Files show Western spy agency ties to Libya: reports
Files found at a Libyan government building show strong cooperation between US and British intelligence agencies and Moamer Kadhafi's regime, including shipping terror suspects to Libya for interrogation, media reports said.
The Central Intelligence Agency, under the administration of then-president George W. Bush, brought terror suspects to Libya and suggested questions Libyan interrogators should ask them, The Wall Street Journal said Friday, citing documents found at the headquarters of Libya's External Security agency.
Meanwhile, British daily The Independent said the secret documents also show that Britain passed details of exiled opponents to Kadhafi's spies.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague refused to be drawn Saturday on the reported files detailing the closeness of ties between London and Tripoli, insisting they related to the previous government.
"What we're focused on is getting the necessary help to Libya, more recognition for the National Transitional Council, getting the assets unfrozen so we avert any humanitarian problems in Libya," he told Britain's Sky News from a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Sopot, Poland.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP: "It is the long-standing policy of the government not to comment on intelligence matters." In Washington, the State Department similarly declined to comment.
An unnamed US official however quoted by the Journal noted that, at the time, Libya was breaking diplomatic ice with the West.
"Let's keep in mind the context here: By 2004, the US had successfully convinced the Libyan government to renounce its nuclear-weapons program and to help stop terrorists who were actively targeting Americans in the US and abroad," said the official.
The Journal said the files showed that in 2004 the CIA had moved to set up "a permanent presence" in the country, citing a note from CIA top operative Stephen Kappes to Libya's then-intelligence chief, Mussa Kussa.
Suggesting the close relationship between the two top clandestine services officials, the note begins "Dear Mussa" and was signed "Steve," said the Journal.
The Independent also said the papers include letters and faxes to Kussa headed "Greetings from MI6" (Britain's foreign intelligence service) and a personal Christmas greeting signed by a senior British spy with the epithet "Your friend."
Kussa later served as Libya's foreign minister from 2009 until last March, when he defected from Kadhafi's regime and traveled to Britain.
The cache, said the Independent, further shows that it was the office of former British prime minister Tony Blair which requested that a 2004 meeting with Kadhafi in Tripoli should take place in a Bedouin tent, the daily said.
The files were uncovered by Human Rights Watch researchers who toured the Libyan government building, and gave copies to the Journal and other reporters.
According to The New York Times, US intelligence services sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country's reputation for torture.
In return, Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, an opposition leader. A CIA case officer wrote back in March 2004: "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 the Times.
Human Rights Watch said it had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the Libyan rebels, the Times report noted.
Secret CIA rendition flights transported dozens of terror suspects around the world following the 9/11 attacks, often for interrogation in third countries.
© 2011 AFP