Kosovo: A European Narco State
by Tom Burghardt
When three officers of Germany's foreign
intelligence service the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), were arrested
in Pristina November 19, it exposed that country's extensive covert
operations in the heart of the Balkans.
On November 14, a bomb planted at the
office of the European Union Special Representative was detonated
in downtown Pristina. While damage was light and there were no
injuries, U.N. "peacekeepers" detained one of the BND
officers hours after the blast when he was observed taking photos
of the damaged building. Two of his colleagues waited in a car
and acted as lookouts. The officer named these two colleagues
as witnesses that he was in his office at the time of the attack.
That office, identified by the press as
the "private security firm" Logistics-Coordination &
Assessment Service or LCAS, in reality was a front company for
BND operations. Its premises were searched three days later and
the trio were subsequently arrested and accused by Kosovan authorities
of responsibility for bombing the EU building. As a result of
the arrests, the BND was forced to admit the real identities of
their agents and the true nature of LCAS.
A scandal erupted leading to a diplomatic
row between Berlin and Pristina. The German government labeled
the accusations "absurd" and threatened a cut-off of
funds to the Kosovo government. A circus atmosphere prevailed
as photos of the trio were shown on Kosovan TV and splashed across
the front pages of the press. Rumors and dark tales abounded,
based on leaks believed by observers to have emanated from the
office of Kosovo's Prime Minister, the "former" warlord
Hashim Thaci, nominal leader of the statelet's organized crime-tainted
When seized by authorities one of the
BND officers, Andreas J., demonstrated very poor tradecraft indeed.
Among the items recovered by police, the operative's passport
along with a notebook containing confidential and highly incriminating
information on the situation in Kosovo were examined. According
to media reports, the notebook contained the names of well-placed
BND informants in the Prime Minister's entourage. According to
this reading, the arrests were an act of revenge by Thaci meant
to embarrass the German government.
But things aren't always as they seem.
On November 29, the trio--Robert Z., Andreas
J. and Andreas D.--departed Kosovo on a special flight bound for
Berlin where they "will face a committee of German parliamentarians
who have taken an interest in their case," according to an
account in Spiegel Online.
More curious than a violent attack on
the streets of Pristina, a city wracked by gangland killings,
car hijackings, kidnappings and assaults is the provenance of
the bomb itself. In other words, why would German intelligence
agents attack their own? But before attempting to answer this
question, a grim backstory to the affair rears its ugly head.
An Agency Mired in Scandal
This latest scandal comes as yet another
blow to the BND considering August's revelations by the whistleblowing
website Wikileaks that Germany's external intelligence agency
had extensively spied on journalists. Like their counterparts
at the CIA, the BND is forbidden by law from carrying out domestic
According to Wikileaks documents, journalists
working for Focus Magazine and Der Spiegel were collaborators
in a scheme by the agency to learn their sources as well as obtaining
information on left-wing politicians, including Party of Democratic
Socialism (PDS) leaders Gregor Gysi and Andreas Lederer.
Indeed Focus Magazine journalist Josef
Hufelschulte, code name 'Jerez, wrote articles based on reports
provided by the BND "intended to produce favorable coverage."
Wikileaks correspondent Daniel Schmitt and investigations editor
Julian Assange comment that, "The document in general shows
the extent to which the collaboration of journalists with intelligence
agencies has become common and to what dimensions consent is manufactured
in the interests of those involved."
In November, Wikileaks published a subsequent
document obtained from the telecommunications giant T-Systems.
In addition to revealing two dozen secret IP addresses used by
the BND for surveillance operations, the document provides "Evidence
of a secret out of control BND robot scanning selected web-sites.
In 2006 system administrators had to ban the "BVOE"
IP addresses to prevent servers from being destroyed." Additionally,
Wikileaks revealed the "activity on a Berlin prostitution
service website--evidence that intelligence seductions, the famed
cold-war 'honeytrap', is alive and well?"
While the document does not spell out
who was running the sex-for-hire website, one can't help but wonder
whether Balkan-linked organized crime syndicates, including Kosovan
and Albanian sex traffickers are working in tandem with the BND
in return for that agency turning a blind eye to the sordid trade
in kidnapped women.
Kosovo: A European Narco State
When Kosovo proclaimed its "independence"
in February, the Western media hailed the provocative dismemberment
of Serbia, a move that completed the destruction of Yugoslavia
by the United States, the European Union and NATO, as an exemplary
means to bring "peace and stability" to the region.
If by "peace" one means impunity
for rampaging crime syndicates or by "stability," the
freedom of action with no questions asked by U.S. and NATO military
and intelligence agencies, not to mention economic looting on
a grand scale by freewheeling multinational corporations, then
Kosovo has it all!
