WASHINGTON (AP) – A former CIA official has spied on top football officials for years while working for Qatar, the small Arab country to host next year’s World Cup tournament, an Associated Press investigation reported. has been found.
After Qatar sought an edge in securing hosting rights from rivals such as the United States and Australia, former CIA official hired private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on other bidding teams and key football officials, who won the 2010 winner. was chosen, the AP’s investigation found.
Chalker also worked for Qatar, keeping an eye on Qatar’s critics in the world of soccer, reviewing contracts, invoices, emails and business documents, along with Chalker’s former colleagues.
It is part of a trend of former US intelligence officers working for foreign governments with questionable human rights records that is worrying officials in Washington.
“There’s a lot of Gulf money flowing through Washington DC,” said Congressman Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey. “There’s an enormous amount of temptation out there, and it always entangles Americans into things we shouldn’t be engaging in.”
The World Cup is the most popular sports tournament on the planet. It is also an opportunity for Qatar, one of the world’s richest countries, to form a new party on the world stage.
AP’s investigation shows Qatar left no chance. Surveillance work included posing as a photojournalist and deploying one to monitor a rival country’s bid. Facebook Honeypot, in which someone posed as an attractive woman online to get closer to the goal, a review of the record shows. Records show that Walker and activists working for the Persian Gulf Sheikhdome solicited the cell phone call logs of at least one top FIFA official before the 2010 vote.
Chalkar’s company, Global Risk Advisors, described a project in a 2014 document saying, “Project MERCILESS’s greatest achievement to date has come from successful penetration operations targeting outspoken critics within the FIFA organization, with minimal The proposed budget was listed at $387. million over nine years. It is unclear how much the Qataris ultimately paid the company.
Company documents also highlight the company’s efforts to win over Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, a prominent figure in the football world who failed to become FIFA president in 2015 and 2016. In a 2013 document, Global Risk Advisors recommended Qataris give up. The money was given to a football development organization run by Ali, saying it would help “strengthen Qatar’s reputation as a generous presence in world football.”
A representative for Ali said the prince had “always had good personal relations with the rulers of Qatar. He certainly would not need advisers to assist in that relationship.”
The full scope of the ongoing work for Qatar is unclear, but the AP review of various projects proposed between 2014 and 2017 by Global Risk Advisors showed not only proposals directly related to the World Cup.
They included a “pickaxe” that promised to capture “personal information and biometrics” of migrants working in Qatar. A project called “Falcony” was described as a plan to use drones to “control migrant worker population centers” as well as monitor the operations of ports and borders.
“By implementing a background check and vetting program, Qatar will maintain the dominance of migrant workers,” a GRA document said.
Another project, “Viper”, promised an on-site or remote “mobile device exploit” that Global Risk Advisors said would provide “critical intelligence” and enhance national security. The use of such technology provided by private firms is well documented by autocratic countries around the world, including the Gulf.
The private surveillance business has flourished in the Persian Gulf over the past decade as an information war erupted in the region using state-sponsored hacking operations that coincided with the run-up to the World Cup.
Three former US intelligence and military officials recently admitted to providing hacking services for a United Arab Emirates-based company called Darkmatter, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department. A Reuters Investigation Since 2019, Darkmatter has been reported to have hacked the phones and computers of the Emir of Qatar, his brother and FIFA officials.
Walker, who opened an office in Doha and had a Qatari government email account, said Statement Provided by a representative that he and his companies “will never engage in illegal surveillance.”
Chalker’s former aides say their companies have provided a variety of services to Qatar in addition to intelligence work. Global Risk Advisors bills itself as “an international strategic consultancy specializing in cybersecurity, military and law enforcement training, and intelligence-based advisory services” and its partners have won small contracts with FBI For ropes-training courses and technical consultancy work for the Democratic National Committee.
Chalkar declined requests for interviews or to 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’s companies, including a 2013 Project Updates report containing several photographs of Chalker’s staff meeting with various football officials. Several sources with authorized access provide documents to the AP. Sources said he was upset by Walker’s work for Qatar and requested anonymity because he feared retaliation.
The AP took several steps to verify the authenticity of the documents. This includes verifying the details of various documents with various sources, including former running aides and soccer officials; cross-checking the contents of current news accounts and documents containing publicly available business records; and examining the metadata, or digital history, of electronic documents, where available, to confirm who created the documents and when. Chalker did not provide any evidence to the AP to support his position that some of the documents in question were forged.
Qatari government officials did not respond to requests for comment. FIFA also declined to comment.
Several documents reviewed by the AP outlining the actions taken by Qatar and their companies are also described in one court case Filed by Elliot Brody, a one-time fundraiser for the former US President Donald Trump, Brody is suing Chalker and accused of conducting an extensive hacking and espionage campaign at Qatar’s direction that includes using former Western intelligence officers to survey FIFA officials. Brody’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment. Chalkar’s legal team has argued that the lawsuit is void.
According to former aides, Chalker worked for about five years as an operations officer in the CIA, before leaving to work for Qatar. Operations officers typically work undercover trying to recruit assets to spy on behalf of the United States. The CIA declined to comment and does not usually discuss its former officers.
But the agency sent a letter to former employees earlier this year warning of the “harmful tendency” of foreign governments to “build up their espionage capabilities” to former intelligence officers, according to the AP and a copy of the letter obtained earlier. Went. informed of by The New York Times.
Congress is currently pushing legislation that would impose new reporting requirements on former US intelligence officers working overseas.
Graham Dunbar contributed reporting from Geneva. Noman Merchant from Washington contributed.