Death squad leader `was top CIA agent'
March 23, 2009
SERBIA: Gabriel Ronay
THE LATE President Milosevic's secret police chief and organiser of Serb
death squads during the genocidal ethnic cleansing of disintegrating
Yugoslavia was the United States' top CIA agent in Belgrade, according
to the independent Belgrade Radio B92.
The claim that from 1992 until the end of the decade, Jovica Stanisic,
head of Serbia's murderous DB Secret Police, was regularly informing his
CIA handlers of the thinking in Milosevic's inner circle has shocked the
Stanisic is said to have loyally served his two masters for eight years.
He is facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court at
In the terrifying years of Yugoslavia's internecine wars, he acted as
the willing "muscle" behind Milosevic's genocidal campaigns in Croatia,
Kosovo and Bosnia, including Sebrenica.
According to the charges he faces, Stanisic was "part of a joint
criminal enterprise that included former Serbian president Slobodan
Milosevic and other Serbian politicians".
Dermot Groome, The Hague's chief prosecutor, has specifically accused
him of sending in the Serb Scorpion and Red Beret death squads into the
states seeking independence from Belgrade. Stanisic has pleaded not
Like in a Cold War spy thriller, Serbia's secret police chief met his
CIA handlers in safe houses, parks and boats on the river Sava to betray
his master's action plans. He provided, it is claimed, information on
the whereabouts of Nato hostages, aided CIA operatives in their search
for Muslim mass graves and helped the US set up secret bases in Bosnia
to monitor the implementation of the 1995 Dayton peace accord.
This has raised awkward questions for Washington. With Stanisic
providing chapter and verse of the genocidal slaughter of Croats,
Bosnians and Albanians from the early 1990s, should President Clinton
have cut a deal with Milosevic at Dayton, Ohio, ending the Bosnian war
on such equitable terms for the Serbs? Or, using Stanisic's evidence,
should the Americans not have unmasked Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic,
the then head of Republika Srpska, as genocidal war criminals and
demanded their surrender?
From his prison cell at The Hague, Stanisic countered the charges facing
him with an aide memoir portraying himself as "a person who had sought
to moderate Milosevic and had done a great deal to moderate the crisis".
In an unusual move, the CIA has submitted classified documents to the
court that confirm Stanisic's "undercover operative role in helping to
bring peace to the region and aiding the agency's work. He helped defuse
some of the most explosive actions of the Bosnian war."
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, William Lofgren, his
original CIA recruiter and handler, now retired, said: "Stanisic
provided valuable information from Milosevic's inner circle. But he
never took money from the CIA, worked with the agency on operations or
took steps that he would have considered a blatant betrayal of his
Thus the judges at The Hague are having to judge a man who allegedly
sent the Scorpion death squads to Srebrenica to "deal" with men and boys
fleeing the UN-protected Muslim enclave, while working with the CIA
trying to end Milosevic's ethnic wars.
The way the CIA apparently viewed their Belgrade "asset" is revealed in
an interview with Balkan Insight, a little known south-east European
The emerging picture is a quaint reflection from a hall of mirrors. Greg
Miller of the Los Angeles Times, writing about the links between the CIA
and the Serb secret police chief, is quoted as saying: "As I said in the
LAT story, the CIA do not see Stanisic as a choirboy. When you talk to
people who work in espionage, this is often the case.
"Because of the nature of that job, of that assignment, they are working
with people who do not have unblemished records, it would be difficult
for them to be effective if they only worked with people who had
"People in Belgrade who have been following the career of Jovica
Stanisic would say that this was a guy who was an expert in his field;
he was a highly-trained and highly-effective spy. His motivation may
have been that he wanted to know what the United States was up to.
"He did not believe that Milosevic was taking the country in the right
direction - so he wanted to influence events. He saw himself as an
important guy who could pull strings behind the scenes to make things
happen in Belgrade."
Stanisic apparently did so on his own terms, while trying to remain a
loyal Serb. He did not succeed.
Now he is having to account for his actions as Milosevic's loyal
lieutenant at The Hague.
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