Surprise! CIA Had 'Close Ties' to Libyan IntelligenceS

The best part of toppling a dictator, besides freedom, is getting to rifle through the papers of the intelligence bureaucracy. Who knows what you'll find! Like, say, a big binder that says "C.I.A." and two others that say "M.I.-6"!

So it was with a group of journalists and human rights workers looking through the papers of former Libyan spymaster Moussa Koussa in Tripoli, where Colonel Muammar Qadaffi was finally ousted after a months-long rebellion. (All the new agencies involved, we should note, have been hesitant to guarantee the documents' veracity, but most seem to believe they're real.)

Surely it can't surprise anyone at this point that the C.I.A. was working with Qadaffi—but not to this extent. And it can't be encouraging to hear that the intelligence agency was helping Qadaffi's goons detain and torture a guy who is now a rebel leader:

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 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 C.I.A. binder.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. "We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country," the case officer wrote.

Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

Ha ha, but what's a little bit of torture between new friends, right? The M.I.-6 binders, meanwhile, are similarly juicy ("A letter from an MI6 official to Mr Koussa stated 'No 10 are keen that the Prime Minister meet the Leader in the tent. I don't know why the English are fascinated by tents. The plain fact is that the journalists would love it.'"), and while the British agency refused to comment, a C.I.A. spokeswoman told the Times that "It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our country from terrorism and other deadly threats."

[NYT, The Independent; image of women's rights protest via AP]