Mystery of Missing Lebanese Cleric Deepens (2015)

BEIRUT, Lebanon — When the youngest son of the former Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was arrested in Lebanon last week in connection with the unsolved disappearance of Moussa al-Sadr, an exalted Lebanese Shiite cleric who vanished while visiting Libya in 1978, speculation sprouted about new information concerning one of the biggest whodunits in the treacherous politics of the Middle East.

On Monday, the mystery deepened with news that the son, Hannibal Qaddafi, may have been forcibly — and illegally — brought to Lebanon against his will in a plot involving the son of a colleague of Mr. Sadr’s, Sheikh Mohammad Yacoub, who disappeared along with Mr. Sadr and a third companion in Libya nearly four decades ago.

Lebanese officials said that Sheikh Yacoub’s son, Hassan Yacoub, a former member of Parliament, had been formally placed under arrest on suspicion that he had helped orchestrate the abduction of Hannibal Qaddafi from Damascus, Syria, in the days preceding Mr. Qaddafi’s arrest here. The officials and a lawyer for Mr. Qaddafi said he had been living in Syria, granted asylum by the Syrian government in the aftermath of Colonel Qaddafi’s violent fall from power in October 2011.

Even with the arrest of Mr. Yacoub, Hannibal Qaddafi remains under arrest in Lebanon, accused by an investigative magistrate of not providing all information he may know about the disappearance of Mr. Sadr, Sheikh Yacoub and Abbas Badreddine, a journalist, while they were visiting Libya at Colonel Qaddafi’s invitation in August 1978. It is unclear what information Hannibal Qaddafi, 40, could possibly share, since he was a small boy at the time.

The disappearance of Mr. Sadr and his colleagues in Libya remains a potent mystery in Lebanon, where Mr. Sadr is revered as a hero to poor Shiites from the tumultuous days of the 1970s, when Lebanon was convulsed by civil war, a spillover of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other problems. The disappearance has been the subject of numerous criminal inquiries. Colonel Qaddafi, a notoriously erratic and unpredictable dictator, insisted that he had nothing to do with it and that the Lebanese visitors vanished after having flown to Italy.

Many Lebanese say they believe that three Qaddafi aides, disguised as the Lebanese visitors, flew to Italy with their luggage to create a false narrative about where they had last been seen.

Mr. Qaddafi’s lawyer, Boshra Khalil, said in a telephone interview that her client had been beaten and thrown into a car trunk when kidnapped from Syria by people she described as bodyguards of Mr. Yacoub.

The Lebanese news media have widely reported that Mr. Qaddafi had been brought to Lebanon in Mr. Yacoub’s car. His abductors forced Mr. Qaddafi to read a statement broadcast on Lebanese television on Dec. 10, in which he said that they were disciples of Mr. Sadr and that their cause was just. They turned him over to Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces the next day, and he was placed under formal arrest on Dec. 14.

Ms. Khalil said she expected him to be released soon. “He is not guilty, and he was 3 years old when Imam Sadr went missing,” she said. “He knows nothing about the case.”

Hwaida Saad reported from Beirut, and Rick Gladstone from New York.

By HWAIDA SAAD and RICK GLADSTONEDEC. 21, 2015

Find this story at 21 December 2015

© 2017 The New York Times Company

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
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UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

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• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
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Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
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Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
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Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Saturday 7 May 2016 11.17 BST

Find this story at 22 January 2015

© 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

If Syria and Iraq Become Fractured, So Too Will Tripoli and North Lebanon

BEIRUT — The talk now is all about whether Syria and Iraq will end up as divided states. The impetus for such speculation derives firstly from the latest Saudi, Qatari and Turkish joint resolve to mount huge numbers of jihadists on Syria’s borders. According to two senior political figures I spoke to, up to 10,000+ Wahhabist/Salafists (predominantly An-Nusra/Al Qaeda) have been gathered by the intelligence services of these latter states, mostly non-Arabs from Chechnya, Turkmenistan, etc. Plainly, Washington is aware of this (massively expensive) Saudi maneuver and equally plainly it is turning a blind eye to it.

Secondly, the speculation about a coming fractured Iraq has gained big momentum from ISIS’s virtually unopposed walk-in to Ramadi. The images of long columns of ISIS Toyota Land Cruisers, black pennants waving in the wind, making their way from Syria all the way — along empty desert main roads — to Ramadi with not an American aircraft in evidence, certainly needs some explaining. There cannot be an easier target imagined than an identified column of vehicles, driving an arterial road, in the middle of a desert.

Do these two cases of a Nelsonian “blind eye” have something to do with persuading the GCC at Camp David to sign up to the statement that they accepted that an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program was in their “security interests”? After all, Obama desperately needs it to paint Netanyahu as the isolated outlier on the Iran deal issue and thus undercut his ability to influence Congress.

Coincidentally, a highly redacted U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment from August 2012 has been released through a federal lawsuit. It states that “If the situation unravels [in Syria], there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” The assessment says that the creation of such a Salafist principality would have “dire consequences” for Iraq and would possibly lead to the creation of an Islamic State and would “create the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi.”

A few days after the release of the DIA assessment report, John Bolton lent weight to its claims: “I think the Sunni Arabs are never going to agree to be in a state [Iraq] where the Shia outnumber them 3-1. That’s what ISIS has been able to take advantage of. I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists.”

Well, this is exactly what has happened. Should we be surprised? The idea of breaking up the large Arab states into ethnic or sectarian enclaves is an old Ben Gurion “canard,” and splitting Iraq along sectarian lines has been Vice President Biden’s recipe since the Iraq war. But the idea of driving a Sunni “wedge” into the landline linking Iran to Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon became established Western group think in the wake of the 2006 war, in which Israel failed to de-fang Hezbollah. The response to 2006, it seemed to Western powers, was to cut off Hezbollah from its sources of weapons supply from Iran.

In short, the DIA assessment indicates that the “wedge” concept was being given new life by the desire to pressure Assad in the wake of the 2011 insurgency launched against the Syrian state. “Supporting powers” effectively wanted to inject hydraulic fracturing fluid into eastern Syria (radical Salafists) in order to fracture the bridge between Iran and its Arab allies, even at the cost of this “fracking” opening fissures right down inside Iraq to Ramadi. (Intelligence assessments purpose is to provide “a view” — not to describe or prescribe policy. But it is clear that the DIA reports’ “warnings” were widely circulated and would have been meshed into the policy consideration.)

But this “view” has exactly come about. It is fact. One might conclude then that in the policy debate, the notion of isolating Hezbollah from Iran, and of weakening and pressurizing President Assad, simply trumped the common sense judgement that when you pump highly toxic and dangerous fracturing substances into geological formations, you can never entirely know or control the consequences. And once you go down this road, it is not easy to “walk it back,” as it were: the toxicity is already suffused through the rocks. So, when the GCC demanded a “price” for any Iran deal (i.e. massing “fracking” forces close to Aleppo), the pass had been already partially been sold by the U.S. by 2012, when it did not object to what the “supporting powers” wanted.

Will then the region fragment into a hardcore Wahhabist/Salafist corridor stretching across Syria and Iraq, while the non-Wahhabist other states (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen — and Hezbollah) stand in armed opposition to this entity? Perhaps. We do not know. But statements by Hezbollah’s Deputy Leader, Shiekh Naim Qassem and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, suggest that neither Iran nor Hezbollah will accept a “fracked” Syria. (It is less clear however whether this applies to Iraq too, though we suspect that for Iran, it does.)

Similar comments have been made by a senior Hashad leader in Iraq: “It is impossible to eliminate ISIS in Iraq without following it into Syria. We will put our differences with Syria on one side and will join efforts to fight and eliminate ISIS … The U.S. knew that ISIS would expand in Syria and was planning to divide Iraq. This plan is over…” These comments may presage a more proactive response by Iran (and it is hard to see that Russia and China will not be more proactive too, given the composition of the forces now being groomed by Saudi and Turkish intelligence).

But there is another point to this speculation: It leaves out Lebanon. If Syria and Iraq are to be “fracked” — and hard-core Sunni fundamentalism return “to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi,” in the words of the DIA assessment, why should Tripoli (capital of Libya) and the north of Lebanon prove immune from this “fracturing”? Lebanon’s Tripoli was in fact the first ISIS-style “emirate.”

The reason why a Salafi-jihadist movement should have originated in Tripoli needs a little background. A city of half a million people, Tripoli is, in a nutshell, the seat of Sunni strength in Lebanon. Traditionally, Tripoli had been the center of militant pan-Arabist nationalist and Nasserist sentiment, and until the Lebanese civil war, it lay in the mainstream of Levant Sunnism. Militant Arabism in Tripoli had Arabist nationalist and Nasserist sentiment, and until the Lebanese civil war, it lay in the mainstream of Levant Sunnism. Militant Arabism in Tripoli had been so pronounced in the 1920s and 1930s that its inhabitants had fiercely opposed inclusion of Tripoli into a “Greater Lebanon.” In the 1930s, Sunnis from Tripoli took part in an armed revolt against the prospect of a “Greater Lebanon,” demanding Tripoli’s inclusion with the Syrian cities of Homs, Hama and Aleppo into a separate Sunni Arab-nationalist autonomy.

While the birth of jihadism in Tripoli can be ascribed to the outset of the civil war in 1975, the beginning of the substantive shift in the character of Sunni Islam in Tripoli may be dated to 1947, when the Salafist Sheikh Salim al-Shahal returned from Saudi Arabia to Tripoli to find the first Wahhabi-orientated Salafist movement. During Lebanon’s civil war, Al-Jama’a — the Lebanese equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) — fragmented and splintered under the stress. With Syria’s intervention in Lebanon in 1976, a host of radical Al-Jama’a offshoots inspired by the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran sprang up. In 1982, these Al-Jama’a breakaway factions formed Harakat al-Tawhid al-Islami (the Islamic Unification Movement). The hardline MB offshoots, now united as “Tawhid,” then seized control of Tripoli from the Syrian-backed militia forces.

Strengthened by arms and training from the PLO and an influx of trained Syrian MB operatives after President Assad’s ferocious crushing of the MB revolt in Hama in February 1982, Tawhid forces imposed Islamic law at gunpoint in neighborhoods which they controlled. The “Islamic Republic” of Tripoli lasted for a period of two years (e.g. banning alcohol, forcing women to wear the veil, etc.). Dozens and dozens of secular political opponents (mostly Communists) were executed, sparking an exodus of Christians from the city. In subsequent years, Saudi influence in Tripoli predominated, and Tripoli spawned diverse Salafist groups — absorbing many MB members who survived the Syrian crackdown — and witnessed a progressive migration towards radical jihadism.

In short, were Aleppo and other parts of Syria and large swathes of Iraq to be “fracked,” then expect the same for Tripoli and north Lebanon too.

Posted: 06/01/2015 12:38 pm EDT Updated: 06/01/2015 12:59 pm EDT
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Find this story at 1 June 2015

Copyright ©2015 TheHuffingtonPost.com

New report claims al-Qaeda-Benghazi link known day after attack

One day after the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded the assault had been planned 10 days earlier by an al-Qaeda affiliate, according to documents released Monday by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

“The attack on the American consulate in Benghazi was planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman,” said a preliminary intelligence report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, obtained through a lawsuit following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The group, which also conducted attacks against the Red Cross in Benghazi, was established by Abdul Baset Azuz, a “violent radical” sent by al-Qaeda to set up bases in Libya, the defense agency report said.

The attack was planned on Sept. 1, 2012, with the intent “to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge” for the killing of a militant in Pakistan and to memorialize the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the report said.

Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attack, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The incident became politically controversial because the White House initially described the attack as the result of a spontaneous protest. Republican critics said the White House intentionally played down that it was a terrorist attack, because it occurred so close to President Obama’s re-election.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who’s now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, was to appear this week before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, but the hearing was canceled after Clinton and the committee chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., failed to agree on whether all the documents Gowdy requested had been given to the panel.

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Other documents released by Judicial Watch show that U.S. personnel in Libya had been monitoring weapons transfers from Benghazi to opposition forces in Syria, where al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood had taken the lead against Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war. In late August 2012, the weapons included 500 sniper rifles, 300 rocket-propelled grenades and 400 howitzer missiles sent to small Syrian ports that handle little cargo, according to one of the reports.

The documents also predicted “dire consequences” of the Syrian civil war: that al-Qaeda’s well-established network in Syria, together with the ongoing conflict there and the influx of weapons and fighters, would lead to a resurgence for al-Qaeda in Iraq. That group, which had been defeated in Iraq by U.S. forces allied with Sunni tribes, did make a resurgence last year, when it broke with al-Qaeda, changed its name to the Islamic State and conquered huge swaths of Iraq and Syria.

“These documents are jaw-dropping,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton. “If the American people had known the truth – that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other top administration officials knew that the Benghazi attack was an al-Qaeda terrorist attack from the get-go – and yet lied and covered this fact up – Mitt Romney might very well be president.”

Messages to the White House, the State Department and Clinton’s campaign spokesman were not immediately answered.

Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack.Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. (Photo: Mohammad Hannon, AP)
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Salwa Bugaighis carries a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens as she and others pay their respects to the victims of an attack on the U.S. consulate, on Sept. 17, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. Stevens and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11 during the attack. Libyan military guards check a burned-out building at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 14, 2012. Glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 12, 2012, a day after the attack. A man walks through a damaged room. A man investigates the inside of the U.S. consulate. A person looks at a destroyed vehicle at the entrance of the American consulate building. An empty bullet casing lies on the ground near a destroyed vehicle. A man looks at documents at the U.S. consulate. People inspect the destroyed consulate. A man walks past the U.S. consulate. A building was burned during the attack. A destroyed car rests outside a burned building at the U.S. consulate. Vehicles belonging to Libyan investigators’ cars are parked in front of the U.S. consulate on Sept. 15, 2012.
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The Benghazi attack occurred less than two months before Obama’s bid for reelection in a tight race against Romney. The White House and State Department at first blamed the attack on protests to an anti-Islam film that sparked protests across the Muslim world, but later admitted there was no protest in Benghazi before the attack.

