FBI investigation details former CIA operative’s efforts to help Qatar’s World Cup bid, influence US policy
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An FBI investigation into alleged unlawful activity to help Qatar obtain World Cup 2022 hosting privileges may have extended further to help improve Qatar’s image in the U.S. and influence U.S. policy, according to an Associated Press report.
The initial investigation focused on former CIA officer Kevin Chalker’s work to help Qatar through alleged foreign lobbying, surveillance and exporting sensitive information to undermine the country’s rivals in bidding for the World Cup, according to individuals with knowledge of the investigation.
Chalker’s company Global Risk Advisors employed a number of methods, such as a Facebook “honeypot” trap, in which an attractive woman connected with a target, or someone posed as a photojournalist to keep tabs on one nation’s bid.
Kevin Carroll, Chalker’s lawyer, pushed back on the allegations and said that Global Risk Advisors never engaged in any unlawful activity and remained unaware of any federal investigation. He added that the company received proper authorization from the U.S. government whenever its work required it.
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Global Risk Advisors allegedly tried to undermine critics of Qatar, whom many accused of financing terrorism and other crimes. He tried to set up meetings between Qatari officials and top CIA leaders in an effort to strengthen Qatari influence, which did not happen.
Internal memos, reviewed by the Associated Press, boasted of the company’s ability to use spycraft to achieve its goals to “protect” Qatar by “attacking the attackers,” including efforts to discredit an unnamed congressman who sponsored legislation that Qatar opposed.
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The company may have pursued the work with Qatar as a way to help it attain “rapid expansion” through “a number of extraordinary projects.”
Such activities may have included providing military and intelligence training to Qatari officials, including members of the royal family, with courses like hostage rescue and operating undercover.
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“Essentially, he wants us to conduct mini-Farm courses both for ops and for tech ops,” said an internal Global Risk Advisors’ document describing a Qatari official’s request for training. “The Farm” is the nickname given to the CIA’s covert training facility in Virginia.
One member of the Qatari royal family received a perfect score of 100 in a “technical surveillance countermeasures” course despite missing much of the instruction and not showing “a genuine desire to learn the material,” according to a company document.
Global Risk Advisors also created a detailed security plan in 2014 to install a surveillance system in Qatar that could track mobile phones in the country “with extreme accuracy” and allow analysts to “isolate individual conversations and listen in real-time,” according to internal company records that include a draft contract.
Several individuals who identified as associates of Chalker described him as a man who prized secrecy, often keeping employees in the dark about the work the company did for Qatar.
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Qatar has worked through other retired U.S. national security officials, such as former Marine Gen. John. R. Allen, the former head of the Brookings Institution, who allegedly tried to help Qatar influence U.S. policy during a crisis in the Gulf region in 2017.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.