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 region.
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 The Hague.
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 guilty.
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 boss."
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 publication.
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 unblemished records.
"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.