DSS Special Agents and World Cup Field Liaison Officers Casey Shearing (top row, second from left), Katherine Johnston (top row, center), Rachel Wolf-Hubbard (bottom row, third from left), and Tiffany Toteno (bottom row, far right) and their U.S. Soccer Federation counterparts hold up an American flag before the start of the FIFA World Cup match between the United States and Netherlands at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Dec. 3, 2022. Photo by Eric Weiner
By Kenneth Greenblatt
The 2022 FIFA World Cup began with a celebratory match between host country Qatar and Ecuador and concluded with a jaw-dropping penalty shootout between France and Argentina. The Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) was there, protecting Americans throughout the entire tournament.
For more than a month, DSS had special agents on the ground embedded with the U.S. men’s national team and with the team’s friends and family program. It also had special agents, watch officers, and analysts assigned to the joint operations center (JOC) at Embassy Doha. JOC served as a centralized communications hub where DSS personnel and U.S. interagency partners worked around the clock, sharing security and threat information with public and private partners in Doha regarding the World Cup. Their daily situation reports kept U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis, Deputy Chief of Mission Natalie Baker, and the Washington interagency community apprised of the security situation.
Security planning for the World Cup started more than two years before the actual tournament began. As the senior World Cup security coordinator, Kenneth Greenblatt moved to Doha in 2021 to develop security plans and coordinate with U.S. government interagency and Qatari law enforcement agencies on the safety and security of the tournament.
“As DSS special agents, we are sometimes referred to as ‘diplomats with badges and guns’ because we are both Foreign Service and federal law enforcement officers,” said DSS Major Events Coordination Division (MECD) Deputy Director Tim Ayers. “At the World Cup, we leveraged both these skill sets as we worked with our host nation counterparts to create a secure environment for Americans to enjoy the tournament.”
Many people do not know that DSS is responsible for U.S. security at all designated international special events. This includes not only the FIFA World Cup tournaments, but also the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Pan American and Parapan American Games, as well as the Group of Twenty Summit, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, and U.N. Climate Change Conference.
Providing security for such events is a massive undertaking, and DSS does not do it alone. DSS leads and coordinates the International Security Event Group (ISEG), composed of more than 17 U.S. law enforcement, security, defense, and other federal agencies to ensure the protection of U.S. citizens overseas.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of DSS Domestic Operations Andrew Wroblewski chairs the ISEG. Prior to the start of the World Cup, Wroblewski and DSS MECD Division Chief Jessica Moore traveled to Doha to see DSS security preparations up close and meet with Davis and senior Qatari security officials.
“DSS personnel did a fantastic job planning for security contingencies, building relationships with the Qataris, and laying the groundwork for a safe and successful World Cup,” said Wroblewski.
The World Cup captivated audiences around the world and DSS garnered some attention of its own. Twenty news outlets in the United States and around the world positively featured DSS personnel and security planning efforts.
Special Agent Casey Shearing is a huge soccer fan who competed in national soccer tournaments in college, but she never thought she would be a part of the sport on its biggest stage.
“I could not have imagined I would be serving in a job that I love as a DSS special agent alongside the United States men’s national team at the World Cup,” she told a local NBC reporter during an interview.
The U.S. men’s national team was eliminated from the World Cup during round 16, but DSS and interagency personnel stayed until the final match to ensure the safety of American fans, U.S. corporate stakeholders, and members of the American media.
As the World Cup was winding down in Qatar, DSS convened an ISEG meeting at its Virginia headquarters to prepare for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and other international sporting and special events on the horizon. Security planning never stops for the hard-working men and women of DSS.
Kenneth Greenblatt is a supervisory special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service who served as the senior U.S. World Cup security coordinator in Doha, Qatar.