A Libyan terror suspect imprisoned in the UK was put in charge of guarding David Cameron on an official visit to Tripoli in 2011, it emerged last night.
The disclosure is potentially embarrassing for British security services who would have vetted Mr Cameron s protection detail on the trip. The intelligence agencies are already under criticism for failing to spot the danger posed by Salman Abedi, the son of a Libyan Islamist, who carried out the Manchester Arena suicide bombing. Abedi had fought in the Libyan civil war that ousted Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and travelled to the country repeatedly where he is thought to have received terrorist training.
According to sources, the unnamed Libyan national was put in charge of the country s close protection team following the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011. When Mr Cameron, who was then prime minister, visited Tripoli along with French president Nicolas Sarkozy in September 2011, the security was provided by the Libyan national, previously regarded as a terror suspect in the UK.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi attending a ceremony marking the birth of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed in Tripoli Credit: Reuters
The man s identity was protected by the British legal system. He was given the identifying letter M in court cases after being detained in Belmarsh jail as a suspected terrorist in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001. He was released on appeal in March 2003 and then, it is understood, placed on a control order that restricted his movements. M was a prominent leader in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a banned terror organisation of which Abedi s father was also a prominent supporter.
LIFG was accused of strong links to al-Qaeda and some members had trained in Afghanistan was linked to terror groups in Afghanistan.
Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and Islamist human rights activist, said in an interview with an Arab television channel: One man I know who d been on a control order went on to become a head of security in Tripoli and was responsible, bizarrely, for the safety of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy when they visited Libya in 2011. The Telegraph has been told the man he referred to is Detainee M . This newspaper also understands that M was placed in charge of Hillary Clinton s local security detail during a trip by the then US Secretary of State to Libya a month later in October 2011.
David Cameron (right) and Nicolas Sarkozy arriving at Benghazi airport in Libya in 2016 Credit: PA
The Government had claimed M was part of an extremist Islamic movement in Libya, had fought in Afghanistan and had transferred money to a man suspected of links to al-Qaeda. M admitted being a member of LIFG, but said the organisation s only interest was opposing Colonel Gaddafi s regime.
M appealed against his detention and claims of his links to al-Qaeda in a series of court cases in 2003 and 2004. After a three-day hearing in 2004, an appeal court ruled that the government had not established a reasonable suspicion that M was a suspected international terrorist, and the evidence on which the security services had based their assessment was wholly unreliable and should not have been used to justify detention.
Amnesty International hailed the decision to release M . Serious questions over Britain s dealings with LIFG emerged following the Manchester Arena suicide attack in which 22 people were murdered by Abedi. Abedi, 22, was born in Manchester, to Libyan parents who lived there in exile in fear of Gaddafi s regime.
LIFG members were first welcomed in the UK as a bulwark against Gaddafi in the 1980s and 1990s. But following the restoration of diplomatic ties between Libya and the UK in 1999 and the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001, Britain began targeting LIFG activists. With Gaddafi s regime tottering, the LIFG was again encouraged to return to Libya to take up the fight against the dictator, toppling him in 2011.
MOHAMED Fahmy is the last person one would expect to make the case against al-Jazeera.
In 2014, the former Cairo bureau chief for the Qatar-funded television network began a 438-day sentence in an Egyptian prison on terrorism charges and practicing unlicensed journalism. His incarceration made al-Jazeera a powerful symbol of resistance to Egypt’s military dictatorship. Today Fahmy is preparing a lawsuit against his former employers. And while he is still highly critical of the regime that imprisoned him, he also says the Egyptian government is correct in saying al-Jazeera is really a propaganda channel for Islamists and an arm of Qatari foreign policy.
“The more the network coordinates and takes directions from the government, the more it becomes a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence,” he told me in an interview Thursday.
“There are many channels who are biased, but this is past bias. Now al-Jazeera is a voice for terrorists.”
