What’s Next? Twitter Employ Found Guilty of Spying for Saudi Arabia

Ahmad Abouammo, 44, used his position as an engineer at Twitter to access confidential data about users, their email addresses, phone numbers and IP addresses that can disclose their location, prosecutors claimed.

He then passed that information on to an official linked to the Saudi royal family in exchange for a luxury watch and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While at Twitter, Ahmad Abouammo, 44, managed media partnerships in the Middle East and North Africa. He developed relationships with prominent individuals in the region, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars and a luxury watch from a top adviser to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. In return, prosecutors said, he shared the personal user information of dissidents with Saudi officials.

Ahmad Abouammo shown last year leaving Santa Rita jail after being freed pending trial in California.Photo: Kate Munsch/Reuters

An 11-person jury found Abouammo guilty of being an illegal agent of a foreign government, money laundering, falsification of records and one count of wire fraud on Tuesday. He was found innocent on five other counts of wire fraud.

Mr. Abouammo repeatedly looked up personal information for the Twitter user behind an account known as Mujtahidd, as well as for other dissidents, prosecutors said. The Mujtahidd account is critical of Saudi leadership and has more than two million followers on Twitter. Prosecutors said Saudi representatives had paid $300,000 to Mr. Abouammo for the information.

Abouammo also met with Al-Asaker in London while on a work trip. After the trip he flew back to the US with a watch valued at more than $40,000, investigators claimed.

Prosecutors said that a week after the England trip Abouammo began accessing data from the anonymously run account ‘mujtahidd.’ Al-Asaker reportedly wanted the account suspended, but it still remains active today.

Cheng also argued that Abouammo took bribes of amounts close to triple his annual salary for almost a year: 

‘They paid for a mole,’ he argued. ‘We all know that that kind of money is not for nothing.’

“The government demonstrated, and the jury found, that Abouammo violated a sacred trust to keep private personal information from Twitter’s customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds in San Francisco said in a statement.

Ali Alzabarah, a former colleague of Abouammo also accused of accessing Twitter accounts on behalf of Saudi Arabia, left the United States before being charged. Al-Asaker, Saudi’s crown prince and Twitter are not among the defendants.

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