US Ambassador Holbrooke with KLA (UCK) terrorists 1998 while they were still publicly called FREEDOM FIGHTERS
Meeting in the fourth floor conference room of a quaint red brick office building in a quiet section of Alexandria, Virginia,
a group of retired generals discussed military support for a U.S. ally.
The topic of the day: how to train and equip a shadowy guerrilla group
accused by the State Department of being a terrorist organization.
The military men knew that the Drug Enforcement Administration suspected the guerrillas of smuggling high-grade Afghan heroin into North America and Western Europe.
Police agencies across Europe had been alerted to the links among the
rebels and the Sicilian, Calabrian, Neapolitan, and Russian mafias.
Was this the setting for a Tom Clancy novel? Or was it a flashback to
one of the numerous secret meetings attended by the likes of Richard
Secord and Oliver North during the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s?
MPRI is one of a handful of Pentagon contractors known as private
military companies providing support to the KLA, according to retired
Army Colonel David Hackworth, in an interview with Fox News’s Catherine
Crier. According to Hackworth, MPRI has used former U.S. military
personnel to train KLA forces at secret bases inside Albania.
According to its web site, MPRI was founded as a Delaware-based
corporation in 1987 by eight retired military officers. Its present
board of directors is a virtual Who’s Who of retired Pentagon brass.
Members include one retired admiral, two retired major generals, and ten
retired generals. One of those is former U.S. Army Chief of Staff
General Carl E. Vuono.
MPRI employs more than 400 personnel and, more importantly, has access
to the resumes of thousands of former U.S. military specialists, from
Green Berets and helicopter pilots to supply clerks and cooks. The
firm–which, according to Jane’s Intelligence Review,
is involved in internal conflicts in Angola and the Congo, as well as
the Balkans–did more than $48 million in business in 1997. MPRI’s motto
is: “Our integrity is our most treasured asset.”
Some of the military leadership of the KLA includes veterans of MPRI-planned
Operations Storm and Strike, 1995 Croatian military offensives that
resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from eastern Croatia. One
former CIA official confided that he is not surprised that MPRI is now involved with the KLA. “It fits the pattern,” he said.
The military commander of the KLA, Agim Ceku, is a former brigadier
general in the Croatian army, and, according to the London Independent’s
Robert Fisk, an “ethnic cleanser” in his own right. Along with MPRI
military advisers, Ceku helped plan the Croatian offensive that drove
some 350,000 Croatian Serbs from Krajina province. Croatian forces also
destroyed more than 10,000 Croatian Serb homes.
Another KLA leader is Xhavit Haliti, who is not even a Kosovar. He is a former
officer of the dreaded Albanian secret police, the Sigurimi, an entity
that has chalked up innumerable human rights violations inside Albania.
KLA leaders have been accused of assassinating moderate Kosovo
Albanians, including some of those who agreed to the Rambouillet peace
accords. In fact, according to Albanian State Television, the KLA had
sentenced to death in absentia Ibrahim Rugova, the democratically elected president of the Republic of Kosovo.
(The KLA boycotted the election he won in 1998.) Apparently, Rugova,
whose government-in-exile signed the Rambouillet accord, was too
moderate for the KLA.
Until last year, the KLA was regarded as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported last May that “officers of the Kosovo Liberation Army and their backers, according to law enforcement authorities in Western Europe and the United States, are a major force in international organized crime, moving staggering amounts of narcotics through an underworld network that reaches into the heart of Europe.”
The Congressional Record indicates that the United States may have actually shipped arms to Serbia and Montenegro in the name of the War on Drugs. In the aftermath of the Dayton Accords on Bosnia, the Clinton Administration viewed Milosevic as an ally against America’s other great enemy: international drug dealing.
Testifying before the House National Security, International Affairs,
and Criminal Justice Subcommittee on May 1, 1997, Clinton’s drug czar
General Barry McCaffrey stated he wanted several Congressional “614
waivers,” or what are called “national interest waivers,” to ship
weapons to various nations, including some with questionable human
rights records. “I have fourteen waivers that the President granted …
for Serbia, Montenegro, Haiti, Somalia, Jordan, the list goes on and
on,” McCaffrey told the panel headed up by a then little-known Illinois
Republican Representative named Dennis Hastert, now Speaker of the
House. Hastert said he personally was “very supportive” of McCaffrey
getting the money for the arms on a “long-term basis,” or whatever basis
he needed to get weapons to the Serbs and Montenegrins under file
provisions of both the Foreign Military Sales program and the waiver provision.
