Qatar is being accused by prominent Republican financier Elliott Broidy of hiring a team of former CIA and U.S. military intelligence officials to carry out what he says was criminal activity against himself and his business, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
The Washington Free Beacon first reported on the allegations Tuesday, and SaraACarter.com has spoken to people familiar with the matter. Broidy’s lawsuit, reviewed by this columnist, goes into explosive details about the alleged cyber-espionage operation led by the Qatari government against him and his business in 2018.
It also raises significant and astounding questions as to what happens when highly trained U.S. intelligence officials take contracts from foreign nations they once were required to surveil. It sounds like an action novel, but it’s not and that’s exactly what Broidy alleges in his lawsuit.
Broidy’s complaint alleges that an American company, whose employees are highly trained NSA, CIA and military officials, were hired by the government of Qatar to illegally obtain information from his computer in an effort to discredit him for speaking out against them.
He states that Global Risk Advisors (GRA), a New York-based private security firm whose employees are considered highly trained specialists by the U.S. Intelligence Community, was hired and paid a substantial amount of money to conduct the illegal operation against his company. The court filing stated that GRA had received more than $100 million from Qatar to hack, surveil, and silence American citizens, as well as others, who had been critical of the oil-rich state.
Broidy stated in the suit that the operation against him was due to his “high-profile criticism of Qatar.” His complaint includes detailed information about how GRA’s “world-class hackers,” targeted him personally, along with FIFA Officials, who had oversight regarding the country’s World Cup 2022 Bid. Broidy’s lawsuit comes in the wake of other allegations that Qatar peddles influence and allegedly bribed FIFA officials to secure the 2022 World Cup, as reported by The New York Times.
“In recent years, Qatar, a wealthy Persian Gulf state, has become increasingly prominent in the sponsorship of terrorism, openly hosting organizations such as Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban,” Broidy’s complaint states. “Surprisingly, despite these notorious and quite public connections with terrorism, Qatar has embarked upon a strategy of gaining influence in Western nations, including the United States, through a campaign of retaining Western political lobbyists and operatives.”
The complaint noted that the efforts by Qatar have crossed legal boundaries and suggests that most prominently was “Qatar’s procurement of the 2022 World Cup through widespread bribery.”
“In response, Mr. Broidy’s work had more recently turned to bringing significant public condemnation to Qatar, including from the President of the United States and several Congressional leaders,” the complaint states. “This case is brought against Americans who, for hire, assisted Qatar’s ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Mr. Broidy, one calculated to silence him and to serve as a chilling example to others of what happens to those who oppose Qatar.”
Those Americans, said Broidy, were hired to help Qatari leaders secure a bid for the 2020 World Cup bid and advance other interests.
“GRA actively pitched Qatar by offering Qatar access to some of the most highly trained former counterintelligence personnel in the world—to help secure Qatar’s status as host,” states the complaint. “As controversy swirled in subsequent years, the GRA Defendants outlined their ability to employ intelligence community skills and covert action campaigns to neutralize key voices in the growing choir of critics who advocated that World Cup 2022 be reassigned to a different host country.”
According to Broidy’s complaint, the effort to smear him was allegedly headed by GRA CEO Kevin Chalker, a former CIA operative and Yale adjunct professor.
Moreover, the lawsuit states that Chalker led the campaign to silence Theo Zwanziger, the former president of the German Football Association. At the time, Zwanziger was serving as a member of FIFA’s executive committee. He had actively promoted the idea of taking back Qatar’s successful hosting bid and awarding it to a different country, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that GRA allegedly acted “to neutralize Mr. Zwanziger, by targeting him and influencing people close to him through covert influence and operations. The assignment included infiltrating FIFA itself.”
“Mr. Chalker and GRA’s tactics included a covert action program, so-called “black ops,” and the use of IT platforms. They targeted individuals and entities across multiple continents, set up and terminated multiple ‘cover for action’ entities in various jurisdictions…By the spring of 2014, Mr. Chalker and GRA had succeeded—Mr. Zwanziger had come full circle, and his public statements now generally supported World Cup 2022 remaining in Qatar as a way to improve social justice reform efforts there,” it states.
GRA had requested more than $500 million for the contract work they conducted with Qatar, according to the complaint. Ultimately, however, the company received consulting contracts worth at least $100 million, the complaint alleges.
Chalker and GRA “identified and proposed multiple national security enhancements and surveillance work, including ‘Project Deviant,” in which GRA would train Qatari officers in defensive counter-intelligence and offensive intelligence collection tactics, including advanced, sophisticated skills that trained former U.S. intelligence and military operatives are typically barred from sharing or conferring unto foreign governments,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint documents GRA’s expertise and exposes a company produced promotional video done in 2015, which reveals “advanced techniques to penetrate target networks.” The video also allegedly discusses methods to “intrude into servers”, including “spear phishing” campaigns, according to the court filing.
GRA allegedly “agreed to engage in, and did in fact manage and execute, a series of cyberattacks and other misappropriation of Mr. Broidy’s private communications and documents,” the lawsuit claims. “The purpose of the hacks was to obtain access to Mr. Broidy’s confidential documents so that they could be manipulated and strategically disseminated to damage Mr. Broidy economically and as a spokesperson for opponents of Qatar’s support of terrorism.”
According to Broidy, in December 2017, GRA initiated a ‘spearfishing’ hack into Broidy’s personal computer. The complaint alleges that the operation was personally directed by Chalker, stating that he “celebrated the launch of the spear phishing campaign that very night, on Wednesday, December 27, 2017, by taking associates to the Sapphire Gentlemen’s club in New York City.”
Broidy’s lawsuit and sources claim “that the ‘spearfishing’ incident was not isolated but a coordinated effort carried out by GRA at the behest of the Qatari government as part of the firm’s “special projects,” that illicitly targeted U.S. critics of Qatar.”