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But intelligence gathered from the air still needs corroboration from sources on the ground, as well as someone to act on the intelligence to go after the targets.
The Libyan government, which U.S. officials say is eager to help, has limited tools at its disposal. The post-revolution government has been slow to rebuild both its intelligence capability and its security services, fearful of empowering the very institutions they had to fight to overthrow Gadhafi. They have made a start, but they lack a sophisticated cadre of trained spies and a large network of informants.
"The Libyans in just about every endeavor are just learning to walk, let alone run," said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official and author of the book "Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy."
"There is confusion and competing elements within the new provisional government which complicates the task of creating new institutions, including the intelligence service," he said.
"There are still some aspects of the intelligence services that still work," says Barak Barfi of the New America Foundation think tank, including eavesdropping on cellphone calls and spying on computer traffic using equipment from the Gadhafi era. Barfi spent months with members of Libya’s transitional government as they tried to rebuild the nation’s services and infrastructure.
But the Libyans have not yet even taken full command their own security services almost a year after Gadhafi’s fall, Barfi said. That’s given the tens of thousands of militiamen who helped overthrow Gadhafi the time they needed to organize and seek new targets, especially Western ones, he said.
Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.
Dozier can be reached on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimberlyDozier .
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