CIA active on the ground in Libya ‘for several weeks’

Libyan rebels

Libyan rebels

Few intelligence observers have been surprised by revelations in The New York Times that several cells of Central Intelligence Agency officers have been active on the ground in Libya for the best part of March. The US newspaper published the disclosure after the Reuters news agency first broke the story early on Wednesday. According to Reuters, US President Barack Obama authorized a secret Presidential finding three weeks ago, in which he instructed the CIA to deploy teams of operatives in the North African country. In reality, as Reuters commented later on, US intelligence officers were active on the ground in Libya before President Obama’s authorization for covert action. But his authorization gave the green light for the intensification of CIA activities throughout Libya’s northern regions. The CIA operatives are not working alone; they are part of what The Times called “a shadow force of Westerners”, which include “dozens of British special forces” and officers of the Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6 —the UK’s foremost external intelligence agency. Citing “American officials”, The Times speculates that Western intelligence agents are actively collecting tactical intelligence on the Libyan armed forces, thus helping guide aerial strikes by NATO jets. But what is also likely is that the intelligence operatives are frantically collecting information on the political and ideological composition of the anti-Qaddafi rebels, in an attempt to make up for the West’s crucial lack of information on the Libyan resistance movement. In a subsequent report, Reuters quotes former CIA field agent Robert Baer, who says that existing CIA teams on the ground were later joined by other Agency operatives. The latter probably crossed into Libya from Egypt, carrying with them light equipment, says Baer. The CIA was contacted by both The Times and Reuters, but declined comment.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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