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

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

Highlights

A former CIA officer has spied on top soccer officials for years while working for Qatar, the tiny Arab country hosting next year's World Cup tournament, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.

Washington: A former CIA officer has spied on top soccer officials for years while working for Qatar, the tiny Arab country hosting next year's World Cup tournament, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.

Qatar sought an edge in securing hosting rights from rivals like the United States and Australia by hiring former CIA officer turned private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on other bid teams and key soccer officials who picked the winner in 2010, the AP's investigation found. Chalker also worked for Qatar in the years that followed to keep tabs on Qatar's critics in the soccer world, according to interviews with Chalker's former associates as well as contracts, invoices, emails, and a review of business documents. It's part of a trend of former U.S. intelligence officers going to work for foreign governments with questionable human rights records that is worrying officials in Washington.

"There's so much Gulf money flowing through Washington D.C.," said Congressman Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey. "The amount of temptation there is immense, and it invariably entangles Americans in stuff we should not be entangled." The World Cup is the planet's most popular sports tournament. It's also a chance for Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, to have a coming-out party on the world stage. The AP's investigation shows Qatar left little to chance.

The surveillance work included having someone pose as a photojournalist to keep tabs on a rival nation's bid and deploying a Facebook honeypot, in which someone posed online as an attractive woman, to get close to a target, a review of the records show. Operatives working for Chalker and the Persian Gulf sheikhdom also sought cell phone call logs of at least one top FIFA official ahead of the 2010 vote, the records show. "The greatest achievement to date of Project MERCILESS ... have come from successful penetration operations targeting vocal critics inside the FIFA organization," Chalker's company, Global Risk Advisors, said in one 2014 document describing a project whose minimum proposed budget was listed at $387 million over nine years.

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