- The Washington Times - Friday, December 6, 2002

The Balkans war-crimes tribunal is investigating the United States for its assistance to military operations conducted by Croatia against rebel Serbian forces, The Washington Times has learned.

Adm. Davor Domazet, chief of Croatia's military intelligence during the country's four-year war against secessionist Serbian guerrillas, was recently questioned in Zagreb by two investigators from the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and a representative of the prosecutor's office at The Hague.

The investigators asked about the U.S. role in aiding Croatian forces in the 1993 Medak Pocket operation and the 1995 lightning offensive known as Operation Storm.

"The real purpose of the questioning is to investigate the role of U.S. intelligence officials in the Medak and Storm operations," said an official present at the meetings, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It is clear the prosecutor's office is doing this to investigate the role of the Americans."

The official said the tribunal investigators questioned Adm. Domazet to discover sensitive and highly classified information that could be used against U.S. intelligence personnel.

"[Adm. Domazet] only served in an intelligence function. He never issued orders to the military. Hence, there would be no justification for the prosecutor's office at the Hague tribunal to issue an indictment of war crimes against him based on command responsibility," the official said.

The official added: "The investigation is clearly a pretext and smoke screen to get a senior Croatian intelligence official to give the Hague investigators critical information about the U.S. role in Croatia's military operations, especially Operation Storm."

The International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was created in 1993 by the U.N. Security Council and charged with prosecuting war crimes during the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. So far, only people from the region have been charged with war crimes.

The official said the investigators asked numerous questions about Croatia's use of unmanned drones during Operation Storm, which were especially effective in enabling Croatian military forces to locate positions of rebel Serbs on the ground. The Hague investigators also asked about Zagreb's Signal Intelligence system, high-powered satellite dishes used for electronic surveillance that the Croatians received from the U.S. National Security Agency.

When asked about the questions posed to Adm. Domazet by tribunal investigators, Hague spokeswoman Florence Hartmann said in a written statement that the prosecutor's office is not in a position "to comment on ongoing investigations."

But she added that accusations of "our alleged investigation into U.S. participation in some events in former Yugoslavia" are "baseless" and "misleading."

However, the official said the investigators sought to ascertain whether Adm. Domazet had shared intelligence information gathered during the Medak Pocket operation with other foreign intelligence agencies.

"They insisted on asking who else besides his military superiors received critical intelligence information," the official said. Rather than implicate U.S. intelligence officials, the admiral refused to provide specific answers to investigators' questions and terminated the interview.

The official said the investigators also sought to uncover the extent of U.S. involvement in Operation Storm.

"They know Croatia had good relations with U.S. intelligence agencies," the official said. "Had Admiral Domazet allowed them to continue it would have led to direct questions about the U.S. role in [Operation] Storm."

In an article published last year, Newsweek magazine reported that, during and after Operation Storm, the CIA operated unmanned drones from a military base near Zadar on the Adriatic coast. The article also said that the United States provided encryption gear to each of Croatia's regular army brigades and that Washington shared extensive electronic surveillance data with Zagreb.

The Times reported earlier this year that the prosecutor's office at The Hague was examining whether to investigate Clinton administration officials for their role in secretly supporting Operation Storm.

The three-day operation began Aug. 4, 1995, enabling Croatia to recover most of the territories occupied by rebel Serbs after Zagreb's successful bid for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Before their defeat, rebel Serbs backed by Serbia and the Yugoslav national army had carved out nearly one-third of Croatia, expelling more than 170,000 Croats and killing nearly 15,000 people.

The United States provided assistance to Operation Storm to defeat Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's attempt to forge an ethnically pure "Greater Serbia." The operation resulted in the killing of more than 500 civilians and the exodus of between 150,000 and 200,000 ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia.

The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, has issued indictments against several leading Croatian generals, accusing them of overseeing atrocities committed against Serbian civilians during Operation Storm, as well as for the 1993 military offensive in the Medak Pocket near Gospic in southwestern Croatia.

Besides the tribunal investigators and a representative of the prosecutor's office, those present at the secret meetings that took place from Nov. 19 to Nov. 21 were Adm. Domazet's lawyer and a representative of the Croatian government.

Adm. Domazet, 54, was the head of military intelligence of the Croatian armed forces from 1991 to 1997. His task was to gather all intelligence information and prepare an analysis for the conduct of military operations against the country's Serbian paramilitaries.

Adm. Domazet has been named as a person "under suspicion" by the Hague tribunal. Yet the investigators have so far refused to specify the war crimes or human rights abuses for which the admiral is being investigated.

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