From its inception, the breakaway Serb
province has served as a militarized outpost for Western capitalist
powers intent on spreading their tentacles East, encircling Russia
and penetrating the former spheres of influence of the ex-Soviet
Union. As a template for contemporary CIA destabilization operations
in Georgia and Ukraine, prospective EU members and NATO "partners,"
Kosovo should serve as a warning for those foolish enough to believe
American clichés about "freedom" or the dubious
benefits of "globalization."
Camp Bondsteel, located on rolling hills
and farmland near the city of Ferizaj/Urosevac, is the largest
U.S. military installation on the European continent. Visible
from space, in addition to serving as an NSA listening post pointed
at Russia and as the CIA's operational hub in the Balkans and
beyond, some observers believe that Andreas J.'s notebook may
have contained information that Camp Bondsteel continues to serve
as a CIA "black site." One motive for rolling up the
BND intelligence operation may have been U.S. fears that this
toxic information would become public, putting paid U.S. claims
that it no longer kidnaps and tortures suspected "terrorists."
When NATO partners Germany and the U.S.
decided to drive a stake through Yugoslavia's heart in the early
1990s during the heady days of post-Cold War triumphalism, their
geopolitical strategy could not have achieved "success"
without the connivance, indeed active partnership amongst Yugoslavia's
nationalist rivals. As investigative journalist Misha Glenny documented,
Most shocking of all, however, is how
the gangsters and politicians fueling war between their peoples
were in private cooperating as friends and close business partners.
The Croat, Bosnian, Albanian, Macedonian, and Serb moneymen and
mobsters were truly thick as thieves. They bought, sold, and exchanged
all manner of commodities, knowing that the high levels of personal
trust between them were much stronger than the transitory bonds
of hysterical nationalism. They fomented this ideology among ordinary
folk in essence to mask their own venality. As one commentator
described it, the new republics were ruled by "a parastate
Cartel which had emerged from political institutions, the ruling
Communist Party and its satellites, the military, a variety of
police forces, the Mafia, court intellectuals and with the president
of the Republic at the center of the spider web...Tribal nationalism
was indispensable for the cartel as a means to pacify its subordinates
and as a cover for the uninterrupted privatization of the state
apparatus. (McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld,
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008, p. 27)
Glenny's description of the 1990s convergence
of political, economic and security elites with organized crime
syndicates in Western intelligence operations is the quintessential
definition of the capitalist deep state.
In Deep Politics and the Death of JFK,
Peter Dale Scott describes how the deep state can be characterized
by "the symbiosis between governments (and in particular
their intelligence agencies) and criminal associations, particularly
drug traffickers, in the stabilization of right-wing terror in
Vietnam, Italy, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and other parts
of the world." Indeed, "revelations in the 1970s and
1980s about the 'strategy of tension,' whereby government intelligence
agencies, working in international conjunction, strengthened the
case for their survival by actually fomenting violence, recurringly
in alliance with drug-trafficking elements."
Scott's analysis is perhaps even more
relevant today as "failed states" such as Kosovo, characterized
by economic looting on an industrial scale, the absence of the
rule of law, reliance on far-right terrorists (of both the "religious"
and "secular" varieties) to achieve policy goals, organized
crime syndicates, as both assets and executors of Western policy,
and comprador elites are Washington's preferred international
For the ruling elites of the former Yugoslavia
and their Western allies, Kosovo is a veritable goldmine. Situated
in the heart of the Balkans, Kosovo's government is deeply tied
to organized crime structures: narcotrafficking, arms smuggling,
car theft rings and human trafficking that feeds the sex slave
"industry." These operations are intimately linked to
American destabilization campaigns and their cosy ties to on-again,
off-again intelligence assets that include al-Qaeda and other
far-right terror gangs. As investigative journalist Peter Klebnikov
documented in 2000,
The Kosovar traffickers ship heroin exclusively
from Asia's Golden Crescent. It's an apparently inexhaustible
source. At one end of the crescent lies Afghanistan, which in
1999 surpassed Burma as the world's largest producer of opium
poppies. From there, the heroin base passes through Iran to Turkey,
where it is refined, and then into the hands of the 15 Families,
which operate out of the lawless border towns linking Macedonia,
Albania, and Serbia. Not surprisingly, the KLA has also flourished
there. According to the State Department, four to six tons of
heroin move through Turkey every month. "Not very much is
stopped," says one official. "We get just a fraction
of the total." ("Heroin Heroes," Mother Jones,
Not much has changed since then. Indeed,
the CIA's intelligence model for covert destabilization operations
is a continuing formula for "success." Beginning in
the 1940s, when the Corsican Mafia was pegged by the Agency to
smash the French Communist Party, down to today's bloody headlines
coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, global drug lords and
intelligence operators go hand in hand. It is hardly surprising
then, that according to a report by the Berlin Institute for European
Policy, organized crime is the only profitable sector of the Kosovan
economy. Nearly a quarter of the country's economic output, some
¤550 million, is derived from criminal activities.