Fahmy’s testimony is particularly important now. Al-Jazeera is at the center of a crisis ripping apart the Arab Gulf states. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a political and diplomatic blockade on Qatar. As part of that blockade, al-Jazeera has been kicked out of those countries. The treatment of al-Jazeera as an arm of the Qatari state as opposed to a news organization does not sit well with many in the West. This week a New York Times editorial accused Qatar’s foes of “muzzling” a news outlet “that could lead citizens to question their rulers” in the Arab world.
In some ways it’s understandable for English-speaking audiences to take this view. Al-Jazeera’s English-language broadcasts certainly veer politically to the left. At times the channel has sucked up to police states. The channel embarrassed itself with such fluff as a recent sycophantic feature on female traffic cops in North Korea.
But al-Jazeera English has also broken some important stories. It worked with Human Rights Watch to uncover documents mapping out the links between Libyan intelligence under Moammar Gadhafi and the British and U.S. governments. Al-Jazeera’s Arabic broadcasts, however, have not met these same standards in recent years. To start, the network still airs a weekly talk show from Muslim Brotherhood theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He has used his platform to argue that Islamic law justifies terrorist attacks against Israelis and U.S. soldiers.
U.S. military leaders, such as retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded forces in the initial campaign to stabilize Iraq, have said publicly that al-Jazeera reporters appeared to have advance knowledge of terrorist attacks. Fahmy told me that in his research he has learned that instructions were given to journalists not to refer to al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra, as a terrorist organization. He said Qatar’s neighbors were justified in banning al-Jazeera. “Al-Jazeera has breached the true meaning of press freedom that I advocate and respect by sponsoring these voices of terror like Yusuf al Qaradawi,” he said.
“If al-Jazeera continues to do that, they are directly responsible for many of these lone wolves, many of these youth that are brain washed.”
Fahmy didn’t always have this opinion of his former employer. He began to change his views while serving time. It started in the “scorpion block” of Egypt’s notorious Tora prison. During his stay, he came to know some of Egypt’s most notorious Islamists.
“When I started meeting and interviewing members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their sympathizers, they specifically told me they had been filming protests and selling it to al-Jazeera and dealing fluidly with the network and production companies in Egypt associated with the network,” he said. One example of al-Jazeera’s coordination with the Muslim Brotherhood revolves around Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in the summer of 2013, following the military coup that unseated Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated president. As part of Fahmy’s case against al-Jazeera, he took testimony from a former security guard for the network and the head of the board of trustees for Egyptian state television.
Both testified that members of the Muslim Brotherhood seized the broadcast truck al-Jazeera used to air the sit-ins that summer. In other words, al-Jazeera allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast its own protests. That incident happened in the weeks before Fahmy was hired to be the network’s Cairo bureau chief. He says he was unaware of these ties to the Muslim Brotherhood until he began doing his own research and reporting from an Egyptian prison. When Fahmy learned of these arrangements, he said, he became angry. It undermined his case before the Egyptian courts that he was unaffiliated with any political party or terrorist groups inside Egypt.
“To me this is a big deal, this is not acceptable,” he said.
“It put me in danger because it’s up to me to convince the judge that I was just doing journalism.”
Fahmy was released from prison in 2015, but not because al-Jazeera’s lawyers made a good case for him. Rather, it was the work of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who eventually got him safely out of the country to Canada. Now Fahmy is turning his attention to al-Jazeera. He is pressing a court in British Columbia to hear his case in January against the network, from whom he is seeking $100 million in damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and negligence. Fahmy’s case is one more piece of evidence that the al-Jazeera seen by English-speaking audiences is not the al-Jazeera seen throughout the Muslim world. It’s one more piece of evidence that Qatar’s foreign policy is a double game: It hosts a military base the U.S. uses to fight terror, while funding a media platform for extremists.
