Britney Spears' calls and texts were monitored, new documentary says

Britney Spears is fighting to end the the court-sanctioned conservatorship she has lived under since 2008. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - A security firm hired by Britney Spears' father monitored the pop singer's phone calls and text messages during the court-sanctioned conservatorship she has lived under since 2008, according to a New York Times documentary released last Friday (Sept 24).

In Controlling Britney Spears, Mr Alex Vlasov, a former Black Box Security employee who said he worked with the singer's team for nearly nine years, said the company "mirrored" the pop singer's phone on an iPad by logging into her iCloud account. A listening device also was placed in her bedroom, he added.

He told the film-makers that he was asked to encrypt some of Spears' text conversations so they could be sent to her father, Mr Jamie Spears, and an employee of a business management firm he had hired.

When Mr Vlasov questioned the monitoring, he said he was told that Britney Spears' communications were reviewed "for her own security and protection" and that the court overseeing the conservatorship was "aware of it", as was her attorney at the time. The monitoring included discussions between Spears and her attorney, Mr Sam Ingham, Mr Vlasov said.

Ms Vivian Thoreen, an attorney for Mr Spears, did not discuss specific allegations, but said his actions "were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court" and "were done with knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney and/or the court".

A lawyer for Black Box Security president Edan Yemini, in a statement shown in the documentary, said: "Mr Yemini and Black Box have always conducted themselves within professional, ethical and legal bounds, and they are particularly proud of their work keeping Ms Spears safe for many years."

Spears is fighting to end the conservatorship, which her father set up in 2008 to oversee her personal affairs and roughly US$60 million (S$81 million) estate after she had a mental health breakdown.

In a surprise move earlier in September, Mr Spears said he supported ending the conservatorship because circumstances have changed. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Wednesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Britney Spears' new attorney, Mr Mathew Rosengart, said in a statement: "Intercepting or monitoring Britney's communications, especially sacrosanct attorney-client communications, represents a shameful and shocking violation of her privacy and civil liberties. Placing a listening device in Britney's bedroom would be particularly disgraceful."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.