Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, hired a security company that monitored her digital communications and went so far as to secretly capture audio recordings from her bedroom, according to a New York Times documentary released Friday.
The audio ― more than 180 hours’ worth ― allegedly recorded conversations the pop star had with her boyfriend and her children, said Alex Vlasov, a former employee of the company Black Box who spoke with the Times for its “New York Times Presents” series on Hulu.
“Just because you’re in control, doesn’t give you the right to treat people like property,” Vlasov said in the hourlong program. “It didn’t feel like she was being treated like a human being.” At another point, he told the Times that it felt like the security team surrounding Britney Spears was like a “prison.”
The singer told a court investigator in 2016 that she could not even make friends with people ― “especially men” ― unless they were approved by her father, according to a copy of the report obtained by The New York Times.
“There was an obsession with the men in Britney’s life,” Vlasov said in the documentary.
While her father’s level of control over her life has drawn sharp scrutiny, details on the inner workings of Spears’ conservatorship have remained shrouded in secrecy. The legal arrangement was put in place in 2008 out of concern for the star’s mental health and gave her conservators ― including her father ― final approval on where she could go, what she could buy and what medical treatments she received, among other personal freedoms.
Security even doled out the singer’s medication to her, according to Vlasov.
It is not clear how many of the security measures were approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court over the last 13 years.
Vlasov started at Black Box as a personal assistant to its founder, Edan Yemini, whose company’s website says that he was trained in the Israeli Defense Forces. Among his regular duties, Vlasov said, he was allegedly asked to encrypt Spears’ messages that were mirrored onto an iPad logged into her iCloud account so Yemini could give them to Jamie Spears and Robin Greenhill, an executive at Tri Star Sports & Entertainment who helped manage the singer’s career.
“Edan would say, ‘She’s just like a child, like any minor, who needs their parent’s consent,’” Vlasov said.
He said in the documentary that he felt ethically conflicted by the job and confident in his decision to speak publicly.
At one point in his employment, in 2016, Vlasov said that Yemini handed him a USB drive with audio recordings from Britney Spears’ bedroom and asked him to delete the contents.
“I had them tell me what was on it,” Vlasov said in the documentary. “They seemed very nervous and said that it was extremely sensitive, that nobody can ever know about this and that’s why I need to delete everything on it, so there’s no record of it.”
He continued: “That raised so many red flags with me and I did not want to be complicit in whatever they were involved in, so I kept a copy, because I don’t want to delete evidence.”
A former wardrobe manager, Tish Yates, alleged that it was Greenhill whom she saw exercise an alarming amount of control over the singer. Greenhill was the one who came up with the plan to mirror Spears’ texts and photos onto the iPad, according to Vlasov.
“Britney would say, ‘Hey, is there any way we could have sushi for dinner?’” Yates recalled. “And I would hear Robin say, ‘You had sushi yesterday. It’s too expensive. You don’t need it again.’ If she pushed back a little bit, they pushed harder.”
In a statement to HuffPost, Greenhill said through a lawyer that the accusations against her were “completely false and fabricated” and “completely false and defamatory, and if repeated or republished by anyone, including the Huffington Post, would constitute actionable defamation, and you and your organization would be exposing yourselves to substantial liability and damages.”
Access to Spears’ children ― two boys ― was allegedly used to bully her into following her conservators’ instructions.
At one point on the 2009 “Circus” tour, Spears became “distressed,” Yates said, because she was moved through a cloud of marijuana smoke as she approached the stage and feared that she would fail a drug test, and therefore not be permitted to see the boys.
“The level of how she was scared really opened my eyes,” Yates said.
Spears’ former assistant and confidant Felicia Culotta also said in the documentary that Greenhill helped to push her out of the singer’s life.
Spears brought attention to her situation earlier this year when she spoke out in a court hearing to make shocking accusations about the conservatorship, calling it “abusive.”
Spears was finally permitted by the court to hire her own attorney in July. Earlier this month, following months of criticism and increasing scrutiny, her father’s attorneys filed a surprise motion to dissolve the entire conservatorship.
Attorneys for Jamie Spears did not return HuffPost’s request for comment.
In a statement to the Times, Yemini said through his lawyer, “Mr. Yemini and Black Box have always conducted themselves within professional, ethical and legal bounds, and they are particularly proud of their work in keeping Ms. Spears safe for many years.”