Devastating secret files reveal Labour lies over Gaddafi
Published in The Mail on Sunday (September 4th, 2011)
The startling extent to which Labour misled the world over the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber is exposed today in top-secret documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday.
In public, senior Ministers from the last Labour Government and the Scottish First Minister have repeatedly insisted that terminally ill Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds in a decision taken by Scottish Ministers alone. But the confidential papers show that Westminster buckled under pressure from Colonel Gaddafi, who threatened to ignite a ‘holy war’ if Megrahi died in his Scottish cell.
And despite repeated denials, the Labour Government worked frantically behind the scenes to appease Gaddafi’s ‘unpredictable nature’. As recently as last month, a spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond was insisting: ‘The decision was taken on the basis of Scots law and was not influenced by economic, political or diplomatic factors.’
Equally damaging, the documents also suggest that as well as sharing intelligence-gathering techniques, Britain gave Libya hundreds of suggested questions for Islamic militants detained in Libya in 2004. This will inevitably cause widespread dismay because of the regime’s systematic use of torture during interrogation.
The revelations come in documents – some marked ‘UK secret: UK/Libya Eyes Only’ – found strewn on the floor of the British Ambassador’s abandoned residence in Tripoli. Many of the papers demonstrate the warmth of the relationship between Britain and Libya and, in particular, the extraordinarily close links between the Blair Government and the Gaddafi regime.
The notes show how:
- Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi’s playboy son Saif with his ‘dodgy’ PhD thesis while he was Prime Minister.
- British Special Forces were offered to train the Khamis Brigade, Gaddafi’s most vicious military unit.
- MI6 was apparently willing to trace phone numbers for Libyan intelligence.
- Gordon Brown wrote warmly to Gaddafi in 2007 expressing the hope that the dictator would be able to meet Prince Andrew when he visited Tripoli.
- MI6’s budget (£150 million in 2002) was readily disclosed to Libyan officials, along with details of how Britain’s Downing Street emergency committee Cobra operates.
- Britain’s intelligence services forged close links with Gaddafi’s brutal security units.
Megrahi was released two years ago and transferred back to Libya, where he received a hero’s welcome from Gaddafi. Last week, it emerged he is still alive – although very ill – after he was tracked down to his home in Tripoli.
A series of documents marked ‘confidential’ and ‘restricted’ reveal that Gaddafi threatened Britain with ‘dire consequences’ if Megrahi died in Scotland.
Diplomats feared the harassment – ‘or worse’ – of British nationals; the cancellation of lucrative contracts with firms such as BP, Shell and BG; and the end of defence deals and counter-terrorism co-operation. As a result, the British Government ignored the anger of both America and the families of victims of Britain’s biggest terrorist outrage to push for the fastest release through the signing of a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya.
Set against Britain’s role in the military intervention in Libya, and David Cameron’s description of Gaddafi last week as a ‘monster’, the revelations in the papers are bitterly ironic.
Yet during the concerted appeasement campaign, Britain was under no illusion about the nature of Gaddafi’s security forces or of what they were capable. Another thick briefing paper points out that their primary objective was the protection of the Libyan leader, his family and their friends and to ‘defend the regime’s repressive politics inside and outside the country’.
Despite this, Simon McDonald, Gordon Brown’s foreign policy adviser, told the dictator’s son Saif in June 2008 how glad he was to hear of the first meeting between MI6’s head of station and the feared Libyan Internal Security Organisation. ‘I understand that this preliminary meeting focused on training,’ he wrote. ‘I look forward to hearing of progress.’
From the police to prisons, from the health service to the high court, the documents detail links and co-operation between the two countries at every level. What appears to underpin them all is Tony Blair’s plan to bring Gaddafi in from the cold while winning rich contracts for British businesses.
Even the Department for International Development got in on the act, drawing up plans to work with Libya in Africa.
Among the most enthusiastic participants were the police, despite the shadow cast by the shooting in London of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984. In November 2005 the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke met the Libyan security minister in London to agree a series of ‘security and co-operation talks’. Six months later, at a meeting in Tripoli, Libyan officials asked for assistance on riot control, which they stressed was one of their ‘priorities’.
