World Cup host Qatar used ex-CIA officer to spy on FIFA

World Cup host Qatar used ex-CIA officer to spy on FIFA

WASHINGTON — The tiny Arab nation of Qatar has for years employed a former CIA officer to assist spy on soccer officers as a part of a no-expense-spared effort to win and maintain on to the 2022 World Cup match, an investigation by The Related Press has discovered.
It’s a part of a pattern of former U.S. intelligence officers going to work for overseas governments with questionable human rights data that’s worrying officers in Washington and prompting calls from some members of Congress for higher scrutiny of an opaque and profitable market.
The World Cup is the planet’s hottest sports activities match. It’s additionally an opportunity for Qatar, one of many wealthiest international locations on the earth, to have a coming-out social gathering on the world stage.
The AP’s investigation discovered Qatar sought an edge in securing internet hosting rights by hiring former CIA officer turned non-public contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on rival bid groups and key soccer officers who picked the winner in 2010. Chalker additionally labored for Qatar within the years that adopted to maintain tabs on the nation’s critics within the soccer world, the AP discovered.
The AP’s investigation is predicated on interviews with Chalker’s former associates in addition to contracts, invoices, emails, and a assessment of enterprise paperwork.
The surveillance work included having somebody pose as a photojournalist to maintain tabs on a rival nation’s bid and deploying a Fb honeypot, through which somebody posed on-line as a horny girl, to get near a goal, a assessment of the data present. Operatives working for Chalker and the Persian Gulf sheikhdom additionally sought cellphone name logs of not less than one high FIFA official forward of the 2010 vote, a assessment of the data present.
Chalker additionally promised he may assist the nation “keep dominance” over its massive inhabitants of overseas employees, an inner doc from certainly one of Chalker’s firms reviewed by the AP reveals. Qatar – a rustic with a inhabitants of two.8 million, of whom solely 300,000 are residents – is closely reliant on foreign-born labor to construct the stadiums and different infrastructure wanted for the match.
Qatari authorities officers didn’t reply to requests for remark. FIFA additionally declined to remark.
Chalker, who opened an workplace in Doha and had a Qatari authorities e-mail account, mentioned in a press release offered by a consultant that he and his firms wouldn’t “ever have interaction in unlawful surveillance.”
Chalker declined requests for an interview or to reply detailed questions on his work for the Qatari authorities. He additionally claimed that a number of the paperwork reviewed by the AP had been forgeries.
The AP reviewed a whole lot of pages of paperwork from Chalker’s firms, together with a 2013 venture replace report that had a number of pictures of Chalker’s employees assembly with numerous soccer officers. A number of sources with approved entry offered paperwork to the AP. The sources mentioned they had been troubled by Chalker’s work for Qatar and requested anonymity as a result of they feared retaliation.
The AP took a number of steps to confirm the paperwork’ authenticity. That features confirming particulars of varied paperwork with completely different sources, together with former Chalker associates and soccer officers; cross-checking contents of paperwork with contemporaneous information accounts and publicly accessible enterprise data; and analyzing digital paperwork’ metadata, or digital historical past, the place accessible, to substantiate who made the paperwork and when. Chalker didn’t present to the AP any proof to help his place that a number of the paperwork in query had been cast.
Lots of the paperwork reviewed by the AP outlining work undertaken by Chalker and his firms on behalf of Qatar are additionally described in a lawsuit filed by Elliott Broidy, a one-time fundraiser for former U.S. President Donald Trump. Broidy is suing Chalker and has accused him of mounting a widespread hacking and spying marketing campaign at Qatar’s route that features utilizing former western intelligence officers to surveil FIFA officers. Broidy’s legal professionals didn’t reply to requests for remark. Chalker’s authorized crew has argued the lawsuit is meritless.
Former associates say Chalker’s firms have offered quite a lot of providers to Qatar along with intelligence work. His firm World Danger Advisors payments itself as “a world strategic consultancy specializing in cybersecurity, army and regulation enforcement coaching, and intelligence-based advisory providers” and its associates have received small contracts with the FBI for a rope-training course and tech consulting work for the Democratic Nationwide Committee.
