Lebanese American Ahmad Abouammo passed on information on over six thousand accounts in exchange for $ 300,000
Several scandals have taught us that social media and politics are increasingly linked and so a former Twitter employee, Ahmad Abouammo, was sentenced in the US for spying on dissidents and critics of the Saudi regime on the chirping platform.
Contacted by the crown prince
The Lebanese American Abouammo was a real spy who, thanks to his use in Twitter, the social media par excellence of dissidentshe would find information on the “enemies” of the Saudis and then turn it directly to Bader al-Asakerthe right arm of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (The “Mr. Everything” suspected by the CIA of the Kashoggi murder and praised by Matteo Renzi). In practice, he investigated anonymous profiles in search of details that could reveal the real identity of users: an activity that so far had brought him $ 320,000 plus a $ 20,000 luxury watch.
The first meeting
Abouammo is not new to the news. His name had surfaced in 2019, when the US Department of Justice had it indicted together with colleague Ali Alzabarah, currently wanted by the FBI, but his story begins earlier. According to the US judges, the first contact of the spy with the Saudis dates back to May 2014 when Bader al-Asaker asked him to organize a tour of the Californian Twitter office for “Saudi entrepreneurs”. The following month, Asaker himself and other collaborators of Mohammed bin Salman went to San Francisco.
The spy network gets underway
In the following months the meetings become more dense. Abouammo should have helped Mbs (as the prince calls himself) a receive the blue Twitter tick (which it does not yet have) but above all spying on dissidents and critics of the regime. It’s easy for him and so the money begins to flow. First the luxury watch, then 20 thousand dollars in cash, then others 300 thousand in the Lebanese account in the name of his father. Together with Abouammo, the names of two other men appear, Ahmed Almutairi, social media marketing consultant for the royal family, and colleague Ali Alzabarah, whom we mentioned above.
The small spy network stops in May 2015. Abouammo quits Twitter while Alzabarah manages to escape with the family in Saudi Arabia, where he receives a job at the Misk Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on technology headed by the crown prince and managed by Asaker.
Over six thousand accounts
In that first half of 2015 alone, the US Department of Justice calculated that the small spy network would have had access to the information of over six thousand accounts including that of Omar Abdulazizi, one of the closest people to Jamal Kashoggi, the dissident and journalist of the Washington Post barbarously assassinated in Istanbul in 2018 by agents linked to MBS. But let’s go back to Abouammo. He is unable to escape and in 2018 he is arrested creating a political earthquake. IS the first time that the American federal authorities publicly accuse Riyadh, one of the main allies in the Middle East and the Arab world, of espionage. At that time there was talk of the ambiguous relations between the Trump administration and the regime, but today the meeting between the ruler and US President Joe Biden comes to mind a few days ago in Jeddah.
The feeble defense of Abouammo
In 2018, however, Abouammo was intercepted by the FBI. He says the luxury watch Asaker received is payment for a consultation and whatever it would only be worth $ 5,000. It even has a fake invoice that would attest to it. Even that first payment of $ 100,000 would be for a consultation. The jury, however, does not believe it and so yesterday the eleven members (one was sick with Covid) found him guilty.
A warning to US companies
Beyond the single case, the Abouammo affair is making the US reflect on the role of its technology companies. In this regard, it is worth reading in full the statement released by the prosecutor Stephanie Hinds after the verdict. “The Northern District of California is home to many of the world’s most innovative technology companies. A consequence of this good fortune is that companies in this district often they collect and store large amounts of data from customers and suppliersHinds says, “In this case, the government proved and the jury found that Abouammo violated the sacred trust in keeping Twitter customers’ personal information private and sold it to a foreign government. Abouammo’s decision to accept bribes in exchange for providing a foreign government with protected customer information it could have incalculable consequences. As this case demonstrates, we will not tolerate the misuse of personal information or attempts by foreign governments to recruit secret agents from American technology companies. If such misuse violates federal law, the offenders will be prosecuted. ‘
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