AIM: start

TUE, 26 FEB 2002 17:32:21 GMT

Tapping Slobodan Milosevic

Schemes Not to Be Communicated by Phone

A certain investigator of the Prosecutor's Office of the Hague Tribunal believes that from the very start Milosevic was aware that all his telephones were under surveillance. That is why he said only what was to his advantage or - especially that - he tried to confuse, deceive and intimidate his enemies, convinced that the question of his personal responsibility will never be raised. In this context, says this source, this "big game" of his will turn against him

AIM Belgrade, February 20, 2002

That former president of Serbia and FR Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic’s telephone was tapped was made public in two places - in Zagreb and in The Hague. Weekly Globus has already carried the third instalment of "Milosevic transcript": copies of recordings of the conversations allegedly recorded by the Intelligence Administration of the Supreme Command of the Croatian Army (HV) in the period from the end of 1995 until May 1998. Without stating its source, in the opening statement of the indictment, the Prosecutor's Office of The Hague Tribunal also "played" a few recordings of telephone conversations of its greatest star with the leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic from 1992.

The material published by Globus is not spectacular, but it certainly is bizarre. It consists mostly of routine Milosevic's conversations with the then foreign minister and current president of Serbia Milan Milutinovic, the head of General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia (VJ) at the time, colonel general Momcilo Perisic, head of his office Goran Milinovic, etc., as well as, of course, his son Marko, daughter Marija and wife Mirjana. This newspaper claims that out of one thousand pages of notes their journalist was given access just to the part that was not "incorporated as evidence into the appeal of the Republic of Croatia against FR Yugoslavia for genocide and aggression at the International Tribunal in the Hague.

Conversations of the globally known family Milosevic, despite their privacy, are an interesting document of a style of living in an economically and in every other way destroyed country; the rest could have been calmly published by the persons whose phone was tapped themselves. As far as the prosecutors of the Hague Tribunal are concerned, it is a different story - the recordings they played confirm the close connections of Milosevic with the leadership of Bosnian Serbs and they are expected to prove his responsibility in the sense of the indictment.

Should it be expected that in the foreseeable future new published products of tapping will shed additional light on the past ten years? It is hard to believe that Milosevic followed closely the espionage techniques, but it would be unbelievable that he was not aware that his communications were tapped by a whole series of intelligence services and that if money and adequate devices are not the issue, there is no real protection against tapping. Besides, for more than a decade all kinds of transcripts of tapping of all kinds of people arrived at his desk, and we are not talking about a stupid man - on the contrary.

If one judged according to the book "The Last Days of SFRY" by former president of Presidency of former Yugoslavia, Borisav Jovic, Milosevic had enviable "security awareness". After the dramatic session of the Presidency of January 25, 1991, for instance - held on the very same night when TV Belgrade broadcast secret audio and video recordings of the Security Administration of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) - popularly called KOS - on arming of the Croatian police - Jovic informed Milosevic on the agreement that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Croatia disband the reserve forces and that the Army re-establish its peacetime status. Milosevic was disappointed. "This does not fit into his idea (scheme of things) 'about which he could not speak on the telephone'", Jovic writes. It is possible that Milosevic was impressed by the accomplishments of the members of KOS at the time - it is quite irrelevant whether he was afraid that JNA tapped his conversations or somebody else. That during the following years he did not loosen up in this sense is clear from Milosevic's conversation with his brother Borislav concerning the beginning of negotiations on the sale of Telecom of Serbia when he said: "Let's not speak about it on the phone, at any rate".

The merit for the only publicly recorded indiscretion goes to Karadzic not to him. When the leader of Bosnian Serbs phoned him in the beginning of 1992 and asked for instructions, Milosevic referred him to general Uzelac (JNA) in Banja Luka saying that the latter knows everything and to stick to the plan called "Ram" (Frame); he did not go any deeper into details. This conversation was allegedly recorded by the State Security Service of B&H Ministry of Internal Affairs and for a long time it was considered to be the key evidence that Milosevic had been one of the main inspirers of the war there.

Even if the motives are clear of the Hague Tribunal Prosecution to "play" the recordings of tapped conversations which had indeed been the practice in some of the earlier trials, "leaking" of secret data to Globus is practically unprecedented. It is possible that somebody from one of the Croatia's intelligence services had run out of money and it occurred to him how he could make some, or somebody from within that community wanted to give himself airs... But it is also possible that it was something completely different.

One of the speculations assumes that key Milosevic's associates - regardless of whether they are indicted or not – refused to incriminate him at the Tribunal. Transcripts in Globus which were then carried in full by Serbian press are in fact aimed at inducing the so-called "insiders" to cooperate. The following is the logic: if it was possible to tap Milosevic’s phone, and it is clear that it was, it means that all the others, significant for some reason, also had tapped phones. Perhaps they, like their boss, were careful not to mention "schemes that are not for the telephone" concerning the issues from across the Drina or Kosovo, but they could hardly do without gossiping and plotting against each other, as well as "wrapping up" and "carrying through" profitable business deals. Similarly, but more specifically, to the occasion when Marko Milosevic informed his parents that he intended to open a private maternity hospital in Pozarevac or when he exchanged experience from a firing range with certain Nesa or speculated on dealings and “jobs” of the professional murderer Voja the American. For the Tribunal this is certainly unimportant, but for the "insiders" they are of crucial significance - when their status is concerned. In other words, they had better confess everything they know where they are expected to than read about themselves even what nobody asked them to say and what they did not intend to say. In both cases, the decision is painful.

The other speculation is founded on the assumption that, because of his defiant conduct in the court he does not recognize, this is an attempt to defame Milosevic in the eyes of the public which he is in fact addressing – the Serb public, of course.

Without a theory of conspiracy nothing can be explained, not even why the mentioned recordings were made public. Those who favour this “analytical school” point out that from the transcripts in Globus it is clear that Milosevic is the only balanced member of his family and that the way he talked on the phone with his associates did not differ much from what he publicly advocated. The intention is to say that for reasons of its own, through Milosevic, Croatia is undermining the Hague Tribunal or even that America is doing this in order to sabotage the idea of the International Tribunal for War Crimes.

In any case, the public will have the opportunity to read all kinds of conversations former president of Serbia and FR Yugoslavia had. Therefore the opinion of one of the investigators of the Hague Tribunal Prosecution is not insignificant. The man starts from the assumption that from the very start Milosevic was aware that his means of communication were under surveillance. That is why he said only what spoke in his favour or – especially that – tried to confuse, deceive or intimidate his enemies, convinced that the question of his personal responsibility would never be raised as it is raised now. In this context, this source claims, this “big game” of his will turn against him. Whether this is true and to what extent should be seen at the big trial itself.

Philip Schwarm