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Monday, May 8, 2006

Was Hayden Warned of Srebrenica Massacre?

By J.M. Berger

Nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims (according to the official count) were killed in a shocking genocidal attack by Serbian forces at Srebrenica in July 1995, as Western forces looked on -- apparently helpless, amd apparently caught by surprise.

"It is to the shame of the international community that this evil took place under our noses and we did nothing," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, at a recent commemoration of the event. "I bitterly regret this and I'm deeply sorry for it."

One of the most culpable observers was Gen. Michael V. Hayden, whom President Bush relected yesterday as his nominee to lead the CIA. (See INTELWIRE story, "Bush CIA Nominee Stood Watch While U.S. Armed Al Qaeda In Bosnia")

The following excerpt is from "Intelligence and the war in Bosnia 1992 – 1995: The role of the intelligence and security services," Chapter 8, "Was 'Srebrenica' an intelligence failure?" The chapter (available in full here) addresses General Michael V. Hayden's role as commander of America's European intelligence directorate overseeing Bosnia.

Moreover, the intelligence community did not assign top priority to supplying military intelligence support to UNPROFOR (UN peacekeeping force). According to [General Michael V.] Hayden, in the summer of 1995 the provision of support for UN operations took fifth place in the list of priorities for military intelligence. In this context it is not surprising that 'a senior intelligence official' at SHAPE (NATO Headquarters), Mons stated that General Rose 'lost ownership of the picture of the battlefield to the point where it was irrecoverable'. According to this official, this resulted in decision-making on military operations that was based on a non-objective picture. What was not stated here was that the US services did not trust Rose and thus slowly cut off the supply of intelligence.

Another important factor was that US analysts did not expect that the VRS (Serbian Army) would wish to take the enclave due to the risk of high losses, air strikes and the problem of the refugees. CIA director John Deutch emphatically denied that his organization was forewarned and also pointed to the difficulties experienced in finally discovering the photographs of the mass graves. Deutch's claims were confirmed by others. The Intelligence Head of the US EUCOM and later Director of the NSA, General Michael Hayden, concluded in the Defense Intelligence Journal with respect to the attack on Srebrenica: 'The quick fall of Srebrenica was as significant as it was unexpected. It was brought about by the “massing” of a force that would have been a disappointing crowd at many high school basketball games.' The major strategic changes that were usually generated by long-term processes were in this case, according to Hayden, the result of just a few tanks.

And Hayden was in a position to know because he had access to virtually all intelligence. His Yugoslav Joint Planning Cell at US EUCOM interpreted 'the gathering of groups of people in school yards in connection with the capture of Srebrenica as being “in the nature of a demonstration” when these had in fact been troops belonging to the Serb Army in Bosnia'. There was a consensus at the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA: the VRS would never want to conquer the entire enclave. Following the assault the US intelligence community established that intelligence was indeed available, but that the indications were too vague to be analysed effectively and in time.
The journalists Stephen Engelberg and Tim Weiner of the New York Times were told more or less the same at a confidential briefing at the State Department and NSA. They were reportedly presented with a very accurate picture in which the Americans held nothing back. A former director of the NSA declared: 'Gleaning hard facts from the avalanche of information was like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose.' It transpired that the best information was obtained from NGOs, the UN and the press.

After the fall of Srebrenica the Netherlands MIS started an investigation into what its foreign partners knew. It transpired that in June 1995 the CIA and SIS received indications that the VRS was planning to start operations. The CIA had a 'variety of reports' which stated that an offensive would start in June 1995. According to the CIA the ABiH offensive around Sarajevo had caused a temporary delay in the VRS operations. A CIA report of 10 July, that was first received by the MIS/CO after the fall of Srebrenica on 12 July, also showed that the aforementioned 'variety of reports' never reached the MIS. The British foreign intelligence service is also said to have had indications that the VRS would attack the enclave with ethnic cleansing as the ultimate objective. The report itself was dated 15 June but (just like the CIA report) it was first received by the service on 12 July. Due to a misunderstanding it remained at the British embassy. The report was in fact not dated, had no attached evaluation, no indication of the reliability of the source, etc. The news of the attack had, according to a senior British intelligence official, been passed to SIS by a source close to Mladic. This possible attack was the subject of discussion within the British intelligence community, where opinions were divided as to the reliability of the source. In the first week of June the British Joint Intelligence Committee repeated the expectation that 'on balance it is judged that the Bosnian Serbs will probably not seek to over-run the "safe areas" for the moment'. It must be doubted whether this US and British intelligence about an imminent attack was 'hard', as Mladic first decided at the end of June to set the operation in motion.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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