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Posted at 10:00 PM ET, 02/23/2011

CIA's top Libyan contact Musa Kusa may go down with Gaddafi

By Jeff Stein

The Libyan official who was a key CIA contact in the war on terrorism and the removal of Moammar Gaddafi’s weapons of mass destruction may have no option now but to go down with the ship.

Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, who plotted assassinations and airline bombings as well as helped Washington pursue al-Qaeda terrorists, cannot defect to the opposition like other top Libyan officials, says a spokesman for a U.S.-based Libyan human rights group, because “he has too much blood on his hands.”

“He will not be part of any democratic government in the future, that’s a sure thing,” said Omar Khattaly, spokesman for the Libyan Working Group, which has offices in Atlanta, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Kusa was Gaddafi’s chief of intelligence from 1994 to 2009, when he was appointed foreign minister. But long before then Libyan exiles had dubbed him “the envoy of death” for sending hit men around the globe to eliminate opposition figures.

“There’s a lot of stuff in Libyan intelligence files that will make him make him look bad” to the opposition, added Vince Cannistraro, a former top CIA official who led the agency’s probe of the 1988 bombing of PanAm 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

“It’s over for them,” Cannistraro said of Gaddafi and Kusa. “The opposition is closing in from all six entrances to Tripoli now.” Gaddafi, he said, is countering with African mercenaries “being flown directly into the airfield that used to be the American Wheelus Air Base.”

It’s the kind of operation Kusa would be good at.

“What will become of [Kusa] I don’t know,” said Khattaly, whose father was press secretary at Libya’s Washington embassy from 1971 to 1973 before resigning over Gaddafi’s policies, “but jumping ship is not safe for him. He did quite a bit damage over maybe 20 years as head of the intelligence service.”

Kusa, now about 64, started out as a security specialist at Libya’s embassies in Europe in the 1970s but quickly earned his grisly moniker. In 1980, he was expelled as Libya’s envoy in London for publicly backing the murder of overseas dissidents and threatening to back the outlawed Irish Republican Army if the United Kingdom didn’t hand them over.

Khattaly also charges Kusa with directing the assassination or kidnapping (and later execution) of at least five prominent Libyan opposition figures abroad, including Mansur Kikhia, a former foreign minister and United Nations ambassador who was abducted from Cairo in 1993 and never seen again.

Kusa was also suspected of masterminding the PanAm 103 bombing, as well as that of a French airliner over the Sahara in 1989.

Kusa was “absolutely” responsible for those crimes, Khattaly said. “All fingers point to him.”

Cannistraro served in Libya early in his 27-year CIA career, and he says Kusa was probably involved in a Gaddafi plot to assassinate him -- for pinning the blame in the PanAm bombing on Libya -- while he was on a trip to Egypt in the 1990s. Tipped off by his Egyptian contacts, Cannistraro changed his plans.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Gaddafi offered Washington intelligence on al-Qaeda’s effort to obtain a nuclear weapon, and it was Kusa who met with Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, according to later reports.

In 2003, when Gaddafi offered to get rid of his own weapons of mass destruction in exchange for the dropping of trade sanctions imposed after the Lockerbie bombing, Musa Kusa was his point man in clandestine meetings with top CIA and British officials.

It was just those contacts that may have “scared” Gaddafi, said Khattaly.

“In my opinion, Gaddafi got worried about his contacts with all these foreign intelligence services.”

Whatever the reason, the Libyan strongman removed Kusa from the head of intelligence in 2009 and made him foreign minister.

Now Kusa has no place else to go -- in Libya, anyway, Khattaly says. Sticking with Gaddafi to the bitter end “is the logical choice for him.”

By Jeff Stein  | February 23, 2011; 10:00 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Military  
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Next: Libya’s ambassador here raising pre-Gaddafi flag


Our CIA contact in Libya, eh? "Those who lie down with dogs get up with fleas."

Posted by: thrh | February 24, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

CIA? Again? Looks like for years the CIA says one thing and does another - or, as in the case of Egypt, doesn't really know what the heck it is talking about!

As for the use of mercenaries - gosh - we use mercenaries, but since they are from a U.S. company I guess that means it is okay.

Posted by: Utahreb | February 24, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Are we to shed tears for him? It sounds as if he is an immoral opportunist who helps or hurts folks depending on how he is advantaged. So, the walls are closing in on him; his cynicism has left him bereft of friends. One has to take into account the danger to ones testicles when sitting on the fence. Karma.

Posted by: csintala79 | February 24, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I hope we have a special forces team in there right now hunting al Megrahi. Thanks a bunch Scotland.

Posted by: Jeff08 | February 24, 2011 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't mind CIA working with bad actors - they're the ones who have the info we need. But I would have thought they'd draw the line on a mass murderer of Americans. Apparently not.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | February 24, 2011 8:45 AM | Report abuse

PS! The threat is US! The paranoia machine created by the proliferation of 14 intel agencies and homeland stupidity and countless wasted BILLIONS on supposed this that and the other with little real threat except ourselves and the money grabbing military industrialists is ruining America.

This along with these senseless invasions of sovereign countries based on the lies of politicians and errant agency leaders has led America down a path of killing and maiming and wasting TRILLIONS of American taxpayer dollars and for what to invade and create more terrorists....looking for a needle in a haystack....supposed terrorist living in caves and huts as they have for centuries...with no standing army, navy or air force....