Chalker labored on the CIA as an operations officer for about 5 years, in keeping with former associates. Operations officers sometimes work undercover attempting to recruit belongings to spy on behalf of the US. The CIA declined to remark and doesn’t normally talk about its former officers.
Chalker’s background within the CIA was engaging to Qatari officers, mentioned former associates.
“That was a part of his mystique. All these younger rich Qataris are taking part in spy video games with this man and he’s promoting them,” mentioned one former affiliate, who like others interviewed by the AP, spoke on the situation of anonymity as a result of they feared retribution for revealing the spying efforts of Qatar.
The non-public surveillance enterprise has flourished within the final decade within the Persian Gulf because the area noticed the rise of an info conflict utilizing state-sponsored hacking operations which have coincided with the run-up to the World Cup.
Three former U.S. intelligence and army officers just lately admitted to offering hacking providers for a UAE-based firm, which was referred to as DarkMatter, as a part of a deferred prosecution settlement with the Justice Division. A Reuters investigation from 2019 reported that DarkMatter hacked telephones and computer systems of Qatar’s Emir, his brother, and FIFA officers.
Work overseas by ex-U.S. intelligence officers has not all the time aligned with U.S. pursuits. America was Qatar’s greatest rival to win the 2022 World Cup, and former U.S. President Invoice Clinton and different celebrities had been a part of the bid effort. One World Danger Advisors doc lists the US as a “menace” to Qatar whereas Russia, one of many U.S.’s greatest geopolitical rivals and the host of the 2018 World Cup, was listed as an “alternative.”
The Sunday Instances of London beforehand reported that unnamed ex-CIA brokers helped Qatar’s 2010 bid crew. However the AP’s investigation is essentially the most detailed to this point of Qatar’s use of former U.S. spies and offers a uncommon look into the world of former Western spies working within the Gulf for autocratic governments.
“It is a downside for U.S. nationwide safety,” mentioned John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, a watchdog group that tracks cyber-surveillance firms. “It’s a very harmful factor when individuals who deal with essentially the most delicate secrets and techniques of our nation are considering behind their thoughts, `Man, I may actually make much more cash taking this technical information that I’ve been educated in and placing it within the service of whoever pays me.”‘
When Qatar was picked because the shock winner in 2010, there was jubilation within the nation. Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, a distinguished Islamic scholar, mentioned he was “full of pleasure” on the announcement and mentioned Qatar had humbled the US.
However Qatar’s profitable bid has lengthy been dogged by allegations of corruption. U.S. prosecutors mentioned final yr that bribes had been paid to FIFA govt committee members to realize their votes for Qatar.
Qatar has denied wrongdoing however has additionally needed to fend off allegations by labor watchdogs of employee abuses, and an effort by neighboring international locations to isolate, weaken and embarrass it by an financial boycott and informational warfare.
Chalker has pitched his firms, together with World Danger Advisors, as an aggressive non-public intelligence and safety company Qatar wants to satisfy its ambitions.
“The time for half-measures is over and severe consideration must be given to how necessary the 2022 World Cup is to Qatar,” certainly one of World Danger Advisors’ venture paperwork from 2014, which additionally promised a “full-court press using distinctive, non-traditional capabilities in opposition to a wide-ranging set of targets.”
Chalker additionally promised the Qataris using I.T. and “technical assortment specialists” in addition to high subject operatives with backgrounds in “extremely delicate U.S. intelligence and army operations” who may “spot, assess, develop, recruit, and deal with belongings with entry to individuals and subjects of pursuits” on Qatar’s behalf, firm supplies present.
He additionally emphasised aggression and discretion, saying his plans included “patsies,” and “lightning rods,” psychological operations, and “persistent and aggressive distractions and disruptions” aimed toward Qatar’s enemies all whereas giving the nation “full deniability,” firm data present.
“The best achievement to this point of Mission MERCILESS … have come from profitable penetration operations concentrating on vocal critics contained in the FIFA group,” World Danger Advisors mentioned in a single 2014 doc describing a venture whose minimal proposed price range was listed at $387 million over 9 years. It’s unclear how a lot the Qataris in the end paid the corporate.
