FIFA World Cup host Qatar uses former CIA agent to spy on football officials


A former CIA officer spied on top soccer officials for years while working for Qatar, the tiny Arab nation that will host next year’s World Cup, an Associated Press investigation has discovered. .

According to an AP investigation, Qatar sought an advantage in securing hosting rights from rivals such as the US and Australia by hiring former CIA officer and private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on other bidding teams and contractors. key football officials.

Chalker also worked for Qatar in later years to follow Qatari critics in the world of football, according to interviews with former Chalker associates as well as contracts, invoices, emails and reviews business documents.

It is part of a trend that former US intelligence officers will work for foreign governments with questionable human rights records that are worrying officials in Washington.

“There is a lot of Gulf money flowing through Washington DC,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey. “The amount of temptation there is immense, and it’s always drawn Americans into things we shouldn’t be getting into.”

The World Cup is the most famous sports tournament on the planet. This is also an opportunity for Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, to have a party on the world stage.

The AP investigation shows that Qatar has little chance. Surveillance involves someone posing as a photojournalist to track rival country bids and deploying a Facebook honeypot, in which someone online pretends to be an attractive woman, to gain exposure. close to the target, a review of records shows. Executives working for Chalker and Sheikhdom in the Persian Gulf also searched the cell phone call logs of at least one top FIFA official before the 2010 vote, records show.

“Project MERCILESS’s greatest achievement to date … came from successful penetration operations targeting vocal critics within the FIFA organization,” said Chalker’s company, Global Risk Advisors. in a 2014 document describing a project with a minimum proposed budget listed at US$387 million over 9 years. It is unclear how much Qataris ended up paying the company.

The company documents also highlight the company’s efforts to win over Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, an important figure in the world of football and who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency. President of FIFA in 2015 and 2016. In a 2013 document, Global Risk Advisors recommended the Qataris to take out. money to a football development organization run by Ali, saying it would “help strengthen Qatar’s reputation as a benevolent presence in world football.”

A representative for Ali said the prince “has always had a good personal relationship directly with the rulers of Qatar. He certainly wouldn’t need consultants to support that relationship.”

The full scope of Chalker’s work for Qatar is unclear, but AP’s review of a series of proposed Global Risk Advisor projects between 2014 and 2017 revealed that the proposals are not only directly related Next to the World Cup.

They include “Pickaxe”, which promises to capture “personal and biometric information” of migrants working in Qatar. A project called “Falconeye” is described as a scheme to use drones to monitor port and border operations, as well as “control centers of migrant worker populations.”

“By implementing background investigations and screening programs, Qatar will maintain the dominance of migrant workers,” a GRA document said.

Another project, “Viper” promises “mobile mining” on-site or remotely, which Global Risk Advisors says will provide “critical intelligence” and boost national security. The use of technology provided by private companies has been documented by autocratic countries around the world, including the Gulf region.

The private surveillance business has flourished over the past decade in the Persian Gulf as the region has seen an increase in information warfare using state-sponsored hacking operations, coinciding with time of the World Cup.

Three former US military and intelligence officials recently admitted providing hacking services to a UAE-based company, DarkMatter, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department. A Reuters investigation from 2019 reported that DarkMatter hacked the phones and computers of Emir Qatar, his brother, and FIFA officials.

Chalker, who has opened an office in Doha and has a Qatar government email account, said in a statement provided by a representative that he and his companies will “never engage in surveillance activity.” illegal killing.”

Chalker’s former associates say his companies provided a variety of services to Qatar in addition to intelligence operations. Global Risk Advisors describes itself as “an international strategic consulting firm specializing in cybersecurity, military and law enforcement training, and intelligence-based consulting services” and its affiliates. won a small contract with the FBI for a wire training and technology consulting job for the Democratic National Committee.

Chalker declined requests to interview or answer detailed questions about his work for the Qatari government. Chalker also claimed that some of the documents reviewed by the AP were forged.

The AP reviewed hundreds of pages of documents from Chalker companies, including a 2013 project update report that featured several images of Chalker staff meetings with various football officials. Many sources with access have provided material to the AP. The sources said they were troubled by Chalker’s work for Qatar and requested anonymity because they feared reprisals.

AP has taken several steps to verify the authenticity of the document. That includes confirming details of various documents with various sources, including former Chalker associates and football officials; cross-check document content with contemporaneous news accounts and publicly available business records; and check the metadata or digital history of the electronic document, if any, to confirm who created the document and when. Chalker did not provide the AP with any evidence to support its position that some of the documents in question were forged.

Qatari government officials did not respond to a request for comment. FIFA also declined to comment.

Many of the documents reviewed by the AP outlining work done by Chalker and his companies on behalf of Qatar are also described in the lawsuit filed by Elliott Broidy, a one-time fundraiser for former US President Donald Trump. Broidy is suing Chalker and alleges he organized a widespread hacking and espionage campaign at the direction of Qatar, including using former Western intelligence officers to investigate FIFA officials. Broidy’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. Chalker’s legal team argued that the lawsuit was futile.

Chalker worked at the CIA as an operations officer for about five years before coming to work for Qatar, according to former associates. Operations agents often operate undercover attempting to recruit assets to act as spies on behalf of the United States. The CIA declined to comment and generally does not discuss its former officers.

But the agency sent a letter to former employees earlier this year warning of an “adverse trend” of foreign governments hiring former intelligence officers “to build espionage capabilities.” theirs,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by the AP and first reported by The New York Times.

Congress is currently working on legislation that would introduce new reporting requirements for former US intelligence officers working abroad.


Graham Dunbar contributed reporting from Geneva. Nomaan Merchant contributions from Washington.

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