The United States has charged two former Twitter employees for spying for Saudi Arabia. They were charged on Wednesday, with the court alleging that the two employees were retrieving personal information of some Twitter users. They also leaked personal information of some high critics of the Government of Saudi Arabia.
The two accused persons involved, Ali Alzabarah (a Saudi Citizen) and Ahmad Abouammo (a US citizen), are already charged to court.
There is another accused person, Ahmed Almutairi, who is also involved in the spy, claimed a San Francisco court. Mr. Almutari is accused of being an intermediary between the accused employees for the crime they have committed. He has been indicted and may face similar charges as the other indicted persons.
According to the New York Times, Saudi citizens were not associated with such acts in the US in the past. It is the first incidence of a Saudi citizen being charged for spying in the US.
What’s the charge?
Ahmad Abouammo is charged with declaring false statements and presenting fake documents to the FBI. He unlawfully released personal information of Twitter users to the Saudi government. Ahmad used to be Twitter’s media partnership manager until he resigned in 2015 for personal reasons.
Also, according to the criminal complaint, Ahmad gave the FBI a backdated and falsified invoice that charged a consulting service fee of $100,000 to a certain Saudi official.
On Wednesday, Ahmad Abouammo was remanded in custody until Friday’s hearing. The Seattle court has pointed out that he will be in custody until the hearing is complete.
Another accused person, Ali Alzabarah, is charged with violating the personal rights of about 6,000 Twitter users. According to the criminal complaint, he accessed the personal data of these users and gave the Saudi government access to this information.
Investigators revealed that Ali Alzabarah was on administrative leave after confrontations with his supervisor. However, he escaped to Saudi Arabia with his family, while the investigations were still ongoing.
It could cripple Saudi and U.S relationship
Mike Chapple, a former computer scientist with NSA, believes Twitter should take some responsibilities in the current situation. He believes Twitter did not do enough to monitor the level of access their employees have on users’ information.
In his assertion, Twitter should have been more careful to protect the data its users kept in its custody. According to him, it’s so unfortunate that Twitter’s employees are fingered in this politically tensed situation.
Twitter has come out to ask users to trust the company with their information still. It reiterated that the company still has powerful tools to preserve the personal information of its users. It reiterated that the company is determined than ever to protect the personal data of its users.
If the two governments do not handle the situation properly, it can seriously cripple their relationship.