In The Independent of 3/9/11 there appeared an article based on secret files that the paper had unearthed. We are reprinting here substantial extracts from that article. The Independent says that they “reveal the astonishingly close links that existed between British and American governments and Muammar Gaddafi.”
The documents chart how prisoners were offered to the Libyans for brutal interrogation by the Tripoli regime under the highly controversial “rendition” programme, and also how details of exiled opponents of the Libyan dictator in the UK were passed on to the regime by MI6.
The papers show that British officials actually helped write a draft speech for Colonel Gaddafi while he was trying to rehabilitate his regime from the pariah status to which it had sunk following its support for terrorist movements. Further documents disclose how, at the same time, the US and UK acted on behalf of Libya in conducting negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
With the efforts they had expended in cultivating their contacts with the regime, the British were unwilling, at times, to share their “Libya connection” with their closest ally, the US. In a letter to his Libyan intelligence counterpart, an MI6 officer described how he refused to pass on the identity of an agent to Washington.
The documents, many of them incendiary in their implications, were found at the private offices of Moussa Koussa, Col Gaddafi’s right hand man, and regime security chief, who defected to Britain in the days following the February revolution…
The material raises questions about the relationship between Moussa Koussa and the British government and the turn of events following his defection. Mr Koussa’s surprising arrival in Britain led to calls for him to be questioned by the police about his alleged involvement in murders abroad by the Libyan regime, including that of policewoman Yvonne Fletcher and opponents of Gaddafi. He was also said to be involved in the sending of arms to the IRA. At the time David Cameron’s government assured the public that Mr Koussa may, indeed, face possible charges. Instead, he was allowed to leave the country and is now believed to be staying in a Gulf state.
The revelations by The Independent will lead to questions about whether Mr Koussa, who has long been accused of human rights abuses, was allowed to escape because he held a ‘smoking gun’. The official is known to have copied and taken away dozens of files with him when he left Libya.
The papers illustrate the intimate relations Mr Koussa and some of his colleagues seemingly enjoyed with British intelligence. Letters and faxes flowed to him headed ‘Greetings from MI6’ ‘Greetings from SIS’, handwritten Christmas greetings, on one occasion, from ‘ Your friend’, followed by the name of a senior British intelligence official, and regrets over missed lunches. There were also regular exchanges of gifts: on one occasion a Libyan agent arrived in London laden with figs and oranges.
The documents repeatedly touched on the blossoming relationship between Western intelligence agencies and Libya. But there was a human cost. The Tripoli regime was a highly useful partner in the ‘rendition’ process under which prisoners were sent by the US for ‘enhanced interrogation’, a euphemism, say human rights groups, for torture.
One US administration document, marked secret, says “Our service is in a position to deliver Shaykh Musa to your physical custody similar to what we have done with other senior LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group) members in the past. We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa”.
The British too were dealing with the Libyans about opposition activists, passing on information to the regime. This was taking place despite the fact that Colonel Gaddafi’s agents had assassinated opponents in the campaign to eliminate so-called “stray dogs” abroad, including the streets of London. The murders had, at the time, led to protests and condemnation by the UK government.
One letter dated 16th April 2004 from UK intelligence to an official at the International Affairs Department of Libyan security, says: “We wish to inform you that Ismail KAMOKA @ SUHAIB [possibly referring to an alias being used] was released from detention on 18th March 2004. A panel of British judges ruled that KAMOKA was not a threat to national security in the UK and subsequently released him. We are content for you to inform [a Libyan intelligence official] of KAMOKA’s release.”
Ironically, the Libyan rebels who have come in to power after overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi with the help of the UK and NATO have just appointed Abdullah Hakim Belhaj, a former member of the LIFG, as their commander in Tripoli.
Other material highlights the two-way nature of the information exchange. One document headed “For the attention of the Libyan Intelligence Service. Greetings from MI6 asks for information about a suspect travelling on [a] Libyan passport...”
One of the most remarkable finds in the cache of documents is a statement by Colonel Gaddafi during his rapprochement with the West during which he gave up his nuclear programme and promised to destroy his stock of chemical and biological weapons.
The Libyan leader said “we will take these steps in a manner that is transparent and verifiable. Libya affirms and will abide by commitments... when the world is celebrating the birth of Jesus, and as a token of contribution to a world full of peace, security, stability and compassion the greater Jamahiriya renews its honest call for a WMD free zone in the Middle East and Africa.”
The statement was, in fact, put together with the help of British officials. A covering letter, addressed to Khalid Najjar, of the Department of International Relations and Safety in Tripoli, said “for the sake of clarity, please find attached a tidied up version of the language we agreed on Tuesday. I wanted to ensure that you had the same script.”
The Independent 3/9/11