The Blog

Preserve Qaddafi’s Intelligence Files

4:33 PM, Aug 23, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

As Muammar Qaddafi’s reign of terror presumably comes to an end (or comes close to an end), there is one part of his regime worth saving: the Libyan intelligence service’s files. Tyrants tend to be diligent record keepers, with vast bureaucracies recording every noteworthy misdeed. This is generally true for the dictators’ embassies abroad, as well as internal security organizations at home. Qaddafi was no different.

qaddafi

When Libyan rebels took over the embassy in London earlier this month, they pledged to turn over thousands of intelligence files to British authorities. The embassy there, as elsewhere, had acted as a “spy centre” for decades. The Telegraph (UK) was shown some of the files and reported that they document “payments to British individuals and companies.” The potential for uncovering shady, unethical or even illegal payments is palpable. Every oil rich dictator has sycophants and shameless opportunists on the payroll.

Identifying the recipients of Libyan oil graft isn’t the only reason to preserve Qaddafi’s files. Perhaps we will learn more about Qaddafi’s successful effort to have convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Baset al Megrahi freed from a Scottish prison. A leaked U.S. State Department cable reports that the Libyans bullied the UK, threatening “dire” consequences if Megrahi died of cancer while in prison. The January 28, 2009 cable reads:

Specific threats have included the immediate cessation of all U.K. commercial activity in Libya, a diminishment or severing of political ties and demonstrations against official U.K. facilities. [Libyan] officials also implied, but did not directly state, that the welfare of U.K. diplomats and citizens in Libya would be at risk.   

And Megrahi, of course, was not on death’s door when he received a hero’s welcome from Qaddafi.

Libya’s “thuggish” approach to diplomacy, as it was described by the State Department, is hardly surprising. The Libyan intelligence files likely contain numerous other examples of this strong-armed approach to international relations.

As a persistent abuser of human rights, Qaddafi ordered his goons to quash dissent at home and hunt down Libyan dissidents throughout the world, including in the West. Documenting this murder spree is necessary both to honor the memory of the fallen victims and to write a more complete history of Qaddafi’s tenure.

Then there is Qaddafi’s sponsorship of terrorism. The Pan 103 bombing is only the most notorious act of Libyan sponsored terrorism. Qaddafi’s Libya was long one of the premier state sponsors of terror. And Qaddafi’s lust for blood frequently led him to strange terrorist bedfellows.

In 2003, for example, Qaddafi hired a team of al Qaeda hit men to kill then Saudi crown prince Abdullah. Qaddafi and Abdullah had a televised verbal altercation in the lead up to the Iraq War and Qaddafi, who is not the type of person to let this sort of thing pass, decided to off Abdullah. According to the New York Times, Libyan intelligence officers and al Qaeda assassins were inside Saudi Arabia when the plot was broken up. The deal with al Qaeda was brokered by Libyan representatives inside London, who reached out to al Qaeda front men living there. If the Libyan embassy in London preserved its files on the deal, then they could make for very interesting reading.

The plot to kill Abdullah shows that even a dictator al Qaeda would like to dethrone was capable of allying himself with the terror group to advance their common interests. Al Qaeda’s Libyan affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), targeted Qaddafi for more than a decade. Yet, that didn’t stop Qaddafi from partnering with other members of the al Qaeda terror network.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 15 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers