Britney Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, hired a security firm 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 sound – 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 to the Times for his “New York Times Presents” series on Hulu.
“Just because you have control, it does not give you the right to treat people as property,” Vlasov said in the hour-long program. “It did not feel like she was being treated like a human being.” At another point, he told the Times it felt like the security team around Britney Spears was like a “prison”.
The singer told a forensic scientist 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 control over her life has drawn sharp control, details of Spears’ conservatory’s inner workings have been shrouded in secrecy. The legal system was introduced in 2008 out of concern for the star’s mental health and gave her conservators – including her father – final approval of where she could turn, what she could buy and what medical treatments she was receiving, among other personal freedoms.
Security even handed out the singer’s medication to her, according to Vlasov.
It is not clear how many of the safeguards were approved by the Los Angeles Superior Court over the past 13 years.
Vlasov started at Black Box as a personal assistant to its founder, Edan Yemini, whose company website says he was trained in the Israeli Defense Forces. Among his regular tasks, Vlasov said, he was allegedly asked to encrypt Spears’ messages mirrored on an iPad logged into her iCloud account so Yemini could give them to Jamie Spears and Robin Greenhill, a director at Tri Star Sports & Entertainment, which helped steer the singer’s career.
“Edan would say, ‘She is like a child, like any minor who needs the consent of their parents,'” Vlasov said.
He said in the documentary that he felt ethically in conflict with the job and was confident in his decision to speak in public.
At one point in his employment, in 2016, Vlasov said Yemini handed him a USB drive with audio recordings from Britney Spears’ bedroom and asked him to delete the contents.
“I got them to tell me what it said,” Vlasov said in the documentary. “They seemed very nervous and said it was extremely sensitive that no one can ever know about this and therefore I have to delete everything on it so there is no record of it.”
He continued, “It raised so many red flags with me, and I would not be complicit in what they were involved in, so I kept a copy because I do not want to delete evidence.”
A former wardrobe manager, Tish Yates, claimed it was Greenhill that she saw exercising an alarming amount of control over the singer. Greenhill was the one who came up with the plan to mirror Spears’ texts and photos on the iPad, according to Vlasov.
“Britney would say,‘ Hey, is there a way we could get sushi for dinner? “” Reminded Yates. “And I wanted to hear Robin say, ‘You ate sushi yesterday. It is too expensive. You do not need it again. ‘If she pushed back a little, they pushed harder. ”
Access to Spears’ children – two boys – was used to bully her into following her conservator’s instructions.
At one point on the 2009 “Circus” tour, Spears became “worried,” Yates said, because she was moved through a cloud of marijuana smoke as she approached the stage, fearing she would fail a drug test and therefore not was allowed to see the boys.
“The level of how scared she was really opened my eyes,” Yates said.
Spears’ former assistant and confidante Felicia Culotta also said in the documentary that Greenhill helped push her out of the singer’s life.
Spears drew attention to her situation earlier this year when she spoke at a court hearing to make shocking accusations about the conservatory, calling it “offensive.”
Spears was finally granted permission by the court to hire his own lawyer in July. Earlier this month, after months of criticism and increasing scrutiny, her father’s lawyers filed a surprise motion to dissolve the entire conservatory.
Greenhill and Jamie Spears’ attorneys did not immediately return HuffPost’s requests for comment.
In a statement to the Times, Yemini said through his lawyer, “Mr. Yemini and the Black Box have always operated within professional, ethical and legal boundaries, and they are particularly proud of their work in protecting Mrs. Spears for many years.”
Call all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter