CIA links to Gaddafi revealed

(New York Times) — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of close relations between US and British intelligence and the Libyan intelligence agency.

Most notably, the documents suggest the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya, despite that country’s reputation for torture.

While it has been known that Western intelligence services began co-operating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files show it was much more extensive than generally known with both the CIA and its British equivalent, MI6.

Some documents indicate the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and one appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Muammar Gaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered on Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them had letterheads. But the binders included documents making specific reference to the CIA, and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

A CIA spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on the documents. But she added: ”It can’t come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats.”

The British Foreign Office said: ”It is the long-standing policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

”The rendition program was all about handing over these significant figures related to al-Qaeda so they could torture them and get the information they wanted,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch.

When the Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a CIA case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that ”we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services”, and promised to do their best to locate him.

Mr Bouckaert said he had learnt from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader of the rebels.

In an interview last Wednesday, Mr Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the CIA.