The Federal Bureau of Investigation has started questioning Libyans in the U.S. to ferret out potential spies or terrorists and collect information useful to military operations in Libya, The Wall Street Journal reports. The news is a further sign that many senior U.S. officials worry over the possibility that Qaddafi may launch revenge attacks for the coalition military intervention in his country.
Agents began conducting interviews with those who have personal or professional ties to Libya, and are especially interested in Libyans staying in the U.S. on visas, the Journal reports. Though the investigation was not launched in response to a specific threat, the FBI is seeking information on whether Qaddafi aims to plot new attacks or has any spies in the country.
Michael Chertoff, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, recently told National Journal that Qaddafi could seek to strike at the countries—France, England, and the U.S.—that launched the military effort to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
Qaddafi’s government has carried out a pair of high-profile strikes with American casualties: the 1986 bombing of a West Berlin club frequented by American soldiers, two of whom died; and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, which killed all 259 on board—mostly Americans—and 11 more on the ground.
Carrying out a successful attack now would be more difficult because of heightened security after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the time and resources needed to plan an attack, neither of which Qaddafi has, Chertoff said. Still, it was too soon to conclude that the Libyan leader had lost his appetite for such attacks—or his ability, in a pinch, to find surrogates willing to carry out a strike.
“Could he get some sympathizers of somebody, let’s say in Europe, to do something?” Chertoff asked. “I wouldn’t exclude the possibility.”