A US diplomatic cable revealing for the first time that the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were supported by a Qatari surveillance team casts a shadow on Qatar’s successful bid to host the World Cup in 2022.
The January 2010 cable disclosed by Wkileaks alongside earlier released cables that describe Qatar’s counterterrorism record as the “the worst in the region” and criticize the gas-rich Gulf state for its reluctance to crack down on Islamists is likely to be exploited by critics of FIFA’s decision to award it the world’s biggest sporting events.
With 11 years to go until the event, Qatar has sufficient time to address security concerns.
The disclosures nonetheless cast a shadow over its positioning as the first Middle Eastern state to have won the hosting of a World Cup.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar was until this week’s release of the cable never associated with the 9/11 perpetrators.
The cable says that the three men entered the United States on Aug. 15, 2001, and "visited the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and various areas in Virginia" before flying on to Los Angeles.
The cable dated February 11, 2010 from the US Embassy in Qatar, to several US government agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, recommended that Mohamed al-Mansoori, a UAE national resident in California, be added to a government watch list because he was a threat to civil aviation in the United States and abroad.
The cable, the first public mention of a surveillance group that supported the 9/11 perpetrators, says Al-Mansoori aided the Al Qaeda surveillance team of three Qatari nationals.
The cable did not suggest that the Qatari government had any connection to the three men, who were on a 2002 FBI list of individuals the government wanted to interview about the attacks.
The cable coupled with the criticism in other disclosed US embassy messaged puts a dent in Qatar’s efforts, of which the 2022 World Cup is a key element, to portray itself as an enlightened island in a sea of volatility.