Moussa Koussa’s Security File

Journalists and human rights groups found a collection of damning–but not the most damning–records of Libya’s cooperation with the CIA and MI6, all wrapped up in binders with labels marking CIA and UK collaboration.

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. [my emphasis]

And yet few people seem to have thought how curious it is that such a collection came to become accessible all wrapped up with a pretty bow.

As I said, it appears these binders don’t include what would be the most damning record of CIA collaboration–which would be a record of how it was that Ibn Sheik al-Libi came to be suicided in April or May 2009, just as records of the US torture program were released. Nor does it include what would be the most damning record of MI6 collaboration, negotiations trading release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, in August 2009 for BP drilling rights in Libya. The records reportedly stop short in 2007 (in spite of a similar “discovery” just last week of a letter al-Megrahi wrote from Scottish prison in late 2007 or early 2008, declaring his innocence), before any of those events.

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.)

Note, too, the way the NYT ties these files to Moussa Koussa, the Michigan State-educated former Libyan spook in chief. Perhaps the timing and the English language of these makes that tie clear, but it seems … convenient, in ways I’ll return to.

And note one more detail. The most bewildering detail from these letters is their description of how the CIA conspired with Libya to torture an anti-Qaddafi figure who has since gone on to take a leading role in the US-backed rebellion.

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the [Libyan Islamic Fighting 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 [here’s that interview], 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.

Aside from how awkward this might make cooperation going forward (oh, hey, not only are you the guy we tortured in Bangkok, but everyone here knows about it!), but it may also make it politically difficult for the US government to back the rebels.

In short, it’s all rather curious that this collection of documents fell into the hands of journalist and human rights workers.

And then let’s reflect on how these documents got left–the implication is, by Koussa–in Libya to be found, but not the most damning possible documents. Where did those go? Remember that Koussa (who moved from his spook in chief position to serve as foreign minister in 2009, before both al-Libi’s suicide and al-Megrahi’s return) remained in Libya until March. By that point, rebels were already targeting him for retribution after the won. And US intelligence experts were discussing how damning the intelligence files implicating Koussa would be once they were liberated.

The Libyan official who was a key CIA contact in the war on terrorism and the removal of Moammar Gaddafi’s weapons of mass destruction may have no option now but to go down with the ship.

Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, who plotted assassinations and airline bombings as well as helped Washington pursue al-Qaeda terrorists, cannot defect to the opposition like other top Libyan officials, says a spokesman for a U.S.-based Libyan human rights group, because “he has too much blood on his hands.”


There’s a lot of stuff in Libyan intelligence files that will make him make him look bad” to the opposition, added Vince Cannistraro, a former top CIA official who led the agency’s probe of the 1988 bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

“It’s over for them,” Cannistraro said of Gaddafi and Kusa. “The opposition is closing in from all six entrances to Tripoli now.” Gaddafi, he said, is countering with African mercenaries “being flown directly into the airfield that used to be the American Wheelus Air Base.”

It’s the kind of operation Kusa would be good at.

“What will become of [Kusa] I don’t know,” said Khattaly, whose father was press secretary at Libya’s Washington embassy from 1971 to 1973 before resigning over Gaddafi’s policies, “but jumping ship is not safe for him. He did quite a bit damage over maybe 20 years as head of the intelligence service.” [my emphasis]

Note the files Canistraro is most interested in–those on the Lockerbie bombing, as well as earlier assassinations–pre-date the time frame of these documents. Also, then, presumably not among the documents found the other day.

And then a month after this speculation, Koussa got himself to the UK, where he defected (though he remains under some kind of detention).

If you had plans to land in London as an attempt to save your life, what do you think you’d do with the files implicating British intelligence? Do you think you’d leave them in Libya for the rebels to discover?

I’m not suggesting these documents are inauthentic–or unimportant for the way they show the US sending men to be tortured at Libya’s hand. But it all does seem to be a carefully orchestrated release.

10 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    I swear, every time I see Moussa Koussa, I think we are back on Zazi’s hair products. You know, the ones the vaunted NYPDCIA didn’t find.

  2. Charles Norrie says:

    This is quite interesting. Note that MK comes after Abdullah Senoussi, who was sentenced to like imprisonment for his part in the bombing of UT-772, by the French courts. AS had his difficulties with the Colenel, to whom he may be related by marriage.

    MI6 has cerainl been closer to the Libyan security services than MI5 or the CIA, and the case against Mr Magrahi is one of the CIA’s starting alone.

    I am not surprised ducuments were found, but had the CIA been to clear up after?

  3. EH says:

    My guess is that this could be a reduction operation, to expose possible collaborators or other untrustworthies, and tighten up the leadership group. By observation, we’ll be able to tell where the power boundaries are and who’s really in charge, coalescing the political landscape.

  4. Bob Schacht says:

    Thanks for this expert reading between the lines and wondering about the dog that didn’t bark!