Information present Chalker generally subcontracted with Diligence, a well known non-public investigative agency in London based by former western intelligence officers.
Diligence carried out surveillance in 2010 on the U.S. bid crew by having a faux photojournalist secretly report again on what was occurring as FIFA officers toured stadiums within the U.S. and met with the officers from the nation’s bid crew, a assessment of the data present. Tasked with getting shut to 1 unnamed particular person, Diligence use a faux Fb profile of a beautiful younger girl to speak with the goal, data present.
Simply forward of the 2010 bid, Chalker tasked Diligence to acquire communications and monetary data of FIFA officers Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer, a assessment of the data present. Blazer, a former high U.S. soccer official who pleaded responsible to FIFA-related corruption prices and labored as an informant for the FBI, died in 2017.
Diligence didn’t reply to requests for remark. Its Swiss affiliate just lately settled a lawsuit with Ghanem Nuseibeh, a London marketing consultant who mentioned his mail was stolen and his emails had been hacked after he wrote a report vital of Qatar internet hosting the World Cup. Diligence beforehand mentioned in court docket data that it solely carried out lawful surveillance on Nuseibeh.
David Downs, who was the manager director of the U.S. bid effort in 2010, mentioned he’s not shocked to study that Qatar was spying on its rivals given how weak their bid was in comparison with others.
“It’s very telling that they might be hiring ex-CIA operatives to get inside info,” Downs mentioned. “A whole lot of what they did was both bending the foundations or outright breaking the foundations.”
World Danger Advisor paperwork additionally spotlight the corporate’s efforts to win over Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, a key determine within the soccer world who ran unsuccessfully to be FIFA’s president in 2015 and 2016. In a 2013 doc, GRA advisable the Qataris give cash to a soccer growth group run by Ali, saying it will “assist solidify Qatar’s fame as a benevolent presence in world soccer.”
A consultant for Ali mentioned the prince “has all the time had a direct good private relationship with Qatar’s rulers. He actually wouldn’t want consultants to help with that relationship.”
Qatar has a protracted historical past of offering favors and household advantages to key influencers inside FIFA and European soccer.
Prime European soccer official Karl-Heinz Rummenigge paid an enormous effective for failing to declare two Rolex watches on his return to Germany from Qatar in 2013 – two years after he prompt there have been “questions in regards to the Qatari World Cup.” And the son of a high FIFA official, Belgium’s Michel D’Hooghe, was supplied and accepted a job in Qatar shortly after the 2010 vote. A FIFA ethics investigator didn’t join the job provide to Qatar’s profitable internet hosting rights and each Rummenigge, and D’Hooghe have denied any wrongdoing.
Swiss prosecutors are at the moment pursuing corruption prices in opposition to Jerome Valcke – FIFA’s CEO-like secretary-general from 2007 to 2015 – in a case that includes his buying use of a Qatari-owned luxurious villa on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Valcke, who has denied wrongdoing, oversaw or had enter into all points of the soccer physique’s dealings with Qatar for a number of years. He was listed as a “potential menace” in GRA paperwork from 2013.
The Broidy lawsuit additionally alleges that Valcke was certainly one of a number of FIFA officers Chalker focused for hacking and surveillance. Valcke advised the AP there “was no cause” for Qatar to determine him in such a manner and mentioned he by no means felt “any direct threats or strain” in his dealings with the nation.
In early 2017, the Qataris despatched a request that Chalker submit a proposal to offer employees for a cybersecurity unit, in addition to coaching to guard the royal household, conduct intelligence work and supply safety in different areas, emails and different data present.
Chalker signed a grasp providers settlement, a duplicate of which was reviewed by the AP, with Qatar in August 2017. The signed settlement specified that Chalker’s firm may present consulting on surveillance, counter-surveillance, and different areas to “intelligence assortment organizations.”
Publicly accessible annual studies and stability sheets filed in Gibraltar present Chalker-owned shell firms noticed massive deposits that yr and ended 2017 with about $46 million in funds.
