Qatar Hired Former CIA Agents to Hack Prominent GOP Official, Lawsuit Alleges

U.S.-based hackers allegedly took part in operations against Elliott Broidy and other critics of Qatar

Elliott Broidy
Elliott Broidy / Getty Images
June 30, 2020

Qatar hired a team of former CIA and U.S. military intelligence officials to conduct a hack attack on a prominent American political activist after he raised questions about the country’s support for terrorism, according to allegations in a new lawsuit.

Republican financier Elliott Broidy alleges that Qatar enlisted former U.S. intelligence officials to carry out a 2018 cyber espionage operation on his personal and business email servers. That information, Broidy alleges, was later leaked to the media in order to discredit the longtime GOP activist and advance Doha’s interests in America.

The suit reveals allegations that U.S.-based hackers affiliated with the Global Risk Advisors (GRA) consulting group were paid by Qatar to carry out the illicit scheme and similar attacks on prominent critics of Qatar. GRA, an American cyber security consulting group, is composed of former CIA and other military intelligence officials with extensive experience in the cyber espionage realm.

GRA "conspired with [American] public-relations strategists to steal Mr. Broidy’s confidential materials and plant carefully curated excerpts and manipulated materials with the press to cause Plaintiffs maximum damage," the lawsuit alleges. "GRA was perfectly suited for this work because it employs former National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and U.S. Armed Forces personnel with extensive offensive hacking expertise."

The filing marks another salvo in a long-running legal dispute between Broidy and Qatar, which is accused of orchestrating multiple hack attacks on its most prominent U.S. and European critics. In addition to the quarrel with Broidy, Qatar is believed to be behind a series of similar cyber attacks on prominent GOP and Jewish community activists who have pressured the Trump administration to cut ties with Doha. Broidy previously sued several U.S. public-relations companies he accuses of helping Qatar distribute his stolen information.

Qatar has long been suspected of financing the hack on Broidy and other leading critics of Doha’s terror financing network, which includes support for Hamas and other Iranian-backed militia groups. In addition to targeting perceived critics, Qatar allegedly spied on prominent Jewish community members in Washington, D.C., to collect information about their anti-Doha lobbying efforts. Congress is investigating the country over these claims.

The information leaked about Broidy has elicited allegations that he was working as a covert lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates, one of Qatar’s top regional opponents. At least a portion of the leaked information, including details of his business dealings, has been discredited.

Broidy is seeking a trial by jury to determine if GRA and several other U.S. consulting groups were complicit in Qatar’s alleged conspiracy. Qatar is said to have hired the organization as part of a "criminal enterprise" to penetrate Broidy’s online networks and collect confidential data.

GRA’s employees "are the world-class hackers who, primarily from their U.S. locations and with U.S. citizen hackers, illegally broke into the email servers of Mr. Broidy, his wife, [and] his executive assistant," according to the lawsuit. "They then distributed the hacked materials in a secure manner to various media outlets, as directed by other members of the conspiracy, to inflict maximum damage on Mr. Broidy."

GRA is further accused of "hacking and covertly neutralizing" officials from the FIFA soccer league as part of Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The U.S. Justice Department alleges that Qatar bribed and blackmailed scores of FIFA officials over a 10-year period to secure rights for the 2022 World Cup. GRA is alleged to have helped Qatar collect information on FIFA officials as part of an operation that eventually targeted Broidy for his public criticisms.

These hacking operations, including the one targeting Broidy, were conducted by a small group of highly specialized GRA employees who were engaged in "secretive, illegal conduct," the lawsuit alleges. The hacks were allegedly carried out from locations in the United States and Qatar.

An email sent to GRA requesting comment was not returned by press time.

CORRECTION 3:25 p.m.: This report originally stated that Broidy's leaked e-mails sparked allegations of marital infidelity. Evidence of that infidelity was revealed by the Wall Street Journal in April of 2018. 

Published under: Qatar