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I worked directly with Ahmad at Twitter on the international media team. All I can say is I now understand how the next door neighbor to a serial killer can say "but he always seemed like the nicest guy." He really was very nice to everybody, worked hard, and seemed genuine.

They were definitely tools available to all of us that allowed this type of access to personal data and more. Specifically a lot of the lists that were generated about who to follow suggestions were manually curated at the time and we could put whoever we wanted on the list. We were expected to put people that were relevant in our industry on those lists, but I think Ahmed actually got in trouble for putting himself on that list to build up his Twitter following.

At the time it was certainly a major initiative to rebuild the legacy systems to fix exactly this type of problem. There were strong mandates from the top of the company that were made abundantly clear to us that while they were fixing these things we were all under agreement and NDA to keep all of this data private. The systems were broken no question, but the message was clear. That just makes it even more disappointing to see what he did. He has a very young family at home that is now going to be totally broken.

> All I can say is I now understand how the next door neighbor to a serial killer

Hey, i get it, its a little surprising and scary. But this is just a quick reminder that we do the whole innocent until proven guilty thing here in the US. He hasn't been convicted yet, just keep that in mind when thinking about your colleague.

Another thing to bear in mind is that people who commit espionage are often coerced into doing it by blackmail or threats. This is one of the primary reasons for background checks beyond simple criminal background checks: you want to make sure the people you trust don't have anything in their history that can be used to blackmail or otherwise coerce them.

In this case, the behavior of the former Twitter employee makes him appear unlikely to be innocent.

He tried to forge an invoice while an FBI agent was in his home:

“ According to the complaint, Abouammo created a false receipt using his home computer during the interview to show a $100,000 payment received from Asaker to disguise the payments as media strategy work.”

It's crazy how they don't bother to launder the espionage salary. Just a hundred thousand from Saudi Arabia, nothing to see here.

Innocent until proven guilty is for the US courts though. Real life operates by a different principle -- use your eyes and don't f* up.

There are accusations that a teacher sexually molested somebody, but the investigations never went anywhere; do you hire that teacher? I don't think parents are about to blame you for not hiring that teacher.

> There are accusations that a teacher sexually molested somebody, but the investigations never went anywhere; do you hire that teacher? I don't think parents are about to blame you for not hiring that teacher.

That has bad externalities. In particular, you'd be creating perverse incentives for people to make accusations against those they dislike (or threaten to do so), a very asymmetric weapon that benefits liars more than anyone else.

I agree there are perverse incentives and an asymmetry to power, but I'm not the one creating things, I'm making an observation of the land.

That "you" was in the sense of "one, not in the sense of "threatofrain".

That particular confusion in the English language is probably responsible for a noticeable amount of drama in the world...

Yes, it does. So I guess you will be hiring that teacher and putting your own children in their class, right?

..yes? What's the problem with that?

So you think it's fine to not hire someone and possibly ruin their career and life based on unsubstantiated allegationts?

What if you got falsely acussed of sexual assault? Will you go "well that sucks" and start collecting food stamps for the rest of your life?

I'm pointing out an observation, I'm not sure how interesting it is to ask me to imagine what if I were accused of sexual assault.

But while we are imagining, imagine that you are a school administrator who has hired such a teacher, and then there is another accusation of sexual crime with the same teacher. You suspend the teacher while investigations are ongoing, and ultimately the investigations go nowhere.

From the perspective of others, who is at fault? Isn't it time to quit because as an organizational leader you've lost the confidence of the public, which now impairs your effectiveness? As an observer, that is the answer I observe to be true of the land.

And let's not forget... the justice system gets things wrong sometimes. It's not a proxy for your eyes.

But isn't that what in practice often happen when the name and/or image of the accused makes it into the news?

It is not at all fine that someone gets their life ruined by falsely accusations, but identifying the accused in media goes a long way towards it.

And then it is very easy to destroy someones livehood and future. Or blackmail someone: "raise my grade or I'll tell everyone you touched me". Then the poor teacher with some kind of integrity will never have a job as a teacher again.

People tend to care more about their kids than they do about teachers. A lot of people even support the death penalty, even though it obviously means innocents will also be executed at times. Justice and punishment is always a balance, where hopefully an optimum is found where the least people suffer.

Punishment as justice is medieval though and is not accepted in civilised societies.

... except in the movies.

I don't know of any society that has a justice system without a punitive aspect to it.

The difference is that the punishment isn't supposed to in some way make up for, or balance the crime. In a modern society the punishment is for deterrence and rehabilitation.

That's laudable, and what most people in the justice system probably work for. But go and talk to the people that system serves, i.e. the public, and I think you'll come out with a different understanding of what purposes punishment in the justice system serves.

Not to mince words, we've managed to humanize the justice system to a large extent, but by no means have we been able to remove the desire of the public to see criminals humiliated and deprived of their freedom, even lives, on tit-for-tat moral grounds. So, while the justice system in many 'civilized' countries does the best it can to be rational, in order to keep the public happy, it also needs to be seen to be sufficiently harsh on crime.

This is traditional spycraft and HUMINT. Targeted intelligence collection of persons of interests will always be a problem, but it's not problem threatening the whole society as mass surveillance is.

Twitter (and Yahoo) deserve kudos for fighting back and being uncooperative. Twitter refused to join PRISM.

I’m surprised that anyone remembers Yahoo as being champions of privacy. Yahoo installed kernel modules on their servers to scan customer data at the request of the government, without even alerting their very own security team.


> He has a very young family at home that is now going to be totally broken.

Well maybe he shouldn't have spied for Saudi Arabia? I hope he enjoys federal prison.

First, he hasn't been convicted yet. Second, most civilians who do this kind of thing are coerced into it. "Do this thing for me or I'll kill your family. If you talk to the FBI, I'll kill your family."

If he doesn't get sent to prison, people who don't know the story and condemn him because of a headline will.

Yes. That's is the whole point I am making. He knew it was wrong, and a lot of people suffer, including his innocent children. Not sure if you think I am defending what he is reported to have done, but I am not at all intending to do so.

Additionally I think it disappointing that Twitter curates this type of content at all. I was never a heavy user, but currently Twitter just hasn't any draw at all anymore.

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