An ex-Twitter employee was found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and money laundering.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – In a spy case that spanned Silicon Valley and the Middle East, a former Twitter employee was convicted of failing to register as an agent for Saudi Arabia and other charges after accessing private data on users critical of the kingdom’s government.
In 2019, Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen and former media partnership manager for Twitter’s Middle East region, was charged with acting as a Saudi Arabian agent without being registered with the US government. A jury found him guilty on six counts, including wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering. He was acquitted of five additional wire fraud charges by the jury.
The case marked the first time the kingdom, which has long been linked to the United States through massive oil reserves and regional security arrangements, has been accused of spying in the United States.
According to a 2019 FBI complaint, Abouammo and Saudi citizen Ali Alzabarah, who worked as an engineer at Twitter, used their positions to gain access to confidential Twitter data about users, including their email addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses, which can be used to determine a user’s location.
A third man named in the complaint, Saudi citizen Ahmed Al-Mutairi, was accused of acting as an intermediary for the Saudi royal family.
According to the US complaint, over 6,000 Twitter accounts’ user data was accessed, including at least 33 usernames for which Saudi law enforcement had submitted emergency disclosure requests to Twitter. Abouammo was arrested and released on bond in November 2019. He had entered a not guilty plea. Al-Mutairi and Alzabarah are still wanted by the FBI.
Abouammo’s attorneys and Twitter did not respond immediately to requests for comment on Tuesday.
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