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Saudis Spy Using Twitter
By Micah Halpern

Thursday November 7, 2019

I've Been Thinking:

According to charges filed in San Francisco, Saudi Arabia is directly connected to spying on Twitter users in America between May 21, 2015 and November 18, 2018. Two dual citizens of the United States and Saudi Arabia and one Saudi national were charged with accessing Twitter details and delivering the data to the Saudis.

The case is shocking.

Two Twitter employees and one handler were responsible for collecting the data of 6,000 critics of the Saudi regime. Not just their names, and usernames - they also accessed the meta data, the material that can show the geographic location of the user.

They did it In exchange for money and gifts.

Ahmad Abouammo, one of the dual citizens, was a media partnership manager at Twitter. He received $300,000 and a $20,000 Hubolt watch, paid by an unnamed person referred to as Saudi National -1.

Ali Alzabarah, the second Saudi/US dual citizen worked at Twitter as a site reliability engineer. He was confronted for accessing private Twitter info which was outside his job responsibilities. The next day he resigned by sending an email from a plane. He was on his way back to Saudi Arabia with his handler.
With the info gained from these spies the Saudi government boldly put in a request to Twitter for information on 33 Twitter usernames in what they called an "emergency disclosure".

Twitter admits that the nature of the industry creates "bad actors" who will try to undermine its service and that the company "limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees."

The company statement read: "We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable ... We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work."

This entire episode is very troubling. The redeeming point is that the Saudis were charged and that the government was named.

If you remember, the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis. Mysteriously, despite the fact that all flights in the US were grounded, private Saudi planes flew returning many Saudi nationals to the kingdom. The United States has and continues to block any move to investigate how the Saudis were involved.

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8 November 2019 08:38 AM in Thoughts

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