The overarching cybersecurity theme of summer 2017 is shaping up to be a widespread infosec talent shortage against the backdrop of fear that arose after the WannaCry ransomware threats happened. Adding to the chaos are predictions that more attacks are not only coming, but will be far worse when they hit. That scenario is opening doors for managed security services providers, managed detection and response firms and virtual CISOs contracting with hospitals to keep them safe.
Managed Security Services Providers
Like third-party managed services providers that tend to many of the day-to-day tactical details of dealing with IT, MSSPs do the same for data security, taking on responsibility for maintenance and upkeep and doing the monitoring and the tracking of issues as they emerge inside or outside of the organization they are servicing. MSSPs are doing a lot of work in the age of the hacker, which is why some healthcare organizations are turning to MSSPs in the first place.
Healthcare organizations will partner with MSSPs to act as their security operations center and consume critical data surrounding events and alerts that could be indications of a problem; 24 hours a day, they are responsible for alerts and the first sign of an intrusion or potential exposure, said Christopher Ensey, chief operating officer at Dunbar Security Solutions, among other things a managed security service provider.
Healthcare has been lagging in IT security, and MSSPs are a way to add that competency quickly, said Bill Ho, CEO of Biscom, a secure document and messaging systems company.
Sometimes more specialized expertise is needed, Ho said. Much like your doctor referring you to a specialist, an internal IT department may not have specific and in-depth knowledge around security. With the speed at which threats change these days, it s no surprise that many organizations are finding that managed security service providers can help them fortify their defenses. The advantages are personnel steeped in the security space and able to keep abreast of the latest threats and concerns, and services that can be quickly scaled up or down as incidents appear and are resolved rather than adding permanent headcount, which is not only expensive but hard to find, Ho said.
Managed Detection and Response
While MSSPs handle cybersecurity broadly, MDR firms specialize in pinpointing security incidents and crafting an appropriate response. MDRs leverage both manual and automatic analysis to give organizations a better chance of defending systems against cyberthreats. And the services are tailored to meet the specific needs of each organization.
“MDRs and MSSPs are rushing to the market. That’s going to be a help to the industry once the security market sorts itself out, said Kurt Hagerman, CISO of security firm Armor. If they can take advantage of the security people need, that will be one potential solution to the problem.”
The virtual or regional CISO
Another alternative is to hire a regional or virtual CISO. This infosec expert typically brings both experience and certification with a background specific enough that it enables her or him to hit the ground running and make necessary recommendations. And it doesn t hurt if they are part of a larger organization.
Virtual CISOs are assigned to a specific account, but that designated CISO can draw on anyone else in the company with whatever the organization needs, said Mac McMillan, CEO of CynergisTek, which offers virtual CISOs for hire. They basically get the benefit of many CISOs — with just one.
That bodes well for both the regional CISO and customers because they essentially have an entire team at their fingertips.
What about a tools-centric approach?
What with the infosec staffing crisis, and outsourcing options such as MSSPs, MDRs and virtual CISOs gaining a foothold in healthcare, some experts see hospital strategies evolving beyond the next big thing in security technology.
It s not a very good use of a relatively high-salary security specialist s time to comb through logs on a daily basis and review reports every day and investigate every little alert that fires off of a device, Dunbar s Essey said. Organizations want these highly compensated security professionals to lead a security strategy.
What s more, Hagerman added that the current approach of chasing bright shiny objects without necessarily then having the expertise, personnel or financial wherewithal to effectively use that tool is driving many hospitals away from a security tech approach and toward service providers.
We re about 500,000 security professionals short of the needed jobs, Hagerman added. There s just not enough security professionals to go around.
Associate Editor Jessica Davis contributed to this report.
Email the writer:
- ^ Here are the dos and don’ts when hiring healthcare cybersecurity pros (www.healthcareitnews.com)
- ^ Meet the virtual CISO, the security expert plugging hospital staffing holes (www.healthcareitnews.com)
- ^ @SiwickiHealthIT (twitter.com)