Files found at a Libyan government building show strong cooperation between the CIA and Moamer Kadhafi's intelligence agencies, including shipping terror suspects to the North African country for interrogation, media reports said.
The Central Intelligence Agency, under the administration of then president George W. Bush, brought terror suspects to Libya and suggested questions that Libyan interrogators should ask them, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing documents found at the headquarters of Libya's External Security agency.
The CIA also moved to set up in 2004 "a permanent presence" in the country, the Journal said, according to a note from CIA top operative Stephen Kappes to Libya's intelligence chief, at the time, Mussa Kussa, was head of Libyan intelligence.
Suggesting the close relationship between the two top clandestine services officials, the note begins "Dear Musa" and was signed "Steve," said the Journal.
An unnamed US official quoted by the daily noted that, at the time, Libya was breaking diplomatic ice with the West.
"Let's keep in mind the context here: By 2004, the US had successfully convinced the Libyan government to renounce its nuclear-weapons program and to help stop terrorists who were actively targeting Americans in the US and abroad," said the official.
The files were uncovered by Human Rights Watch researchers who toured the Libyan government building, and gave copies to the Journal.
According to The New York Times, US intelligence services sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.
In return, Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, an opposition leader, and a CIA case officer wrote back in March 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 CIA binder, The Times said.
Human Rights Watch said it had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the Libyan rebels, The Times report noted.
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Meanwhile, British daily The Independent said the secret documents discovered in the office of Kussa also show that Britain passed details of exiled opponents to Kadhafi's spies.
The cache further shows that it was the office of former British prime minister Tony Blair that requested that a 2004 meeting with Kadhafi in Tripoli should take place in a Bedouin tent, the daily said.
There was no immediate reaction from British or US authorities to the report.
The paper said the documents would raise questions about the ties that Britain, in particular, and the United States forged with Kussa and the regime as the Western powers tried to bring Libya out of isolation.
Kussa flew to Britain in March and defected, but despite being accused of rights violations was allowed to fly to Qatar the following month.
The Independent said the papers include letters and faxes to Kussa headed "Greetings from MI6" (Britain's foreign intelligence service) and a personal Christmas greeting signed by a senior British spy with the epithet "Your friend".
It also cites a US administration document, marked secret, saying that it was "in a position" to deliver a man named as Shaykh Musa, a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, "to your physical custody."
"We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody of Musa," it quotes the document as saying.
Secret CIA rendition flights transported dozens of terror suspects around the world following the 9/11 attacks, often for interrogation in third countries.
Meanwhile British intelligence in a letter dated April 16, 2004 informed a Libyan security agency that a Libyan opposition activist had been freed from British detention, the Independent said.
A further document purportedly from MI6 seeks information about a suspect travelling on a Libyan passport, adding that it is a "sensitive operation".
The cache also shows that a statement given by Kadhafi announcing that his regime was giving up weapons of mass destruction in a bid to shed its pariah status was put together with the help of British officials.