WASHINGTON (AP) — The tiny Arab nation of Qatar has for years employed a former CIA officer to help spy on soccer officials as part of a no-expense-spared effort to win and hold on to the 2022 World Cup tournament, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
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 and prompting calls from some members of Congress for greater scrutiny of an opaque and lucrative market.
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 found Qatar sought an edge in securing hosting rights by hiring former CIA officer turned private contractor Kevin Chalker to spy on rival bid teams and key soccer officials who picked the winner in 2010. Chalker also worked for Qatar in the years that followed to keep tabs on the country’s critics in the soccer world, the AP found.
The AP’s investigation is based on interviews with Chalker’s former associates as well as contracts, invoices, emails, and a review of business documents.
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, a review of the records show.
Chalker also promised he could help the country “maintain dominance” over its large population of foreign workers, an internal document from one of Chalker’s companies reviewed by the AP shows. Qatar — a country with a population of 2.8 million, of whom only 300,000 are citizens — is heavily reliant on foreign-born labor to build the stadiums and other infrastructure needed for the tournament.