Administration officials later said conflicting information, including false media accounts, caused a delay of more than a week to identify the attack as pre-planned act of terrorism. Conservative critics have charged that information was withheld to preserve Obama’s claims at campaign events that al-Qaeda was “on the run.”

“These documents show that the Benghazi cover-up has continued for years and is only unraveling through our independent lawsuits,” Fitton said. “The Benghazi scandal just got a whole lot worse for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said in January 2014 that talking points used by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in Sunday talk shows after the attack contained erroneous information, although they reflected what the intelligence community believed at the time.

Oren Dorell, USA TODAY 8:26 a.m. EDT May 19, 2015

Find this story at 19 May 2015

Copyright usatoday.com

Military intel predicted rise of ISIS in 2012, detailed arms shipments from Benghazi to Syria

Seventeen months before President Obama dismissed the Islamic State as a “JV team,” a Defense Intelligence Agency report predicted the rise of the terror group and likely establishment of a caliphate if its momentum was not reversed.

While the report was circulated to the CIA, State Department and senior military leaders, among others, it’s not known whether Obama was ever briefed on the document.

The DIA report, which was reviewed by Fox News, was obtained through a federal lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch. Documents from the lawsuit also reveal a host of new details about events leading up to the 2012 Benghazi terror attack — and how the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria fueled the violence there.

The report on the growing threat posed by what is now known as the Islamic State was sent on Aug. 5, 2012.

The report warned the continued deterioration of security conditions would have “dire consequences on the Iraqi situation,” and huge benefits for ISIS — which grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“This creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi,” the document states, adding “ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”

ISIS would, in June 2014, go on to declare a caliphate in territory spanning Iraq and Syria, in turn drawing more foreign fighters to their cause from around the world.

CLICK TO READ THE DOCUMENTS GIVEN TO JUDICIAL WATCH FROM THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AND STATE DEPARTMENT.

Also among the documents is a heavily redacted DIA report that details weapons operations inside Libya before the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi. The Oct. 5, 2012 report leaves no doubt that U.S. intelligence agencies were fully aware that lethal weapons were being shipped from Benghazi to Syrian ports.

The report said: “Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the Port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155 mm howitzers missiles.”

Current and former intelligence and administration officials have consistently skirted questions about weapons shipments, and what role the movement played in arming extremist groups the U.S. government is now trying to defeat in Syria and Iraq.

In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier broadcast May 11, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, deflected questions:

Baier: Were CIA officers tracking the movement of weapons from Libya to Syria?

Morell: I can’t talk about that.

Baier: You can’t talk about it?

Morell: I can’t talk about it.

Baier: Even if they weren’t moving the weapons themselves, are you saying categorically that the U.S. government and the CIA played no role whatsoever in the movement of weapons from Libya …

Morell: Yes.

Baier: — to Syria?

Morell: We played no role. Now whether we were watching other people do it, I can’t talk about it.

While the DIA report was not a finished intelligence assessment, such Intelligence Information Reports (IIRs) are vetted before distribution, a former Pentagon official said.

The October 2012 report may also be problematic for Hillary Clinton, who likewise skirted the weapons issue during her only congressional testimony on Benghazi in January 2013. In an exchange with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is now a Republican candidate for president, the former secretary of state said, “I will have to take that question for the record. Nobody’s ever raised that with me.”

Referring to Fox News’ ongoing reporting that a weapons ship, Al Entisar, had moved weapons from Libya to Turkey with a final destination of Syria in September 2012, Paul responded, “It’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons.” He asked whether the CIA annex which came under attack on Sept. 11, 2012 was involved in those shipments.

Clinton answered: “Well, senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. I will see what information is available.”

In a follow-up letter, the State Department Office of Legislative Affairs provided a narrow response to the senator’s question, and did not speak to the larger issue of weapons moving from Libya to Syria.

“The United States is not involved in any transfer of weapons to Turkey,” the February 2013 letter from Thomas B. Gibbons, acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said.

Heavily redacted congressional testimony, declassified after the House intelligence committee Benghazi investigation concluded, shows conflicting accounts were apparently given to lawmakers.

On Nov. 15 2012, Morell and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified “Yes” on whether the U.S. intelligence community was aware arms were moving from Libya to Syria. This line of questioning by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, who is now the intelligence committee chairman, was shut down by his predecessor Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who said not everyone in the classified hearing was “cleared” to hear the testimony, which means they did not have a high enough security clearance.

An outside analyst told Fox News that Rogers’ comments suggest intelligence related to the movement of weapons was a “read on,” and limited to a very small number of recipients.

Six months later, on May 22, 2013, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, now chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked if the CIA was “monitoring arms that others were sending into Syria.” Morell said, “No, sir.”

The Judicial Watch documents also contain a DIA report from Sept. 12, 2012. It indicates that within 24 hours of the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty at the CIA annex, there were strong indicators that the attack was planned at least a week in advance, and was retaliation for a June 2012 drone strike that killed an Al Qaeda strategist — there is no discussion of a demonstration or an anti-Islam video, which were initially cited by the Obama administration as contributing factors.

“The attack was planned ten or more days prior to approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for the US killing of Aboyahiye (Alaliby) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.”

The DIA report also states a little-known group, “Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman,” claimed responsibility, though the group has not figured prominently in previous congressional investigations. The document goes on to say the group’s leader is Abdul Baset, known by the name Azuz, “sent by (Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) to set up Al Qaeda bases in Libya.”

“The Obama administration says it was a coincidence that it occurred on 9/11. In fact, their intelligence said it wasn’t a coincidence and in fact specifically the attack occurred because it was 9/11,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Fox News.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

By Catherine HerridgePublished May 18, 2015FoxNews.com

Find this story at 18 May 2015

©2015 FOX News Network, LLC.

Canadian military predicted Libya would descend into civil war if foreign countries helped overthrow Gaddafi (2015)

Canadian military intelligence officers predicted in 2011 that Libya could descend into a lengthy civil war if foreign countries provided assistance to rebels opposing the country’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen.

The warning, made just days before several countries, including Canada, began their March 2011 bombing campaign against Gaddafi’s regime, has unfolded as predicted.

Libya has descended into chaos as rival tribes and militias continue to battle each other for control of the country.

Last week, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri warned that warring factions were pushing his country into a full-scale civil war. Italy has also raised concerns that Islamic extremists who now occupy parts of the country pose a threat to the region and Europe.

The Canadian government and military played key roles in overthrowing Gaddafi and highlighted those efforts as a significant victory both for Libya and Canadians.

At the time, then-foreign affairs minister John Baird reinforced Canada’s support for the rebel groups fighting Gaddafi, pointing out they had a well-developed plan that would transform the country into a democracy. “The one thing we can say categorically is that they couldn’t be any worse than Col. Gaddafi,” said Mr. Baird.

But when Gaddafi was overthrown in the fall of 2011, the various rebel groups refused to surrender their weapons and instead began fighting each other.

The uprising against Gaddafi began in February 2011. But it was NATO warplanes that destroyed large parts of Libya’s military and are now credited with allowing rag-tag militias and assorted armed groups to eventually seize control of the country.

Various nations began the military intervention in Libya on March 19, 2011. Canadian CF-18 fighter jets started their bombing runs on March 23.

Just days before, however, Canadian intelligence specialists sent a briefing report shared with senior officers. “There is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war,” they wrote in their March 15, 2011 assessment. “This is particularly probable if opposition forces received military assistance for foreign militaries.”

Some officers in the Canadian Forces tried to raise concerns early on in the war that removing Gaddafi would play into the hands of Islamic extremists, but military sources say those warnings went unheeded. Later, military members would privately joke about Canada’s CF-18s being part of “Al-Qaeda’s air force,” since their bombing runs helped to pave the way for rebel groups aligned with the terrorist group.

The Royal Canadian Air Force flew 10% of the missions during NATO’s campaign.

One can quarrel with it or not quarrel with it, but the mission was we would provide air cover for those that were initially subject to Gaddafi’s attacks and ultimately became his overthrowers

At the time of the Libyan uprising, U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, the NATO leader, acknowledged that some of the rebels benefiting from the air strikes could be linked to Islamic extremists. But he said that, overall, the opposition forces were made up of “responsible men and women.”

In September 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Canada’s role in Libya, suggesting that neither it nor NATO can be held responsible for the chaos that has since engulfed that country. “One can quarrel with it or not quarrel with it, but the mission was we would provide air cover for those that were initially subject to Gaddafi’s attacks and ultimately became his overthrowers,” Mr. Harper explained shortly before meeting NATO leaders.

“The decision was made at the outset that we were not going to go into Libya (on the ground) per se. It was going to be up to the Libyans to then make the best of the situation.”

Gaddafi was considered a brutal dictator, but in later years he was embraced by Western leaders, who provided his forces with military training and weapons.

Analysts with the Department of National Defence also noted Gaddafi was a staunch ally of the West in the war against Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism.

His efforts against Al-Qaeda-backed forces and his co-operation with the U.S. in providing information on terrorist networks were highlighted in a number of DND reports from 2002, 2003 and 2006 obtained by the Ottawa Citizen using the Access to Information law.

Gaddafi had his own reasons for helping the U.S. and Western nations in fighting Islamic extremists, since they also represented a threat to his own power.

POSTMEDIA NEWS 03.01.2015

Find this story at 3 January 2015

© 2015 Postmedia Network Inc.

The circus: How British intelligence primed both sides of the ‘terror war’ (2015)

‘Jihadi John’ was able to join IS for one simple reason: from Quilliam to al-Muhajiroun, Britain’s loudest extremists have been groomed by the security services
Every time there’s a terrorist attack that makes national headlines, the same talking heads seem to pop up like an obscene game of “whack-a-mole”. Often they appear one after the other across the media circuit, bobbing from celebrity television pundit to erudite newspaper outlet.

A few years ago, BBC Newsnight proudly hosted a “debate” between Maajid Nawaz, director of counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, and Anjem Choudary, head of the banned Islamist group formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, which has, since its proscription, repeatedly reincarnated itself. One of its more well-known recent incarnations was “Islam4UK”.

Both Nawaz and Choudary have received huge mainstream media attention, generating press headlines, and contributing to major TV news and current affairs shows. But unbeknown to most, they have one thing in common: Britain’s security services. And believe it or not, that bizarre fact explains why the Islamic State’s (IS) celebrity beheader, former west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi – aka “Jihadi John” – got to where he is now.

A tale of two extremists

After renouncing his affiliation with the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), Maajid Nawaz co-founded the Quilliam Foundation with his fellow ex-Hizb member, Ed Husain.

The Quilliam Foundation was set-up by Husain and Nawaz in 2008 with significant British government financial support. Its establishment received a massive PR boost from the release of Ed Husain’s memoirs, The Islamist, which rapidly became an international bestseller, generating hundreds of reviews, interviews and articles.

In Ed Husain’s book – much like Maajid Nawaz’s tome Radical released more recently to similar fanfare – Husain recounts his journey from aggrieved young Muslim into Islamist activist, and eventually his total rejection of Islamist ideology.

Both accounts of their journeys of transformation offer provocative and genuine insights. But the British government has played a much more direct role in crafting those accounts than either they, or the government, officially admit.

Government ghostwriters

In late 2013, I interviewed a former senior researcher at the Home Office who revealed that Husain’s The Islamist was “effectively ghostwritten in Whitehall”.

The official told me that in 2006, he was informed by a government colleague “with close ties” to Jack Straw and Gordon Brown that “the draft was written by Ed but then ‘peppered’ by government input”. The civil servant told him “he had seen ‘at least five drafts of the book, and the last one was dramatically different from the first.’”

The draft had, the source said, been manipulated in an explicitly political, pro-government manner. The committee that had input into Ed Husain’s manuscript prior to its official publication included senior government officials from No. 10 Downing Street, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, the intelligence services, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Home Office.

When I put the question, repeatedly, to Ed Husain as to the veracity of these allegations, he did not respond. I also asked Nawaz whether he was aware of the government’s role in “ghostwriting” Husain’s prose, and whether he underwent a similar experience in the production of Radical. He did not respond either.

While Husain was liaising with British government and intelligence officials over The Islamist from 2006 until the book’s publication in May 2007, his friend Nawaz was at first in prison in Egypt. Nawaz was eventually released in March 2006, declaring his departure from HT just a month before the publication of Husain’s book. Husain took credit for being the prime influence on Nawaz’s decision, and by November 2007, had joined with him becoming Quilliam’s director with Husain as his deputy.

Yet according to Husain, Nawaz played a role in determining parts of the text of The Islamist in the same year it was being edited by government officials. “Before publication, I discussed with my friend and brother-in-faith Maajid the passages in the book,” wrote Husain about the need to verify details of their time in HT.

This is where the chronology of Husain’s and Nawaz’s accounts begin to break down. In Radical, and repeatedly in interviews about his own deradicalisation process, Nawaz says that he firmly and decisively rejected HT’s Islamist ideology while in prison in Egypt. Yet upon his release and return to Britain, Nawaz showed no sign of having reached that decision. Instead, he did the opposite. In April 2006, Nawaz told Sarah Montague on BBC Hardtalk that his detention in Egypt had “convinced [him] even more… that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible.” From then on, Nawaz, who was now on HT’s executive committee, participated in dozens of talks and interviews in which he vehemently promoted the Hizb.

I first met Nawaz at a conference on 2 December 2006 organised by the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC) on the theme of “reclaiming our rights”. I had spoken on a panel about the findings of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, on how British state collusion with Islamist extremists had facilitated the 7/7 attacks. Nawaz had attended the event as an audience member with two other senior HT activists, and in our brief conversation, he spoke of his ongoing work with HT in glowing terms.

By January 2007, Nawaz was at the front of a HT protest at the US embassy in London, condemning US military operations in Iraq and Somalia. He delivered a rousing speech at the protest, demanding an end to “colonial intervention in the Muslim world,” and calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate to stand up to such imperialism and end Western support for dictators.

