DOJ charges former Twitter staff with spying for Saudi Arabia, digging into MBS critics' accounts

Twitter has some very serious security explaining to do.

The Department of Justice is charging former Twitter employees with espionage on allegations of improperly accessing the accounts of people who were critical of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including specifically Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

One of the suspects has been arrested.

The charges were unveiled Wednesday. You can read the U.S. charges here.

MBS and the KSA are believed to have murdered Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi by cutting off his head and dismembering him alive.

"One of those implicated in the scheme, according to court papers, is an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year." Greg Bensinger and Ellen Nakashima for the Washington Post report:

The charges, unveiled Wednesday in San Francisco, came a day after the arrest of one of the former Twitter employees, 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 columnist who advocated for free expression in the Arab world.

Prosecutors said a third individual, Saudi citizen Ahmed Almutairi, acted as an intermediary between Saudi officials and the Twitter employees. He is also charged with spying. Alzabarah and Almutairi are believed to be in Saudi Arabia.

Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia by digging into the accounts of kingdom critics []


Excerpt from the Department of Justice criminal complaint, made public today:

And another excerpt: