The Libya Rebels and Al-Qaeda, Anonymously

FAIR editor Jim Naureckas tweeted recently, “NATO’s installation of an Al Qaeda-friendly government in Libya is one of 2011’s most underreported stories.” He’s got a point. The Washington Post today published a pretty interesting look at how the Libyan government viewed the jihadist threat, thanks to some documents recovered in Tripoli:

The documents were uncovered days after the regime fell to rebel fighters led in part by a self-proclaimed former Islamist, Abdelkarim Belhadj. He has declared himself the leader of the “Tripoli Brigade” that spearheaded the defeat of Gadhafi loyalists in the capital. Belhadj is the former commander of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an Islamist organization that fought alongside Afghan insurgents against Russian occupation in the 1980s.

So what does the U.S. government have to say about this? Plenty–but you can’t quote them by name:

U.S. officials on Tuesday did not dispute Belhadj’s Islamist roots but played down the connections.

“Some members of LIFG in the past had connections with Al-Qaeda in Sudan, Afghanistan or Pakistan, and others dropped their relationship with Al-Qaeda entirely,” said a senior U.S. official who closely tracks Islamic terrorist organizations. “It seems from their statements and support for establishing a democracy in Libya that this faction of LIFG does not support Al-Qaeda. We’ll definitely be watching to see whether this is for real, or just for show.”

The official insisted on anonymity in discussing sensitive case files about terrorist organizations.

That seems like a pretty flimsy rationale for granting a source anonymity.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.