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A Honeypot, A Fake Photojournalist And Patsies: How Qatar Reportedly Spied On FIFA

What if I told you Qatar hired an ex-CIA officer to run a spy campaign to ensure the tiny but wealthy Middle Eastern country won and held on to the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup? Yeah, that sounds pretty believable.

The Alan Suderman of the Associated Press released a comprehensive report Tuesday on Qatar’s extensive spying campaign led by former CIA operations officer Kevin Chalker, hired by the Arab nation to do whatever it took to ensure FIFA voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup over much more sensible options like the United States. 

The story builds on prior reporting from the Sunday Times of London released three years ago, going many steps further in describing how Qatar spared no expenses — or ethics — to bring the World Cup home. 

We’re less than a year away from Qatar hosting the biggest sports event in the world, having won the rights in dubious fashion in 2010. U.S. prosecutors last year provided details on how bribes played a major role in the voting for the 2022 and 2018 World Cups, the latter of which was hosted by Russia, another dubious decision. 

The bribes and spying are bad, but even worse are the allegations of Qatar treating its myriad foreign workers so poorly it’s been compared to modern day slavery. Despite all of the apparent efforts to fool the world to get its way, Qatar continues to be hounded by bad press surrounding its World Cup. Sadly, as FIFA seems unwilling to actually have a spine — it’s been a no bones day for a few decades now at FIFA headquarters — Qatar will still host the World Cup in 2022, and during the tournament many will no doubt forget about all of the abuses committed by the country. 

Until then, let’s focus on all the shady shit Qatar is now being reported to have done. I’d suggest reading the AP article in full, but here’s a quick rundown of the multiple questionable activities performed by Chalker, his company Global Risk Advisors and his associates, according to the report.  

A fake photojournalist followed and kept tabs on FIFA officials as they toured U.S. stadiums and met with American officials for their bid to host the tournament. A fake Facebook profile of an attractive young woman was used to get close to an unnamed target of surveillance. Surveillance of migrant workers included personal and biometric information, use of drones to watch locations of importance and controlling the population centers. 

According to the AP: “(Chalker) also emphasized aggression and discretion, saying his plans included ‘patsies,’ and ‘lightning rods,’ psychological operations, and ‘persistent and aggressive distractions and disruptions’ aimed at Qatar’s enemies all while giving the country ‘full deniability,’ company records show.”

Additionally, Chalker and his associates apparently taught Qataris how to do their own spying and hacking. It is illegal to divulge the tricks of the trade used by the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. 

Interestingly, some of the documents became available thanks to a lawsuit filed by Elliott Broidy, a former fundraiser for Donald Trump who is suing Chalker for hacking and spying. Trump likes to take credit for winning the 2026 World Cup rights, which will be shared by the U.S., Mexico and Canada. 

It should be noted, Chalker said in a statement he and his companies never did anything illegal and suggested the documents the AP reviewed were forged, without providing evidence to support those claims. The AP said Qatari government officials did not respond to requests for comments while FIFA declined to comment.

Just as no one was surprised when it was reported how much money passed hands ahead of the 2010 vote for the hosting rights, none of this is all too surprising either. Qatar and its neighbors (Saudi Arabia and the UAE in particular) have long been accused of engaging in shady spying or hacking campaigns. As an American, it’s unnerving to see a former CIA officer hired by Qatar to work against U.S. interests. 

The 2022 World Cup will kick off on Nov. 21 in Qatar. While many will refuse to attend and boycott for any of the plethora of reasons to not want to endorse Qatar, FIFA and Qatar with both make a shitload of money off the event, and all of this spying, bribery and inhumane treatment of workers will probably be deemed worth it by the Qataris. 

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