    One minor typo: “By that point, rebels were already targeting him for retribution after the [=they] won.”
    This occurs in the penultimate sentence above the block quote beginning, “The Libyan official…”

    Thanks again,
    Bob in AZ

  5. Mary says:

    Drive by –

    “which would be a record of how it was that Ibn Sheik al-Libi came to be suicided in April or May 2009, just as records of the US torture program were released.”

    Even more so, just as Reprieve located al-Libi in the Libyan prison, since the Bush/Obama administrations had worked to disappear (and keep disappeared) al-Libi after Muhbarak handed him back over to the US (Cheney’s torture mission to get al-Qaeda ties to Hussein completed with a little live burial) Instead of becomining any kind of figure of investigation by Congress, the DOJ, Mukasey, Holder, Yoo, etc. – to confirm the stories of how well torture really does work to get false information that can be laundered through the Dept of State to the UN as a war justificaiton, al-Libi just disappeared. Excuse me, WAS disappeared. There were some unconfirmed reports of him in Libya. Then, as Obama smugly adopts his “look forward” [because the torturers are right behind you) doctrine, Reprieve inconveniently tracks down the absolute poster child for what is wrong with torture.

    And not only that, DiFi’s pick to de facto run the CIA, Steven Kappes, would almost have to be smack in the middle of the disappearing of al-Libi, as would, for that matter, at least some portion of the House and Senate intel committees.

    It was no time at all after Reprieve found al-Libi that he was suicided. I doubt DiFi sent flowers – to the graves of the US soldiers who died because of the lies her intel committee helped sell.

    Here’s another dog that isn’t barking – all the huge ties between Kappes and Kusa, and no one is getting Steve to come on a CNN, or even Fox, interview for his expert insight. No on is asking DiFi about her boy, Kappes, and whether or not it would be a good idea to try to get him back to the CIA (as has been done before) to deal with the Libyan situation since it was such an area of expertise of his. Or asking DiFi what she knows from her close ties with and prior strong support of, Kappes, with respect to the CIA and British intel ties and cooperation with Libya and the disappearance of al-Libi. No one asking HER what al-Libi would have added to the torture discourse. Depite Powell and Rice re-surfacing for Cheney’s book, no one asking either of them about the torture of al-Libi, the use of the State Dept to launder the torture to the UN, the disappearance of al-Libi, etc.

    Another point that, imo (biased as it is) that should get a bit more emphasis from the story that is being run, is how the Western Intel services CHOSE to make women, children and pregnant women DIRECT targets of their indecencies.

    In the one instance, they chose to send not just the requested figure, but also his pregnant wife and in the other they chose to send not just the requested firgure, but also his wife and children.

    And then there’s KSM’s still unaccounted for children. And the still unaccounted for infant child of Siddiqui. Good to know that when the US was involved, it restrained itself to only kidnapping its alleged terrorist targets for the torturers.

    Or not.

    Seriously – when you’re out there doing a Yoo (or a White) and creating a justification of kidnapping to torture as being just another “extraordinary” version of judicially approved rendition, find me that case that allowed rendition of the accuseds’ children and spouses, pregnant or otherwise.

    It’s a horrible thing, to see what the patriots at CIA are willing to do to this nation. They’ve been willing, with their corporate, legislative and Executive branch partners, to remake the nation into one that openly embraces torture and depravity, to protect their income streams and backsides. Even to cover up the manufacture of torture-generated lies to produce the Iraq war and send thousands and thousands of Americans to death, maiming, mental trauma and to reshape themselves in the images of their CIA torture examples. The souls they’ve stolen are not by any means limited to those who are already dead.

  6. Bob Schacht says:

    Thanks for dropping by.
    I’m beginning to wonder if this whole CIA thing is another example of regulatory capture, in which the the agency responsible for regulating X is in fact subverted by X and becomes controlled by X.

    Most other CIA Directors had previous associations with the CIA, didn’t they? Is Panetta the first who does not have a prior history with them? Hmmm.

    And then there’s the matter of Poppy Bush. Speak of Cheney moles, how many moles does Poppy Bush and James Baker still have at the CIA? I’ll bet he still has an Old Boys network over there that keeps him well-informed.

    Do you suppose Panetta is developing and organizing his own “personnel” files with double security encryption? A who is/was who book? I am hopeful that, assuming he is re-elected, Obama will do some house-cleaning over there. I have learned not to be too optimistic about such hopes, but nevertheless, I do have hopes.

    Bob in AZ

  7. Mary says:

    I’ve been swamped the last couple of weeks so I’m out of the loop, but catching up a bit last night and today.

    Worth a nod, here, is this story, “Gadhafi leaned on Arab allies to stay in power”
    Ghadhafi’s former Foreign Minister is saying (and yes, he’s got his own agenda, but it’s still interesting) that Omar Suleiman (the guy Obama and Hilary wanted to take over from Mubarak) was Ghadhafi’s top paid agent in Egypt and several Libyan dissidents disappeared in Egypt.

Comments are closed.