WASHINGTON, DC — Federal prosecutors are charging two former Twitter employees and another man from Saudi Arabia for spying for the Saudi government.
“Acting in the United States under the direction and control of Saudi officials, the defendants are alleged to have obtained private, identifying information about users of Twitter who were critical of the Saudi government,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.
According to a statement by the Justice Department, all three defendants are charged with acting as illegal agents of a foreign government; one of which is also being charged with destroying, altering, or falsifying records in a federal investigation.
“These charges make clear that the FBI will diligently pursue those who show a blatant disregard for the laws and democratic principles that define us as a country," said Executive Assistant Director Jay Tabb of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “We will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to carry out our mission. I would like to thank the men and women of the FBI's San Francisco and Seattle Field Offices as well as the Counterintelligence Division for their tireless commitment to bring these individuals to justice.”
According to the complaint, between November of 2014 and May of 2015, a Saudi Arabian citizen, and foreign officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia convinced the two Twitter employees to use their employee credentials to gain access without authorization to certain nonpublic information about the individuals behind certain Twitter accounts. Specifically, representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Royal Family sought the private information of Twitter users who had been critical of the regime. Such private user information included their email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and dates of birth.
The two Twitter employees were rewarded with cash and gifts like an expensive watch.One of the men is under arrest in Seattle, but the other two are in Saudi Arabia.