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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Close Relationship
The CIA and MI6 seem to have corresponded regularly with their Libyan counterparts, sending weekly test faxes to ensure that communication lines were working. At one point, the test faxes appear to occur daily. One December 2002 fax reads "Test fax returning as requested big boy!" And letters to Moussa Koussa from both CIA and MI6 agents reflect a comfortable, almost intimate level of friendship, in which agents communicated on a first name basis. A December 2003 letter to Koussa from an MI6 agent is signed "your friend Mark." Another from MI6, wishes the Libyan counterpart a "Happy Christmas." Another December 2003 letter from MI6 begins: "This is an informal letter to reach you by hand of Khalid who has just arrived in London with a very large volume of dates and oranges..."

The messages also detail CIA and MI6 agents' names and contact information, as well as their flight itineraries, and hotel addresses while visiting Tripoli, indicating a deep level of trust.

There is regular discussion between MI6 and their Libyan counterparts regarding a Libyan contact in London coded "JOSEPH," who assisted in the monitoring of Islamists and mosques in the U.K. and Sweden. It is noted that Swedish authorities also took part in the meetings and communications with Joseph. One 2003 fax from MI6 reads: "1. We phoned JOSEPH on 4/12/03 and arranged to meet the following day in Manchester at 4:30 . . . Observing JOSEPH from across the busy street, JOSEPH arrived on his own and we greeted each other in the foyer. JOSEPH was nervous. He had a paranoid walk to the hotel across Manchester with too much eye contact from passersby that had unduly unnerved him."

MI6 and CIA Rivalry
Despite what appears to be an intense level of cooperation, the documents also seem to reveal at times what appears to be a competition between western intelligence services. An undated letter from MI6 to Libyan intelligence reads: "Most importantly I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abdallah Sadiq. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the reliable relationship we have built over recent years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week. Abu Abd Allah's information on the situation in this country in of urgent importance to us. Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel a request for information from Abu Abd Allah through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence about Abu Abd Allah was British. I know I did not pay for air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us." —with reporting by Mark Benjamin/Washington

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