A former Twitter employee was convicted Tuesday of spying for Saudi Arabia by turning over private user information on accounts that were criticizing the country.
Ahmad Abouammo, who is an Egyptian national, was specifically convicted of acting as foreign agent, money laundering, conspiracy to commit fraud, and falsifying records.
The Department of Justice charged Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national who is wanted by the FBI, back in 2019. A third man, Ahmed Almutairi, who is also a Saudi national was charged in the scheme for allegedly acting a middle man between the Saudi government and the two Twitter employees.
Alzabarah and Almutairi are “wanted for failing to register as an agent of a foreign government as required by United States law,” the FBI said. “In 2015, [the two suspects] allegedly took part in a scheme to steal proprietary and confidential user data from a U.S. company, Twitter, for the benefit of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The stolen data included email addresses, telephone numbers and internet protocol addresses of Saudi dissidents and critics of the Saudi government, among others.”
“Abouammo acted in secret as an agent of a foreign government targeting dissenting voices,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “This verdict shows that the Justice Department will not tolerate any act of transnational repression and will hold accountable those who aid hostile regimes in extending their reach to our shores.”
“Any attempts by foreign governments to hijack free speech – in social media or any form – will not be tolerated here in the United States. This case is proof of the FBI’s commitment to defend our constitutional right,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Authoritarian governments rely on transnational repression to shape the world in their favor and stifle dissent. We remain dedicated to protecting the United States from all threats foreign and domestic, which includes efforts by foreign governments to stalk, harass, or intimidate the people within our borders.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.