Sarkozy’s Office Claims Libyan “Al-Qaeda” Leader Rehabilitated

French Taunt

France defends Libyan ex-jihadi rebel commander

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office defended on Wednesday a Libyan rebel commander who once reportedly led a jihadi group with ties to Al Qaeda, insisting Libya’s revolution is not led by Islamists.

A senior official in the Elysee told AFP that Sarkozy’s senior own military aide had met Adbelhakim Belhadj, the rebel commander who led the assault on Moamer Kadhafi’s bunker complex, and had no concerns about his affiliations.

Previously, Belhadj was reportedly “emir” of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group — an Islamist guerrilla movement once allied to the Al Qaeda network — and he was arrested in Malaysia in 2004 on suspicion of extremist activity.

After his arrest he was said to have been interrogated by the US Central Intelligence Agency before being sent back to be jailed in Libya.

Belhadj renounced violence while a prisoner of Moamer Kadhafi’s government and was released in March 2010. This year he joined the revolution against the regime and is now commander of the rebel fighters in control of Tripoli.

His return to the frontline has raised concerns in some quarters that the revolution against Kadhafi, which was warmly supported by France and several other Western countries, might include un-democratic forces.

But the Elysee official, speaking on condition on anonymity, insisted France has no concerns about Belhadj nor about the National Transitional Council, the rebel political body now recognised as Libya’s interim government.

“As it happens, the head of the president’s military staff met him very recently, and was able to form the personal opinion of him that does not correspond at all to the accusations against him,” he said.

The official did not say where the meeting took place, but last week Belhadj attended a conference of the Libya contact group in Doha, Qatar, and Sarkozy’s military head of staff General Benoit Puga could have met him there.

“There is a very important distinction between practising Muslims and Islamists who want to lead a jihad,” the Elysee source said, insisting that the CNT was neither infiltrated nor controlled by extremist elements.

“There may be cells but we are certain of one thing: They neither represent a threat nor a large slice of Libyan public. We are not worried,” he said.

“There are a lot of fantasies. There are religious people in the NTC, but that doesn’t make them Islamists.”

When the Libya revolt erupted in March, Kadhafi and his son Saif Al-Islam branded the rebels Al-Qaeda operatives, an allegation firmly denied by the NTC and its supporters, who have promised to form a broad-based government.

A rebel spokesman in Tripoli has denied that Belhadj has a jihadi agenda, insisting that shares the NTC’s “moderate” vision of a democratic Libya.

Like Al-Qaeda, the LIFG was formed by former Muslim volunteers who fought the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Its leadership split from that of Al-Qaeda, but its members have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NATO Propaganda Leaflets Found in Tripoli

NATO Propaganda Leaflets Found in Tripoli

The existence of the fliers, urging soldiers to give up, suggest greater Western involvement in the Libyan conflict

nato1aug31p.jpgMarc Herman

TRIPOLI, Libya — These two fliers were provided by a member of the neighborhood militia in Gorji, in central Tripoli. Tripoli residents say they found them on the ground starting at least two months ago.

Though certainly less lethal than bombs, the leaflets, which bear NATO insignias, are only slightly subtler. The above leaflet shows an unmanned drone and an aerial view of a tank. The text takes a position of overwhelming force, declaring, in somewhat stilted Arabic, “Warning: You are neither a match nor an equivalent to the superior weapon systems and air force of NATO. Continuing to do what you are doing will result in your death.” The flip side shows the tank blown up and repeats the promise of death if they do not stop fighting.

The above translation is courtesy of Uri Horesh, former military translator and director of the Arabic Language Program at Franklin & Marshall College. “This was not written by skilled Arabic writers with good knowledge of how to write about military topics in idiomatic Arabic,” Horesh added. “NATO needs some training on this front, it seems.”

The second, white leaflet, pictured here, issues the following warning in legalistic language:

Dear officers and soldiers of the Libyan Army, the International Criminal Court has indicted Gaddafi for committing crimes against humanity in Libya. It is advisable that officers and soldiers of the Libyan Army refrain from carrying out Gaddafi’s orders and committing any military actions against the Libyan people. Any officer or soldier who commits crimes against humanity shall be in violation of International Law. Many officers and soldiers have chosen to stand against Gaddafi’s orders and refrain from fighting against innocent civilians. Do join these men for a prosperous, peaceful future for Libya.