Yet by his own account, throughout this very public agitation on behalf of HT from mid-2006 onwards, Nawaz had in fact rejected the very ideology he was preaching so adamantly. Indeed, in the same period, he was liaising with his friend, Ed Husain – who at that time was still in Jeddah – and helping him with the text of his anti-HT manifesto, The Islamist, which was also being vetted at the highest levels of government.

The British government’s intimate, and secret, relationship with Husain in the year before the publication of his book in 2007 shows that, contrary to his official biography, the Quilliam Foundation founder was embedded in Whitehall long before he was on the public radar. How did he establish connections at this level?

MI5’s Islamist

According to Dr Noman Hanif, a lecturer in international terrorism and political Islam at Birkbeck College, University of London, and an expert on Hizb ut-Tahrir, the group’s presence in Britain likely provided many opportunities for Western intelligence to “penetrate or influence” the movement.

Dr Hanif, whose doctoral thesis was about the group, points out that Husain’s tenure inside HT by his own account occurred “under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammed,” the controversial cleric who left the group in 1996 to found al-Muhajiroun, a militant network which to this day has been linked to every major terrorist plot in Britain.

Bakri’s leadership of HT, said Dr Hanif, formed “the most conceptually deviant period of HT’s existence in the UK, diverting quite sharply away from its core ideas,” due to Bakri’s advocacy of violence and his focus on establishing an Islamic state in the UK, goals contrary to HT doctrines.

When Bakri left HT and set-up al-Muhajiroun in 1996, according to John Loftus, a former US Army intelligence officer and Justice Department prosecutor, Bakri was immediately recruited by MI6 to facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. And not just Bakri, but also Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently convicted in the US on terrorism charges.

When Bakri founded al-Muhajiroun in 1996 with the blessings of Britain’s security services, his co-founder was Anjem Choudary. Choudary was intimately involved in the programme to train and send Britons to fight abroad, and three years later, would boast to the Sunday Telegraph that “some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition”.

Historian Mark Curtis, in his seminal work, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, documents how under this arrangement, Bakri trained hundreds of Britons at camps in the UK and the US, and dispatched them to join al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Bosnia, Kosovo and Chechnya.

Shortly before the 2005 London bombings, Ron Suskind, a Wall Street Journal Pulitizer Prize winning investigative reporter, was told by a senior MI5 official that Bakri was a longtime informant for the secret service who “had helped MI5 on several of its investigations”. Bakri, Suskind adds in his book, The Way of the World, reluctantly conceded the relationship in an interview in Beirut – but Suskind gives no indication that the relationship ever ended.

A senior terrorism lawyer in London who has represented clients in several high-profile terrorism cases told me that both Bakri and Choudary had regular meetings with MI5 officers in the 1990s. The lawyer, who works for a leading firm of solicitors and has regularly liaised with MI5 in the administration of closed court hearings involving secret evidence, said: “Omar Bakri had well over 20 meetings with MI5 from around 1993 to the late 1990s. Anjem Choudary apparently participated in such meetings toward the latter part of the decade. This was actually well-known amongst several senior Islamist leaders in Britain at the time.”

According to Dr Hanif of Birkbeck College, Bakri’s relationship with the intelligence services likely began during his “six-year reign as HT leader in Britain,” which would have “provided British intelligence ample opportunity” to “widely infiltrate the group”. HT had already been a subject of MI6 surveillance abroad “because of its core level of support in Jordan and the consistent level of activity in other areas of the Middle East for over five decades.”

At least some HT members appear to have been aware of Bakri’s intelligence connections, including, it seems, Ed Husain himself. In one passage in The Islamist (p. 116), Husain recounts: “We were also concerned about Omar’s application for political asylum… I raised this with Bernie [another HT member] too. ‘Oh no’, he said, ‘On the contrary. The British are like snakes; they manoeuvre carefully. They need Omar in Britain. More likely, Omar will be the ambassador for the khilafah here or leave to reside in the Islamic state. The kuffar know that – allowing Omar to stay in Britain will give them a good start, a diplomatic advantage, when they have to deal with the Islamic state. Having Omar serves them well for the future. MI5 knows exactly what we’re doing, what we’re about, and yet they have in effect, given us the green light to operate in Britain.”

Husain left HT after Bakri in August 1997. According to Faisal Haque, a British government civil servant and former HT member who knew Ed Husain during his time in the group, Husain had a strong “personal relationship” with Bakri. He did not leave HT for “ideological reasons,” said Haque. “It was more to do with his close personal relationship with Omar Bakri (he left when Bakri was kicked out), pressure from his father and other personal reasons which I don’t want to mention.”

Husain later went on to work for the British Council in the Middle East. From 2003 to 2005, he was in Damascus. During that period, by his own admission, he informed on other British members of HT for agitating against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, resulting in them being deported by Syrian authorities back to Britain. At this time, the CIA and MI6 routinely cooperated with Assad on extraordinary rendition programmes.

Husain then worked for the British Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from late 2005 to the end of 2006.

Throughout that year, according to the former Home Office official I spoke to, Husain was in direct contact with senior Whitehall officials who were vetting his manuscript for The Islamist. By November, Husain posted on DeenPort, an online discussion forum, a now deleted comment referring off-hand to the work of “the secret services” inside HT: “Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals… I foresee another split. And God knows best. I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!”

Shortly after, Maajid Nawaz would declare his departure from HT, and would eventually be joined at Quilliam by several others from the group, many of whom according to Nawaz had worked with him and Husain as “a team” behind the scenes at this time.

The ‘ex-jihadists’ who weren’t

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global “caliphate” through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism.

Nevertheless, Husain and Nawaz, along with their government benefactors, were convinced that those personal experiences of “radicalisation” and “deradicalisation” could by transplanted into the ongoing “war on terror” – even though, in reality neither of them had any idea about the dynamics of an actual terrorist network, and the radicalisation process leading to violent extremism. The result was an utterly misguided and evidence-devoid obsession with rejecting non-violent extremist ideologies as the primary means to prevent terrorism.

Through the Quilliam Foundation, Husain’s and Nawaz’s fundamentalist ideas about non-violent extremism went on to heavily influence official counter-terrorism discourses across the Western world. This was thanks to its million pounds worth of government seed-funding, intensive media coverage, as well as the government pushing Quilliam’s directors and staff to provide “deradicalisation training” to government and security officials in the US and Europe.

In the UK, Quilliam’s approach was taken up by various centre-right and right-wing think-tanks, such as the Centre for Social Cohesion (CCS) and Policy Exchange, all of which played a big role in influencing the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism programme (Prevent).

Exactly how bankrupt this approach is, however, can be determined from Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to express his understanding of the risk from non-violent extremism, a major feature of the coalition government’s Orwellian new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The latter establishes unprecedented powers of electronic surveillance and the basis for the “Prevent duty,” which calls for all public sector institutions to develop “risk-assessment” profiles of individuals deemed to be “at-risk” of being drawn into non-violent extremism.

In his speech at the UN last year, Cameron explained that counter-terrorism measures must target people who may not “encourage violence, but whose worldview can be used as a justification for it.” As examples of dangerous ideas at the “root cause” of terrorism, Cameron pinpointed “conspiracy theories,” and most outrageously, “The idea that Muslims are persecuted all over the world as a deliberate act of Western policy.”

In other words, if you believe, for instance, that US and British forces have deliberately conducted brutal military operations across the Muslim world resulting in the foreseeable deaths of countless innocent civilians, you are a non-violent extremist.

In an eye-opening academic paper published last year, French terrorism expert and Interior Ministry policy officer Dr Claire Arenes, noted that: “By definition, one may know if radicalisation has been violent only once the point of violence has been reached, at the end of the process. Therefore, since the end-term of radicalisation cannot be determined in advance, a policy intended to fight violent radicalisation entails a structural tendency to fight any form of radicalisation.”

It is precisely this moronic obsession with trying to detect and stop “any form of radicalisation,” however non-violent, that is hampering police and security investigations and overloading them with nonsense “risks”.

Double game

At this point, the memorable vision of Nawaz and Choudary facing off on BBC Newsnight appears not just farcical, but emblematic of how today’s national security crisis has been fuelled and exploited by the bowels of the British secret state.

Over the last decade or so – the very same period that the British state was grooming the “former jihadists who weren’t” so they could be paraded around the media-security-industrial complex bigging up the non-threat of “non-violent extremism” – the CIA and MI6 were coordinating Saudi-led funding to al-Qaeda affiliated extremists across the Middle East and Central Asia to counter Iranian Shiite influence.

From 2005 onwards, US and British intelligence services encouraged a range of covert operations to support Islamist opposition groups, including militants linked to al-Qaeda, to undermine regional Iranian and Syrian influence. By 2009, the focus of these operations shifted to Syria.

As I documented in written evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into Prevent in 2010, one of the recipients of such funding was none other than Omar Bakri, who at the time told one journalist: “Today, angry Lebanese Sunnis ask me to organise their jihad against the Shiites… Al-Qaeda in Lebanon… are the only ones who can defeat Hezbollah.” Simultaneously, Bakri was regularly in touch with his deputy, Anjem Choudary, over the internet and even delivered online speeches to his followers in Britain instructing them to join IS and murder civilians. He has now been detained and charged by Lebanese authorities for establishing terror cells in the country.

Bakri was also deeply involved “with training the mujahideen [fighters] in camps on the Syrian borders and also on the Palestine side.” The trainees included four British Islamists “with professional backgrounds” who would go on to join the war in Syria. Bakri also claimed to have trained “many fighters,” including people from Germany and France, since arriving in Lebanon. Was Mohammed Emwazi among them? Last year, Bakri disciple Mizanur Rahman confirmed that at least five European Muslims who had died fighting under IS in Syria had been Bakri acolytes.

Nevertheless in 2013, it was David Cameron who lifted the arms embargo to support Syria’s rebels. We now know that most of our military aid went to al-Qaeda affiliated Islamists, many with links to extremists at home. The British government itself acknowledged that a “substantial number” of Britons were fighting in Syria, who “will seek to carry out attacks against Western interests… or in Western states”.

Yet according to former British counterterrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, despite this risk, authorities “turned a blind eye to the travelling of its own jihadists to Syria, notwithstanding ample video etc. evidence of their crimes there,” because it “suited the US and UK’s anti-Assad foreign policy”.

This terror-funnel is what enabled people like Emwazi to travel to Syria and join up with IS – despite being on an MI5 terror watch-list. He had been blocked by the security services from traveling to Kuwait in 2010: why not Syria? Shoebridge, who was a British Army officer before joining the Metropolitan Police, told me that although such overseas terrorism has been illegal in the UK since 2006, “it’s notable that only towards the end of 2013 when IS turned against the West’s preferred rebels, and perhaps also when the tipping point between foreign policy usefulness and MI5 fears of domestic terrorist blowback was reached, did the UK authorities begin to take serious steps to tackle the flow of UK jihadists.”

The US-UK direct and tacit support for jihadists, Shoebridge said, had made Syria the safest place for regional terrorists fearing drone strikes “for more than two years”. Syria was “the only place British jihadists could fight without fear of US drones or arrest back home… likely because, unlike if similar numbers of UK jihadists had been travelling to for example Yemen or Afghanistan, this suited the anti-Assad policy.”

Having watched its own self-fulfilling prophecy unfold with horrifying precision in a string of IS-linked terrorist atrocities against Western hostages and targets, the government now exploits the resulting mayhem to vindicate its bankrupt “counter-extremism” narrative, promoted by hand-picked state-groomed “experts” like Husain and Nawaz.

Their prescription, predictably, is to expand the powers of the police state to identify and “deradicalise” anyone who thinks British foreign policy in the Muslim world is callous, self-serving and indifferent to civilian deaths. Government sources confirm that Nawaz’s input played a key role in David Cameron’s thinking on non-violent extremism, and the latest incarnation of the Prevent strategy; while last year, Husain was, ironically, appointed to the Foreign Office advisory group on freedom of religion or belief.

Meanwhile, Bakri’s deputy Choudary continues to inexplicably run around as Britain’s resident “terror cleric” media darling. His passport belatedly confiscated after a recent pointless police arrest that avoided charging him, he remains free to radicalise thick-headed British Muslims into joining IS, in the comfort that his hate speech will be broadcast widely, no doubt fueling widespread generic suspicion of British Muslims.

If only we could round up the Quilliam and al-Muhajiroun fanatics together, shove them onto a boat, and send them all off cruising to the middle of nowhere, they could have all the fun they want “radicalising” and “deradicalising” each other to their hearts content. And we might get a little peace. And perhaps we could send their handlers with them, too.

– Nafeez Ahmed PhD, is an investigative journalist, international security scholar and bestselling author who tracks what he calls the ‘crisis of civilization.’ He is a winner of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian reporting on the intersection of global ecological, energy and economic crises with regional geopolitics and conflicts. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 27 February 2015 14:35 GMT

Find this story at 27 February 2015

© Middle East Eye 2014

MI5 says rendition of Libyan opposition leaders strengthened al-Qaida

Intelligence assessment concludes abduction of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi allowed dissident group to be taken over by exponents of al-Qaida
Abdel Hakim Belhaj

A secret UK-Libyan rendition programme in which two Libyan opposition leaders were kidnapped and flown to Tripoli along with their families had the effect of strengthening al-Qaida, according to an assessment by the UK security service, MI5.

Prior to their kidnap, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi had ensured that their organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), focused on the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi, the classified assessment says. Once handed over to the Gaddafi regime, their places at the head of the LIFG were taken by others who wanted to bring the group closer to al-Qaida.

The two men were seized in Thailand and Hong Kong in March 2004 with the assistance of the UK’s intelligence service MI6, and were “rendered” to Tripoli along with Belhaj’s pregnant wife and Saadi’s wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

In an assessment made 11 months later, MI5 concluded that the capture of the pair had cast the group “into a state of disarray”, adding: “While these senior-ranking members have always jealously guarded the independence of the LIFG, providing it with a clear command structure and set goals, the group is now coming under pressure from outside influences.