Despite the horrific reputation of Gaddafi’s jails, there was also collaboration with Libya’s prison services. This included a trip to Libya by the former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham, another in July 2009 by a team of British prison officials and the funding of visits to Libya by academics from King’s College, London, who were each paid £630 a day to run a two-week course in Tripoli.
Libya was notorious for corruption under the Gaddafi regime, with the dictator’s family dominating commerce and demanding a cut of most big deals. Rivals who crossed them could have their businesses – or lives – destroyed. But the Law Society spent 18 months working with Libyan officials to review laws on banking and the creation of a more ‘enabling’ business environment.
There were also exchange visits between British and Libyan health ministers and proposals for joint work from the Health Protection Agency.
Even former Labour leader Neil Kinnock became involved, holding discussions on education with Saif Gaddafi. ‘I am pleased that you had a successful meeting with Lord Kinnock,’ Tony Blair’s then foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, told the dictator’s son in an April 2007 letter.
The letter, updating Gaddafi on progress on several fronts, ran to four pages. It concluded with the Prime Minister sending ‘his warm wishes to the Leader and to yourself’.
A separate cache of secret files found in Tripoli show that MI6 gave the Gaddafi regime information on Libyan dissidents living in the UK. The documents, discovered in the Tripoli offices of former Libyan intelligence chief Musa Kusa, include a personal Christmas greeting signed by a senior spy as ‘your friend’.
They also reveal that MI6 and the CIA had a regular contact with their counterparts in Libya, in particular Mr Kusa, who became foreign minister and earlier this year defected to the UK.
Blair helped playboy Saif with his dodgy PhD thesis
Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi’s playboy son Saif with his ‘dodgy’ philosophy PhD thesis while he was Prime Minister. The extraordinary revelation, confirmed by a leaked letter sent by Mr Blair to the tyrant’s son, demonstrates just how close the links were between the Blair Government and the Gaddafi regime.
Saif, 39, has called Mr Blair ‘a close, personal friend’ of his family. Mr Blair also had a close personal relationship with dictator Muammar, exchanging friendly notes even after he left No 10.
Typical was one sent from Downing Street on December 28, 2006. ‘Eid Mubarak!’ it begins, acknowledging a Muslim festival. ‘At this sacred time of harmony and reconciliation, recalling how our passionate God has mercy on mankind, I would like to express my personal wishes to you, to your family and to the Libyan people.’
The documents show Mr Blair’s surprising level of involvement with Saif’s 2008 London School of Economics thesis. Mr Blair sent Saif a personally signed letter on No 10 paper, addressing him as ‘Engineer Saif’ and thanking him for sending the 429-page thesis for him to read.
The PM also offered three examples of co-operation between governments, people and business ‘that might help with your studies’, including Make Poverty History, which he said worked because ‘it bought together an unusual coalition of players from Bono to the Pope . . . with a simple but inspiring message of hope.’
Mr Blair then discusses how to prevent corruption in oil-rich nations – even though the Gaddafis were notorious for stealing billions – and his ‘personal interest and commitment’ to the topics Saif studied. He signed off: ‘I wish you well for your PhD and send my warm good wishes.’ Saif – who donated £1.5 million to the LSE – is said to have plagiarised much of his thesis.
A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘Neither Tony Blair or Downing Street officials saw Saif Gaddafi’s thesis in advance. A letter was drafted by officials giving examples of good practice which was sent in the Prime Minister’s name. It was perfectly proper to do so.’
Our spies told Gaddafi thugs what questions to ask terror suspects
The Tripoli documents reveal how British intelligence forged close links with Gaddafi’s brutal security outfits. MI6 officers trained Libyan spies, shared ‘restricted’ UK operations details and passed on information about anti-Gaddafi activists living in Britain under an agreement to tackle Islamic extremists.
The links were forged with Gaddafi’s notorious Libyan External Security Organisation – with British agents even suggesting questions for suspects being interrogated in a country known for its use of torture.
