US intelligence in the search for Kadhafi in Libya
The role of US intelligence in Libya in the search for Kadhafi
US intelligence agencies have a crucial role to play in tracking down Libya’s Moammar Kadhafi but are anxious to keep a low profile, current and former officials said Thursday.
Although the military and the State Department sought to distance Washington from the manhunt, current and former officials acknowledged that finding the fugitive strongman was an important priority for US spy agencies.
“It’s a question of getting to him before he tries to form an insurgency against the new government,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
The United States has a vast array of assets to bring to bear, including surveillance aircraft, eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, and tips from high-ranking defectors and CIA operatives on the ground, he said.
Britain’s Defense Minister Liam Fox said NATO was helping the rebels with intelligence and reconnaissance to find Kadhafi, a claim denied by the alliance.
However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, “Neither the United States nor NATO is involved in this manhunt. It’s a Libyan effort.”
Drawing lessons from the US experience in Iraq, Washington and its allies wanted to avoid any appearance of heavy-handed intervention that would overshadow the rebels, experts said.