Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks: Muammar al-Qadhafi and his so-called eccentricities

As we've all been warned for the better part of a week, Wikileaks, the website famed for outing the government of the United States, today released confidential United States diplomatic cables.  Five major world newspapers, including the New York Times and the Guardian, were granted early access to some of the documents and have published or provided links to the documents.  One that caught my attention was this gem from September 29th, 2009 from the American Embassy in Tripoli.  It's restriction was listed as NOFORN (no foreign national) meaning that it was not to be looked at or shared with foreign governments or non-U.S. citizens no matter how high their level of clearance and its distribution caption was posted as SIPDIS (Secret Internet Protocol Distribution); a label used "for messages that are to be automatically published to the originating post's or office's website."  The SIPDIS label is used only for "informational messages deemed appropriate for release to the U.S. Government interagency community.".  Just in case you cared, here is a document from the United States Department of State giving instructions for the Information Management Specialist on how to handle messages within the State Department; the information is full of amusing little acronyms but makes those of us on the outside realize just what a self-perpetuating machine the so-called "intelligence network" is.

Now to the contents of the wire.  The subject of the document was "A Glimpse Into Libyan Leader Qadhafi's Eccentricities" and was classified by Gene A. Cretz, the United States Ambassador to Libya appointed in 2007 by George II as the first U.S. Ambassador to Libya since 1972.  From his first-hand experience with the Libyan leader and his staff, he felt that he had gained rare insight into the eccentricities and character of Muammar al-Qadhafi.  Here, under the heading "Qadhafi's Personality Reflected In His Phobias" are two of his supposed "proclivities":

1.) The Leader must stay on the first floor of any facility rented for him because he cannot climb more than 35 steps.  As well, he needs accommodations with room to pitch his Beddouin tent because it showed visitors that he was close to his cultural roots.

2.) The Leader does not like long flights of more than 8 hours duration and often overnights in Europe while on his way to America.  He also does not like to fly over water.

Under the heading "Dependencies: Reliance On A Select Group Of Individuals" we find the following:

1.) Qadhafi relies on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, 38 year old Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a
 "voluptuous blonde".  He requires her aid because she alone knows his daily routine.  He has a staff of  four Ukrainian
 nurses that cater to his  health and well-being.

2.) The Leader is dependent on a small core of trusted individuals.  One of his confidantes carries a red phone which presumably connects to Qadhafi.  His National Security Advisor, his son Muatassim, is his father’s handler and confidante and is tasked with ensuring that his father’s image is well preserved through carefully planned media events.

Enough of Colonel Qadhafi's quirks and other personality issues.  Who among us would prefer to climb more than 35 steps to get anywhere?  Who among us does not like camping out?  Who among us really likes flying over long stretches of barren and foreboding ocean for hours at a time?  Who among us (males) would not like to travel everywhere with a voluptuous blonde Ukrainian nurse or travel with our own personal entourage of Ukrainian nurses?   Perhaps the United States could gain a strategic advantage over Libya by forcing Colonel Qadhafi to leave his nurse at home the next time he appears at the United Nations as it could dramatically increase their home field advantage!

All in all, I'd say that Colonel Qadhafi appears to be a pretty normal, red-blooded guy from the description of his "eccentricities" as given by Ambassador Cretz.  From what I've read in this particular wire, I'd say that the NOFORN security designation should be used out of embarrassment rather than any real need to hide this information from foreign states.

As an aside, how much did this "intelligence" work cost United States taxpayers and exactly what is the value of this information to those who pay Mr. Cretz's salary?



  1. too much information can topple countries

  2. Qadhafi's eccentricities sound tame compared to those of the average movie or pop star.

    Actually, the whole Wikileaks release seems tame so far - nothing that we didn't already know.

  3. Tame? maybe.. then its just a confirmation of what folks expected -- for those of us who sit in arm-chairs and enjoy this wikileak joke over a cup of coffee.. BUT what about those chaps fighting tooth and nail to keep this world a safe place. Are they safe anymore?

  4. Rather than focus on containment, fix the problem not the leaking of problematic data. What does Govt inteligence really mean?

  5. in all honesty, this is valuable information. just like knowing that n. koreas dictator, ill, imports $150,000 dollars worth of J walker blue. any information on your friends and enemies is valuable information.

    it is a known fact that the president of the united states can not flush the toilet when he is over seas. he has a crew picking out his feces because god forbid our friends or enemies get a hold of it. it can be used to determine his genetic disposition, medication usage, illness, and state of emotion.

    The us is not the onlny country that does this and i dont see anything wrong with it. pschologically profiling your friends and enemies is a everyday occuring. we (humans) do it everyday and when you put yourself in a situation where every advantage helps than so what? poker players look at every aspect of their opponents pyschie and i dont see what the difference is.

    the offense i see here is that wikileaks is wrong and should be dealt with to the furstest extent of the law. what they have done is borderline treason and should be dealt as such.

  6. Govt intelligence is not a homogenous "thing" anymore than medicine is a homogenous thing. There are many specialties just as there are in the medical field. Similarly there are areas that garner a great deal of attention, such as Cancer, and areas that are not well known by all, such as microbiology. They are ALL necessary to what we call the practice of medicine. Govt intelligence is the same way. And anyone who would intentionally leak classified information is a bottom-feeder who will someday get their just desserts!

  7. wierd how my comment got deleted. guess i spoke too much truth.

  8. I didn't delete anyone's comment!

    My overall comment on the Wikileaks issue is that there is far too much secrecy in government today. We, as voters, have granted government the ability to hold things secret and they abuse that power just because they can, not necessarily in the interest of state security. That is where secrecy becomes dangerous to us as individuals.

  9. The report indicates some interesting quirks. Most people do not pitch tents inside hotel rooms. It's not unusual to have an inner circle but knowing who they are and how they're picked has some value. And the public has not gained anything by seeing this cable which is presumably a small part of the ambassador's job. The redacted portions presumably indicate potential vulnerabilities that may be used or be in use and present a real risk to assets in the field.

    Much of this information may never see any use, but you can't know for sure. These observations could become relevant if say, there's felt a need to assassinate mr Qadhafi, or on the other side if there's a need to placate him. Potentially such a personality profile may be of use for making an educated guess on what he might do in response to various international events, allowing the intelligence community to determine threats and how to respond to them, or how to encourage him towards a desired course of action.

  10. I found the missing comments. For some reason, Google has added a spam detector to the comments tab and the comments from November 29th at 12.21 and 12.24 were located there. I have posted them back to the main comments page.

    My apologies and thanks for posting your viewpoints.

  11. Yes, definitely. And Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and real politic methods.

  12. Be interesting to see fluff and spin the US political con-artists put on all this now.

    The US doesnt have a very good history in the middle-east...