The flip side depicts a collage of images depicting loyalist and anti-Qaddafi forces squaring off, and places Qaddafi opposite the image of Omar Muqtar, a Libyan independence hero. The text between them is a quotation attributed to Qaddafi. “He who kills another Libyan destroys Libya,” is a common translation. Below the quotation a man is sobbing. It looks a bit like a page from a junior high school history book.

Several native and non-native Arabic speakers were able to verify these translations, though giving slightly different versions of some phrases. If a native speaker would like to add their translation in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.

It’s not clear how widespread the propaganda effort was in the months that Qaddafi held Tripoli against protesters. The fliers are not common in Tripoli — you won’t casually encounter them in garbage piles, or blowing around in the street. NATO does not have a public representative in Tripoli and has not commented on the campaign in any overt way of which we are aware.

They do suggest that NATO’s role in the war may have been more complex than the coalition has acknowledged since its operations began in March. In addition to conducting propaganda operations, it is now tacitly acknowledged that NATO spotters and advisers were on the ground in Libya as early as April.

“Two French and an American,” said Khalid Azibah, a fighter from Nalut, in the Nafusa mountains. “They were three months in Nalut, just left a month ago.” It was about a month ago that NATO forces hit three targets near Nalut, precipitating the offensive that ended last week in Tripoli.

“I don’t have boots on the ground,” a NATO spokesman in Naples told me in an interview in early July. Unless the spotters were all wearing sneakers, that comment was, it appears, false.

Pakistan bans online encryption for the good of state security

Pakistan bans online encryption for the good of state security

by Steve Ragan

Pakistan bans online encryption. Image: Rpongsaj/Flickr.Pakistan bans online encryption. Image: Rpongsaj/Flickr.

A new order issued to ISPs from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) directs them to block all encrypted traffic on their networks. A PTA spokesperson told local media the reasoning was to prevent militants from using VPN traffic to coordinate themselves.

According to a memo sent to ISPs, the PTA has ordered them to immediately block and prohibit the use of “…all such mechanisms including encrypted virtualprivate networks (EVPNs) which conceal communication to the extent that prohibits monitoring.”

The new order is in line with the Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephony Traffic Regulations, which were established in 2010. In the letter to ISPs outlining the halt on encryption, they were told that the “…aforementioned directive has not been followed in true letter and spirit as EVPNs are heavily being used on the Licensees Network.”

According to the wording of the Monitoring and Reconciliation of Telephony Traffic Regulations, the licensee (ISP) is to ensure that, out of their own pocket, they install and maintain monitoring systems tied to the PTA. These systems are to monitor voice and data traffic in real-time, and the ISP cannot otherwise filter or block traffic, unless the Authority (PTA) orders it.

In addition, the ISP is to ensure that “…signaling information is uncompressed, unencrypted, and not formatted in a manner which the installed monitoring system is unable to decipher using installed capabilities.”

If that is not possible, the ISP will need to let the traffic pass and do whatever is necessary, including purchasing format conversion tools and hardware, so that the traffic is able to be properly monitored.

According to the PTA, the block on encryption is aimed at preventing militants from using secure communications when they coordinate. However, the PTA representative also noted that average citizens will be caught in the middle, unable to use VPNsoftware to surf the Web in private.

In the past, Pakistan has blocked Facebook and YouTube, over disputes with content, but news of the VPN blocks emerged as an insider at an Islamabad ISP admitted that they could not block a single URL on Instead, when one article was deemed offensive because of its author, they filtered the entire domain.

With competence like that, one has to wonder how effective the monitoring and VPN restrictions really are.

Car bomb blast kills 11 in Quetta

Car bomb blast kills 11 in Quetta

Local residents gather at the site of a car bomb blast in Quetta.—AFP


QUETTA: A suicide car bomb blast killed at least 11 people on Wednesday and wounded 22 others celebrating Eidul Fitr in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said.

The bomb exploded in a car park next to a mosque where prayers marking the festival were taking place, senior police official Mohammad Hashim told AFP.

Quetta police chief Ahsan Mehboob said a bomb disposal team had concluded that it was a suicide car bomb, as he raised the official toll from 10.

“The death toll is 11 now as one of the wounded men died at the hospital,” Mehboob said.

