TRIPOLI, Libya — The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies worked closely with the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi, sharing tips and cooperating in handing over terror suspects for interrogation to a regime known to use torture, according to a trove of security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli.
The revelations provide new details on the West's efforts to turn Libya's mercurial leader from foe to ally and provide an embarrassing example of the U.S. administration's collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the war on terror.
The documents, among tens of thousands found in an External Security building in Tripoli, show an increasingly warm relationship with CIA agents proposing to set up a permanent Tripoli office, addressing their Libyan counterparts by their first names and giving them advice. In one memo, a British agent even sends Christmas greetings.
The agencies were known to cooperate as the longtime Libyan ruler worked to overcome his pariah status by stopping his quest for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing support for terrorism. But the new details show a more extensive relationship than was previously known, with Western agencies offering lists of questions for specific detainees and apparently the text for a Gadhafi speech.
They also offer a glimpse into the inner workings of the now-defunct CIA program of extraordinary rendition, through which terror suspects were secretly detained, sent to third countries and sometimes underwent the so-called enhanced interrogation tactics like waterboarding.
The documents mention a half dozen names of people targeted for rendition, including Tripoli's new rebel military commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, which helped find the documents, called the ties between Washington and Gadhafi's regime a "dark chapter in American intelligence history."
Meanwhile on Saturday near Tarhouna, rebel fighters closed in on one of Gadhafi's last strongholds, the remote desert town of Bani Walid, but were trying to persuade tribal elders there to surrender without a fight.
A rebel commander said the town has been given until today to surrender. "If they don't raise the rebel flag tomorrow, we will enter with force," said Abdel Razak al-Nathori, who commands one of the brigades advancing on Bani Walid.
Al-Nathori said one of Gadhafi's sons, Muatassim, was in Bani Walid on Saturday, apparently to persuade tribal leaders to stick with the crumbling regime. Another Gadhafi son, Seif al-Islam, was in Bani Walid at some point but fled, said al-Nathori, speaking in the town of Tarhouna, about halfway between Tripoli and Bani Walid.
The elder Gadhafi remains a fugitive, and there has been much speculation about his whereabouts, with Bani Walid being named as a possible hiding place.
Back in Tripoli, the rebels' deputy prime minister, Ali Tarhouni, said production at two major oil fields would resume Sept. 12 or 13. Oil production had virtually ground to a halt during Libya's six-month civil war, which ended with Gadhafi's ouster.