lawyers and Mr. Yemini asking for written confirmation that Ms. Spears’s caller telephone was not being monitored.

“Ethically, I request to get written confirmation that nary 1 different than my lawsuit tin entree her calls, voice-mail messages oregon texts straight oregon indirectly,” Mr. Ingham wrote successful the email, which was reviewed by The Times.

Geraldine Wyle, a lawyer for Mr. Spears, responded: “Jamie confirms that helium has nary entree to her calls, voice-mail messages, oregon texts.”


Credit...Marc Piasecki/Getty Images

In effect to questions from The Times astir the exchange, Ms. Wyle said, “Mr. Spears’ actions person ever been proper, and successful strict conformity with the law, and the orders of the Los Angeles Superior Court.”

Mr. Ingham did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Spears was peculiarly funny successful Ms. Spears’s boyfriends, Mr. Vlasov said. The information squad tailed her boyfriends successful a continuing effort to look for incriminating behaviour oregon different grounds that they mightiness beryllium a atrocious power connected Ms. Spears, helium said.

“There was an obsession with the men successful Britney’s life,” Mr. Vlasov said.

Her boyfriends were required to motion strict nondisclosure agreements, Mr. Vlasov said. An statement signed successful 2020 by her fellow astatine the time, Sam Asghari, who is present her fiancé, technically forbade him to station connected societal media astir Ms. Spears without Mr. Spears’s anterior written approval.

In a confidential study by a tribunal researcher that was obtained by The Times, the researcher wrote successful 2016 that Ms. Spears had told her that she could not befriend people, particularly men, without her father’s support and that the men she wanted to day were “followed by backstage investigators to marque definite their behaviors are acceptable to her father.”

Mr. Vlasov said that Black Box Security had billed much than $100,000 successful 2014 for investigating and surveilling Ms. Spears’s fellow astatine the time. The boyfriend, David Lucado, told The Times that helium had been alert astatine the clip that helium was being followed by backstage investigators, and helium said helium had called 911 doubly due to the fact that of unsafe tailing situations. He said helium believed helium mightiness person been much of a people due to the fact that helium was encouraging Ms. Spears to recognize her ineligible rights nether the conservatorship.

Another entity of aggravated involvement among those controlling Ms. Spears’s life, Mr. Vlasov said, was the alleged Free Britney movement, a increasing cohort of fans that successful caller years has brought heightened attraction to the conservatorship case. Black Box Security sent investigators to infiltrate the radical astatine a rally successful April 2019 and to make dossiers connected immoderate of the much progressive participants.

“Undercover investigators were placed wrong the crowds to speech to fans to ID them, to papers who they were,” Mr. Vlasov said. “It was each nether the umbrella of ‘this is for Britney’s protection.’” He shared surveillance photographs with The Times that corresponded to photos posted by Free Britney participants that day.


Credit...via Megan Radford

Black Box prepared a “threat appraisal report” dated July 2020 that included inheritance accusation connected respective fans wrong the movement, including radical who had fashionable podcasts and societal media accounts similar “Britney’s Gram,” “Eat, Pray, Britney,” “Lawyers for Britney” and Diet Prada. One activist, described arsenic a young parent successful Oklahoma, Megan Radford, was classified arsenic “a precocious hazard owed to her instauration and sharing of information.”

An email from August 2020 sent by Mr. Yemini discussed the anticipation of surveilling Kevin Wu, a instrumentality who runs the salient Twitter relationship Free Britney L.A.

“They were highly nervous, due to the fact that they had zero power implicit the Free Britney question and what’s going to travel retired of it,” Mr. Vlasov said.

The fees for surveilling Ms. Spears’s fellow and the Free Britney participants, Mr. Vlasov said, were billed to Ms. Spears’s estate.

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