With the impending concern of national security in foreign soil, American technology firms two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying for the Saudi Arabia government and the Kingdom’s royal family, according to the US Justice Department.
The two former Twitter staffers, Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national and Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, used their access at the micro-blogging giant to gather sensitive and non-public information on dissidents of the Saudi regime, the Justice Department said in a criminal complaint.
The case, unsealed in San Francisco federal court, underscores allegations the Saudi government tries to control anti-regime voices abroad. It also recalls a move reportedly directed by the country’s controversial leader to weaponise online platforms against critics, CNN Business reported on Thursday.
Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen who is alleged to have spied on the accounts of three users including one whose posts discussed the inner workings of the Saudi leadership on behalf of the government in Riyadh.
Abouammo is also charged with falsifying an invoice to obstruct an FBI investigation.
The second former Twitter employee Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen was accused of accessing the personal information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of Saudi Arabia. One of those accounts belonged to a prominent dissident, Omar Abdulaziz, who later became close to Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist who advocated for free expression in the Arab world.
Another man, named Ahmed Almutairi, who is also from Saudi Arabia, allegedly acted as a go-between to the two Twitter staffers and the Saudi government, which according to the complaint rewarded the men with hundreds of thousands of dollars and, for one man, a luxury Hublot watch, the report added.
(With input from agencies)