“In particular, reporting indicates that members including Abu Laith al-Libi and Abdallah al-Ghaffar may be pushing the group towards a more pan-Islamic agenda inspired by AQ [al-Qaida].”

Two years after MI5 made this assessment, Libi announced the LIFG had formally joined forces with al-Qaida. He became a leading member of the merged organisation and is believed to have orchestrated a series of suicide bomb attacks across Afghanistan, including one in 2007 that killed 23 people at Bagram airfield north of Kabul during a visit by then US vice-president Dick Cheney. Libi was killed in a drone strike the following year.

The classified MI5 intelligence assessment was among hundreds of highly sensitive Libyan and British files that were discovered in official buildings that had been abandoned during the 2011 revolution that led to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi.

The end of his 42-year dictatorship was hastened by Nato air strikes, and was followed by a period of brief and heady optimism. At a rally in Benghazi in the east of the country in September 2011, the British prime minister, David Cameron, and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed enormous crowds waving their countries’ flags. “It’s great to be here in free Benghazi and in free Libya,” Cameron told them.

But Libya’s new leadership was already struggling to impose its authority on the country. And since then, the country has descended into violence and economic instability, with rival militias shelling residential areas and destroying infrastructure in their fight for supremacy.

Fears that Islamist militants would fill the yawning power vacuum appeared to be realised on Tuesday when gunmen claiming allegiance to Islamic State said that they were responsible for an attack on a Tripoli hotel in which at least five guards and five foreigners were killed.

The papers that were recovered during the revolution show that Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of joint operations with Gaddafi’s government and that some of the information extracted from victims of rendition was used as evidence during control-order and deportation proceedings in UK courts.

They also show that in 2006, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Another of the recovered documents is a letter that Tony Blair wrote to Gaddafi in April 2007, and whose existence publicly emerged last week. Addressed “Dear Mu’ammar”, Blair expressed his regret that the British government had failed in its attempts to have a number of Gaddafi’s opponents deported from the UK, and thanked the dictator for his intelligence agencies’ “excellent co-operation” with their British counterparts.

The classified MI5 document was prepared in advance of a five-day visit to Tripoli by senior agency staff in February 2005. Marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret”, it explains that members of the LIFG had been permitted to settle in the UK in the 1990s. This was at a time when Gaddafi, whom the group was plotting to overthrow, was considered to be an enemy of Britain.

The document adds that MI5 reassessed the LIFG’s UK-based members following the change in the group’s leadership that resulted from the detention of Belhaj and Saadi.

“We are actively investigating key individuals in the UK and are seeking to disrupt their activities,” the document says. This action was part of a new strategy “for countering the threat from the LIFG to the UK and its allies” – allies which, by 2005, included the Libyan dictatorship.

Accompanying the document was a list of questions that MI5 wanted Libyan interrogators to put to Belhaj and Saadi. A total of more than 1,600 questions were sent from the UK to Tripoli, in four batches, with MI6 at one point thanking the Libyan intelligence agents for “kindly agreeing” to pass the questions to their “interview team”.

Belhaj and Saadi both say they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli.

They say they were also interrogated by British intelligence officers, and Belhaj says he made it clear, by sign language, that he was being tortured.

After one of these encounters, he says, he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK to avoid being subjected to a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk.

The discovery of the documents that exposed the existence of the UK-Libyan rendition operations had caused widespread dismay in Westminster, even before the emergence of the latest report, which makes clear that one consequence of these operations was that the terrorist organisation that posed the greatest threat to the UK at that time was strengthened.

A criminal investigation into the affair was opened in January 2012 after Dominic Grieve, the then attorney general, wrote to the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe. After a three-year investigation codenamed Operation Lydd, detectives handed their report to the Crown Prosecution Service last month.

Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time, is among the people who have been questioned by police. His office says he was interviewed as a witness.

The rendition operations also led to damages claims being brought by Saadi – who received £2.2m in compensation from the British government – and by Belhaj. Belhaj is claiming damages on behalf of himself and his wife. She was four-and-a-half months pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, and Belhaj says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher for the 17-hour flight to Tripoli, before being jailed for several months.

Belhaj says he would settle his claim for just £3, as long as he and his wife also receive an apology. With the CPS currently considering the police file, this is unlikely to happen.

Ian Cobain
Thursday 29 January 2015 11.27 GMT Last modified on Friday 30 January 2015 00.05 GMT

Find this story at 29 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Britain hid secret MI6 plan to break up Libya from US, Hillary Clinton told by confidant (2015)

Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time friend of the Clintons, claimed David Cameron backed a French plot to create a break away zone eastern Libya

Britain acted deceitfully in Libya and David Cameron authorised an MI6 plan to “break up” the country, a close confidante of Hillary Clinton claimed in a series of secret reports sent to the then-secretary of state.
Sidney Blumenthal, a long-time friend of the Clintons, emailed Mrs Clinton on her personal account to warn her that Britain was “game playing” in Libya.
Mr Blumenthal had no formal role in the US State Department and his memos to Mrs Clinton were sourced to his own personal contacts in the Middle East and Europe.
Nevertheless, Mrs Clinton seems to have taken some of his reports seriously and forwarded them on to senior diplomats working at the highest levels of American foreign policy.
The first of Mr Blumenthal’s Libya memos – which were leaked to the New York Times – was sent on April 8, 2011, as rebel forces struggled to make gains against Gaddafi’s troops, and had “UK game playing” in the subject line.
The memo warned that British diplomats and MI6 officers were maintaining secret back channels with the Gaddafi regime “in an effort to protect the British position in the event that the rebellion settles into a stalemate”.

Mr Blumenthal claimed that MI6 spies were in discussions with Saif Gaddafi, the dictator’s son, “regarding future relations between the two countries if he takes over power from his father and implements reforms”.
The memo also claims that the Libyan rebels were deeply suspicious of Britain and suspected that the UK would be “satisfied with a stalemate” in which Gaddafi or his family stayed in power in part of the country.
Their suspicions were stoked when Gaddafi’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, defected to Britain in March 2011, Mr Blumenthal claimed. The rebels apparently saw the defection as evidence that Britain had secret lines of communication with the highest ranks of the Gaddafi regime.
Extract from the email:

Eight minutes after receiving Mr Blumenthal’s email, Mrs Clinton forwarded it on to one of her most senior aides. She did not comment on the allegations about Britain. A week later, she met with William Hague, the then-foreign secretary at a Nato summit in Berlin.
Perhaps unbeknownst to Mr Blumenthal, who was working for Bill Clinton’s global charity at the time and not privy to classified information, the CIA was maintaining its own back channels to Gaddafi.
Michael Morell, the CIA’s deputy director, spoke regularly to Abdullah Senussi, the head of Gaddafi’s internal intelligence service, even as US aircraft were bombing regime forces on the battlefield.
Mr Blumenthal emailed Mrs Clinton about Britain again on March 8, 2012 with the subject: “France & UK behind Libya breakup”.
By this time Gaddafi was dead and his regime had collapsed and a provisional government, the Libyan National Transitional Council, was trying to assert its authority across the country.
Mr Blumenthal told Mrs Clinton that MI6 and its French counterpart, the DGSE, were secretly encouraging rebels in eastern Libya to establish “a semi-autonomous zone” outside the control of the new government.
The plot was allegedly instigated by advisors to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who believed that the new Libyan government was not “rewarding” French businesses for France’s role in overthrowing Gaddafi.
He alleged that MI6 joined in the plan “at the instruction of the office of Prime Minister David Cameron”.
“The French and British intelligence officials believe that the semi-autonomous regime in the eastern city of Benghazi will be able to organise business opportunities in that region,” he wrote.
Extract from the email:

Mrs Clinton seems to have been sceptical about the report and forwarded it on to her aide Jake Sullivan with the comment: “This one strains credulity. What do you think?”
Mrs Clinton’s aides appear unimpressed with the stream of emails coming from Mr Blumenthal and Mr Sullivan replied that the MI6 allegations sounded like “like a thin conspiracy theory”.
Mrs Clinton was asked about the emails during a campaign appearance in Iowa on Tuesday and said Mr Blumenthal had been “a friend of mine for a very long time”.
“He sent unsolicited emails which I passed on in some instances. That’s just part of the give and take,” she said.
On Thursday, a new batch of leaked emails showed that Mr Blumenthal had passed on allegations that MI6 was involved in talks to broker a ceasefire and install Saif Gaddafi in his father’s place.
Saif was one of the most Western of Gaddafi’s children and had strong links to Britain. He studied at the London School of Economics (LSE) and was hosted at Buckingham Palace.

A June 3 email from said the Libyan regime had “opened extremely complicated negotiations with the government of the United Kingdom” over a deal that would allow the Gaddafis “to maintain some level of control” in Libya.
Under the regime’s proposal Saif Gaddafi could take his father’s role as head of state but share power with a cabinet made up partly of representatives from the opposition.
Gaddafi himself would be allowed to go into exile without facing war crimes or corruption charges by the new government.
The initial conversations were apparently carried out by MI6 officers and it is not clear if the talks ever progressed to senior levels of government.
Mrs Clinton did not dismiss the claims and forwarded them on to a senior aide while asking her personal assistant to print them out.
Extract from the email:

The email claims Saif and his circle knew there was “little chance” that the rebels would agree to the offer and suspected MI6 may have engaged in the talks only “as a means of collecting intelligence while protecting British interests in Libya” and had no real interest in a deal.
In any event the plan was never carried out and Saif, was captured by rebel forces in November 2011, a few weeks after his father’s death.
He is now facing trial in Libya on charges that he orchestrated a campaign of terror against civilian populations during the uprising against his father.
The Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Blumenthal memos have aroused interest in the US because they appear to show a blurring of the lines between Mrs Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation set up by her husband.
Although he had no role in the State Department, he was working for the Clinton Foundation and various political groups allied with Mrs Clinton, according to the New York Times.
Mr Blumenthal worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and was known for fierce loyalty to both the Clintons and for aggressively confronting their critics.
Aides to Barack Obama prevented Mrs Clinton from bringing him into the State Department in 2009, believing that he would only stir up trouble after the bitterly-fought election battle between Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton.

Raf Sanchez By Raf Sanchez, Washington4:30PM BST 21 May 2015

Find this story at 21 May 2015
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2015

Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers (2015)

Links between MI5 and Gaddafi’s intelligence during Tony Blair’s government more extensive than previously thought, according to documents
Blair visit to Africa

Britain’s intelligence agencies engaged in a series of previously unknown joint operations with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s government and used the information extracted from rendition victims as evidence during partially secret court proceedings in London, according to an analysis of official documents recovered in Tripoli since the Libyan revolution.

The exhaustive study of the papers from the Libyan government archives shows the links between MI5, MI6 and Gaddafi’s security agencies were far more extensive than previously thought and involved a number of joint operations in which Libyan dissidents were unlawfully detained and allegedly tortured.

At one point, Libyan intelligence agents were invited to operate on British soil, where they worked alongside MI5 and allegedly intimidated a number of Gaddafi opponents who had been granted asylum in the UK.

Previously, MI6 was known to have assisted the dictatorship with the kidnap of two Libyan opposition leaders, who were flown to Tripoli along with their families – including a six-year-old girl and a pregnant woman – in 2004.

However, the research suggests that the fruits of a series of joint clandestine operations also underpinned a significant number of court hearings in London between 2002 and 2007, during which the last Labour government unsuccessfully sought to deport Gaddafi’s opponents on the basis of information extracted from people who had been “rendered” to his jails.

Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
UK intelligence agencies sent more 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders.
In addition, the documents show that four men were subjected to control orders in the UK – a form of curfew – on the basis of information extracted from victims of rendition who had been handed over to the Gaddafi regime.

The papers recovered from the dictatorship’s archives include secret correspondence from MI6, MI5 reports on Libyans living in the UK, a British intelligence assessment marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only – Secret” and official Libyan minutes of meetings between the two countries’ intelligence agencies.

They show that:

• UK intelligence agencies sent more than 1,600 questions to be put to the two opposition leaders, Sami al-Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj, despite having reason to suspect they were being tortured.

• British government lawyers allegedly drew upon the answers to those questions when seeking the deportation of Libyans living in the UK

• Five men were subjected to control orders in the UK, allegedly on the basis of information extracted from two rendition victims.

• Gaddafi’s agents recorded MI5 as warning in September 2006 that the two countries’ agencies should take steps to ensure that their joint operations would never be “discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”.

In fact, papers that detail the joint UK-Libyan rendition operations were discovered by the New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch in September 2011, at the height of the Libyan revolution, in an abandoned government office building in Tripoli.

Since then, hundreds more documents have been discovered in government files in Tripoli. A team of London-based lawyers has assembled them into an archive that is forming the basis of a claim for damages on behalf of 12 men who were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, subject to control orders or tricked into travelling to Libya where they were detained and mistreated.

An attempt by government lawyers to have that claim struck out was rejected by the high court in London on Thursday , with the judge, Mr Justice Irwin, ruling that the allegations “are of real potential public concern” and should be heard and dealt with by the courts.

The litigation follows earlier proceedings brought on behalf of the two families who were kidnapped in the far east and flown to Tripoli. One claim was settled when the government paid £2.23m in compensation to al-Saadi and his family; the second is ongoing, despite attempts by government lawyers to have it thrown out of court, with Belhaj suing not only the British government, but also Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6, and Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of his kidnap.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Abdel Hakim Belhaj is suing the British government.
Belhaj has offered to settle for just £3, providing he and his wife also receive an unreserved apology. This is highly unlikely to happen, however, as the two rendition operations are also the subject of a three-year Scotland Yard investigation code-named Operation Lydd. Straw has been questioned by detectives: his spokesman says he was interviewed “as a witness”.

