US files expanded charges against former Twitter employees accused of espionage
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
The US has filed new and expanded charges against two former Twitter employees and a third individual for allegedly spying on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia. The three men have now been charged with acting as agents of a foreign government, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud. One individual, former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo, was also charged with three counts of money laundering and falsification of records to obstruct the investigation.
These new charges are part of a superseding indictment, meaning they’ll replace the charges that were already in place. They come shortly after US prosecutors recommended to have earlier charges dropped.
The Twitter employees, Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah, allegedly accessed private information about Twitter accounts critical of the Saudi government — including email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth — and then shared that information with Saudi officials between November 2014 and May 2015. The Saudi government allegedly gave the two men gifts and cash payments for sharing the information.
Abouammo worked as a media partnerships manager at Twitter, where he provided assistance for notable accounts in the Middle East and North Africa, while Alzabarah was a site reliability engineer for the company. A third man, Ahmed Almutairi, allegedly recruited the two employees for the scheme.
Only Abouammo is in US custody. He pleaded not guilty last year, according to Cyberscoop.
You can read the full indictment here. Twitter has not replied to a request for comment.