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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a prominent spy case, U.S. prosecutors in San Francisco have greatly expanded charges against three men, including two ex-Twitter employees who allegedly worked as Saudi intelligence agents and used their Twitter credentials to gather information about dissidents on the social network.

Details: The new indictment, which replaces the original 2019 one, deepens the spying-related charges against the men and also alleges a series of financial and other crimes.

Prosecutors say that two of the men, who were based in Seattle and San Francisco at the time of their recruitment, were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a Saudi-based operative to access data on high-profile Saudi dissidents.

  • The U.S.-based assets were not recruited by the main Saudi intelligence agencies, but by a Saudi associated with the crown prince’s “charity and private office,” according to BuzzFeed.

The big picture: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shifted key intelligence operations to opaque entities under his personal control, as evidenced by the 2018 murder of Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, which was also carried out by units personally loyal to the crown prince.

Where it stands: Only one of the three men is currently in U.S. custody. 

  • The other formerly U.S.-based operative returned to Saudi Arabia in 2015 after Twitter became suspicious of his activities. 

The bottom line: The case underscores the greater focus in recent years by foreign intelligence services on spying in Silicon Valley.

Go deeper: Former Twitter employees charged with spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2020 - World

Countries waiting to see if Trump wins before moving on Israel normalization

The delegation lands at Israel's Ben Gurion airport. Photo: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty

The White House is attempting to leverage momentum from Israel's normalization deals with Bahrain and the UAE to get more Arab countries on board before the U.S. election.

Driving the news: President Trump wants Sudan's removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list to be accompanied by a pre-election announcement on Israel.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Assassination in Iran sets stage for tense final 50 days of Trump

The funeral ceremony in Tehran. Photo: Iranian Defense Ministry via Getty

Iranian leaders are weighing their response to the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, known as the father of Iran’s military nuclear program, who was given a state funeral Monday in Tehran.

The big picture: Iran has accused Israel of carrying out Friday’s attack, but senior leaders have suggested that they’ll choose patience over an immediate escalation that could play into the hands of the Israelis and the outgoing Trump administration.