When are Americans going to wake up to this scam by the money grabbing military industrialists and politicians.....

END THESE WARS NOW AND CHANGE INEFFECTIVE POLICY that have created the war on drugs the border wars and filled our prisons with non-violent prisoners (more than any other country in the world- so much for LAND OF THE FREE) who when they get out can't find a decent job and turn to crime in order to live and eat....



I wonder why they don't have any border or terrorist problems in Canada....could it be that they don't overthrow governments or invade other countries or have inefffective drug policies or maybe it's because they don't have homeland stupidity =gestapo.....

Posted by: ticked | February 24, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Gadhafi's circle

Western security and intelligence officials monitoring the unfolding events in Libya are closely watching Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa, the former Libyan intelligence chief and close confidant of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Mr. Kusa is well known to U.S. intelligence agencies as the mastermind behind the 1988 Libyan intelligence operation to bomb Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 270 people on board. He also was the key Libyan official who first contacted U.S. and British intelligence agencies in late 2003 when Col. Gadhafi agreed to give up his nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S. official said Mr. Kusa's role may be diminished. "While Musa Kusa has served as one of Gadhafi's closest advisers for many years, there are indications he's not playing a key role in the current crisis," the official said.

Robert Joseph, a former State Department and White House national security policymaker in the George W. Bush administration, said he dealt with Mr. Kusa in the operation to dismantle Libya's nuclear program.

"I dealt with him when he was head of intelligence," Mr. Joseph told Inside the Ring, noting that Mr. Kusa went to school in Michigan and is "very cosmopolitan in orientation and conceptual in his thinking."

"The moniker he had when he was head of intelligence was 'The Envoy of Death,' which tells you a lot about his character," he said.

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Kusa was someone who could be equally conversant about democracy or Islamic fundamentalism.

"He operates on the premise that the way to rule is through brute force, and that's certainly being demonstrated in the streets and towns of Libya today," Mr. Joseph said.

The Libyan official probably has money stashed away outside the country; and if things fall apart, Mr. Kusa would likely be one of the first people out the door of the regime, he said.

Another observer close to the region said Mr. Kusa currently is still a key official who is among the small circle of aides trying to keep the regime together in the face of both political and military defections.

"The thing to watch is what Kusa does," this person said. "If he turns against Gadhafi, it is probably over. If he stays with him, most likely there will continue to be massive bloodshed. The odds of Gadhafi surviving internally remain high as long as he has Kusa's support."

Posted by: Rockvillers | February 24, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Spring_Rain | February 24, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

What moral authority does the US have to time and again proclaim itself as the leader of the civilized world, when it constantly sleeps with "envoys of death"? Of course, the usual answer is that you have to deal with in the spy business you have to deal with such characters.

But when you are always dealing with such characters, are you any better than them? When you sleep with dogs, you get up with fleas.

There may be a downside to not engage in such underhanded dealings with unscrupulous people, aiding and abetting citizens of a country into spying against their country, bribing assordid dictators, and so on. But there are benefits too. During these internal revolts, the US can hold its head high and support the aspirations of the people. Not obfuscate for the past support of their oppressors.

No, that won't happen. Guantanamo is still open for business, the renditions still continue (though some of these "liberated" countries may not cooperate in that process), Patriot Act is extended, and so on.

Barack, you can talk a good game; but lately you are not even talking one!

Posted by: pKrishna43 | February 24, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

You reap what sow. Kusa is getting exactly what he deserves and so is the CIA which was beyond immoral for working with that monster.

Posted by: Simon2 | February 24, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Did he really remove the weapons of mass destruction?

Posted by: hakafos44 | February 24, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The author wrote: "The Libyan official who was a key CIA contact in the war on terrorism" --There is no such thing as war on terror, you Zionist piece of sshit! What we have is a genocidal parasitic campaign to steal natural resources from innocent people. The world knows who the terrorists are.

The author also wrote: "the removal of Moammar Gaddafi’s weapons of mass destruction..." --The US and England and Israel accusing anyone of having WMDs is like Bob Marley accusing Mother Theresa of smoking too much weed.

Posted by: americanjew1971 | February 24, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The author wrote: "The Libyan official who was a key CIA contact in the war on terrorism" --There is no such thing as war on terror, you Zionist piece of sshit! What we have is a genocidal parasitic campaign to steal natural resources from innocent people. The world knows who the terrorists are.

The author also wrote: "the removal of Moammar Gaddafi’s weapons of mass destruction..." --The US and England and Israel accusing anyone of having WMDs is like Bob Marley accusing Mother Theresa of smoking too much weed.

Posted by: americanjew1971 | February 24, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it nice to find that, when grizzly monsters go down, we find that they are OUR grizzly monsters. Nice to be on the "good guys" side, isn't it?

Posted by: garoth | February 24, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Musa Kusa is a terrorist with American blood on his hands. Saddam Hussein was a petty regional dictator.

And U.S. foreign policy is a pack of lies.

Posted by: DJ_Spanky | February 24, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

CIA's 1000 agents in Pakistan are also being scrutinized by ISI as one UK-based site stated in newly leaked video of joint Pakistan-US army operation:

Posted by: princeabilities | February 26, 2011 8:17 AM | Report abuse

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