Last month, detectives passed a final file to the Crown Prosecution Service. No charges are imminent, however. The CPS said: “The police investigation has lasted almost three years and has produced a large amount of material. These are complex allegations that will require careful consideration, but we will aim to complete our decision-making as soon as is practicably possible.”

The volte-face in UK-Libyan relations was always going to be contentious: the Gaddafi regime had not only helped to arm the IRA, bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives in 1988, and harboured the man who murdered a London policewoman, Yvonne Fletcher, four years earlier; it had been responsible for the bombing of a French airliner and a Berlin nightclub, and for several decades had been sending assassins around the world to murder its opponents.

The Tripoli archives show that the rapprochement, which began with the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1999, gathered pace within weeks of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Sir Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, has said that these links were always authorised by government ministers.

The week after the attacks, British intelligence officers met with Moussa Koussa, the head of Libyan intelligence, who offered to provide intelligence from Islamists held in the regime’s jails.

Two months later, British intelligence officers held a three-day conference with their Libyan counterparts at a hotel at a European airport. German and Austrian intelligence officers also attended.

According to the Libyan minutes, the British explained that they could not arrest anyone in the UK – only the police could do that – and that there could be difficulty in obtaining authorisation for Gaddafi’s intelligence officers to operate in the UK. They also added that impending changes to UK law would give them “more leeway” in the near future.

Other documents released under the Freedom of Information Act detail the way in which diplomatic contacts between London and Tripoli developed, with a British trade minister, Mike O’Brien, visiting Tripoli in August 2002, the same month that the dictator’s son, Saif, was admitted as a post-graduate student at the London School of Economics. Blair and Gaddafi spoke by telephone for the first time, chatting for 30 minutes, and in December 2003 the dictator announced publicly that he was abandoning his programme for the development of weapons of mass destruction.

With the war in Iraq going badly, London and Washington were able to suggest that an invasion that had been justified by a need to dismantle a WMD programme that was subsequently found not to exist had at least resulted in another country’s weapons programme being dismantled.

Three months later, in March 2004, the new relationship was sealed by a meeting between Gaddafi and Blair, during which the British prime minister announced that the two countries had found common cause in the fight against terrorism, and the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell announced that it had signed a £110m deal for gas exploration rights off the Libyan coast.

However, the Tripoli archive shows that beneath the surface of the new alliance, the Blair government was encouraging ever-closer co-operation between the UK’s intelligence agencies and the intelligence agencies of a dictatorship which had been widely condemned for committing the most serious human rights abuses; MI5 and MI6, and the CIA, would begin to work hand-in-glove with the Libyan External Security Organisation.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 during most of the period that the UK’s intelligence agencies were working closely with the Libyan dictatorship, has defended the decision to open talks with Gaddafi on the grounds that it helped to deter him from pursuing his WMD programme. However, when delivering the 2011 Reith Lecture, she added: “There are questions to be answered about the various relationships that developed afterwards and whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon.”

The archive clearly shows that Gaddafi hoped that this intelligence co-operation would result in British assistance in his attempts to round up and imprison Libyans who were living in exile in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Mali. All of these men were members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an Islamist organisation that had attempted to assassinate him three times since its foundation in the early 90s. A largely spent force since the late 90s, many of the members of the LIFG had been living peacefully in the UK for more than a decade, having arrived as refugees. Some had been granted British citizenship. Koussa’s agency asked British intelligence to investigate 79 of these men, whom they described as “Libyan heretics”.

Two weeks before Blair’s visit to Libya, Belhaj and his four-and-a-half-months pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were kidnapped in Thailand and flown to Tripoli. Bouchar says she was taped, head to foot, to a stretcher, for the 17-hour flight.

In a follow-up letter to Koussa, Allen claimed credit for the rendition of Belhaj – referring to him as Abu Abd Allah Sadiq, the name by which he is better known in the jihadi world – saying that although “I did not pay for the air cargo”, the intelligence that led to the couple’s capture was British.

Three days after Blair’s visit, al-Saadi was rendered from Hong Kong to Tripoli, along with his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six.

Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa was head of Libyan intelligence.
Both men say that while being held at Tajoura prison outside Tripoli they were beaten, whipped, subjected to electric shocks, deprived of sleep and threatened.

Belhaj says he was twice interrogated at Tajoura by British intelligence officers. After gesturing that the session was being recorded, Belhaj says he made a number of gestures to show that he was being beaten and suspended by his arms. One of the British officers, a man, is said to have given a thumbs-up signal, while the second, a woman, is said to have nodded.

Belhaj alleges that following one of these encounters he agreed to sign a statement about his associates in the UK after being threatened with a form of torture called the Honda, which involved being locked in a box-like structure whose ceiling and walls could be shrunk, provoking extreme claustrophobia and fear as well as discomfort.

According to the claim being brought against the British government, the attempt to track down other leading members of the LIFG resulted in the intelligence agencies of Libya and the UK throwing their net still wider.

In late 2005, a British citizen of Somali origin and a Libyan living in Ireland were arrested in Saudi Arabia and allegedly tortured while being questioned by Saudi intelligence officers about associates who were members of the LIFG. The men say they were shackled and beaten. The British citizen says he was also interrogated by two British men who declined to identify themselves and who appeared uninterested in his complaints of mistreatment.

Many of the questions put to the two men concerned the whereabouts of Othman Saleh Khalifa, a long-standing member of the LIFG. Khalifa was detained in Mali a few months later and rendered to Libya. The Tripoli archive shows that summaries of his interrogations were sent to British intelligence, and that both MI5 and MI6 submitted questions that they wished to be put to him. A memorandum from MI6 to Koussa’s deputy, Sadegh Krema, was accompanied by questions “which you kindly agreed to pass to your interview team”.

Khalifa says that he was beaten during interrogations for around six months during the second half of 2006 and that he did not see daylight.

The Tripoli archive shows that during the same week that Khalifa was being rendered to Libya, MI5 and MI6 officers met Libyan intelligence officers in Tripoli and informed them that they were to be invited to the UK to conduct joint intelligence operations. The Libyan minutes of the meeting say that MI5 informed them that “London and Manchester are the two hottest spots” for LIFG activity in the country. The aim was to recruit informants within the Libyan community in the UK.

The Libyan minutes of the meeting also say that the British told them: “With your co-operation we should be able to target specific individuals.” The Libyans, meanwhile, said that potential recruits could be “intimidated” through threats to arrest relatives in Libya.

The following August, senior MI5 and MI6 officers and two Libyan intelligence officers met at MI5’s headquarters in London. According to the Libyan minutes, MI5 warned the Libyans that individuals could complain to the police if they believed they were being harassed by MI5, and could also expose the British-Libyan joint operations to the media.

The minutes also state that the British suggested that Libyan intelligence officers should approach potential recruits in the UK, and that if they refused to cooperate, arrangements could be made for the targets to be arrested under anti-terrorism legislation, accused of associating with those same Libyan intelligence officers, and threatened with deportation.

Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Sami al-Saadi has been paid £2.23m in compensation.
One of the targets was a 32-year-old Libyan, associated with the LIFG, who had lived in the UK for 10 years and had been a British citizen for six years. The Libyan intelligence officers repeatedly telephoned him, claiming to be consular officials, and he eventually agreed to meet them at the Landmark hotel in Marylebone, London, on 2 September 2006. According to the Libyan notes of this meeting, the British insisted that two MI5 officers, one calling herself Caroline, should be present, so that the target should know that he was the subject of a joint UK-Libyan approach.

The target was told that he was to be given time to think about the approach. In Libya, meanwhile, the target’s brothers, sisters and mother say they were each detained in turn and told that they should persuade him to return to the country.

The Libyan intelligence officers also visited Manchester, calling at the home of another man targeted for recruitment. According to their notes, MI5 warned them not to enter the house but to persuade him to go with them to a public place where they could be photographed together. As he was not at home, the Libyan spies went instead to a mosque in the Didsbury district, where they told the imam that they were importing and exporting books.

On 5 September, shortly before the two Libyan intelligence officers returned home, they had another meeting with their British counterparts. Their notes show that the British warned that steps should be taken jointly to “avoid being trapped in any sort of legal problem [and] to avoid also that those joint plans be discovered by lawyers or human rights organisations and the media”. The Libyans assured MI5 and MI6: “We have effectively reassured them that we will stick by the joint plan to avoid any blame if the operation fails.”

The target says he was approached by “Caroline” and a second MI5 officer on a number of other occasions, but declined to travel to Libya and still lives in west London.

Six Libyan men, the widow of a seventh, and five British citizens of Libyan and Somali origin are bringing a number of claims, which include allegations of false imprisonment, blackmail, misfeasance in public office and conspiracy to assault.

The case is being brought against MI5 and MI6 as well as the Home Office and Foreign Office. Government departments declined to comment on the grounds that the litigation is ongoing.

When making their unsuccessful bid to have the case struck out, government lawyers admitted no liability. They argued that the five claimants who were subjected to control orders were properly considered to pose a threat to the UK’s national security, and denied that the government relied on information from prisoners held in Libya in making that assessment. They also argued that the LIFG had been a threat to the UK. They are expected to appeal Thursday’s high court decision.

Allen has declined to comment on the rendition operations, while Straw says: “At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say more about this at an appropriate stage in the future.”

Ian Cobain
Thursday 22 January 2015 14.24 GMT Last modified on Monday 26 January 2015 14.03 GMT

Find this story at 22 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

MI5 spied on Libyan torture victims, documents reveal (2011)

BRITAIN’S security service MI5 asked Muammar Gaddafi’s secret services for regular updates on what terrorist suspects were revealing under interrogation in Libyan prisons, where torture was routine.

MI5 also agreed to trade information with Libyan spymasters on 50 British-based Libyans judged to be a threat to Gaddafi’s regime.

The disclosures come from secret intelligence documents left lying around in the ruins of the British embassy in Tripoli for anyone to find.

They include an MI5 paper marked “UK/Libya Eyes Only Secret”, which shows that the service provided Gaddafi’s spies with a trove of intelligence about Libyan dissidents in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester.

Other documents seen by The Sunday Times in the abandoned offices of British and Libyan officials reveal that:

– The Ministry of Defence invited the dictator’s sons Saadi and Khamis Gaddafi, whose forces have massacred civilians during Libya’s revolution, to a combat display at SAS headquarters in Hereford and a dinner at the Cavalry and Guards Club in Mayfair;

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– Tony Blair helped another son, Saif Gaddafi, with his PhD thesis, beginning a personal letter with the words “Dear Engineer Saif”;

– The Foreign Office planned to use Prince Andrew in a secret strategy to secure the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, from prison in Scotland and offset the risk of retaliation if he died in jail. In fact, Megrahi was released anyway.

The cache of documents shows how close the British governments of both Blair and Gordon Brown were to a brutal regime that was overthrown last month when pro-democracy rebels seized Tripoli.

Nowhere is this closeness more evident than in the intelligence sphere. The MI5 paper for Gaddafi’s security services contains detailed information about members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant dissident outfit with cells in Britain.

The document, prepared ahead of an MI5 visit to Tripoli in 2005, formally requested that Libyan intelligence should provide access to detainees held by secret police and to “timely debriefs” of interrogations.

It added: “The more timely (the) information the better … Such intelligence is most valuable when it is current. It is notable that LIFG members in the UK become aware of the detention of members overseas within a relatively short period.”

The request was made despite widespread evidence of torture in Libyan prisons and assassinations of dissidents in other countries, including Britain. Torture practices identified by the US State Department included “clubbing, setting dogs on prisoners, electric shocks, suffocation by plastic bags and pouring lemon juice into open wounds”.

The disclosures will reignite the debate on the alleged complicity of British security services in the torture of terrorist suspects abroad. Last year David Cameron announced a judge-led inquiry into separate claims that M15 and MI6 were complicit in the torture of British citizens by foreign interrogators.

Some of those named in the documents found in Tripoli are thought to have been arrested subsequently in Britain and placed on control orders, a form of house arrest that is due to be debated in parliament this week.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “These chilling revelations show just how cosy British authorities became with a regime known for torture. How on earth did they think these timely detainee debriefs were going to be obtained?

“The thought that people [who were] discussed with Gadaffi’s henchmen may have been placed on control orders as a result of ‘detainee debriefs’ should prey on the mind of every MP who votes on the new control order regime tomorrow.”

Other documents that have emerged show how America’s CIA sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya. One letter from an MI6 officer to his Libyan counterpart reported the release from detention in Britain of a key LIFG member.

The MI5 document makes clear the key area of mutual interest to both countries was the LIFG, the most powerful radical faction waging war against Gadaffi’s regime. The group aimed to replace his dictatorship with a hardline Islamist state. Its main external base was in Britain, where 50 members lived.

MI5 believed the group had growing links to al-Qa’ida. It was suspected of supplying a “pipeline” of finance and false documents for the group’s international operations and of facilitating trips by jihadists from Britain to fight against western forces in Iraq.

MI5 also feared the LIFG might be planning terrorist attacks against the West.

A rider to the report says the information is being sent to the Libyans “for research and analysis purposes only and should not be used for overt, covert or executive action” – an apparent reference to kidnapping or execution.

A senior Whitehall official declined to discuss details of the agreement to share intelligence. He said: “We do not engage in, or encourage others to engage in, or contract out in situations where we knowingly, or have a very strong reason to believe that someone is being maltreated or is at risk of, maltreatment.”

William Hague, the foreign secretary, said intelligence documents emerging in Tripoli “relate to a period under the previous government, so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.

A document found in the office of Saadi Gaddafi, head of Libya’s special forces, showed the Ministry of Defence made elaborate plans for him to visit Britain in 2006 with his brother Khamis, whose commandos killed dozens of detainees before retreating from Tripoli as the regime fell.