The total scope of his work for Qatar is unclear however the AP reviewed quite a lot of tasks World Danger Advisors proposed between 2014 and 2017 present proposals not simply straight associated to the World Cup.
They included “Pickaxe ,” which promised to seize “private info and biometrics” of migrants working in Qatar. “Falconeye” was described as a plan to make use of drones to offer surveillance of ports and borders operations, in addition to “controlling migrant employee populations facilities.”
“By implementing background investigations and vetting program, Qatar will keep dominance of migrant employees,” one firm doc mentioned.
Qatar relied closely on overseas employees to construct stadiums and the required infrastructure for the match. It’s confronted criticism for the way the employees have been handled and has not offered full particulars and information on employee deaths.
One other venture, “Viper” promised on-site or distant “cellular gadget exploitation,” which World Danger Advisors mentioned would ship “vital intelligence” and improve nationwide safety. The usage of such expertise offered by non-public companies is nicely documented by autocratic international locations all over the world, together with the Gulf.
In July 2017, a month after Qatar’s neighbors minimize diplomatic ties and commenced a years-long boycott of the nation, Chalker authored a proposal for “Mission Deviant.” It referred to as for World Danger Advisors to offer a sturdy spying and hacking coaching program for workers at Qatar’s Ministry of Inside “primarily based on the elite coaching undertaken by (World Danger Advisors) officers from the U.S. army and intelligence businesses.”
Deviant included a 47-week “subject operations tradecraft course” that would come with coaching on surveillance, disguises, interrogation methods, asset recruitment, hand-to-hand fight, and different areas, a GRA proposal reveals.
The 26-week “technical operations tradecraft course” promised to show Qataris with simply even only a fundamental IT background to develop into world-class hackers with the “vital information, expertise and methods to make use of extremely restricted, cutting-edge instruments to penetrate goal programs and units, accumulate and analyze bulk indicators information, and to trace and find targets to ultra-precise places,” data present.
The Broidy lawsuit additionally alleged that Chalker offered related coaching to Qatar, noting that former intelligence officers are sometimes prohibited from sharing such expertise with overseas governments.
Particular spying and hacking strategies the CIA and different U.S. intelligence businesses train their officers are categorised and divulging methods could be in opposition to the regulation. However there’s no normal ban on working for overseas governments, and distinctions usually are not all the time clear between what strategies are categorised and what usually are not.
“That line could be arduous to attract relating to tradecraft that’s generally used,” mentioned Bobby Chesney, a professor on the College of Texas Faculty of Regulation who makes a speciality of nationwide safety points.
Rich international locations within the Gulf have confirmed keen to rent ex-U.S. intelligence officers. A personal firm began by retired Gen. Keith Alexander, who as soon as led the Nationwide Safety Company, signed a contract in 2018 with the Prince Mohammed bin Salman School of Cyber Safety, Synthetic Intelligence and Superior Applied sciences. The nation’s chief – and the college’s namesake – has been accused of utilizing spyware and adware in opposition to critics, journalists and others. Brian Bartlett, a spokesman for Alexander, mentioned the contract has expired and was “centered on the event of the faculty’s instructional efforts and its cybersecurity curriculum.”
The CIA despatched a letter to former workers earlier this yr warning of a “detrimental pattern” of overseas governments hiring former intelligence officers “to construct up their spying capabilities,” in keeping with a duplicate of the letter obtained by the AP and first reported by the New York Instances.
“We ask that you simply shield your self and the CIA by safeguarding the categorised tradecraft that underpins your enterprise,” wrote Sheetal Patel, the company’s assistant director for counterintelligence.
US lawmakers too, are taking discover. Congress is advancing laws that may put new reporting necessities on former U.S. intelligence officers working abroad.
Congressman Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, mentioned it was “absurd” that Qatar and the UAE had former U.S. officers working the entrance strains of their info conflict and mentioned it’s a part of a broader downside about how influential these rich international locations are in U.S. politics and policymaking.
“There’s a lot Gulf cash flowing by Washington D.C.,” he mentioned. “The quantity of temptation there’s immense, and it invariably entangles People in stuff we shouldn’t be entangled.”

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