“Remains of a badly mutilated body were found in the car. It appears that he was not wearing the explosives on his body but he had planted those in the car and detonated when he could not go beyond the parking lot,” Mehboob told AFP.

“Our security was alert, so he could not go beyond the parking, otherwise he might have caused a lot more casualties,” he said, adding that all the dead had been identified by relatives except the suicide bomber.

Quetta police official Hamid Shakil said two women and a seven-year-old boy were among the dead.

Several cars parked nearby caught fire from the blast and one house suffered blast damage, witnesses said.

Live television footage showed swirls of thick black smoke rising from the area as people ran into the street, some pushing their cars to safety, while ambulances carried away the wounded.

Hashim said there had been no immediate claim of responsibility and police could not speculate who might be behind the bombing.

Pakistan’s Balochistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, has seen a recent surge in violence linked to a separatist insurgency, sectarian clashes and Taliban militants.

Libyan Rebel Leaders Reject UN Peacekeeping Role

Libya’s interim leaders reject UN military personnel

Libyans paint anti-Gaddafi grafitti in Tripoli
Celebrations have been continuing in the capital Tripoli

Libya’s interim leadership has rejected the idea of deploying any kind of international military force, the UN envoy to the country has said.

Ian Martin said the UN had considered the deployment of military observers.

Earlier, the chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC) said the country did not need outside help to maintain security.

The news came as fighters loyal to the council approached the pro-Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte from east and west.

The town’s defenders have been given until Saturday to surrender.

However, fugitive ex-leader Col Muammar Gaddafi’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, rejected the ultimatum, the Associated Press reports.

“No dignified honourable nation would accept an ultimatum from armed gangs,” he said in a telephone call to the AP on Monday night.

Mr Ibrahim reiterated Col Gaddafi’s offer to send his son Saadi to negotiate with rebels and form a transitional government, the agency said.

‘Special case’

Libya’s deputy representative to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the BBC that the situation in Libya was unique.

“They [the UN] put the possibility of deploying peacekeepers on the ground but in fact the Libyan crisis is a special case.

“It is not a civil war, it is not a conflict between two parties, it is the people who are defending themselves against the dictatorship.”

However, Mr Martin said the UN did expect to be asked to help establish a police force.

“We don’t now expect military observers to be requested,” he said after a meeting of the UN Security Council.

“It’s very clear that the Libyans want to avoid any kind of military deployment of the UN or others,” he said.

Mr Martin added that one of the greatest challenges for the UN would be helping the country prepare for democratic elections.

“Let’s remember… there’s essentially no living memory of elections, there’s no electoral machinery, there’s no electoral commission, no history of political parties, no independent civil society, independent media are only beginning to emerge in the east in recent times.

“That’s going to be quite a challenge, sort of organisationally, and it’s clear that the NTC wish the UN to play a major role in that process.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said that growing humanitarian shortages in Libya demand urgent action and appealed to the security council to be “responsive” to requests from the transitional authority for funding.

Though stockpiles of medical supplies and food stashed away by the government were found over the weekend, water supplies are short.

“An estimated 60% of Tripoli’s population is without water and sanitation,” he said. The EU’s humanitarian office says that pro-Gaddafi forces are responsible for cutting supplies.


On Tuesday, the UN Security Council let Britain release 1.86bn dinars ($1.55bn; £950m) in frozen assets to buy aid for Libya but an attempt by France and Germany to release an additional $8.6bn remains blocked.

Diplomats said that Russia was holding up Germany’s request to release about 1bn euros ($1.4bn) in seized assets and France’s move to unfreeze about five billion euros ($7.2bn) to buy humanitarian aid, Agence France Presse reports.

As anti-Gaddafi fighters converge on his birthplace of Sirte, interim leaders gave the town’s defenders an ultimatum, telling them that they had until Saturday to surrender or face military force.

It has also emerged that Col Gaddafi’s wife and three of his adult children fled to neighbouring Algeria in the early hours of Monday morning.

Col Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain unknown, with suggestions he may be in Sabha, Sirte or Bani Walid. However, the deputy head of the NTC, Ali Tarhouni, said they had a good idea of where he was and were confident that they would catch him.

Map of Libya


What “Combat Zone” In Central Asia?