The Sunday Times
MILES AMOORE AND DAVID LEPPARD THE SUNDAY TIMES SEPTEMBER 04, 2011 1:13PM

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Libya rebel commander wants MI6 and CIA apologies (2011)

The commander of anti-government forces in Tripoli has told the BBC he wants an apology from Britain and America for the way he was transferred to a prison in Libya in 2004.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who was then a terror suspect, says he was tortured after being arrested in Bangkok and taken to the Libyan capital in an operation organised by the CIA and MI6.
Details of his case are included in messages sent to the Gaddafi regime by the two intelligence services.
Jeremy Bowen reports from Tripoli.

4 September 2011 Last updated at 22:39 BST

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Libya: Gaddafi regime’s US-UK spy links revealed (2011)

US and UK spy agencies built close ties with their Libyan counterparts during the so-called War on Terror, according to documents discovered at the office of Col Gaddafi’s former spy chief.
The papers suggest the CIA abducted several suspected militants from 2002 to 2004 and handed them to Tripoli.
The UK’s MI6 also apparently gave the Gaddafi regime details of dissidents.
The documents, found by Human Rights Watch workers, have not been seen by the BBC or independently verified.
Meanwhile, the head of Libya’s interim governing body, the National Transitional Council, said its soldiers were laying siege to towns still held by Col Gaddafi’s forces.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil said Sirte, Bani Walid, Jufra and Sabha were being given humanitarian aid, but had one week to surrender.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Benghazi says there have been unconfirmed reports that Bani Walid has now been taken by anti-Gaddafi forces.
But witnesses on the edge of Bani Walid say the opposition fighters are still on the outskirts although our correspondent adds that it appears as if Gaddafi loyalists have abandoned many of their outlying positions.
‘Protecting Americans’
Thousands of pieces of correspondence from US and UK officials were uncovered by reporters and activists in an office apparently used by Moussa Koussa, who served for years as Col Gaddafi’s spy chief before becoming foreign minister.
Prime Minister Tony Blair embraces Colonel Muammar Gaddafi after a meeting on May 29, 2007 in Sirte, Libya

He defected in the early part of the rebellion, flying to the UK and then on to Qatar.
Rights groups have long accused him of involvement in atrocities, and had called on the UK to arrest him at the time.
The BBC’s Kevin Connolly in Tripoli says the documents illuminate a short period when the Libyan intelligence agency was a trusted and valued ally of both MI6 and the CIA, with the tone of exchanges between agents breezy and bordering on the chummy.
Human Rights Watch accused the CIA of condoning torture.
“It wasn’t just abducting suspected Islamic militants and handing them over to the Libyan intelligence. The CIA also sent the questions they wanted Libyan intelligence to ask and, from the files, it’s very clear they were present in some of the interrogations themselves,” said Peter Bouckaert of HRW.
The papers outline the rendition of several suspects, including one that Human Rights Watch has identified as Abdel Hakim Belhaj, known in the documents as Abdullah al-Sadiq, who is now the military commander of the anti-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli.
Alleged CIA letter

Text of letter
Dear Musa
I am glad to propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya. We have talked about this move for quite some time and Libya’s cooperation on WMD and other issues, as well as our recent intelligence cooperation, mean that now is the right moment to move ahead. I am prepared to send [XXX] to Libya to introduce two of my officers to you and your service, arriving in Tripoli on 20 March. These two officers, both of whom are experienced and can speak Arabic, will initially staff our station in Libya. [XXX] will communicate the details via fax. I will call to confirm this with you.
We are also eager to work with you in the questioning of the terrorist we recently rendered to your country. I would like to send to Libya an additional two officers and I would appreciate if they could have direct access to question this individual. Should you agree I would like to send these two officers to Libya on 25 March. Again [XXX] will communicate the details to you.
Steve
The Americans snatched him in South East Asia before flying him to Tripoli in 2004, the documents claim.
Mr Belhaj, who was involved in an Islamist group attempting to overthrow Col Gaddafi in the early 2000s, had told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week that he had been rendered by the Americans, but held no grudge.
The CIA would not comment on the specifics of the allegations.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said: “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 documents also reveal details about the UK’s relationship with the Gaddafi regime.
One memo, dated 18 March 2004 and with the address “London SE1”, congratulates Libya on the arrival of Mr Belhaj.
It states “for the urgent personal attention of Musa Kusa” and is headed “following message to Musa in Tripoli from Mark in London”, according to the Financial Times. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
The UK intelligence agency apparently helped to write a speech for Col Gaddafi in 2004, when the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair was encouraging the colonel to give up his weapons programme.
And British officials also insisted that Mr Blair’s famous 2004 meeting with Col Gaddafi should be in his Bedouin tent, according to the UK’s Independent newspaper, whose journalists also discovered the documents.
“[The prime minister’s office is] keen that the prime minister meet the leader in his tent,” the paper quotes a memo from an MI6 agent as saying.
“I don’t know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is the journalists would love it.”
In another memo, also seen by the Independent, UK intelligence appeared to give Tripoli details of a Libyan dissident who had been freed from jail in Britain.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the revelations, telling Sky News that they “relate to a period under the previous government so I have no knowledge of those, of what was happening behind the scenes at that time”.
Mr Blair and US President George W Bush lobbied hard to bring Col Gaddafi out of international isolation in the years after the 9/11 attacks, as Libya moved to normalise relations with former enemies in the West.
Bani Walid
In a press conference in Benghazi, Mr Jalil said four Gaddafi-held towns had one week to surrender “to avoid further bloodshed”.
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Media caption
UN envoy Ian Martin on measuring the “expectations” of Libya
But our correspondent, Jon Leyne, says there are reports Bani Walid has now fallen without a fight, with Gaddafi loyalists either melting away or regrouping further south. However, these reports have not been confirmed.
One anti-Gaddafi commander, Abdulrazzak Naduri, had earlier told AFP that Bani Walid had until just 08:00 on Sunday or face military action.
Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unconfirmed. It was believed that two sons, Saadi and Saif al-Islam, had been in Bani Walid recently.
The NTC is stepping up its efforts at reconstruction, setting up a supreme security council to protect Tripoli.
Ian Martin, a special adviser to the UN secretary general, arrived in Libya’s capital on Saturday to try to boost international efforts in the country’s redevelopment.
The NTC has also said its leadership will not now move from Benghazi to Tripoli until next week, with Mr Jalil the last to go.
Our correspondent says this could mean a delay in the opposition formally assuming the role of the new government and raise fears of a power vacuum in the capital.

4 September 2011

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Gaddafi blames al-Qaeda for revolt (2011)

Embattled Libyan leader says protesters being manipulated as pro- and anti-government forces clash across the country.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s leader, has said that al-Qaeda is responsible for the uprising against him, amid attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces against anti-government protesters in several cities.
On Friday, tens of thousands gathered at cities in the country’s east controlled by anti-Gaddafi forces for Friday prayers, expressing their desire for Gaddafi to leave office.
In a speech made via telephone and aired on state television on Thursday, Gaddafi claimed that the protesters were young people who had been manipulated by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s leader, and were acting under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.

As he spoke, troops loyal to Gaddafi launched a counter-offensive on Thursday against anti-government protesters, striking at two cities near the capital, Tripoli.
The worst violence was seen in the town of Az Zawiyah, about 50km west of Tripoli, where troops opened fire with automatic weapons and an anti-aircraft gun on a mosque where protesters had been taking shelter.
On Friday, witnesses in the city told Al Jazeera that anti-government protesters had seized four tanks and weapons from a military barracks, and that they were prepared to fight to hold on to the city.
In his speech on Thursday, Gaddafi argued that he was a purely “symbolic” leader with no real political power, and that citizens had “no reason to complain whatsoever”. He hinted that he would be prepared to raise salaries, but warned that protesters would be tried in the country’s courts. [The entire speech is available here.]
On Friday, state television announced that every family in Libya would receive 500 dinars ($400), and that wages for some categories of public sector workers would increase by 150 per cent.
Our correspondent in eastern Libya reported on Friday that army commanders who had renounced Gaddafi’s leadership had told her that military commanders in the country’s west, which Gaddafi still largely maintains control over, were beginning to turn against him.
They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weaponry, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.
Pro-democracy protesters attacked
On Friday morning, our correspondents reported that the town of Zuwarah was, according to witnesses, abandoned by security forces and completely in the hands of anti-Gaddafi protesters. Checkpoints in the country’s west on roads leading to the Tunisian border, however, were still being controlled by Gaddafi loyalists.
In the east, similar checkpoints were manned by anti-Gaddafi forces, who had set up a “humanitarian aid corridor” as well as a communications corridor to the Egyptian border, our correspondent reported.
Fierce clashes were reported from various cities in the country on Thursday. Some residents of Az Zawiyah fought back against army troops with hunting rifles. A doctor at a field clinic set up at the mosque that came under attack there told the Associated Press news agency that he saw the bodies of 10 people, in addition to around 150 injured people.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera the deatht toll in the violence there estimated to be close to 100.

Follow more of Al Jazeera’s special coverage here
Thousands massed in Az Zawiyah’s Martyr’s Square after the attack, calling on Gaddafi to leave office, and on Friday morning, explosions were heard in the city. Witnesses say pro-Gaddafi forces were blowing up arms caches, in order to prevent anti-government forces from acquiring those weapons.
Clashes were also reported in the city of Misurata, located 200km east of Tripoli, where witnesses said a pro-Gaddafi army brigade attacked the city’s airport with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
They told Al Jazeera that pro-democracy protesters had managed to fight off that attack. “Revolutionaries have driven out the security forces,” they said, adding that “heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft guns” had been used against them.
Mohamed Senussi, a resident of Misurata, said calm had returned to the city after the “fierce battle” near the airport.
“The people’s spirits here are high, they are celebrating and chanting ‘God is Greatest’,” he told the Reuters news agency by telephone.
Another witness warned, however, that protesters in Misurata felt “isolated” as they were surrounded by nearby towns still in Gaddafi’s control.
Protesters and air force personnel who have renounced Gaddafi’s leadership also overwhelmed a nearby military base where Gaddafi loyalists were taking refuge, according to a medical official at the base. They disabled air force fighter jets at the base so that they could not be used against protesters.
Similar clashes between pro- and anti-government forces were also reported on Thursday in the towns of Sabha in the south and Sabratha, near Tripoli.
In Tripoli itself, witnesses said security forces had fired upon residents of the Tajoura neighbourhood.
Protesters control east
Pro-democracy protesters appear to remain in control of much of the country’s eastern coastline, running from the Egyptian border, through to the cities of Tobruk and Benghazi, the country’s second largest city.
They also say they are in control of the western cities of Misurata and Zuwarah. Libyan army forces in many cities in the country’s east say that they stand with the anti-government forces against Gaddafi.

Protesters in Benghazi have held people they claim are mercenaries contracted by Gaddafi [Reuters]
Pro-democracy protesters say they have established committees to manage the affairs of the cities they are in control of.
Our correspondent reported that army commanders had told her that there were “cracks [appearing] in the whole system that Gaddafi has put in place and his whole grip in power is melting away by the hour”.
She said that pro-democracy protesters in the east had overrun military barracks and now had access to heavy weaponry.
On Thursday, about a dozen people were held in Benghazi by pro-democracy protesters on charges of behind mercenaries working for Gaddafi.
Tripoli, the capital, meanwhile, remains under lockdown, amid reports that protesters have called for anti-government forces to march on the city after Friday prayers.
Libya has been in the grip of turmoil since anti-Gaddafi protests began on February 15. Two days later, the government launched a violent crackdown on protesters, with witnesses reporting that mercenaries had been hired to patrol the streets and fire on citizens indiscriminately with machine guns and heavy weapons.
The use of air attacks against civilian targets has also been reported by witnesses and air force personnel who have refused to carry out those orders.
Security forces have also been launching raids on homes and firing into the air on the streets of Tripoli. A witness told Reuters that security forces had also raided a hospital, searching for injured anti-government protesters.
Violence has ramped up after Gaddafi appeared on state television on Tuesday calling on his supporters to take back the streets and “cleanse” Libya.
Gaddafi increasingly isolated
Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya for 41 years, is growing increasingly isolated both from foreign governments, but also from elements within his government and military.
On Thursday Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, a cousin who is one of Gaddafi’s closest aides, announced that he was renouncing Gaddafi’s leadership in protest against “grave violations to human rights and human and international laws”.
Al-Dam is one of the highest level renouncals to hit the regime, with many ambassadors, as well as the justice and interior ministers, either resigning or announcing that they are standing with protesters. The country’s chief prosecutor and chief judicial investigator have also resigned.
Mustafa Abdel Galil, who earlier resigned as justice minister, spoke to Al Jazeera at a meeting of tribal leaders and representatives of eastern Libya in the city of Al Baida. That meeting was also attended by military commanders who refused orders to fire on protesters.
“We want one country. There is no Islamic emirate or al-Qaeda anywhere. Our only aim is to liberate Libya from this regime and then people choose the government they want.” Abdel Galil said.
He warned that Gaddafi has biological and chemical weapons, and will not hesitate to use them.
UN meeting planned
The United Nations Security Council was to hold a meeting on the situation in Libya on Friday, with sanctions the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over the country under Article 7 of the UN charter on the table.
The UN’s highest human-rights body was also holding a special session to discuss what it’s chief had earlier described as possible “crimes against humanity” by the Gaddafi government.
The Swiss government, meanwhile, has ordered a freeze of any assets belonging to Gaddafi in the country. Libya’s foreign ministry has denied that any such assets exist, and said that it would “sue” Switzerland.
The death toll since violence began remains unclear, though on Thursday Francois Zimeray, France’s top human rights official, said it could be as high as 2,000 people killed.
Earlier, Franco Frattini, Italy’s foreign minister, said a number of 1,000 was “credible”. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights put the figure at 640 as of Wednesday.
Foreign governments are continuing to evacuate their citizens from the country, with thousands flooding to the country’s land borders with Tunisia and Egypt.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
25 Feb 2011 12:30 GMT

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Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit (2011)

TRIPOLI, Libya — Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

Although it has been known that Western intelligence services began cooperating with Libya after it abandoned its program to build unconventional weapons in 2004, the files left behind as Tripoli fell to rebels show that the cooperation was much more extensive than generally known with both the C.I.A. and its British equivalent, MI-6.