Papers reveal that MI6 held a counter-terrorism course for the Libyan group – which has been linked with state-sponsored terrorism and helped arm the IRA – in late 2006. The training revealed how Britain recruits its spies and validated their intelligence, as well as sharing MI6 budget details, explaining Cabinet Office crisis management, including the COBRA meetings, and giving a tour of the MI6 museum.
Much of their collaboration was focused on the fundamentalist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which provided fierce internal opposition to Gaddafi and which has strong links to Britain.
American added the organisation – which has been linked to al-Qa’ida – to its list of banned terror groups after Gaddafi engaged in negotiations with the West in 2003. But its former leader Abdelhakim Belhadj was an instrumental commander in the overthrow of Gaddafi, and he has been appointed head of the new Tripoli Military Council, with 8,000 troops under him.
The groups has been under investigation in Britain for two decades. One document from 2008 marked ‘UK Secret – UK/Libya Eyes Only’ updated Libyan intelligence services on dozens of key LIFG operatives in Britain, even passing on email addresses and telephone numbers.
There are similar filed from previous years. Another thick document, again labelled ‘secret’, from June 2004, gives hundreds of questions for Libyan security personnel to ask detained suspects. Some questions are personalised for dozens of named individual suspects. One, with multiple aliases, is clearly suspected of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 190.
Documents found in the abandoned office of Gaddafi’s former spymaster even suggested MI6 was willing to trace phone numbers for Libyan intelligence.
Britain was under no illusion about the nature of Gaddafi’s security forces. Another briefing paper says their primary objective was the protection of the Libyan leader, his family and their friends to ‘defend the regime’s repressive politics inside and outside the country.’
We helped train brigade behind regime’s worst atrocities
Britain developed astonishingly close ties with the Libyan military following Tony Blair’s 2007 deal in the desert with Colonel Gaddafi, despite its history of brutal internal repression and bloody foreign adventurism.
Among the deals revealed this weekend are the use of UK Special Forces to train the feared Khamis Brigade, run by one of Gaddafi’s sons and thought to have been behind some of the worst atrocities in the recent conflict.
The SAS spent six months training Libyan elite troops two years ago as part of what was described by the Foreign Office as ‘ongoing co-operation in the field of defence’ between the two countries. A troop of four to 14 SAS men are understood to have trained the Libyans in counter-terrorism techniques, including covert surveillance.
The training was agreed under Tony Blair in 2004 but ‘signed off’ by Gordon Brown in 2009. British officials also proposed further military collaborations including:
- Training Libyan officers at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
- Dispatching a Royal Navy vessel to visit Tripoli.
- Paying for high-ranking Libyans to visit the European Union and Nato headquarters in Brussels.
- Sending 100 officers a year on English language courses.
- The sale of naval ships to Libya.
It is now clear that British support for Gaddafi’s military machine went considerably further than training – and that much of it was based on ideas proposed by the deposed Libyan regime.
In April 2007, a month before the desert accord was signed, Mr Blair’s foreign policy adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald told Saif Gaddafi that Britain was ready to develop a partnership with Libya ‘starting with some of the ideas you set out’. Sir Nigel said he was ‘extremely pleased’ agreement had been reached on the sale of the Iskander missile system – although it was delayed by international pressure.
In February 2008, Gordon Brown wrote to the Libyan leader: ‘I am confident that our defence co-operation can grow, building on the accord signed in Sirte last May.’ Mr Brown hoped they could conclude negotiations on two arms deals: a £147 million anti-tank missile system and related £112 million communication system, plus an £85 million deal to supply radios.
In a letter to Saif in June 2008, Mr McDonald outlined the deal to train up to 90 members of the Khamis Brigade by Arturus, a UK-based private military security company. He added: ‘The MoD would then be willing to have serving personnel from UK SF [Special Forces] visit and provide quality assurance.’
Last night, Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army commander, said: ‘Today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies as these deals show.’
From suicide vests to shooting stars…
– British Special Forces have warned Libyan commanders hunting Colonel Gaddafi that he could be wearing a suicide vest – choosing to kill himself rather than be captured. A senior security source told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The intelligence suggests it will be packed with enough explosives to take out anyone around him.’