Rights investigators have uncovered secret documents in Libya that appear to show close cooperation between Western intelligence agencies and the former Libyan regime, with the CIA even helping the Gadhafi government abduct terror suspects in foreign countries.
Human Rights Watch researchers uncovered the documents Friday in Tripoli, at an abandoned office once used by Libya's former spy chief. Moussa Koussa, a close associate of Libya's fugitive former leader, headed the country's intelligence service in 2003-2004 and later served as Moammar Gadhafi's foreign minister.
HRW and journalists who examined the documents Friday say it has been impossible to completely verify their authenticity, and that none were printed on official stationery. However, it has been generally known that Western intelligence agencies have cooperated with Libya since 2004, when Gadhafi said his government would dismantle its arsenal of so-called weapons of mass destruction.
Reports about the Central Intelligence Agency's activities in recent years have suggested that Libya was involved in the U.S. agency's secret "rendition" program of detaining, transporting and interrogating terrorist suspects in foreign countries, often places with no connection to the detainees' suspected operations.
Human Rights Watch said the documents its investigators examined date back to 2002, detailing communications between Libya's External Security Organization and a variety of foreign intelligence services including the CIA and Britain's MI-6. News accounts indicate all the documents were at least three years old.
HRW investigators in Tripoli said that, overall, the documents show that Western intelligence agencies' cooperation with Libya in recent years was much more extensive than previously thought. Witnesses said the files detailed intelligence that Libya shared, as well as Western intelligence that was shared with Libya, and there also were messages involving surveillance, abduction plans and the detention of suspects sought either by Libya or its Western partners.
A Human Rights Watch worker in Tripoli said he saw what appeared to be the draft text of a speech the CIA and MI-6 prepared for Gadhafi, in which he called on all parties in the Middle East to renounce unconventional weapons, another term for weapons of mass destruction.
The New York Times reported from Tripoli that the speech text prepared by the CIA "seems intended to depict the Libyan dictator in a positive light."
A spokeswoman for the CIA, Jennifer Youngblood, declined to comment on the specific details reported from Tripoli, but told reporters: "It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign government to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats."
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.