Congressman Asks Garland To Probe Qatar’s Involvement in Spying on American Lawmakers

Congressman Jack Bergman also is calling attention to broadcaster Al Jazeera’s ‘startlingly large presence on Capitol Hill.’

Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP
Secretary of State Blinken, left, and Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at a press conference in Qatar. Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP

A Republican congressman is calling on Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice to investigate allegations that Qatar took steps to spy on and discredit American lawmakers, steps that included hiring a former CIA official to aid in the operation. 

Congressman Jack Bergman writes in a letter obtained by the Sun to Mr. Garland that Qatar “sought to protect the terrorist group Hamas by targeting U.S. journalists, think tanks, and Members of Congress critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist organization, Hamas.” 

“The Government of Qatar hired former CIA agent Kevin Chalker and his firm, Global Risk Advisors (GRA), to intercept the communications of numerous Americans and to conduct a campaign of intimidation against prominent critics of said terrorist-aligned organizations,” Mr. Bergman writes. “The documents reveal that Qatar spied on Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and several Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to further its objectives.”

This comes just days after a report from Fox News detailing the regime’s attempts to gather information on Mr. Bergman’s colleague, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who introduced legislation to sanction the Muslim Brotherhood in 2017. The document also says that Mr. Chalker provided advice on how to discredit Senator Cruz, who introduced legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization. 

“This brazen intimidation of Members of Congress and American journalists, which constitutes a direct attack on our First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and freedom of political speech, demands an immediate investigation by the Department of Justice,” Mr. Bergman writes to the attorney general. “The accusation that the noted journalist who reported on these matters is part of some nefarious ‘smear campaign’ to undermine the interests of the Qatari regime is especially ironic considering the years-long hacking campaign orchestrated by Qatar to silence U.S. critics.”

Mr. Bergman, a Marine lieutenant general, has long been a critic of the Qatari regime and its government-funded media outlet, Al Jazeera. In November, he called on Speaker Johnson to revoke all of the outlet’s House press credentials over fears that Al Jazeera was spewing Qatar’s talking points and collecting information on members of Congress. 

“Al Jazeera — owned, funded and controlled by the government of Qatar — is being used to undermine support for America’s traditional values, our longstanding foreign policy principles, and our key allies, including Israel,” Mr. Bergman wrote in an opinion piece for the Hill. “Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has more of its journalists credentialed in the congressional press galleries than almost any other media outlet.”

An aide to Mr. Bergman tells the Sun that the congressman has spoken with Mr. Johnson about the prospect of revoking Al Jazeera’s credentials and the speaker has been “receptive” to the possibility of doing so.

Mr. Bergman says the extensive reporting on Qatar’s intelligence operations against executive branch officials and American lawmakers should cause Messrs. Garland and Johnson to reevaluate the government’s relationship with Al Jazeera and its subsidiaries. 

“There should be little doubt that Qatar would use Al Jazeera as a tool for influencing U.S. policy or for conducting surveillance operations targeting Congress,” Mr. Bergman writes. “A media company with a substantial presence on Capitol Hill is the perfect front for inserting perhaps just a handful of intelligence operatives among the credentialed journalists, who would be effectively camouflaged by the presence of so many others also employed by Al Jazeera.”

“We urge the Department of Justice to investigate Qatar’s harassment and intimidation of American citizens, including journalists and Members of Congress, and the involvement of the regime’s paid lobbyists in the United States,” he continues. 

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did representatives of Al Jazeera.

The New York Sun

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