How Libya Seems to Have Helped the CIA with Rendition of Terrorism Suspects

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Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, commander of the Tripoli Military Council, looks on during an interview on September 1, 2011 in Tripoli, Libya.

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The Renditions
The rendition files show close coordination between the CIA, MI6, their Libyan counterparts, and other foreign governments, including European countries, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Pakistan on the rendition of terrorism suspects to Libya. Rendition flights sometimes appear to have been transited through the Seychelles and Diego Garcia, where the U.S. military maintains a base.

A March 6, 2004 letter details what seem to be plans to intercept LIFG leader Abdullah al-Sadiq en route from Kuala Lumpur to London. The CIA notes that al-Sadiq would be intercepted in Bangkok — along with his wife, who the letter notes was four months pregnant — and deliver them to Tripoli. There is an extensive amount of correspondence on al-Sadiq's rendition, which appears to have been managed very carefully by the CIA down to the specific questions that Libyan authorities were instructed to ask him upon his arrival in Libya. (According to Human Rights Watch, Abdullah al-Sadiq was an alias used by the rebel military commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj. Belhaj was released from prison in 2010. He apparently joined the rebel fighters only recently.)

But Sadiq's case wasn't the only one subjected to the CIA's apparent micromanagement. Other correspondence also included dozens of specific questions that they would like to see posed to the terror suspects in question, at a time when rights organizations were shedding light on extreme abuses of prisoners in Libyan custody, including the 1996 massacre of some 1,200 prisoners in Tripoli's Abu Slim prison. The interrogation instructions apparently sent by the CIA are detailed and extensive, including instructions for what to ask depending on whether the suspect "answers in the affirmative" to certain questions. Question number 2 on one such list reads: "(if subject answers in the affirmative to question one) what aliases does Mansour Alfallah use?"

A CIA letter dated April 15, 2004 appears to promise the Libyans that a specific terror suspect would be abducted and sent to Libya as soon as confirmation was received from the Libyans that they would follow through on receiving the suspect and questioning him. "Your service is no doubt aware of terrorist suspect and LIFG member MUSTAFA SALIM ALI MODERI TARABULSI, AKA SHAYKH MUSA. Musa was until recently, acting as the deputy of LIFG member 'Abd el-Salam el-Diki AKA Shaykh Abu Abdallah al-Zulaytini. Our service is in a position to deliver Sheykh Musa to your physical custody, similar to what we have done with other senior LIFG members in the recent past. We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa. In addition, per our recently developed agreements, we request that your service agree to take our requirements for debriefing of Musa, as well as a guarantee that Musa's human rights will be protected. We look forward to your comments."

The CIA's correspondence appears to sanction the rendition of terror suspects' families as well. One letter regarding the rendition of "LIFG Deputy Emir Abu Munthir" dated March 23, 2004 reads: "Our service has become aware that last weekend LIFG Deputy Emir Abu Munthir and his spouse and children were being held in Hong Kong detention for immigration/passport violations. We are also aware that your service had been cooperating with the British to effect Abu Munthir's removal to Tripoli, and that you had an aircraft available for this purpose in the Maldives . . . Accordingly, if your government were to charter a foreign aircraft from a third country, the Hong Kong government may be able to coordinate with you to render Abu Munthir and his family into your custody."

Requests Made by Intelligence Services
The intelligence agencies apparently often made requests of one another as well, and each appeared to deliver. There seems to be correspondence about Iraqi scientists in Guantanamo and in Libya that both American and Libyan parties are interested in, as well as U.S. responses to Libyan requests to interview Libyans in Guantanamo. What appears to be a CIA letter titled "Iraq scientists" dated April 6, 2004 reads: "...You will recall that during the February meeting you had kindly offered us the opportunity to interview several Iraqis that were currently living in Libya . . . we are particularly interested in the current location and status of both Dr. Rajab and Mr. Ahmad Khudr Qadir (number three on your message of 31 March.) Does your service know where either man is currently? If so, can your service make either (or both) available?"

On matters of security regarding the Libyan ruling family (the document styles Gaddafi as al-Qadhafi), both MI6 and the CIA also oblige. A letter from MI6 dated Jan. 20, 2004 reads "We have passed the details regarding the threat to SAIF AL-ISLAM AL-QADHAFI to our French counterparts. They have advised us that they do not have any traces on the individuals named in the report, and that there is no indication that they are in France or that they have visited France in the past. They commented that the Qatari interior minister was known to be an Islamic extremist sympathizer."

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