Tuesday, 12 April 2011

FBI “On Guard” for Libyan Terror Retaliation

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is interviewing hundreds of Libyans in the United States and is on alert for possible terror attacks perpetrated by the Moammar Gadhafi regime or Libyan rebels with ties to terrorist groups, FBI Director Robert Mueller (photo, left) told Congress last week.

Among other steps, the federal government has been interviewing as many as 800 Libyans currently present inside American borders. At least some of them were working for the Gadhafi regime prior to the United Nations-backed Western intervention. Others may still be serving the regime as part of Libya’s foreign-intelligence apparatus. And some may be operating under various covers.

"We want to make certain that we are on guard for the possibility of terrorist attacks emanating somewhere out of Libya, whether it be [Gadhafi's] forces, or in eastern Libya, the opposition forces who may have amongst them persons who in the past have had associations with terrorist groups,” Mueller told a House appropriations subcommittee.

The Bureau is conducting what it calls an “outreach effort” to speak with Libyans in the United States, including students at American universities. So far all the interviews have been “voluntary,” according to officials cited in news reports. Mueller told lawmakers,

There are individuals who were previously affiliated with the Libyan government who happen to be in the United States — they may have been here representing Libya and at various international institutions and the like. [T]o the extent that they have renounced or denounced [Gadhafi] and are willing to be interviewed and to give us information as to what may be happening in Libya, we will proceed with those interviews.

Mueller also said the FBI wanted to make sure that it identified Libyan intelligence operatives working in the United States to “ensure no harm comes from them.” Agents from at least 10 different field offices are reportedly involved in the interview campaign, which the FBI chief said “may alert us to any attempts at retaliation within the United States or elsewhere by [pro-Gadhafi] individuals.”

But Mueller is not the first high-ranking official to express concerns about the possibility of retaliatory terror strikes following U.S. military intervention against Gadhafi. Obama’s Terror Czar John Brennan warned about the possibility weeks ago.

"Gadhafi has the penchant to do things of a very concerning nature,” Brennan told reporters as the U.S. government was beginning its “humanitarian” bombing campaign. “We have to anticipate and be prepared for things he might try to do to flout the will of the international community."  

And the use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas, according to Brennan, was one of the threats. Gadhafi is known to possess weapons of mass destruction and has used terror attacks in the past.

Outside of government, analysts have been warning of the threat, too. Forecaster Gerald Celente, president of the Trends Research Institute, became unusually agitated when discussing the possibility. And he’s been right about a lot over 30 years in the industry.

“Does anybody think Gadhafi is just going to fold?” he asked during a recent Trends in the News video update. “When they bomb London and France, and they hit New York, let’s not cry about ‘oh, they hate our freedom and liberty.’ ”

Celente said any attacks carried out against the United States, France, or the United Kingdom would be retaliation for the military campaign against the Libyan regime. “Your lives are on the line and so are your children’s — so are your nation's,” he exclaimed, urging listeners to “do something.”

“Guess what? If they bomb me, I bomb ‘em back,” he said, becoming visibly upset. “Don’t you think that’s not what the Libyans want to do? Stop the wars!”

Ironically, a high-level U.S. delegation visiting Libya in 2009 concluded that the Gadhafi regime was a good U.S. ally in the “War on Terror,” secret State Department cables released by WikiLeaks show.

“[U.S. Senator Joe] Lieberman called Libya an important ally in the war on terrorism,” one cable stated, describing a meeting between the U.S. delegation and the Libyan regime. Senator John McCain, meanwhile, “assured [Gadhafi’s son] Muatassim that the United States wanted to provide Libya with the equipment it needs for its security.”

The U.S. military and NATO have been enforcing a U.N.-mandated “no-fly zone” over Libya since mid-March as a group of rebels attempts to overthrow the government. According to news reports, the conflict appears to have reached a sort of stalemate for the moment. But the opposition has already established its own central bank and oil company to compete with the government's.

Gadhafi is currently backed into a corner, having no way out besides death, a trial at the international criminal court, or victory against the rebels and their Western allies. So analysts fear that in his desperation, it is increasingly likely the dictator could lash out against the governments waging war against him. Unconventional strikes including terror attacks or even the use of weapons of mass destruction could become increasingly appealing to the embattled ruler, who has few options left and nothing else to lose.