[IRS.GOV names the following as combat zones in support of Afghanistan:  Pakistan, Tajikistan and Jordan - Sept. 19, 2001, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan - Oct. 1, 2001.  The reported Central Asian combat zone will be somewhere much more hostile than Kyrgyzstan.  This lets the cat out of the bag.  More proof that the Pentagon has big war plans for Central Asia (SEE: Smashing Greater Central Asia – Part One ).]

Group from Kingsley to deploy to Central Asia

Twenty-six airmen from Kingsley Field are preparing to deploy to a combat zone in Central Asia.

The Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Security Forces Squadron will ship out in early fall and be stationed overseas for at least six months, said Col. Curtis Waite, mission support group commander at Kingsley Field. The unit will provide security for Air Force personnel in a combat zone, he said.

The security forces squadron was stationed at a support base in Kyrgyzstan about four years ago. But this deployment will be the unit’s first to a combat zone, Waite said.

“They’re going to be in the middle of it,” he said.

Of those set to deploy, many are from the Klamath Basin, said Lt. Col. Martin Balakas, spokesman with the Oregon Air National Guard’s 173rd Fighter Wing, stationed at Kingsley. It’s an exciting an anxious time for those about to ship out.

“You’re excited to go and do what you’re trained for; you’re excited to undertake your mission,” Balakas said. “At the same time, it’s awful hard to leave family and friends behind.”

Complexity Theorists Predict Food Crisis, Riots and Civil Unrest By April 2013

Complexity Theorists Predict Food Crisis, Riots and Civil Unrest By April 2013

Mac Slavo
August 24th, 2011

Forecasting isn’t an exact science, but researches at the New England Complex Systems Institute may have come up with a formulaic approach that can help them to identify risk factors that contribute to political instability which may lead to riots and civil unrest similar to what we saw in the Middle East this year.

Their model is so accurate that they reportedly wrote a letter to the United States warning of imminent danger just days before the mid east and north African riots broke out:

On 13 December last year, the group wrote to the US government pointing out that global food prices were about to cross the threshold they had identified. Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia in protest at government policies, an event that triggered a wave of social unrest that continues to spread throughout the middle east today. (source)

Using advanced complexity theory the researchers have come up with a number of indicators that can predict when a population reaches its breaking point. Specific details and assessments are provided in The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East [pdf]:

When the ability of the political system to provide security for the population breaks down, popular support disappears. Conditions of widespread threat to security are particularly present when food is inaccessible to the population at large. In this case, the underlying reason for support of the system is eliminated, and at the same time there is “nothing tolose,” i.e. even the threat of death does not deter actions that are taken in opposition to the political order. Any incident then triggers death-defying protests and other actions that disrupt the existing order.

Widespread and extreme actions that jeopardize the leadership of the political system, or the political system itself, take place. All support for the system and allowance for its failings are lost. The loss of support occurs even if the political system is not directly responsible for the food security failure, as is the case if the primary responsibilitylies in the global food supply system.

The following chart provides a visual guide:

(Larger Image)

Chart Explained: Time dependence of FAO Food Price Index from January 2004 to May 2011. Red dashed vertical lines correspond to beginning dates of “food riots” and protests associated with the major recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The overall death toll is reported in parentheses. Blue vertical line indicates the date, December 13, 2010, on which we submitted a report tothe U.S. government, warning of the link between food prices, social unrest and political instability. Inset shows FAO Food Price Index from 1990 to 2011.

The group, led by researcher Marco Lagi, is now warning that their thresholds are about to be broken again. And, this time the implications may be much more serious than before:

The underlying trend of increasing prices will reach the threshold of instability in July 2012, if we consider current prices, and April 2013 if we correct prices for reported ination. Either way, the amount of time until the often warned global food crises appears to be very short. Indeed, consistent with our analysis, the current food price bubble is already subjecting large populations to reported distress, as described in a recent UN report warning of the growing crisis.

We identify a speci c food price threshold above which protests become likely. These observations suggest that protests may reect not only long-standing political failings of governments, but also the sudden desperate straits of vulnerable populations. If food prices remain high, there is likely to be persistent and increasing global social disruption. Underlying the food price peaks we also fi nd an ongoing trend of increasing prices. We extrapolate these trends and identify a crossing point to the domain of high impacts, even without price peaks, in 2012-2013. This implies that avoiding global food crises and associated social unrest requires rapid and concerted action.

