Ibn Sheikh al-Libi

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Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi (1963?-2009) was an al-Qaeda training officer, born in Libya. His interrogation is reported to have been one of the stronger reasons, for the George W. Bush Administration to begin the Iraq War.[1] He had made a number of statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraqi hands, and to which al-Qaeda might gain access; he is considered the principal, if unreliable, linkage between al-Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction, and Iraq.[2]He is reported to have committed suicide in Libyan detention. [3] Andy Worthington claims he was murdered. [4]

He is not to be confused with Abu Faraj al-Libi, successor to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. [5]

Early suspicion

U.S. intelligence had been aware of him before his capture. He was a leader of the the Khalden training camp, where Zacarias Moussaoui and Ahmed Ressam. The U.S. government froze his assets on Sept. 23, 2001.[6]

He had been arrested, by Pakistani authorities, in the town of Kohat, on the border with Afghanistan, in late 2001, as he escaped Tora Bora. Early in his January 2002 interrogation by military personnel, he provided actionable information about a truck bomb plan in Yemen, and also gave information on Abu Zubaydah. At this point, a sharp debate began between Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation personnel aware of the interviews. The CIA approach using harsh methods apparently started once Abu Zubaydah was captured, based in part on the lead from al-Libi[7] Through the process of extraordinary rendition, he was transferred to Egypt, and interrogated there by Central Intelligence Agency and Egyptian personnel. and eventually taken to Cairo, where the CIA enlisted Egyptian intelligence agents to help with the interrogation. He was returned to CIA custody, may have been held in other locations, including Jordan, Morocco and Afghanistan, and "some place very cold", which, while he was told was Alaska, could have been northern Poland.[8]

Worthington said he was held briefly in Afghanistan (in the US prison at Kandahar airport, and on the USS Bataan, according to a previous report he was rendered to Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Jordan, and was then rendered back to Afghanistan, where he was held in three separate prisons run by, or under the control of the CIA.

In Egyptian hands, and under torture, he said that the Iraqi regime was training al-Qaeda operatives.[9]He disavowed this when returned to the CIA.

The CIA had learned, before 9/11, that a Pakistani nongovernmental organization called Umma Tameer-e-Nau (UTN) both provided social welfare in Afghanistan, but also might be intending to assist al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction information. Its founder, Sultan Bashirridan Mahmood, was the former director of Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, and had published a book, Doomsday and Life After Death,: The Ultimate Fate of the Universe as Seen by the Holy Quran. CIA had identified other Pakistani engineers, including Chaudiri Andul Majeed, involved with the group, and that it had some support from Pakistani officers opposed to President Pervez Musharraf. Gen. Hamid Gul, former director of Inter-Service Intelligence, were among these.[10]

Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, had ordered an operational attempt to find more about UTN. The head of Libyan intelligence, Musa Kusa, told the deputy chief of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Ben Bonk, "They tried to sell us a nuclear weapon. Of course, we turned them down." This was especially plausible to CIA because CIA knew that Libya already had a source of nuclear expertise from A.Q. Khan.[11]

Another piece of information, from an unnamed Western intelligence service to the CIA, was that Mahmood and Majeed had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2001. with Pakistani President Musharraf. In November 2001, Tenet and CIA staff briefed the President, Vice President, and National Security Adviser on the probability of al-Qaeda's nuclear program, saying they probably did not have one but could not be certain they did not. Cheney said "If there's a one percent chance they do, you have to pursue it as if it were true." The President directed Tenet and a CIA team to fly again to Pakistan and discuss it again with Musharraf. Tenet urged Pakistan both to investigate UTN and to inventory its own nuclear material. Mahmood confirmed the bin-Laden material, and that he told bin Laden the problem was getting the material; bin Laden said "What if we already have the material?"[12]

