Libya, Intelligence and Security
Libya, under the leadership of Colonel Muamar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, espouses a political theory that combines elements of socialism and fundamentalist Islamic law. Qadafi promoted his political system, which he dubbed the Third International, by a series of military incursions into neighboring Chad and sponsoring anti-capitalist terrorist organizations. Throughout the 1980s, Libya garnered international scorn for its policy of state-sponsored terrorism. In 1992, the United Nations imposed strict sanctions on the nation, including a ban on all its international air traffic.
Under Qadhafi's rule, Libya's intelligence community was reorganized into a militarized force. Intelligence and police forces engage in political espionage, ferreting out dissident groups. Libyan intelligence was also accused by members of the international community for training terrorist operatives and paramilitary agents.
The main agency of Libyan intelligence is the Military Intelligence Force. Military intelligence collects both foreign and domestic intelligence information. Most intelligence forces operate as strategic, special units, whose daily operations remain largely unknown.
The Secretariat of the Interior administers intelligence services responsible for the preservation of national security, and protection of government buildings and officials. A variety of specialized police forces, including the People's Security Force and the National Police, combine intelligence and law enforcement duties. However, elite elements of these Special Branch Units also operate as secret police forces, arresting and detaining any individuals suspected of anti-government activity.
Tensions between Libya and Western nations escalated throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In April, 1986, The U.S. launched a series of air strikes upon military targets in Libya, destroying command centers and military bases that were directly linked through intelligence sources to terrorist training and operations. The strikes, codenamed El Dorado Canyon, were carried out ten days after a bomb exploded in a discotheque frequented by American military personnel, where one American died and 63 others were among the over 200 injured. American intelligence officials had previously intercepted a message from Qadhafi ordering the attack.
Libya withdrew its military forces from Chad in the late 1980s, but then attempted to sabotage Western-Arab relations by interfering with ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Libyan government called upon Arab nations to stall the Middle East peace process through acts of terrorism and the repatriation of Palestinian refugees. In return, the United States government enacted strict laws prohibiting U.S. companies from doing business in Libya or with Libyan companies.
Under the yoke of sanctions, Libya extradited two suspected terrorists for trial in the Netherlands. The act prompted the UN to ease, and then suspend sanctions. In July of 2000, Libya resumed air travel to Morocco and Egypt. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, however, Libya's state-sponsorship of Islamist terrorist organizations, and their resumed relations with Iraq, drew sharp criticism from the United States and British governments.
█ FURTHER READING:
CIA World Factbook. "Libya."< http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ly.html > (April 28,2003).