Three charged in US with spy­ing on Twit­ter users for Saudi Ara­bia

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AFP) — Two for­mer Twit­ter em­ploy­ees and a third man were charged in San Fran­cisco Fed­eral Court Wednes­day with spy­ing on Twit­ter users crit­i­cal of the Saudi royal fam­ily, the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment an­nounced.

The two Saudis and one U.S. cit­i­zen al­legedly worked to­gether to un­mask the own­er­ship de­tails be­hind dis­si­dent Twit­ter ac­counts on be­half of the gov­ern­ment in Riyadh and the royal fam­ily, the depart­ment said.

Ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing, they were guided by an un­named Saudi of­fi­cial who worked for some­one pros­e­cu­tors des­ig­nated “Royal Fam­ily Mem­ber-1,” which The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported was Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

Those charged were for­mer Twit­ter em­ploy­ees Ali Alz­abarah and Ah­mad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Al­mu­tairi, a mar­ket­ing of­fi­cial with ties to the royal fam­ily.

“The crim­i­nal com­plaint un­sealed to­day al­leges that Saudi agents mined Twit­ter’s in­ter­nal sys­tems for per­sonal in­for­ma­tion about known Saudi crit­ics and thou­sands of other Twit­ter users,” said U.S. At­tor­ney David An­der­son.

“U.S. law pro­tects U.S. com­pa­nies from such an un­law­ful for­eign in­tru­sion. We will not al­low U.S. com­pa­nies or U.S. tech­nol­ogy to be­come tools of for­eign re­pres­sion in vi­o­la­tion of U.S. law,” he said in a state­ment.

The law­suit comes as U.S.-Saudi re­la­tions con­tinue to suf­fer strains over the bru­tal, Riyadh-sanc­tioned mur­der last year of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among oth­ers, the Wash­ing­ton Post.

A critic of Crown Prince Mo­hammed, Khashoggi was killed and dis­mem­bered in­side the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Ac­cord­ing to the Post, U.S. in­tel­li­gence has con­cluded that the prince him­self was closely linked to the mur­der.

Abouammo, 41, an Amer­i­can, and Saudi na­tional Alz­abarah, 35, were re­cruited in 2014-2015 to use their po­si­tions in Twit­ter to gain ac­cess to pri­vate in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the ac­counts of crit­ics of Riyadh, the in­dict­ment says.

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