There was apparently some delay in shipping the arms to those
countries, and this annoyed Hastert, who pressed McCaffrey at the
hearing to hurry up and see that the weapons made their way to their intended destination.
Hastert may have helped the weapons get into the hands of Serbia’s
Special Police and similar paramilitary forces in Montenegro. One month
after pressing McCaffrey on the weapons waivers, Hastert told the House
Government Reform and Oversight Committee that the waiver process was
“under way.” McCaffrey’s Office of National Drug Control Policy has chosen to remain mum on the subject.
These days, no one in Washington is pressing for aid to the Serbs. During the recent conflict between NATO and Serbia over Kosovo, the U.S. government changed its position on the KLA. U.S. officials shoved aside more moderate representatives of the Kosovar Albanians in favor of KLA guerrillas during negotiations with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Still, “suspicion of criminal associations taints the KLA’s newly acquired legitimacy and clouds its recent efforts to press NATO for money, guns, and other supplies,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “NATO so far has said no,
despite concern that the refusal will only entrench the KLA’s reliance on murky groups and make it less suitable for a role in a postwar Kosovo government.”
One of those “murky groups,” not mentioned in The Wall Street Journal article, is Washington’s own MPRI.
MPRI has been involved in the Balkans for years. In 1996, after the
ethnic cleansing in Krajina, MPRI received a $400 million State
Department contract to “train and equip” the Bosnian Croat-Muslim
In a caper reminiscent of the Reagan Administration’s solicitation of funds for the contras, the United States managed to get Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Malaysia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates to pony up more than one-fourth of the cost of the Bosnian military contract. Retired Major General Walter Yates runs MPRI’s Bosnian operation, which is officially known as the Military Stabilization Program. The company’s good fortunes in the Balkans are advertised on the firm’s web page. The page shows a map headlined “Where in the World Is MPRI?” Arrows pinpoint Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia as centers of MPRI activity. Serbia is also mentioned as a country where MPRI
mercenaries are active. MPRI has also helped set up a number of arms
factories and military training schools in Bosnia that are staffed by
veterans of the Croatian war against Serbia as well as Bosnian Croats
In early April 1999, MPRI was caught off-guard when
Bosnia’s army arranged for millions of dollars worth of arms to be
secretly transferred from Bosnian caches to KLA guerrillas in Kosovo and to the Muslims in the Serbian province of Sandzak (Raska).
Retired Rear Admiral Eugene J. Carroll Jr., deputy director of the Center for Defense Information, says such weapons traffic is a predictable side effect of mercenary companies like MPRI. “The military loses control of material twice. First, they turn it over to a commercial enterprise, and they turn it over again,” he says.
When it comes to supplying arms, MPRI has a fortunate
next door neighbor on the fourth floor of its Alexandria
headquarters–Cypress International. Cypress is a well-known
international weapons broker. MPRI shares one other thing with its
arms-dealing neighbor: retired Major General Vernon Lewis, a member of
MPRI’s board of directors, is the founder of Cypress.
not have a monopoly on the lucrative mercenary business in southeastern
Europe. Last year, MPRI bid for a Pentagon contract to help oversee the
withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo. But the Pentagon awarded the
booty to DynCorp, another big-league military contractor playing in the
private military company world. In addition to retired military
personnel, DynCorp also actively recruits police officers for
peacekeeping missions requiring a more civilian profile. DynCorp prides
itself on being able to rapidly respond to the U.S. government’s
procurement morass to get personnel quickly to trouble spots like the
Balkans. Its web site proclaims: “In Kosovo, seventy-five peacekeepers
were deployed from the U.S. thirteen days after providing a quote.”
