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Libya: What should CIA be doing?

March 5, 2011

SpyTalk, 3 March 2011: With the future of Libya still in the balance, some CIA operations veterans think it’s well past time the spy agency went past just trying to keep tabs on what’s going on and arm the rebels.

“This guy, Gaddafi, has been an enemy of ours for decades,” says Charles Faddis, who led a secret CIA mission into northern Iraq before the 2003 invasion.

“Now his people have risen up against him and are attempting to do what we never could, depose him. We should have been in there a week ago, arming the opposition and providing whatever other assistance we can.”

The agency’s success in Afghanistan in 2001, leading troops and directing air strikes that routed the Taliban in matter of weeks show that “both CIA and Special Forces have broad capabilities, as displayed in Afghanistan in 2001, to work with indigenous forces in fast moving, fluid situations like this,” Faddis added.

President Obama said today that he had “instructed…all those who are involved in international affairs to examine is a full range of options,” which resumably includes the CIA and other special operations assets.

The administration should definitely not send troops when CIA and special operations units are suited for the situation, said a former top military intelligence official in Afghanistan who asked for anonymity because he still works on international issues.

But he ticked off a list of things U.S. secret agents could and should be doing in Libya, which included:

  • “Intelligence and communications support to the rebels;
  • “Weapons and ammunition to the rebels;
  • “SIGINT [signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping] on the regime;
  • “HUMINT [human intelligence] to infiltrate and subvert the regime, recruiting others to do the dirty work if necessary, and
  • “Covert operations to further weaken regime infrastructure.”


Another senior former CIA operations official, who cannot be named because he still consults with U.S. intelligence agencies, agreed.

“CIA should be on the ground collecting intelligence, but should also be in touch with the rebels. They should provide weapons, training and guidance to remove Gaddafi. They should be helping the opposition to establish radio and press capabilities — we used to have radio flyaway kits that could be sent in with 24-48 hours and used to set up radio stations.”

“We should be giving the U.S. government the ability to clandestinely help the opposition overthrow the government without having to send in the Marines,” he added.

But the CIA doesn’t have the stomach for such interventions now, he asserted. “We have become such pussies that we would crap our pants if we were asked to do any of this.”

The CIA declined to comment.

“Let the Libyans sort it out,” advised another agency operations veteran, who said the CIA shouldn’t be helping overthrow Gaddafi, especially if it didn’t have somebody to replace him.

“I’ve yet to hear anybody putting forth a credible candidate to succeed the crazy colonel,” Art Keller, a former CIA case officer who spent years tracking down and trying to eliminate al Qaeda leaders in the wilds of Pakistan’s tribal regions. “Promoting the prospects of such a candidate is the only reasonable strategic goal worth getting U.S. troops or intelligence officers actively involved in Libya. Until and unless someone emerges as an opposition leader, getting involved will only muddy the waters.”

Such interventions carry the odor of colonialism to most Arabs, he noted.

“If the rebel faction gets strong enough, and organized enough, to formally request U.S. assistance, some light arms and ammo and a few Special Forces trainers might not hurt,” he said. “But otherwise I think it is a god-awful mess we should steer clear of.”

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