It’s clear that Lagi and his colleagues have done the work, and their data make sense, especially given what we’ve seen geo-politically over the last year. Given the way government has thus far attempted to mitigate this economic crisis – which is to make it worse – we are pessimistic about their ability to stop the rising food price trend, and the loss of confidence that will be sure to follow.

As such, the analysis provided suggests that instability due, in large part, to rising food prices is imminent and we have, at best, twenty months before riots and civil unrest come to the streets of America.

Now would be a good time to speed up your SHTF Plans.

References: Cornell University Library, What Really Happened

Author: Mac Slavo
Date: August 24th, 2011


Kremlin’s Fear of China Drives Its Foreign Policy

Kremlin’s Fear of China Drives Its Foreign Policy

Russia is very concerned about China, but this is driven more by fears about China’s capabilities than any real threats.

Russia perceives China as being highly unpredictable and worries about Beijing’s technological dominance, growing military strength and demographic and economic expansion into Siberia, which is sparsely populated but resource-rich.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s saber-rattling in the Far East, while purportedly aimed at protecting the Kuril Islands from a weak Japan, is Moscow’s subtle signal to Beijing.

The real threat for Russia is China’s capabilities. Beijing’s ability to expand its nuclear arsenal is worrisome because at parity levels, Russia’s nuclear deterrent loses credibility in relation to China’s greater counterstrike potential. Thus, fear, which is the dominant factor behind the Kremlin’s policy of maintaining nuclear superiority over China, hinders global efforts to decrease Russia’s nuclear arsenal — in particular, its tactical weapons.

Moscow’s appeals to engage other nuclear states in arms control are implicitly driven by fears of China. But Russia does not fully understand how to engage China and needs the United States to pressure Beijing to talk and for political cover should talks fail. But engaging China on arms control is not practical yet, given the disparities in size and type of each country’s arsenals.

Russia’s urgency to set its foot down amid China’s rise is also driven by unsuccessful attempts to assert itself on many European security issues, namely NATO and U.S. missile defense systems. Moscow has learned its lesson and wants to assure that it has a voice on Asian security matters.

Shared concern over China offers Russia and the United States an opportunity to deepen relations with a strategy to engage and help contain China. Assuaging their concerns will require, among other initiatives, pressuring China to be more transparent about its military, eventually engaging China on arms control, and demonstrating that U.S. and Russian missile defense systems do not undermine China’s strategic weapons.

Such a strategy, however, is wishful thinking for the time being. Historic distrust between Moscow and Washington, as well as the Kremlin’s fear of provoking China, have shaped their dialogue for the past decade or so. But Russia’s and the United States’ place in the global arena will depend largely upon their ability to find the right balance between each other and China.

Alejandro Sueldo is a scholar with the Project on Nuclear Issues of the Center for Strategic & International Studies and author of “Engaging and Contextualizing Russian Nuclear Policy.”

NATO faces ‘catastrophic success’ in Libya

By An Huihou (Jiefang Daily)

Edited and Translated by People’s Daily Online

The Libya war situation recently underwent dramatic changes. French and Britishdefense ministers stressed at the end of July that the Libyan opposition could notdefeat the government forces or capture Tripoli, the capital of Libya, on its own.However, certain media outlets revealed in mid-August that the Libyan opposition wasexpected to capture the capital before the end of August, according to a NATOschedule.

As it turned out, the opposition forces entered Tripoli on Aug. 21. There are two mainreasons for the sudden victory of the opposition forces. First, Western countries notonly launched air strikes and provided a large amount of weapons to the oppositionforces but also sent ground troops to Libya. According to recent media reports, France,the United Kingdom and Italy had dispatched Special Forces to Libya to help theopposition troops finally win the ground war. Second, Western countries reportedlybought over almost all senior officials of the Qaddafi regime. In brief, Western countriesplanned and directed the opposition forces’ capture of Tripoli.

However, the NATO’s victory in Libya is just a miserable victory. First, in order toreduce civilian casualties, the United Nations Security Council authorized NATO toestablish a no-fly zone in Libya. However, the military operations of NATO haveenlarged the civil war, led to tens of thousands of casualties of innocent civilians, madecountless people homeless, and caused severe property damages and a hugehumanitarian disaster.

