[Marxism] The Libyan rebels' double agent

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 26 15:21:24 MDT 2011


A double agent in Gadhafi camp
The Wall Street Journal


TRIPOLI, Libya—For more than five months in a city locked down by forces 
loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, regime opponents in Tripoli's Fashloom 
neighborhood relied on a fellow resistance leader who told them with 
uncanny accuracy how to evade security sweeps and tipped them off to 
impending raids against them.

On Thursday, as a rebel advance broke Col. Gadhafi's grip over his 
capital, the man identified himself to those beyond his underground 
cell: He is Mahmoud Ben Jumaa, a senior officer in Col. Gadhafi's 
personal security force.

In his double-agent role in the uprising, Mr. Ben Jumaa by day issued 
orders to arrest or tail suspected rebels. By night, the 54-year-old met 
secretly with those trying to overthrow his boss, who in turn were part 
of a city-wide opposition to the strongman.

Even as battles continued for pockets of Tripoli on Thursday, a clearer 
picture is emerging to explain how Libya's uprising succeeded with 
little widespread bloodshed in the capital. In part, it is because 
onetime regime stalwarts—including internal security commanders as 
senior as Mr. Ben Jumaa—were secretly part of the rebel leadership.

"I directed one of the great oppressive organs of Gadhafi's government," 
Mr. Ben Jumaa said Thursday. "And all the while I was doing everything I 
could to make sure this revolution succeeded."

Mr. Ben Jumaa's account of his role, which began in February and 
eventually led him to evacuate his family from Tripoli, is corroborated 
by accounts of neighbors and two senior police officers in Fashloom.

In contrast with the revolution in neighboring Egypt, which was led by 
youthful revolutionaries, government and business leaders like Mr. Ben 
Jumaa played an apparently pivotal role in the Libyan uprising. Their 
apparent buy-in and leadership suggests that Libya's transition to a 
post-Gadhafi democracy may prove smoother than Iraq's efforts to 
reestablish order in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that was 
broadly opposed by the country's ruling Baathists.

Of course, fighting remains fierce in Libya and the involvement of these 
people hardly guarantees a smooth transition. The collapse of Col. 
Gadhafi's rule has left a substantial leadership vacuum in the capital. 
The leaders who will now begin to fill the gaps will have to overcome 
the regional, tribal and ideological differences that have long divided 

A Tripoli citizen mans a local security checkpoint as part of an 
initiative overseen by rebel-led neighborhood councils.

Mr. Ben Jumaa's local council forms the base level of the rebel 
governing structure that has sprung up in most of the country during the 
past six months. It is among some 20 neighborhood councils in Tripoli 
that answer to the Tripoli Council, which has steered the city's 
uprising and that answers, in turn, to the rebels' national governing 
body, the National Transitional Council.

Some 30 members of the Tripoli-wide council met Thursday and for the 
first time agreed to break their operational security, meeting as a 
group in a downtown hotel. The cadre of mostly middle-age professionals, 
including engineers, hotel managers and accountants, had been meeting in 
secret locations for months, using aliases to protect themselves from 
arrest or infiltration. Few knew each other by name or occupation.

On Thursday, they hugged and wept as they saw each other in the open, 
and introduced themselves by their real names.

The tight cell structure that Mr. Ben Jumaa helped organize in Fashloom, 
these people say, was replicated in other Tripoli neighborhoods. In the 
industrial suburb of Tajoura, local commanders organized patrols to 
alert residents to nightly raids by irregular militias loyal to Col. 

Patrol volunteers would communicate down alleyways and narrow lanes via 
coded signals that they would flash from the lights of their 
mobile-phone screens.

In Fashloom, police commanders' role in the rebel leadership is expected 
to expedite local police forces' return to the streets. Local leaders 
here say they have also handpicked many of the men who are now providing 
security in neighborhoods. That could help ease the challenge of 
disarming those groups and collecting the vast stockpiles of weapons 
that have circulated among Libyans in recent months.

When demonstrations broke out in February, Tripoli residents were quick 
to march. Col. Gadhafi's crackdown was harsh. Security forces opened 
fire on street demonstrators. Tripoli's huge size kept rallies localized 
and prevented organizers from achieving a critical mass of demonstrators.

By early March, Col. Gadhafi had switched off the Internet. Activists 
knew his intelligence forces monitored phones. Organizers began meeting 
around kitchen tables and in family rooms.

"The ground rule is that everyone came with an alias," said Jamal 
Derwish Boulsayn, a middle-age businessman who regularly hosted meetings 
of about 30 people at his home in Souq al-Jouma'a, a neighborhood near 
Fashloom. "That way if someone was a spy, or someone was grabbed, they 
couldn't tell security who the rest of us were."

Mr. Ben Jumaa—a 20-year veteran of Libya's Internal Security who rose to 
become the head of the office dedicated to Col. Gadhafi's personal 
security—linked up with Fashloom's rebel leaders from the start of 
demonstrations there. He and 12 others on the shadow neighborhood 
council oversaw antiregime activities.

Mr. Ben Jumaa's neighbors say they long suspected his loyalty wasn't 
absolute. They said he would tell neighbors how to deal with security 
services should they fall under suspicion, or how to keep clear of the 
web of spy networks that bolstered Col. Gadhafi over four decades of power.

"We all knew he was always unenthusiastic about what was happening in 
this country," said Abdel Basat al-Tubal, a member of the neighborhood 
committee who is also a brigadier general in the local police force.

Local rebel leaders calculated that Mr. Ben Jumaa's intimate knowledge 
of the security services' methods would help them dodge the regime's 
security forces, Mr. Basat al-Tubal said.

Mr. Ben Jumaa says he was in daily contact with security commanders 
closest to Col. Gadhafi. He said he would sort daily through 
intelligence from phone taps, rebel surveillance and interrogations, and 
pass on arrest orders for suspected rebels.

Mr. Ben Jumaa tipped off rebel leaders before several raids in Fashloom, 
giving dissidents a narrow window to hide their rebel contraband or seek 
out havens before the house raids began, several neighborhood activists 

In nearby Souq al-Jouma'a, resistance-cell leader Hakim Boulsayn said he 
evaded arrest more than one time while he was visiting the district's 
clandestine armory, due to an informer high up in the internal security 
service. "Men like [Mr. Ben Jumaa] were working with many 
neighborhoods," he said.

At the beginning of August, Mr. Ben Jumaa received a call. A friend 
working in another branch of the security forces, he said, had spotted 
Mr. Ben Jumaa's name on an arrest list.

That night, Mr. Ben Jumaa and his family fled their apartment at 11 p.m. 
for a safe house. At 4 a.m., a force of eight Gadhafi security force 
vehicles surrounded his apartment building and busted through his door, 
said Abdel Hamid Sherif, a neighbor who said he watched the raid through 
his peephole.

Mr. Ben Jumaa says he ferried his family to Tunisia but stayed in hiding 
in Libya until Aug. 20, when the new wave of revolt erupted in Tripoli.

He emerged from his safe house as crowds of men from the Souq al-Jouma'a 
neighborhood stormed the streets. Feeling momentum turning against the 
regime, he went back to Fashloom the next day and spent the weekend 
organizing his neighborhood as Tripoli fell into rebel hands.

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