NATO ally allegedly leaked target secrets to Yugoslavs

Apparent breach detected early and quickly plugged

August 12, 1999|By HEARST NEWSPAPERS

WASHINGTON -- A NATO ally apparently leaked secret targeting information to Yugoslav officials during the U.S.-led air war, according to Gen. Wesley K. Clark, the American four-star Army general who heads NATO.

Clark, who declined to speculate about who had tipped the Yugoslavs, said the security breach was "as clear as the nose on your face." But he declined to detail the evidence or the steps taken to stop the leaks.

"I can't go into it," said Clark, the supreme allied commander for Europe. "I have to just say it apparently happened and we are concerned about this."

NATO officials say allied pilots suspected that Yugoslav officials were being tipped off because certain targets appeared to have been vacated after they appeared on target lists but before NATO planes attacked.

Clark said the apparent leaks were detected early in the 78-day bombing campaign that began March 24, and were quickly halted.

Security concerns in part prompted a change in the procedure used by the allies to select targets.

NATO officials initially followed a lengthy target-selection process inspired by the political necessity of keeping all 19 NATO nations informed and in agreement.

Proposed targets were approved by the ambassadors from NATO member states, who at times would seek advice and direction from their respective capitals. As a result, targeting plans were widely disseminated. Pentagon officials suspect that the leaks to Belgrade might have occurred during this process.

Clark later streamlined the target selection process to give commanders greater freedom to bomb targets without consulting every NATO country.

Former CIA analyst Glenn Buchan, an expert on air power with the Rand Corp., a think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., called the leaks "a big deal" that could have ramifications for NATO.

"At the moment, there is a lot of effort to figure out how to operate more effectively in coalitions," Buchan said yesterday. "This might bring that to a screeching halt, or at least bring it to a crawl, and suggest to the United States that it might be better to go it alone" in future conflicts.

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