Searching for Gadhafi: Washington officials coy on manhunt
Published: August 25, 2011
WASHINGTON – The world is searching for Moammar Gadhafi, but is the United States?
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that U.S. intelligence and NATO were joining the rebel manhunt for Gahdafi by “repositioning intelligence agents and targeting surveillance equipment.” British Defense Minister Liam Fox also said on Thursday that NATO was in on the posse with intelligence and reconnaissance help. But Pentagon and State Department spokesmen quickly denied the U.S. had any involvement in the manhunt.
Fox told Sky News, “I can confirm that NATO is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the [National Transitional Council] to help them track down Colonel Gaddafi and other remnants of the regime.”
For months, U.S. spokesmen have carefully stayed inside the lines of the United Nations and NATO mandate in Libya. It’s been a cat-and-mouse game to get U.S. officials to say if Gadhafi – Libya’s puppet-master – even was a target. Instead, officials consistently have insisted anything they dropped from the flyover was solely for the humanitarian protection of the Libyan people.
The White House has calculated that hunting down Gadhafi does not fit the mission, or the narrative, even as several news agencies have reported CIA personnel are on the ground, while satellites and other spying assets are overhead.
“Neither the United States nor NATO is involved in this manhunt,” said Victoria Nuland at the State Department.
At the Pentagon, Col. David Lapan told reporters, “I'm not speaking for any other national authorities -- whether any of our partner nations might be doing something. But NATO itself, and the U.S. as part of it, are not.”