Some documents indicate that the British agency was even willing to trace phone numbers for the Libyans, and another appears to be a proposed speech written by the Americans for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi about renouncing unconventional weapons.

The documents were discovered Friday by journalists and Human Rights Watch. There were at least three binders of English-language documents, one marked C.I.A. and the other two marked MI-6, among a larger stash of documents in Arabic.

It was impossible to verify their authenticity, and none of them were written on letterhead. But the binders included some documents that made specific reference to the C.I.A., and their details seem consistent with what is known about the transfer of terrorism suspects abroad for interrogation and with other agency practices.

And although the scope of prisoner transfers to Libya has not been made public, news media reports have sometimes mentioned it as one country that the United States used as part of its much criticized rendition program for terrorism suspects.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on Friday 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 longstanding policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters.”

While most of the renditions referred to in the documents appear to have been C.I.A. operations, at least one was claimed to have been carried out by MI-6.

“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, who studied the documents in the intelligence headquarters in downtown Tripoli.

The documents cover 2002 to 2007, with many of them concentrated in late 2003 and 2004, when Moussa Koussa was head of the External Security Organization. (Mr. Koussa was most recently Libya’s foreign minister.)

The speech that appears to have been drafted for Colonel Qaddafi was found in the C.I.A. folder and appears to have been sent just before Christmas in 2003. The one-page speech seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light. It concluded, using the revolutionary name for the Libyan government: “At a time when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of our contributions towards a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion, the Great Jamhariya presents its honest call for a W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

The flurry of communications about renditions are dated after Libya’s renouncement of its weapons program. In several of the cases, the documents explicitly talked about having a friendly country arrest a suspect, and then suggested aircraft would be sent to pick the suspect up and deliver him to the Libyans for questioning. One document included a list of 89 questions for the Libyans to ask a suspect.

While some of the documents warned Libyan authorities to respect such detainees’ human rights, the C.I.A. nonetheless turned them over for interrogation to a Libyan service with a well-known history of brutality.

One document in the C.I.A. binder said operatives were “in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior L.I.F.G. members in the recent past.” The reference was to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was dedicated to the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, and which American officials believed had ties to Al Qaeda.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a 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, according to a document in the C.I.A. binder.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.

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

In an interview on 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 C.I.A.

On one occasion, the Libyans tried to send their own plane to extradite a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Abu Munthir, and his wife and children, who were being held in Hong Kong because of passport irregularities.

The Libyan aircraft, however, was turned back, apparently because Hong Kong authorities were reluctant to let Libyan planes land. In a document labeled “Secret/ U.S. Only/ Except Libya,” the Libyans were advised to charter an aircraft from a third country. “If payment of a charter aircraft is an issue, our service would be willing to assist financially,” the document said.

While questioning alleged terror group members plainly had value to Western intelligence, the cooperation went beyond that. In one case, for example, the Libyans asked operatives to trace a phone number for them, and a document that was in the MI-6 binder replied that it belonged to the Arab News Network in London. It is unclear why the Libyans sought who the phone number belonged to.

The document also suggested signs of agency rivalries over Libya. In the MI-6 binder, a document boasted of having turned over someone named Abu Abd Alla to the Libyans. “This was the least we could do for you to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years,” an unsigned fax in 2004 said. “Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu Abd through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing.”

By ROD NORDLANDSEPT. 2, 2011

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Documents show ties between Libyan spy head, CIA (2011)

Associated Press= TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.

The revelations provide new details on the West’s efforts to turn Libya’s mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration’s collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.

The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship, with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.

The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.

They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.

The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli’s new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.

Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi’s regime “A very dark chapter in American intelligence history.”

“It remains a stain on the record of the American intelligence services that they cooperated with these very abusive intelligence services,” he said Saturday.

The findings could cloud relations between the West and Libya’s new leaders, although Belhaj said he holds no grudge. NATO airstrikes have helped the rebels advance throughout the six-month civil war and continue to target regime forces as rebels hunt for Gadhafi.

Belhaj is the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-dissolved militant organization that sought to assassinate Gadhafi.

Belhaj says CIA agents tortured him in a secret prison in Thailand before he was returned to Libya and locked in the notorious Abu Salim prison. He insists he was never a terrorist and believes his arrest was in reaction to what he called the “tragic events of 9/11.”

Two documents from March 2004 show American and Libyan officials arranging Belhaj’s rendition.

Referring to him by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, the documents said he and his pregnant wife were due to travel to Thailand, where they would be detained.

“We are planning to arrange to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” they tell the Libyans. The memo also requested that Libya, a country known for decades for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners: “Please be advised that we must be assured that al-Sadiq will be treated humanely and that his human rights will be respected.”

The documents coincide with efforts by the Gadhafi regime over the last decade to emerge from international isolation, even agreeing to pay compensation to relatives of each of the 270 victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The documents show the CIA and MI6 advising the regime on how to work to rescind its designation as a state sponsor of terror — a move the Bush administration made in 2006. Both agencies received intelligence benefits in return.

The validity of the documents, not written on official letterhead, could not be independently verified, but their content seems consistent with what has been previously reported about intelligence activities during the period.

Later correspondence deals with technical visits to Libya to track the regime’s progress in dismantling its weapons programs.

In one undated memo, the CIA proposes establishing a permanent presence in Libya.

“I propose that our services take an additional step in cooperation with the establishment of a permanent CIA presence in Libya,” it says. It is signed by hand “Steve.”

Another memo is a follow-up query to an apparent Libyan warning of terror plots against American interests abroad.

One document is a draft statement for Gadhafi about his country’s decision to give up weapons of mass destruction.

“Our belief is that an arms race does not serve the security of Libya or the security of the region and contradicts Libya’s great keenness for world peace and security,” it suggests as wording.

But much of the correspondence deals with arrangements to render terror suspects to Libya from South Africa, Hong Kong and elsewhere. One CIA memo from April 2004 tells Libyan authorities that the agency can deliver a suspect known as “Shaykh Musa.”

“We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa,” the memo says.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood declined to comment Saturday on specific allegations related to the documents.

“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,” Youngblood said. “That is exactly what we are expected to do.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also declined to comment on intelligence matters.

In Tripoli, Anes Sherif, an aide to Belhaj, said the documents provided little new information: “We have known for a long time that (the British and U.S. governments) had very close relations with Gadhafi’s regime.”

Amid the shared intelligence and names of terror suspects are traces of personal relationships.

In one letter from Dec. 24, 2003, a British official thanks Gadhafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa — who later became foreign minister and defected early in the uprising — for a “very large quantity of dates and oranges” and encourages him to continue with reforms.

“Your achievement realizing the Leader’s initiative has been enormous and of huge importance,” the British official says. “At this time sacred to peace, I offer you my admiration and every congratulation.

AP foreign, Saturday September 3 2011
BEN HUBBARD

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MI6, the CIA and Turkey’s rogue game in Syria

World View: New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi’s guns to rebel groups

The US’s Secretary of State John Kerry and its UN ambassador, Samantha Power have been pushing for more assistance to be given to the Syrian rebels. This is despite strong evidence that the Syrian armed opposition are, more than ever, dominated by jihadi fighters similar in their beliefs and methods to al-Qa’ida. The recent attack by rebel forces around Latakia, northern Syria, which initially had a measure of success, was led by Chechen and Moroccan jihadis.
America has done its best to keep secret its role in supplying the Syrian armed opposition, operating through proxies and front companies. It is this which makes Seymour Hersh’s article “The Red Line and The Rat Line: Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian rebels” published last week in the London Review of Books, so interesting.

Attention has focussed on whether the Syrian jihadi group, Jabhat al-Nusra, aided by Turkish intelligence, could have been behind the sarin gas attacks in Damascus last 21 August, in an attempt to provoke the US into full-scale military intervention to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. “We now know it was a covert action planned by [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s people to push Obama over the red line,” a former senior US intelligence officer is quoted as saying.

Critics vehemently respond that all the evidence points to the Syrian government launching the chemical attack and that even with Turkish assistance, Jabhat al-Nusra did not have the capacity to use sarin.

A second and little-regarded theme of Hersh’s article is what the CIA called the rat line, the supply chain for the Syrian rebels overseen by the US in covert cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The information about this comes from a highly classified and hitherto secret annex to the report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the attack by Libyan militiamen on the US consulate in Benghazi on 11 September 2012 in which US ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed. The annex deals with an operation in which the CIA, in cooperation with MI6, arranged the dispatch of arms from Mu’ammer Gaddafi’s arsenals to Turkey and then across the 500-mile long Turkish southern frontier with Syria. The annex refers to an agreement reached in early 2012 between Obama and Erdogan with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplying funding. Front companies, purporting to be Australian, were set up, employing former US soldiers who were in charge of obtaining and transporting the weapons. According to Hersh, the MI6 presence enabled the CIA to avoid reporting the operation to Congress, as required by law, since it could be presented as a liaison mission.

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The US involvement in the rat line ended unhappily when its consulate was stormed by Libyan militiamen. The US diplomatic presence in Benghazi had been dwarfed by that of the CIA and, when US personnel were airlifted out of the city in the aftermath of the attack, only seven were reportedly from the State Department and 23 were CIA officers. The disaster in Benghazi, which soon ballooned into a political battle between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, severely loosened US control of what arms were going to which rebel movements in Syria.

This happened at the moment when Assad’s forces were starting to gain the upper hand and al-Qa’ida-type groups were becoming the cutting edge of the rebel military.

The failure of the rebels to win in 2012 left their foreign backers with a problem. At the time of the fall of Gaddafi they had all become over-confident, demanding the removal of Assad when he still held all Syria’s 14 provincial capitals. “They were too far up the tree to get down,” according to one observer. To accept anything other than the departure of Assad would have looked like a humiliating defeat.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar went on supplying money while Sunni states turned a blind eye to the recruitment of jihadis and to preachers stirring up sectarian hatred against the Shia. But for Turkey the situation was worse. Efforts to project its power were faltering and all its chosen proxies – from Egypt to Iraq – were in trouble. It was evident that al-Qa’ida-type fighters, including Jahat al-Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and Ahrar al-Sham were highly dependent on Turkish border crossings for supplies, recruits and the ability to reach safety. The heaviest intra-rebel battles were for control of these crossings. Turkey’s military intelligence, MIT, and the paramilitary Gendarmerie played a growing role in directing and training jihadis and Jabhat al-Nusra in particular.

The Hersh article alleges that the MIT went further and instructed Jabhat al-Nusra on how to stage a sarin gas attack in Damascus that would cross Obama’s red line and lead to the US launching an all-out air attack. Vehement arguments rage over whether this happened. That a senior US intelligence officer is quoted by America’s leading investigative journalist as believing that it did, is already damaging Turkey.

Part of the US intelligence community is deeply suspicious of Erdogan’s actions in Syria. It may also be starting to strike home in the US and Europe that aid to the armed rebellion in Syria means destabilising Iraq. When Isis brings suicide bombers from across the Turkish border into Syria it can as easily direct them to Baghdad as Aleppo.

The Pentagon is much more cautious than the State Department about the risks of putting greater military pressure on Assad, seeing it as the first step in a military entanglement along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel are the main opponents of a greater US military role. Both sides in the US have agreed to a programme under which 600 Syrian rebels would be trained every month and jihadis would be weeded out. A problem here is that the secular moderate faction of committed Syrian opposition fighters does not really exist. As always, there is a dispute over what weapons should be supplied, with the rebels, Saudis and Qataris insisting that portable anti-aircraft missiles would make all the difference. This is largely fantasy, the main problem being that the rebel military forces are fragmented into hundreds of war bands.

It is curious that the US military has been so much quicker to learn the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya than civilians like Kerry and Power. The killing of Ambassador Stevens shows what happens when the US gets even peripherally involved in a violent, messy crisis like Syria where it does not control many of the players or much of the field.

Meanwhile, a telling argument against Turkey having orchestrated the sarin gas attacks in Damascus is that to do so would have required a level of competence out of keeping with its shambolic interventions in Syria over the past three years.

PATRICK COCKBURN
Sunday 13 April 2014

Find this story at 13 April 2014

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Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations

When U.S. Special Operations forces raided several houses in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in March 2006, two Army Rangers were killed when gunfire erupted on the ground floor of one home. A third member of the team was knocked unconscious and shredded by ball bearings when a teenage insurgent detonated a suicide vest.

In a review of the nighttime strike for a relative of one of the dead Rangers, military officials sketched out the sequence of events using small dots to chart the soldiers’ movements. Who, the relative asked, was this man — the one represented by a blue dot and nearly killed by the suicide bomber?

After some hesi­ta­tion, the military briefers answered with three letters: FBI.

The FBI’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency to a counterterrorism organization in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been well documented. Less widely known has been the bureau’s role in secret operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other locations around the world.

With the war in Afghanistan ending, FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship benefited both sides. JSOC used the FBI’s expertise in exploiting digital media and other materials to locate insurgents and detect plots, including any against the United States. The bureau’s agents, in turn, could preserve evidence and maintain a chain of custody should any suspect be transferred to the United States for trial.

The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau’s role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.

The wounded agent in Iraq was Jay Tabb, a longtime member of the bureau’s Hostage and Rescue Team (HRT) who was embedded with the Rangers when they descended on Ramadi in Black Hawks and Chinooks. Tabb, who now leads the HRT, also had been wounded just months earlier in another high-risk operation.

James Davis, the FBI’s legal attache in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, said people “questioned whether this was our mission. The concern was somebody was going to get killed.”

Davis said FBI agents were regularly involved in shootings — sometimes fighting side by side with the military to hold off insurgent assaults.

“It wasn’t weekly but it wouldn’t be uncommon to see one a month,” he said. “It’s amazing that never happened, that we never lost anybody.”

Others considered it a natural evolution for the FBI — and one consistent with its mission.

