Crime and punishment in Libya: inside Gaddafi’s surveillance system

Abigail Hauslohner reports:

In the initial days after Libyan rebels overran Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces in eastern Libya last February, one of the most prevalent emotions on the street was shock. “We thought 90% of the people were with Gaddafi,” Camilla Esbak remarked in the rebel stronghold of the Green Mountains. “So we never expected this.” For years, most Libyans had been hesitant to voice opposition, they said, even to their children and close friends, fearing the pervasiveness and brutality of their dictator’s security network. And when the revolution finally came, they marveled that so many of their neighbors had shared their opinions all along.

And yet, as rebels have begun to sift through the buildings and archives of Gaddafi’s internal security apparatus over the past week, Libyans are also finding confirmation that they had every reason to be paranoid.

Based on TIME’s examination of documents, maps, computer files, and surveillance hardware found in a handful of security offices around Tripoli, Gaddafi’s internal security network appears to have permeated every neighborhood, town, and city of the vast North African country for decades. The regime monitored thousands of people; tapping phone calls and hacking e-mails, according to the Wall Street Journal. And in some cases, it appears that a single person of interest was matched by at least one security officer who was assigned to him specifically. In other cases, Abdel Karim Gadoora, a former interior ministry surveillance officer told TIME: “Whenever there was someone, they would just go and arrest them right away.”

In one unmarked security office in an apartment building off of Tripoli’s Green Square — now renamed Martyr’s Square — there are registration books full of the plainclothes men that internal security had staffed around the city. A chart in one binder details the “youth” that the government had given Kalashnikovs to. In Abu Slim, there were 9 gangs and 143 people with weapons, it says; there were 170 in the rebel stronghold of Souk al-Jumaa and 45 in the wealthy, diplomatic neighborhood of Hay al Andalus.

In a control room, Gadoora says that the seven TV screens are rigged to dozens of cameras around Green Square and downtown. The whole office, he says, was dedicated only to the surveillance of downtown Tripoli. But there are dozens like this, he adds, each dedicated to a different neighborhood. Detailed maps, including those produced by U.S. commercial satellite image providers, cover the walls. But Gaddafi’s vast Bab al-Aziziya compound is always just a blank shape, suggesting that the dictator feared even the men who he had assigned to keep watch on his citizens. And indeed, the archives of another internal security building corroborates rebel claims that government employees and army officers were frequently targeted by the very regime that employed them.

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1 thought on “Crime and punishment in Libya: inside Gaddafi’s surveillance system

  1. libertus

    surveillance system?

    Try American & British or Australian counterpart surveillance trust me it does not just WATCH, it ASSAULTS with every bit it can. with the collaboration of the new less visible Gestapo CIA & the respective local ingredients, Military operations took place, Both COVERT & OVERT in Australia & other so called free world, among other places, Oz land ,a place with no bill of rights exist, where human rights culture is not prevalent but awakening is taking place, isolation can be a curse for the oppressed, the media owned by a couple of loonies. Add to that, US IMPERIALISM dictating the tune. Aboriginal subtle repression is confiscating the few gains they managed to achieve the last forty years, The same manufactured construct equivalent weapons of mass destruction (Northern territory solution) was used to undermine the interests of indigenous people & CONTAINMENT POLICY. The same containment policy is gradually applied to the rest of the population. The few refuges that are simply the result of our coward assaults on their land & resources, have become the cancer culture the chronic inhumanity of a WAR CULTURE. As for some of us man & woman of conscience Covert assaults charactere assassiantion, attack on your home property, relations. well-being are methodical & systematic, to some of us state sponsored terror in its most hidden form. Liberating Iraq, Libya…. I THINK NOT.
    First they come & ask U if you are interested to live in the countryside or perhaps overseas the carrot, U say NO, than its the stick, they’ll send the cleaners, acid on your car, & boots on your door, the rest is new gadgets & toys, harassment, torture, twisted laws & 24 hours surveillance & intimidation & attacks if U dare to SPEAK.

    No terror no torture just truth.

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