The new New York Times Presents documentary on Britney Spears' conservatorship, "Controlling Britney Spears," included shocking and disturbing details about a previously unknown surveillance apparatus used to allegedly keep an eye on the pop star. The documentary, which aired on FX and is available to stream on Hulu, includes an interview with Alex Vlasov, who claims he worked for Black Box Security, a firm Spears' father and co-conservator, Jamie Spears, hired. Vlasov claimed that the security firm monitored Spears' phone activity and even put a listening device in her bedroom.
In his interview, Vlasov alleged that Spears' conservators kept an eye on Spears' phone use and her activities at home. He shared alleged emails, text messages, and audio recordings he kept from his nine years as an employee for Black Box and its president Edan Yemini. Vlasov claimed that Jamie and others involved in the conservatorship asked him how to put parental controls on her iPhone. They also wanted to sync the iPhone's iCloud with an iPad so they could monitor how Spears used the phone. "It really reminded me of somebody that was in prison," Aslov told The New York Times. "And security was put in a position to be the prison guards essentially."
Both Jamie and Yemini declined to appear in the documentary. The Times sent a detailed list of questions to both, but they did not respond to them. "All of his actions were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court," Jamie's attorney said in a statement to the Times. "His actions were done with the knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court. Jamie's record as conservator - and the court's approval of his actions - speak for themselves." Yemini's lawyer also defended his actions, noting that he and his firm "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."
Spears was also not interviewed, but her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, said the conservatorship should be investigated. He said any unauthorized recording or monitoring of Spears' communications would be a "shameful violation of her privacy rights and a striking example of the deprivation of her civil liberties." Rosengart added, "Placing a listening device in Britney's bedroom would be particularly inexcusable and disgraceful, and corroborates so much of her compelling, poignant testimony. These actions must be fully and aggressively investigated."
The role of Spears' security team was shrouded in mystery before Controlling Britney Spears was released. Times journalist Liz Day told Variety the surveillance allegations were "completely" shocking. There were rumors her home and phone were bugged, but there was no solid proof before. "So, to have someone come forward with proof was so revealing and helps us understand how so much of what Britney said in court in June could be true," Day said. "It's hard to understand how that could happen to one of the most famous people on the planet."
Vaslov claimed his boss told him the extreme surveillance operation was needed to protect the "Oops!... I Did it Again" singer, who he was told wanted to be in the conservatorship. He told the Times he was inspired to quit and speak out after Spears' June testimony in court when she claimed the conservatorship was abusive. When the conservatorship was established in 2008, Jamie was given control over Spears' health and estate. In June, Spears was finally allowed to hire her own lawyer and picked Rosengart. On Sept. 7, Jamie surprisingly asked the court to consider terminating the conservatorship. The next court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 29.