“There were definitely some voices that felt we shouldn’t be doing this — period,” said former FBI deputy director Sean Joyce, one of a host of current and former officials who are reflecting on the shift as U.S. forces wind down their combat mission in Afghanistan. “That wasn’t the director’s or my feeling on it. We thought prevention begins outside of the U.S.”

‘Not commandos’

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, exposing the woeful inadequacy of the German police when faced with committed hostage-takers. The attack jolted other countries into examining their counterterrorism capabilities. The FBI realized its response would have been little better than that of the Germans.

It took more than a decade for the United States to stand up an elite anti-terrorism unit. The FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team was created in 1983, just before the Los Angeles Olympics.

At Fort Bragg, N.C., home to the Army’s Special Operations Command, Delta Force operators trained the agents, teaching them how to breach buildings and engage in close-quarter fighting, said Danny Coulson, who commanded the first HRT.

The team’s mission was largely domestic, although it did participate in select operations to arrest fugitives overseas, known in FBI slang as a “habeas grab.” In 1987, for instance, along with the CIA, agents lured a man suspected in an airline hijacking to a yacht off the coast of Lebanon and arrested him.

In 1989, a large HRT flew to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, to reestablish order after Hurricane Hugo. That same year, at the military’s request, it briefly deployed to Panama before the U.S. invasion.

The bureau continued to deepen its ties with the military, training with the Navy SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, based in Dam Neck, Va., and agents completed the diving phase of SEAL training in Coronado, Calif.

Sometimes lines blurred between the HRT and the military. During the 1993 botched assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., three Delta Force operators were on hand to advise. Waco, along with a fiasco the prior year at a white separatist compound at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, put the FBI on the defensive.

“The members of HRT are not commandos,” then-FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told lawmakers in 1995. “They are special agents of the FBI. Their goal has always been to save lives.”

After Sept. 11, the bureau took on a more aggressive posture.

In early 2003, two senior FBI counterterrorism officials traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the Joint Special Operations Command’s deputy commander at Bagram air base. The commander wanted agents with experience hunting fugitives and HRT training so they could easily integrate with JSOC forces.

“What JSOC realized was their networks were similar to the way the FBI went after organized crime,” said James Yacone, an assistant FBI director who joined the HRT in 1997 and later commanded it.

The pace of activity in Afghanistan was slow at first. An FBI official said there was less than a handful of HRT deployments to Afghanistan in those early months; the units primarily worked with the SEALs as they hunted top al-Qaeda targets.

“There was a lot of sitting around,” the official said.

The tempo quickened with the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. At first, the HRT’s mission was mainly to protect other FBI agents when they left the Green Zone, former FBI officials said.

Then-Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal gradually pushed the agency to help the military collect evidence and conduct interviews during raids.

“As our effort expanded and . . . became faster and more complex, we felt the FBI’s expertise in both sensitive site exploitation and interrogations would be helpful — and they were,” a former U.S. military official said.

In 2005, all of the HRT members in Iraq began to work under JSOC. At one point, up to 12 agents were operating in the country, nearly a tenth of the unit’s shooters.

The FBI’s role raised thorny questions about the bureau’s rules of engagement and whether its deadly-force policy should be modified for agents in war zones.

“There was hand-wringing,” Yacone said. “These were absolutely appropriate legal questions to be asked and answered.”

Ultimately, the FBI decided that no change was necessary. Team members “were not there to be door kickers. They didn’t need to be in the stack,” Yacone said.

But the FBI’s alliance with JSOC continued to deepen. HRT members didn’t have to get approval to go on raids, and FBI agents saw combat night after night in the hunt for targets.

In 2008, with the FBI involved in frequent firefights, the bureau began taking a harder look at these engagements, seeking input from the military to make sure, in police terms, that each time an agent fired it was a “good shoot,” former FBI officials said.

‘Mission had changed’

Members of the FBI’s HRT unit left Iraq as the United States pulled out its forces. The bureau also began to reconsider its involvement in Afghanistan after nearly a dozen firefights involving agents embedded with the military and the wounding of an agent in Logar province in June 2010.

JSOC had shifted priorities, Joyce said, targeting Taliban and other local insurgents who were not necessarily plotting against the United States. Moreover, the number of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan had plummeted to fewer than 100, and many of its operatives were across the border, in Pakistan, where the military could not operate.

The FBI drew down in 2010 despite pleas from JSOC to stay.

“Our focus was al-Qaeda and threats to the homeland,” Joyce said. “The mission had changed.”

FBI-JSOC operations continue in other parts of the world. When Navy SEALs raided a yacht in the Gulf of Aden that Somali pirates had hijacked in 2011, an HRT agent followed behind them. After a brief shootout, the SEALs managed to take control of the yacht.

Two years later, in October 2013, an FBI agent with the HRT was with the SEALs when they stormed a beachfront compound in Somalia in pursuit of a suspect in the Nairobi mall attack that had killed dozens.

That same weekend, U.S. commandos sneaked into Tripoli, Libya, and apprehended a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist named Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai as he returned home in his car after morning prayers. He was whisked to a Navy ship in the Mediterranean and eventually to New York City for prosecution in federal court.

Word quickly leaked that Delta Force had conducted the operation. But the six Delta operators had help. Two FBI agents were part of the team that morning on the streets of Tripoli.

By Adam Goldman and Julie Tate, Published: April 10 E-mail the writers

Find this story at 10 April 2014

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Nicolas Sarkozy embarrassed: A saga of Gaddafi, €50m, phone-taps and the French M15

Intercepted conversations imply that the former President was anxious to be kept informed over a probe into his alleged funding by the Libyan dictator

Nicolas Sarkozy badgered the head of the French security service for information on the progress of inquiries into his alleged funding by the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, it has emerged.

Judges investigating the alleged illegal financing of the former President’s 2007 election campaign tapped two phone calls by Mr Sarkozy to the head of the French equivalent of MI5, Le Monde has reported.

As a result, Patrick Calvar, head of the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) was questioned as a “witness” in the case by the two judge last Friday, according to Le Monde?

The approaches made by Mr Sarkozy, and similar calls by the head of his private office, are not illegal. They imply, however, that the former President was anxious to be kept informed about an investigation that he has publicly dismissed as “absurd” and “infamous”.

The revelations also give weight to previous allegations that Mr Sarkozy has used his contacts as a former head of state in relation to a tangle of judicial investigations into his alleged financial misconduct.

Mr Sarkozy and friends will, on the other hand, point to the latest development as further evidence of what he claims is a “Stasi-like” persecution by the Socialist administration of President François Hollande. Last month it was revealed that the judges had bugged phone conversations between Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer. It now emerges that police officers working with the judges were also listening in two calls – in June last year and in January this year – between Mr Sarkozy and the head of the French internal security service.

Inquiries by investigating magistrates in France are entirely independent of the government of the day. Nonetheless, Mr Sarkozy alleged in a long newspaper article last month that the tapping of his phone had been inspired by the government and that his political opponents had been reading transcripts of his intimate, personal conversations.

Mr Sarkozy has been accused by one of Mr Gaddafi’s sons and several ex-Gaddafi aides of taking either €20m or €50m from the late Libyan dictator to fund his successful 2007 presidential campaign. No clear evidence to back the claims has emerged. One document leaked to the French press proved to be a forgery.

Nonetheless, according to Le Monde, Mr Sarkozy personally phoned the head of the DCRI, Mr Calvar, to ask whether the security service was helping in the investigations. In one call, according to the leak, he was especially keen to know whether the DCRI had questioned Mr Gaddafi’s personal interpreter, Moftah Missouri.

In June last year – just before the first of Mr Sarkozy’s calls – Mr Missouri told a French TV documentary that Mr Gaddafi had informed him “verbally” of a €20m payment to the future French president.

According to Le Monde, the DCRI head, Mr Calvar, refused to tell Mr Sarkozy whether his agency was investigating the Libyan allegations or not. He also refused to comment when questioned by the judges last Friday, saying DCRI business was a “state defence secret”.

JOHN LICHFIELD Author Biography PARIS Thursday 03 April 2014

Find this story at 3 April 2014

© independent.co.u

Out of Office, Sarkozy Is Still Front and Center

PARIS — The scandal, intrigue and occasional vaudeville of Nicolas Sarkozy’s five years in the presidency made for great headlines, and French journalists once fretted that politics under his successor, François Hollande, who pledged to be a “normal” president, might prove unbearably dull.

But that fear overlooked the court cases, judicial investigations and general whiff of malfeasance that would trail Mr. Sarkozy and his lieutenants out of the corridors of power and, it now appears, entangle even Mr. Hollande.

The current president’s tumultuous love life has made for a bit of public drama in recent months, with reports that he had a mistress and slipped off to trysts via motor scooter. But the French no longer seem much to care, if they ever did, and a knot of holdover scandals from the Sarkozy era are now making for the best reading. Through a bizarre sequence of government missteps, by the weekend they had become as much a crisis for Mr. Hollande as for Mr. Sarkozy.

The almost universal expectation that Mr. Sarkozy will make a bid for the presidency in 2017 has only heightened the drama.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira with wiretapping memos that suggested she was better informed than she had claimed. Credit Philippe Wojazer/Reuters
Chief among the affairs is the allegation, now under investigation by two special magistrates, that Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign received as much as 50 million euros, or about $70 million, in illegal funds from Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya.

This month, the newspaper Le Monde revealed that investigators had tapped the phones of Mr. Sarkozy, two of his former ministers and his lawyer, Thierry Herzog, beginning last year. The practice is not illegal, though lawyers have called the surveillance of Mr. Herzog’s phone a possible violation of attorney-client privilege. Mr. Sarkozy appears to be the first former French president to have his private conversations monitored by investigators.

He has denied the claims of Libyan financing, made by former loyalists to Colonel Qaddafi and one of his sons, and says they are meant to damage him in revenge for the international military intervention he helped orchestrate in Libya in 2011 that led to Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster and death.

It is unclear if the phone-tapping did anything to corroborate the claims, but it has led to unrelated suspicions involving Mr. Sarkozy and a well-placed magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, who is believed to have served as his informer in the courts.

In their recorded conversations, Le Monde reported, Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Herzog discussed an investigation into whether Mr. Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign received illegal funding from Liliane Bettencourt, the 91-year-old L’Oréal heiress who is France’s richest woman. Some of the evidence in that case is being used in yet another case implicating Mr. Sarkozy, this one involving a $550 million state payout in 2008 to Bernard Tapie, a colorful businessman with a checkered past.

Mr. Sarkozy had been kept quietly informed about a court’s plans for the evidence by Mr. Azibert, according to Le Monde and government documents. Mr. Azibert, who is nearing retirement, is said to have intimated that he might like some assistance in obtaining a post in the seaside principality of Monaco, and Mr. Sarkozy said he would help, in exchange for information.

An investigation into breach of judicial secrecy and influence-peddling has been opened, and the homes and offices of Mr. Azibert and Mr. Sarkozy’s lawyer have been searched. Mr. Azibert was recently hospitalized, and there is speculation he might have attempted suicide.

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Inauspicious as this may seem for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, it is the center-left government of Mr. Hollande that is now on the defensive. After first insisting that they had learned of the phone-tapping only through the news media, government ministers including the justice minister, Christiane Taubira, admitted they were informed as early as last month.

The French judiciary is not entirely independent of the executive branch, and it is not uncommon for the minister of justice to be apprised of judicial investigations, especially if celebrities or public officials are involved. But the government, and Ms. Taubira in particular, were not altogether forthcoming about their knowledge of the case. Their political opponents, who presumably should be on the defensive, have pounced.

Jean-François Copé, leader of the Union for a Popular Movement, Mr. Sarkozy’s party, has called for Ms. Taubira’s resignation.

Ms. Taubira has refused, and has insisted she did not lie. At a news conference last week, she said that she had indeed been told about the tapping last month, but that she had been given no information about what it revealed. But the internal papers she strangely chose to flash before reporters to prove her point were captured in news photographs, and closer observation of the documents suggests Ms. Taubira was far better informed than she claimed.

Mr. Copé and his party renewed their attacks. But those sallies have been widely viewed as a diversionary tactic, considering that Mr. Copé is embroiled in a scandal of his own. According to the newsmagazine Le Point, Mr. Copé gave a sweetheart contract to a company run by two friends to organize rallies during Mr. Sarkozy’s unsuccessful 2012 campaign. The party spent $11 million with the firm, more than one-quarter of its entire declared campaign spending, paying double the going rate for several of the services provided, Le Point reported last month.

Because French political parties depend heavily on public funding, much of that money would have come from taxpayers.

Mr. Copé declared himself a victim of hateful press and suggested the report was concocted to hurt his party before municipal elections later this month. He did not, however, deny it. A judicial investigation into the party’s campaign spending was opened this month.

In still another embarrassment for Mr. Sarkozy and the right, secret recordings made by a close aide to Mr. Sarkozy during his presidency appeared recently on a news website, Atlantico, and in transcribed form in an investigative newspaper, Le Canard Enchaîné.

The recordings do not seem to reveal anything illegal, but Mr. Sarkozy and his wife, the singer and model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, can be heard discussing money — she paid the bills during his presidency, it seems — and Mr. Sarkozy’s advisers can be heard crudely insulting government ministers, as well as Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy.

It is unclear how the recordings were leaked. The aide who recorded the conversations, Patrick Buisson, a shadowy political operative with deep ties to the far right, initially said he had made the recordings for his own records. His lawyer later claimed the recorder had mysteriously switched on, repeatedly, unbeknown to Mr. Buisson.

Claiming a breach of his privacy rights, Mr. Sarkozy on Friday obtained an injunction requiring that the recordings be removed from the website and that Mr. Buisson pay him $14,000 in damages.

“Many French doubt, already, political officials’ sense of the public interest,” Le Monde wrote in a front-page editorial last week castigating the country’s political class. “These new developments can only reinforce their mistrust and disgust. In one manner or another, majority and opposition will pay the price.”

By SCOTT SAYAREMARCH 15, 2014

Find this story at 15 March 2014

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