US and French intelligence contributing to hunt for Gaddafi

"During the Libyan civil war, France had about 50 special forces on the ground"

From the AP:  Determined to hunt down Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s new rulers say they have dedicated a special unit of fighters to track the elusive former leader, listening in on his aides’ phone calls, poring over satellite images and interviewing witnesses.

Although leads come mostly from on-the-ground tips, help is also coming from France and other Western countries, according to a French intelligence official. Satellite-based transmission intercepts of suspicious phone calls try to pinpoint where Gadhafi might be. Small CIA teams are also assisting in the manhunt, according to former U.S. officials. . . .

NATO, which has deployed spy planes, drones and satellites to the skies above Libya in addition to the warplanes that have carried out more than five months of airstrikes against Gadhafi’s forces, could provide a bevy of intelligence material to help in the hunt.

But both NATO and Libyan officials have said the alliance is not helping track down Gadhafi, and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted Wednesday that the former leader "is not a target of NATO’s operation."

Still, Western officials say that some of the rebels’ allies are indeed providing a helping hand.

The French intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the help is mainly through communication intercepts, and declined to say whether Western agents were on the ground. During the Libyan civil war, France had about 50 special forces on the ground, pulled from the military and France’s main spy service, the DGSE.

In theory, such on-the-ground help would be useful only in catching high-frequency communications, such as walkie-talkies, which wouldn’t be enough to speak with the outside world, according to the official.

The official said the assistance is more about "triangulation" of signals and trying to pinpoint Gadhafi’s whereabouts through satellite-based transmission intercepts, even from Paris or other foreign stations. Gadhafi could have dozens or hundreds of phones to possibly use, and likely would.

Three former U.S. officials have said the former rebels are receiving help in the search from small CIA teams, including former U.S. special operators on contract to the intelligence agency, as well as a small number of advisers from British and French special operations teams.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

CIA officers on the ground will touch base with sources who have kept them informed throughout the battle to oust Gadhafi, one of the former U.S. officials said. But the agency does not yet have officers in sufficient numbers or the human intelligence network built on the ground to help the rebels conduct an effective manhunt, the official added.  (graphic: French Ministry of Defense)

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