Pentagon says no sign of Nato spy during Kosovo war
WASHINGTON, Mar 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Pentagon said on Thursday it had no evidence of a NATO spy during the Kosovo war but conceded steps were taken to tighten security after a U.S. report showed the Serbs had an "unusual amount" of knowledge about the bombings.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Vic Warzinski said after a review of the first few weeks of the 1999 bombing campaign, a U.S. report recommended certain steps to reduce the "vulnerability" of allied forces.
The Pentagon was responding to a British media report that a spy in NATO had given the Serbs secret details of the 1999 bombing raids on Yugoslavia and that an internal U.S. study had pointed to a possible information leak.
"With regard to allegations that there was a spy in their midst, our friends down at the (U.S.) Joint Chiefs of Staff say they found no evidence or indications that there was a spy operating at NATO," Warzinski told Reuters.
"But they do acknowledge that the Serbs did seem to have an unusual amount of knowledge of when and where and how our planes were coming in," the Pentagon spokesman added.
Warzinski said the internal U.S. report conducted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first few weeks of the bombing campaign that began in late March 1999 led the United States and NATO to review their operational procedures.
As part of the review, which is a regular occurrence during such military actions, Warzinski said it was discovered that the "air tasking order" outlining the movement of NATO planes, was being distributed to over 600 people.
The distribution list was initially so large because European air traffic controllers had to "deconflict" air space to enable NATO planes to conduct bombing operations.
"The reason was that during part of the actual start of the air campaign we were conducting no-fly operations over the entire region," he said.
The distribution list was cut back to about 100 people from the original 600. "It reduced our vulnerability. But it's important to stress here that we never had direct confirmation of a spy in our midst or that the air tasking order was compromised," said Warzinski.
"As part of a regular review of our operational security procedures we recognised this as a vulnerability. We decided to limit the distribution of the list to those who actually needed it," he added.
Warzinski said the Serbs had a fairly aggressive effort to collect information, which could have involved people standing with a cell phone near the border watching allied planes taking off for bombing missions.
"They could easily pass the information on. We were certainly aware of that sort of stuff going on," he said.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson said during a visit to NATO member Turkey on Thursday that he had no evidence of a spy in the alliance during the Kosovo conflict.
Britain's Guardian newspaper, citing unidentified high-level U.S. sources, said a spy had given Belgrade details of targets to be hit as well as precise flight paths.
The Guardian said the classified U.S. report would feature in a BBC television programme to be broadcast on Sunday.
"No evidence has been presented. It is simply an allegation," Robertson told Reuters in Ankara.