Ex-Twitter employee spying for KSA sentenced to 3.5 years in prison
Ahmad Abouammo obtained information on dissidents who used the platform.
A former Twitter Inc manager convicted of spying for Saudi Arabia in addition to exposing user data to the Saudi kingdom, potentially putting them up for persecution, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison on Wednesday, according to US prosecutors.
Ahmad Abouammo is a 44-year-old dual US-Lebanese citizen, who obtained information on dissidents who used the platform.
In August, a US jurist found Abouammo guilty after holding a trial in a federal court in San Francisco. Prosecutors have sought prison term for the spy for over 7 years, saying that they wanted a "sentence strong enough to deter others in the technology and social media industry from selling out the data of vulnerable users."
Abouammo's maximum penalty in prison could last for decades, with his attorneys asking the US District Judge for a probationary sentence in his Seattle home with no prison time. The attorneys cited his health problem, family issues, and lack of previous convictions during his working term at the social media company. He worked from 2013 to 2015.
He was accused of looking up information on 2 Twitter users, receiving a $42,000 watch from a Saudi official, and $100,000 in wire transfers.
Part of Abouammo's role at Twitter was to oversee Twitter's relationships with celebrities and journalists in the Middle East and North Africa - however, what he did beyond that was relay sensitive data from the company's systems to Saudi officials, helping them identify and locate Twitter users for prosecution.
Defenders of Abouammo and the Saudi embassy in Washington were not immediately available for comment.
Abouammo's attorneys argued that at the time of his spying activities, his family was "struggling to pay for and deal with serious upheavals in his sister’s life," including specialized medical care for her newborn daughter.