Early interrogation

When under questioning in Afghanistan, al-Libi had said that Abu Abdullah had been sent by the late al-Qaeda military commander, Mohammed Atef, for poison and mustard gas training. After the 2003 war started, al-Libi recanted. Tenet agrees that al-Libi died, but "we just don't know when/ Did he lie when he first said that al-Qaeda members received training in Iraq, or did he lie when he said they did not?" This was part of the overall uncertainty that made Tenet think that Iraq might have a WMD program. [13]

Worthington said that his confession about chemical and biological warfare was false, extorted under torture, and used to justify the Iraq War. [4]

Later interrogation

It was in this context that Al-Libi told the Egyptians, in 2002,[14] which he later recanted, was that al-Qaeda had worked with organized crime to import "canisters containing nuclear material." Tenet wrote in his biography "we could not rule out these vague unsubstantiated streams of information were only partially right, and that Washington might be the intended target. [15] After Egypt, he was sent to Guantanamo in January 2003, and recanted in January 2004.[16]

Not all the U.S. intelligence community took al-Libi seriously. In 2005, the Senate Armed Services Committee had a Defense Intelligence Agency the February 2002 "Defense Intelligence Terrorist Summary, "which," according to Sen. Carl Levin, "was sent to the White House and the National Security Council and circulated among U.S. intelligence agencies. This first report observed that al-Libi could not name any Iraqis involved, any chemical or biological material used or where the training occurred, and concluded, "it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers,"[17]

There had been other questions from DIA and CIA. "A book on the buildup to the war reported that he lied after suffering beatings and a 'mock burial'" by Egyptian authorities.Human Rights Watch and other groups believe that al-Libi was sent to Libya even as the Bush administration in 2006 mandated that all CIA high-value detainees be moved to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"'I would speculate that he was missing because he was such an embarrassment to the Bush administration,' said Tom Malinowski, who leads the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. 'He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war" [18]

Libya

It was reported he was flown by the CIA to Tripoli in early 2006 and imprisoned by the Libyan government. No statements have been made to suggest this might have been an international extradition request by Libya, his country of citizenship.

In Tripoli, al-Libi joined other member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a network that had plotted for years from exile to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. LIFG was declared an associate of al-Qaeda and was of considerable concern to Libya. It also concerned Algeria, who built a surveillance base with the U.S. [5] Concerns with LIFG may have encouraged Gaddafi to take al-Libi.

References

  1. Craig Whitlock (October 27, 2007), "From CIA Jails, Inmates Fade Into Obscurity: Dozens of 'Ghost Prisoners' Not Publicly Accounted For", Washington Post
  2. Russ Hoyle (2008), Going to war: how misinformation, disinformation, and arrogance led America into Iraq, Macmillan, ISBN 0312360355, p. 446
  3. Peter Finn (May 12, 2009), "Detainee Who Gave False Iraq Data Dies In Prison in Libya", Washington Post
  4. 4.0 4.1 Andy Worthington (18 June 2009), WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi
  5. 5.0 5.1 John C. K. Daly (March 23, 2005), Libya and al-Qaeda: A Complex Relationship
  6. "Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi", Globalsecurity
  7. .Dana Priest, "CIA Puts Harsh Tactics On Hold", Washington Post
  8. Brian Ross & Richard Esposito (5 December 2005), "EXCLUSIVE: Sources Tell ABC News Top Al Qaeda Figures Held in Secret CIA Prisons; 10 Out of 11 High-Value Terror Leaders Subjected to 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'", ABC News
  9. Juan Cole (May 12, 2009), "Al-Libi Case Eloquent Testimony against Torture", Informed Comment, Global Americana Institute
  10. George Tenet with Bill Harlow (2007), At The Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, Harpercollins, ISBN 006114778, p. 262
  11. Tenet, p. 263
  12. Tenet, pp. 264-268
  13. Tenet, pp. 353-354
  14. Hoyle, p. 91
  15. Tenet, p. 269
  16. Hoyle, p. 92
  17. Walter Pincus (November 6, 2005), "Newly Released Data Undercut Prewar Claims", Washington Post
  18. "Source for U.S. Assertions on Iraqi WMD Activities Dies", NTI Global Security Newswire, May 12, 2009