NATO’s arming of the Libyan Rebels and use of land forces in Libya both violated theSecurity Council’s resolution, which prohibited both actions. In order to overthrow theQadafi’s administration, foster a pro-West government and further control Libya,western countries will use any methods. Fair or foul, they do not care. Therefore, theyhave already failed in morality and justice.

Second, several of the strongest Western countries joined forces, spent a lot of moneyand manpower, and bombed Libya for five months, but they ultimately still had to adoptillegal actions and commanded the Libyan Rebels to take the capital. It could fullyreflect the rudeness, brutality and selfishness of the Western countries. In addition,their actions not only failed to demonstrate their powerful strengths but also revealedtheir weakness, fragility and incapacity.

U.K.-based The Times reported that NATO is generally using the term “catastrophicsuccess” to describe the opposition’s victory. The relationship among various factionsof Libya’s opposition is indeed complicated. Although they have made collective actionsto achieve the goal of overthrowing Qaddafi’s regime, it is very difficult for them toremain united in the post-Qaddafi era. Instead, they are very likely to divide and evencause new conflicts to arise. Furthermore, it is very difficult for Qaddafi’s tribes toaccept the cruel facts, including the losses of their dominant position, authority andinterests.

The international community is universally worried that Libya will likely become thesecond Iraq or Somalia, and some even forecasted that Libya would likely be dividedinto three parts. The war and the inevitable future chaos caused by war will make theLibyan People the biggest victim and affect the regional and global peace and stability.The Western countries will unlikely obtain the rewards that they are coveting.

Western countries have launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the pastdecade and have participated in the Libyan war in 2011. Although they have all met thegoals of regime changes, have they really achieved victories? The Iraq war waged bythe United States is not worth the costs and has become one of the major reasonsbehind the fall of the United States from its hegemonic position, which is already aconsensus in the international community.

The Afghan war has lasted as long as 10 years, putting those who launched the warinto a dilemma. The Libyan war is no exception and can never become a model forWestern powers’ successful interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The”gunboat diplomacy” era has long passed, and resolving political differences throughnegotiations has become the trend of the times.

Going against the trend of the times, maintaining blind faith in the use of force,imposing the threat of force and even interfering militarily have not only becomeincreasingly difficult but also do harm to others and themselves. As Western countrieshave repeatedly failed to take lessons from their blind moves, it is no wonder they hasembarked on the path of decline.


The CIA’s Islamist Cover Up

The CIA’s Islamist Cover Up

Ian Johnson

AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood outside a Cairo court, February 2007. Internal CIA documents describe the movement as a potential ally against Islamist terrorism.

The tenth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington will be accompanied by the usual solemn political pronouncements and predictable media retrospectives. Pundits will point out that the West’s own economic mismanagement of the past decade has done more to weaken Europe and North America than the Islamists’ attacks. Some others will note how radical Islamists are still strong in Afghanistan and point to the recent downing of a military helicopter with dozens of US troops dead. Still others will use the anniversary to pontificate on how our concerns about Islamism have given racists an excuse to tarnish an entire religion. We will also hear about how the democratic uprisings in the Arab world—Libya being the latest—have undermined Islamists (by providing the region’s disgruntled masses with examples of positive, instead of destructive change).

All of these points are well and good and worth hearing again. But they shouldn’t distract us from a very precise and practical problem that hasn’t been addressed: the refusal of the CIA to disclose the details of its involvement with Islamist groups. In recent weeks, the agency has tried to block sections of a new book that deals with its handling of al-Qaeda before and after September 11. But this is only one part of a large-scale cover-up that Western governments have been perpetrating about decades of ties to Islamist organizations. Until we clarify ourmurky history with radical Islam, we won’t be able to understand the background of the September 11 attacks and whether our strategies today to engage the Muslim world are likely to succeed.

Of course some of this history is well known. The blowback story—how the USarmed the mujahedeen, some of whom morphed into al-Qaeda—has been told inbook and film. We are also getting a sense now of how parts of the US-backed Pakistani military-intelligence complex have actively supported radical Islamists. Collusion between Britain and Islamist movements over the past century has also been explored. And of course, Israel’s support for Hamas as a counterweight to the Palestinian Liberation Organization has gone down as one of the great diplomatic miscalculations of recent history.

