The PJ Tatler

Gaddafi and Corruption: WikiLeaks vs. WikiLeaks

The New York Times published an article yesterday accusing Muammar al-Gaddafi and the Libyan government of corruption in its dealings with foreign companies following the thawing of relations with the West in the mid-2010s. Apparently, if the American people are not buying “R2P” (the “Responsibility to Protect”), then R2CC, the “Responsibility to Combat Corruption,” might do the trick.

The sources for the Times article are for the most part unnamed industry insiders, unnamed “American officials,” and documents from the WikiLeaks cache of leaked State Department cables. One named source is a member of the as-Senussi royal family, which Gaddafi drove from power and which has its power-base precisely in the Cyrenaica region of eastern Libya that is currently rebelling against Gaddafi’s rule. Perhaps not the most neutral source imaginable… According to Praveen Swami of The Telegraph, by the way, the former American diplomat James Atkins has described the as-Senussi monarchy as “one of the most corrupt in the world.”

It should be noted that the New York Times has access to the complete stash of WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, whereas only a tiny fraction of them has been published on the WikiLeaks website. This means that the Times has ample opportunity to cherry-pick and that competing media and the public have only very limited possibility for verification. Only one of the cables cited in the Times piece has a link on it and the link does not even work. Based on a search on CableSearch, another of the cited cables appears not to have been published at all.

In any case, in light of the Times story, it is interesting to note what oil company executives told the late Congressman Tom Lantos and former Senator Arlen Specter during a joint visit to Libya in August 2006. As noted in my PJM report on the Lantos/ Specter visit, a leaked State Department record of the trip has been published by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. According to the cable, the oil company executives told Lantos and Specter that “on the big picture issues like personal security and government corruption, they see Libya as offering a relatively favorable operating environment compared to their counterparts working in Nigeria, Indonesia, Colombia and other oil-production states.”