A Plan to Overthrow Kaddafi
- Copyright 1981 Newsweek
- August 3, 1981, UNITED STATES EDITION
- SECTION: NATIONAL AFFAIRS; Pg. 19
- LENGTH: 410 words
- HEADLINE: A Plan to Overthrow Kaddafi
- To many of his critics on Capitol Hill, the real question about CIA Director William J. Casey has always been his capacity for sound judgment. Last week, as pressure for Casey's resignation mounted, sources began to leak details of a planned CIA operation that seemed to underscore those doubts. NEWSWEEK learned that the operation, presented to the House Select Committee on Intelligence by former deputy director of covert operations Max Hugel and approved by Casey and the White House crisis management team, was a large-scale, multiphase and costly scheme to overthrow the Libyan regime of Col. Muammar Kaddafi. The CIA's goal, sources said, was Kaddafi's "ultimate" removal from power. To members of the House intelligence committee who reviewed the plan, that phrase seemed to imply Kaddafi's assassination. And in a step that experts said was "rare" in the secret records of Congressional oversight of CIA activities, the committee sent a strongly worded letter of protest directly to Ronald Reagan.
- The details of the plan were sketchy, but it seemed to be a classic CIA destabilization campaign. One element was a "disinformation" program designed to embarrass Kaddafi and his government. Another was the creation of a "counter government" to challenge his claim to national leadership. A third--potentially the most risky--was an escalating paramilitary campaign, probably by disaffected Libyan nationals, to blow up bridges, conduct small-scale guerrilla operations and demonstrate that Kaddafi was opposed by an indigenous political force. The cost in covert American aid was high enough, sources said, that the CIA needed Congressional permission to draw funds from a special reserve account. So far, the sources said, Congress has not approved the funds.
- Members of the House committee, briefed by Hugel, were skeptical about the feasibility and objectives of the plan. U.S. agents are forbidden to conduct assassination attempts on foreign leaders, although a plot by the Libyans themselves presumably would be leagal. Casey nevertheless denied that the CIA planned to kill Kaddafi--but the committee, one source said, " just doesn't trust Casey" and fired off its protest. Last week the White House said the letter is going through the "regular clearance process" and had not yet reached the President. As to the operation itself, which could have begun even without Congressional approval, the Administration had no comment at all.
- GRAPHIC: Picture 1, Kaddafi, AP; Picture 2, Hugel: The goal was 'ulitmate' removal, Mark Reinstein--Photoreporters