Ex-Twitter employees charged for acting as ‘illegal agents’ of Saudia Arabia

Bay Area

Ali Hamad A Alzabarah (left) and Ahmed Saad M Almutairi (right) / FBI

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – Two former Twitter employees have been charged for roles in accessing private information in the accounts of certain Twitter users and providing that information along to officials in Saudia Arabia, according to the Department of Justice.

In a statement released Thursday, the DOJ identified the two former employees as 35-year-old Ali Alzabarah of Saudi Arabia and 41-year-old Ahmad Abouammo of Seattle, Washington.

Officials said between Nov. 2014 and May 2015, the two men were convinced by 30-year-old Ahmed Aljbreen of Saudia Arabia as well as foreign officials to use their employee credentials at Twitter to “gain access without authorization to certain nonpublic information about the individuals behind certain Twitter accounts.”

The accounts targeted included those who had been critical of the representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal Family, officials said.

Private user information that may have been compromised included email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and birthdays – all information that could be used to identify and locate Twitter users who published such posts.

The complaint alleges that Abouammo was compensated for his role in the scheme, including through the provision of a luxury watch and cash.

Almutairi is alleged to have arranged meetings and acting as a middle man who also facilitated communications between the Saudi government and other defendants.

The complaint also contains allegations regarding the reaction of Alzabarah upon being confronted by Twitter about his violations of Twitter policy.

Additionally, according to the complaint, when Alzabarah was confronted by Twitter management about accessing users’ information, he allegedly sought assistance from Almutairi and others to flee to the United States.

Alzabarah allegedly left the country the next day and submitted his resignation from Twitter by email on his way out.

Abouammao was arrested in Seattle on Nov. 5, while Alzabarah and Almutairi are believed to still be in Saudi Arabia.

Federal warrants have been issued for their arrest.

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