An ex-employee of Twitter Inc. who was found guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia by handing over user personal information claims that prosecutors should have informed him about a study on security flaws at the firm.
In a court document submitted on Thursday, Ahmad Abouammo claimed that the bombshell revelation may have benefited him. This is because, as his attorney claimed to the jury, Twitter put him “under the bus” to divert attention from the company’s negligent treatment of its customers’ data.
He said that former Twitter security head Peiter Zatko, a whistleblower, turned in the information to the Justice Department and other federal authorities in July. However, it wasn’t made public until after Abouammo’s trial concluded in August. At that point, it provoked a congressional hearing and provided Elon Musk with fresh justification for trying to back out of a deal to purchase Twitter for $44 billion.
One of the reasons Abouammo’s attorneys made in their brief on Thursday to try and persuade a judge to overturn the jury’s guilty judgment from August 9 was that prosecutors committed misconduct by concealing the report. Criminal trials often see these motions, but they seldom prevail.
The material in Zatko’s analysis exonerates Abouammo of any wrongdoing and, in the words of his attorneys, “reflects significant impeachment evidence for many government witnesses who testified regarding the apparently impregnable safety of user data at Twitter.”
A representative of the San Francisco office of the US attorney refused to comment on the complaint. Requests for comment from Twitter officials were not immediately fulfilled.
As a consequence of obsolete software, open staff access to user data, and a reactive security posture that had engineers racing “from fire to fire,” Zatko characterized Twitter as having a “ticking bomb of security vulnerabilities” in his testimony before the Senate.
Twitter claims that Zatko was dismissed in January for subpar performance and cited “a misleading narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security standards that is filled with contradictions, falsehoods, and lacks crucial context” as the reason.
According to the corporation, Zatko and it came to a separation deal on June 28 for US$7.75 million.
After a two-week trial, Abouammo, an Egyptian-born US citizen, was found guilty on all counts, including serving as a Saudi Arabian agent, money laundering, conspiring to commit wire fraud, and fabricating documents. When he is convicted, he might spend 10 to 20 years in jail.
US v. Abouammo, 19-cr-00621, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is the case in question (San Francisco).