President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with the National Association of Manufacturers, Friday, March 31, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. SAN FRANCISCO -- Twitter is suing the Trump administration after it pressed the social media company to unmask the identity of an anonymous account critical of the president. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, claims the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and CBP acting commissioner Kevin McAleenan in March demanded Twitter reveal the person or people behind the account @ALT_USCIS. USCIS is the abbreviation for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which has an official Twitter account at @USCIS. Twitter attorneys described it as an "alternative" account that opposes government actions and said the poster or posters "appear to view and depend on preservation of their anonymity as crucial to their ability to express information and ideas that are contrary to the policies and objectives of the Administration and its agencies."
Two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying after they reportedly obtained personal account information for critics of the government of Saudi Arabia. A complaint unsealed on Wednesday in US district court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of thousands of Twitter accounts. One of the former Twitter employees, Ahmad Abouammo, was arrested on Tuesday on charges of spying and falsifying an invoice to obstruct an FBI investigation. The other former employee, a Saudi citizen named Ali Alzabarah, was accused of accessing the personal information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of Saudi Arabia. Alzabarah accessed accounts of a number of prominent government critics including that of Omar Abdulaziz, a prominent journalist with more than 1 million followers who was close to late Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
So Trump reportedly revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador during a meeting last week, as you do. The U.S. press was barred from the meeting -- only their Russian counterparts were invited, naturally -- but multiple officials revealed the news to the Washington Post for a report published Monday. The news was met with various shades of dismay and disappointment from pretty much every quarter as the enormity of Trump's latest actions set in. However, the internet was on hand as ever to assuage some of our existential fear with the usual buffet of GIFs, quips and LOLs. The Daily Show quickly fired off an excellent tweetstorm that really needs to be read in its native setting to be appreciated while Trump's old tweets on the topic came back to bite him in the ass.
Before his death, Jamal Khashoggi was repeatedly attacked by an army of Twitter trolls that had been ordered to target him as part of a broader campaign against Saudis who were critical of the kingdom. Yet the attacks went far beyond a trolling campaign. The New York Times reveals that Saudi Arabia worked to groom a high-ranking Twitter Saudi employee to spy on user accounts. Western intelligence officilas suspected the employee used his access in the company to spy on accounts for the Saudi government. The intelligence officials warned Twitter about the employee, Ali Alzabrah, at the end of 2015.
The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia could get a little more awkward. The Department of Justice yesterday charged two former Twitter employees of spying for the kingdom. Working within the company, the two could access private information about Saudi dissidents. According to reports, one of those dissidents included an associate of Jamal Khashoggi, The Washington Post journalist and critic of the Saudi government who was murdered by Saudi agents. The U.S. government is charging the two former Twitter employees and a third person, a Saudi, who worked as a go-between.