When a popular uprising exploded in Libya in mid-February, Moammar Gadhafi's son and military commander Khamis Gadhafi, charged with protecting the regime at all costs, was not there. Instead, Khamis was waltzing down Wall Street, just one stop on a whirlwind, cross-country tour of the U.S. organized by an American company with U.S. State Department approval.
The trip was part of an internship program with Los Angeles-based engineering giant AECOM, set to span just over a month, and take Khamis Gadhafi, head of Libya's elite Khamis Brigade, to tours and meetings with high-profile universities and companies from Houston to L.A., San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Boston, according to travel documents obtained by ABC News.
After beginning in Houston with an extensive tour and presentations at the Port of Houston Authority, Khamis jetted off to L.A. where he was scheduled to go on an "exclusive" VIP tour of Universal Studios. After that, it was a short trip to San Francisco for meetings with technology giants Google, Apple and Intel, among others. In Colorado, Khamis toured the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and then hopped a plane to Chicago where he toured Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
By mid-February, Khamis was scheduled to visit the nation's capital to see famous landmarks like the National Mall before high-powered meetings with defense contractors including Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, among others. Both U.S. military and civilian officials were present for Khamis' meeting with Northrop, according to a company official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Next up, Khamis headed to Wall Street in lower Manhattan to walk through the heart of the U.S. economy at the New York Stock Exchange before taking in the Broadway show "Mama Mia." But on the day he visited the floor of the stock exchange and was also scheduled to tour New York's Columbia University, protests against his father's regime rang out in Benghazi, Libya. A spokesperson for Columbia told ABC News the university canceled the visit in light of the protests and an AECOM spokesperson said that instead of heading uptown to Columbia, Khamis hopped a plane and flew back to his home country that night.
That meant Khamis missed out on further scheduled events including a tour of the West Point Military Academy, MIT and Harvard University.
Less than a month later, Khamis was rumored to have been killed in an attack by a Libyan kamikaze pilot. The reports have not been confirmed.
At several points, the itinerary notes certain visits would "need State Department help to coordinate," but the U.S. State Department told ABC News they did not facilitate the tour in any way, beyond greeting Khamis at the airport upon his arrival.
In a statement posted on its website, AECOM said the company was "not informed of any military connection whatsoever" between Khamis and Libya and was "shocked and outraged" when they learned of Khamis' role in the government's efforts to stop the popular revolution.
"The educational internship, which consisted of publicly available information, was aligned with our efforts to improve quality of life, specifically in Libya, where we were advancing public infrastructure such as access to clean water; quality housing; safe and efficient roads and bridges; reliable and affordable energy; and related projects that create jobs and opportunity," the company said, noting that the State Department "was aware of, and approved, all meetings."
AECOM did not fund the internship, the statement said, and was not paid for it.
Representatives at the Port of Houston, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Kellogg School of Management, Northrop Grumman and the New York Stock Exchange confirmed to ABC News Khamis' visit to their institutions. Representatives for Google, Intel and Apple did not immediately return requests for comment. Universal Studios declined to comment. Lockheed Martin also declined to say whether company officials met with Khamis, but said the company "frequently meets with customers, both foreign and domestic, to discuss their current and future needs… All such meetings are done in full compliance with U.S. laws and regulations."
Khamis' visit was not the first time the U.S. has welcomed members of Gadhafi's regime with open arms. A secret diplomatic cable from December 2009 posted on the website WikiLeaks referred to an offer from the U.S. government inviting Khamis to "travel around the United States to tour U.S. military installations."
In the same cable, an unidentified Libyan government representative was "surprised by the number of military exchange an training opportunities on offer," but the cable said there had been no response to many offers.
Just after Khamis was in the U.S. in February, after widespread protests had already begun in Benghazi, a team of U.S. Air Force maintenance experts conducted a seminar for nearly 50 members of the Libyan air force at a Libyan air base in Tripoli that was "hoped to lead to a continuing training program for Libyan air force maintenance experts," according to a report by the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
The reported noted, "In the last 18 months, the United States and Libya have made great strides regarding military cooperation," including the signing of a defense Memorandum of Understanding.
In September 2009, three senior Libyan military officers were hosted at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany in hopes of helping the U.S. and Libya "build their military relationship," according to a report by U.S. Africa Command, which is now playing a key role in operations against Gadhafi forces in Libya.
Though U.S. trade policy towards Libya does not allow the import or export of lethal "defense articles," in 2008 and 2009 alone U.S. companies exported over $60 million in military wares to Libya, mostly aircraft equipment, according to two State Department reports. Part of the 2008 deal included more than $1 million in explosives. ForeignAssistance.gov notes that over the past three years, the U.S. government has also given more than $5 million in direct foreign aid to Libya -- a practice that has been put on hold due to the "current violence and instability."
In April 2009, Mutassim Gadhafi, Khamis' brother and Libya's National Security Advisor, held a private meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upon his visit to the White House. With Mutassim at her side, Clinton told reporters at the time she was "very much looking forward" to broadening and strengthening the relationship between the two nations.
It was Clinton who said last week that after firing over a hundred missiles at Libyan government targets, the U.S. and its allies were handing over command of the no-fly zone over Libya to North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"Gadhafi's troops have been pushed back, but they remain a serious threat to the safety of the Libyan people," she said.
ABC News' Kirit Radia contributed to this report.