But compared to the full scope of the issue, these insights are meager. To date, the Central Intelligence Agency continues to block access to its archives relating to radical Islam or cooperation with Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. In the course of researching my book on the Brotherhood’s expansion into the West, I applied numerous times under the Freedom of Information Act to see documents concerning events in the 1950s, some of which had been confirmed by already declassified State Department cables. Inevitably the CIA responded with the blanket exception of “national security” to justify denying access to any files.

Said Ramadan

Despite the CIA’s information blockade, it is clear from interviews with CIA operatives and other countries’ intelligence archives that the CIA was courting groups like the Brotherhood as allies in theUS’s global battle against communism. In Egypt, the charge was often made by the government of Gamel Abdel Nasser that the Muslim Brotherhood was in theCIA’s pay. This was also a view of some Western intelligence agencies, which flatly declared that Said Ramadan, the Swiss-based son-in-law of the group’s founder, was a US agent. The agency may have—but for this we need access to its archives—colluded with Ramadan in attempting a coup against Nasser.

The CIA certainly did help the Brotherhood establish itself in Europe, helping to create the milieu that led to the September 11 attacks. The mosque in Munich that Ramadan helped found, for example, became a hotbed of anti-US activity. The man convicted as a key perpetrator of the 1993 attack against the World Trade Center had sought spiritual counseling at the mosque before leaving to carry out his attacks. And in 1998, the man believed to be al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer was arrested near the mosque and also sought spiritual counseling from the mosque’s imam. An investigation based on this arrest traced radical Islamists right to a second mosque—the al-Quds mosque in Hamburg—where three of the four 9/11 pilots worshipped, it but failed to make the final link. This isn’t to say that theCIA was behind the September 11 attacks but that US collusion with Islamists in the Cold War bore bitter fruit in later years—making it imperative that we understand exactly what happened in those seemingly distant years of the 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century.

More recently, despite Washington’s sometimes hostile public rhetoric toward to the Brotherhood, it is clear that the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have tried to court the movement. Internal CIA analyses from 2006 and 2008, which I obtained, show that the Brotherhood was viewed as a positive force and potential ally—this time not against communism but Islamist terrorism: the Brotherhood was considered a moderate Islamist group and thus able to channel grievances away from violence toward the United States (even if Brotherhood theoreticians did not renounce violence against Israel or US soldiers). The State Department also used US Muslims close to the Brotherhood to reach out to Islamists in Europe. Such support has given these groups legitimacy in the United States and Europe.

The CIA is blocking the release of information because the subject remains sensitive—both for the West and the Muslim world. In Washington, the CIA could come under fire if its own archives would confirm and fill out the current sketch view of history. For the Brotherhood, amid its current re-emergence as a major political force in Egypt and other countries, it would be extremely damaging to know that illustrious figures in its history were working for the country that most exemplifies the decadent, imperialist forces it has struggled against for decades.

Revealing this history could be painful but necessary to strip away the doublespeak that both sides have used to describe their dealings with each other. This isn’t to say that releasing information should be used to bash cooperation with Islamists. Clearly the United States and other Western countries need to deal with groups like the Brotherhood, and perhaps in some situations even to support them: for example if the Brotherhood really were to come to power democratically in Egypt, the United States would be obliged to deal with such a government. For the Brotherhood a case could be made that in past decades, when its members were so badly repressed by authorities in the Middle East, that some sort of help from the West was necessary to avoid destruction by the authoritarian governments that persecute it.

These are legitimate arguments. But they can only be made if the full history of these relationships is made known rather than kept hidden. To do this will require action from Congress. The CIA did not release documents concerning USintelligence dealings with Nazi officials, for example, until it was forced to by the passage of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998. This piece of legislation compelled US government agencies to release all files on their dealings with the Nazis during and after the war. It lead to an incredible flood of information on the topic, helping us understand, for example, US collaboration with ex-Nazis after the war.

We need a similar law today. This is not to draw a parallel between Islamism and Nazism—an argument that is tendentious and counter-productive. The only parallel is that the US government has dealt with these questionable organizations and is so unwilling to admit this that it will take specific instructions from Congress to make these dealings public. Whatever the merits of these policies they are based on a long-standing, but still mostly secret, strategy. As Western governments seek to distinguish between “good” and “bad” Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or between the Muslim Brotherhood and more radical groups in the Middle East, understanding this strategy—and its efficacy—has never been more urgent.