Ex-Twitter employees charged with espionage for SaudiOn Wednesday, the U.S Department of Justice stated that three people were charged with spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia.
It was revealed that Saudi Arabia might have recruited two people to spy on the private data of thousands of Twitter users and omit some content they wanted. The move was seen as an anti-regime control by the Saudi royal family.
Two people involved were former employees at Twitter. They are Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national, and Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S citizen. The third person was Ahmed Almutairi. The three were charged with acting as illegal agents of a foreign government.
Between November 2014 and May 2015, Almutairi and Saudi officials persuaded Alzabarah and Abouammo to use their privilege as Twitter employees to access non-public data on some Twitter accounts. Some of these Twitter accounts were believed to belong to the dissidents of the Kingdom.
According to the report, Abouammo met with Saudi officials in London in late-2014. Just a week after, he began spying on the personal data of certain users. One of the users, whose name was classified, was a critic of the Saudi royal family with over 1 million followers.
At that time, Abouammo worked as a media partnerships manager for almost two years for Twitter before resigning in mid-2015. Although he was no longer a Twitter employee, Abouammo still kept in touch with the Saudi officials and complied with their requests with the help of his former coworkers.
Saudi officials rewarded Abouammo with US$300,000 and a US$20,000 watch. Abouammo was later charged with attempting to obstruct the FBI’s investigation by providing false evidence by giving fake payment receipts by the Saudi officials.
Alzabarah met with Saudi officials in mid-2015 when he was in Washington. At that time, he was working as a site reliability engineer since 2013. Alzabarah immediately did the bidding, spying on around 6,000 Twitter users. Among these users, there was an account belonging to also a prominent critic to the Saudi royal family.