Comment: Former Serb head spy was CIA collaborator
March 2, 2009 5 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
From 1990 until 1998, Jovica Stanišić was the Director of Serbia’s State Security Service, a notorious intelligence unit operating within Serbia’s Interior Ministry. As intelligence chief for Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, Stanišić was responsible for thousands of agents, who were seen as forming the core of Milošević’s security state. In 2003, following the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić, who had extradited Milošević to The Hague, Stanišić was arrested and delivered to The Hague. He is currently being tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for his role in war crimes during the Yugoslav Wars. Jovica Stanišić has denied any wrongdoing and, remarkably, his defense rests on his claim that he was in fact “the CIA’s man in Belgrade” from 1991 until 1998.
Incredibly, Stanišić’s claims are confirmed by at least two CIA agents, William Lofgren and Doug Smith. Smith, who was the CIA’s station chief in Bosnia in the 1990s, has told The Los Angeles Times that Serbia’s former spy chief “would do as little bad as he could”. Lofgren, who was stationed in Serbia during the Yugoslav Wars, has revealed that the CIA actually submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) statement to the ICTY, to show “that this allegedly evil person did a whole lot of good”. According to the document, which remains classified, Stanišić provided the CIA with information on the whereabouts of NATO troops taken prisoners by the Milošević regime, helped US intelligence agents “set up a network of secret bases in Bosnia”, and led CIA agents to mass gravesites on Yugoslav soil. Interestingly, Stanišić has also revealed that he “tried to intervene when French pilots were shot down and taken captive” by the Serbs; he claims that, under his direction, the State Security Service “managed to discover the circumstances and location of [the French pilots’] captivity and shared the information with the CIA and French authorities” (a subject which intelNews has previously discussed). He allegedly did all that while refusing to be monetarily compensated by the CIA.
What is even more intriguing is that, by issuing its amicus curiae in support of Jovica Stanišić, the CIA has essentially positioned itself as a “character witness for a war crimes defendant”, as The Los Angeles Times correctly notes. The ICTY has charged Stanišić with having had a crucial role in establishing the Scorpions and the Red Berets, two of several Serbian paramilitary death squads said to be responsible for countless acts of mass extermination of Bosnian and Croatian civilians. Dermot Groome, an American lawyer acting as the chief prosecutor in the ICTY case against Stanišić, says that the former Serb spy provided Serb death squads with “everything that they needed, including a license to clear the land of unwanted people, a license to commit murder”.
But CIA agents stationed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s insist that, although Stanišić “was no choirboy”, they saw no proof of his involvement in war crimes, and that he was in fact a key pro-US ally in the volatile region. They also point to the fact the CIA invited Stanišić to visit Langley in 1996, where he received “a warm welcome”.
Whatever the truth, it is unlikely that it will emerge soon. The CIA has requested that its amicus curiae remains classified, which means that the ICTY will deliberate on its contents during a series of closed sessions. Questioned by the few Western journalists who have shown an interest in the case, ICTY officials said it was too early to tell whether the CIA statement would be instrumental in deciding the outcome of Jovica Stanišić’s trial. Some insiders speculate that, if he is cleared of all war crimes charges, Stanišić will not be returning to Serbia. He will instead apply for –and will probably be awarded– political asylum in the United States.