Another U.S. company involved in the mercenary business in the Balkans
is Science Applications International Corporation, a contractor that
counts many former CIA and National Security Agency types in its ranks
as military personnel. The company, along with another contractor, BDM International, lost out to MPRI for the lucrative Bosnia training deal.
Science Applications International has former National Security Agency
director Bobby Ray Inman and two other retired generals on its board of
directors. These are individuals with one of the most important
commodities in Washington–access.
The firm has attempted to
corner the market on foreign police training. Its web page states it
provides support for the Justice Department’s International Criminal
Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP or
“Icky-Tap”) by giving training and logistical support to “friendly
foreign law enforcement organizations in high profile environments.”
This includes Bosnia.
ICITAP was primarily the brainchild of
David Kriskovich–a Science Applications International employee and
twenty-six-year veteran of the FBI. ICITAP suffered a severe blow in
September 1997 when Kriskovich and four other Americans were killed in a
helicopter crash in Bosnia.
ICITAP may serve as a cover for U.S. intelligence operations. Janice Stromsem, a career employee of the Justice Department who served as ICITAP’s director, resisted the program’s takeover by CIA elements. In February, Stromsem was relieved of her duties after complaining to the Justice Department Inspector General that ICITAP was being used by the CIA to recruit agents among foreign police officials.
And that raises the fundamental question about these private military companies: Just how private are they? The CIA itself was involved in training KLA guerrillas at clandestine bases. This operation was authorized by a “Presidential finding,” according to a report on CNN’s The World Today. With all the high-ranking former officials in these companies, you have to wonder who
is actually calling the shots.
The shenanigans of
the Reagan Administration’s secret war against Nicaragua were uncovered
thanks mainly to the ability of Congress and the press to gain access
to government documents. Don’t expect the same outcome with the Clinton
Administration’s secret plans to arm the KLA. The fact that so many of
the operations are conducted by private mercenary firms means that the
Freedom of Information Act does not apply. Companies supplying the KLA
can argue that such information is proprietary and, therefore, they can
block or stymie access to inquisitive Congressional investigators and reporters.
These private military companies subvert our democracy. According to
Admiral Carroll, they “put the U.S. Military Assistance Program one
reach removed from government agencies.” Seeing the ease with which
military privateers can operate virtually unhindered in
the Balkans with the full support of the Administration and Congress
alike, the veterans of Iran-contra must be green with envy.
RELATED ARTICLE: Clinton’s Contras
You might think that members of Congress who vociferously opposed
clandestine U.S. military support for the contras in the 1980s would
object to similar support for the KLA in the 1990s. Think again.
In 1989, the Senate’s Subcommittee on Narcotics, Terrorism, and
International Operations issued a report condemning the Reagan
Administration’s support for the contras and their drug-running
activities. The report stated: “U.S. officials involved in Central
America failed to address the drug issue for fear of jeopardizing the
war effort against Nicaragua.” The report also said: “The war on drugs
must not in the future be sacrificed to other foreign policy
The main author of that 1989 report was
Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. He was upset about
clandestine U.S. military support for the contras, which were using
proceeds garnered from drug trafficking to help finance their war
against Nicaragua. With ample evidence that the KLA is funding its
operations through heroin and cocaine smuggling from Albania to Western
Europe and North America, it is interesting to note Senator Kerry’s
statements now. “We could conceivably arm the Albanians…. I would make
it very clear we are prepared to use anything necessary to achieve our
goal,” Kerry stated. Later, backing away from outright military support,
a spokesperson for Kerry said the Senator feels that arming the KLA
should not be an option for the United States.
Kerry’s phrase, “using anything necessary,” echoes the rationale Oliver North used to support the contras. Kerry’s report said that Oliver North’s proposals
to look the other way on drugs was evidence of “the potential appeal of
drug profits for persons engaged in covert activity.”
Kerry’s 1989 findings were endorsed by then-Senator William Cohen, Republican of Maine. Now Defense Secretary, Cohen has played a key role in clandestine military support for the Albanian rebels.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington journalist and frequent commentator on
intelligence-related matters and electronic surveillance. He is a Senior
Fellow of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
in Washington, D.C., and is the author of the upcoming book “Genocide
and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999″
(Edwin Mellen Press).