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U.S. confirms that spy agencies worked with ex-warlord Charles Taylor [Updated]

Update: The Globe now says it ‘overreached‘ on the story and the relationship between Taylor and U.S. intelligence was never confirmed.  In response to a FOIA request from the Boston Globe, the U.S. government has confirmed that former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now on trial for war crimes at the Hague, received support from U.S. ...

PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images
PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images

Update: The Globe now says it ‘overreached‘ on the story and the relationship between Taylor and U.S. intelligence was never confirmed. 

In response to a FOIA request from the Boston Globe, the U.S. government has confirmed that former Liberian President Charles Taylor, now on trial for war crimes at the Hague, received support from U.S. intelligence agencies during the 1980s:

After a quarter-century of silence, the US government has confirmed what has long been rumored: Taylor, who would become president of Liberia and the first African leader tried for war crimes, worked with US spy agencies during his rise as one of the world’s most notorious dictators.

The disclosure on the former president comes in response to a request filed by the Globe six years ago under the Freedom of Information Act. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy arm, confirmed its agents and CIA agents worked with Taylor beginning in the early 1980s.[…]

The Defense Intelligence Agency refused to reveal any details about the relationship, saying doing so would harm national security.

Taylor, 63, pleaded innocent in 2009 to multiple counts of murder, rape, attacking civilians, and deploying child soldiers during a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone while he was president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003.

 

In 2009, Taylor testified at his trial that the CIA aided him in his famous 1985 escape-by-bedsheet from a jail in Plymouth, Mass., where he was being held on embezzlement charges, so that he could take part in a coup plot against then President Samuel Doe. At the time, a CIA spokesman described Taylor’s account as “completely absurd.”

It’s possible Taylor may have aided the agency in gathering intelligence on Muammar al-Qaddafi: 

Former intelligence officials, who agreed to discuss the covert ties only on the condition of anonymity, and specialists including Farah believe Taylor probably was considered useful for gathering intelligence about the activities of Moammar Khadafy. During the 1980s, the ruler of Libya was blamed for sponsoring such terrorist acts as the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland and for fomenting guerrilla wars across Africa.

Taylor testified that after fleeing Boston he recruited 168 men and women for the National Patriotic Front for Liberia and trained them in Libya.

Over time, the former officials said, Taylor may have also been seen as a source for information on broader issues in Africa, from the illegal arms trade to the activities of the Soviet Union, which, like the United States, was seeking allies on the continent as part of the broader struggle of the Cold War.

 

 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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