Though the role of the United States and
their NATO partners are central to the drama unfolding today,
the BND affair also reveals that beneath the carefully-constructed
façade of Western "unity" in "Freedom Land,"
deep inter-imperialist rivalries simmer. As the socialist journalist
Peter Schwarz reports,
Speculation has since been rife about
the background to the case, but it is doubtful whether it will
ever be clarified. Kosovo is a jungle of rival secret services.
In this regard, it resembles Berlin before the fall of the Wall.
The US, Germany, Britain, Italy and France all have considerable
intelligence operations in the country, which work both with and
against one another. Moreover, in this country of just 2.1 million
inhabitants, some 15,000 NATO soldiers and 1,500 UN police officers
are stationed, as well as 400 judges, police officers and security
officers belonging to the UN's EULEX mission. (Peter Schwarz,
"Kosovo's Dirty Secret: The Background to Germany's Secret
Service Affair," World Socialist Web Site, December 1, 2008)
Into this jungle of conflicting loyalties
and interests, international crime syndicates in close proximity--and
fleeting alliance--with this or that security service rule the
roost. It is all the more ironic that the Thaci government has
targeted the BND considering, as Balkan analyst Christopher Deliso
In 1996, Germany's BND established a major
station in Tirana...and another in Rome to select and train future
KLA fighters. According to Le Monde Diplomatique, "special
forces in Berlin provided the operational training and supplied
arms and transmission equipment from ex-East German Stasi stocks
as well as Black uniforms." The Italian headquarters recruited
Albanian immigrants passing through ports such as Brindisi and
Trieste, while German military intelligence, the Militaramschirmdienst,
and the Kommando Spezialkräfte Special Forces (KSK), offered
military training and provisions to the KLA in the remote Mirdita
Mountains of northern Albania controlled by the deposed president,
Sali Berisha. (The Coming Balkan Caliphate, Westport: Praeger
Security International, 2007, p. 37)
But as Schwarz observed, why would the
Thaci government risk alienating the German state, given the fact
that after the U.S., Germany "is the second largest financial
backer of Kosovo and ranks among the most important advocates
of its independence." Why indeed?
According to Balkan Analysis, the International
Crisis Group (ICG) funded by billionaire George Soros' Open Society
Institute (OSI) and closely aligned with "liberal interventionists"
in the United States, were instrumental in arguing that the United
States and Germany, should guarantee "future stability,"
by building up the Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK), the KLA's successor
organization, into a well-equipped army. Towards this end, the
U.S. and Germany, in addition to arming the organized crime-linked
statelet, have provided funds and equipment for a sophisticated
military communications center in the capital.
Speculation is rife and conflicting accounts
proliferate like mushrooms after a warm rain. One theory has it
that senior Kosovan politicians were angered by BND criticisms
linking KLA functionaries, including personal associates of Thaci
and the Prime Minister himself, with organized crime. Tellingly,
Schwarz reports, this "is contrary to the position taken
by the CIA."
Is the affair then, merely a falling-out
among thieves on how the spoils will be divided?
The CIA: Drugs & Thugs International
As noted above, U.S. destabilization programs
and covert operations rely on far-flung networks of far-right
provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to
facilitate the dirty work for U.S. policy elites and American
multinational corporations. Throughout its Balkan adventure the
CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to
arm the KLA and provide them with targets. In their public pronouncements
and analyses however, nary a harsh word is spoken.
According to the CIA, by any standard
Kosovo's economy is a disaster, but that doesn't prevent the Agency
from seeing "significant progress"!
Over the past few years Kosovo's economy
has shown significant progress in transitioning to a market-based
system, but it is still highly dependent on the international
community and the diaspora for financial and technical assistance.
Remittances from the diaspora--located mainly in Germany and Switzerland--account
for about 30% of GDP. Kosovo's citizens are the poorest in Europe
with an average annual per capita income of only $1800--about
one-third the level of neighboring Albania. Unemployment--at more
than 40% of the population--is a severe problem that encourages
outward migration. (Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook,
November 20, 2008)
Needless to say, one unmentionable "fact"
disappeared from the CIA's country profile is the statelet's overwhelming
dependence on the black economy. I suppose this is what the Agency
means when it lauds Kosovo's transition to a "market-based
system"! But as former DEA investigator and whistleblower
Michael Levine, author of The Big White Lie, told B92, one of
the wings of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was "linked
with every known narco-cartel in the Middle East and the Far East",
and that almost every European intelligence service and police
has files on "connections between ethnic Albanian rebels
and drug trafficking". And dare I say by extension, the CIA
One bone of contention which could have
led Thaci and his henchmen to seek revenge against his erstwhile
German allies was a 67-page BND analysis about organized crime
in Kosovo. As Schwarz noted the dossier, produced in February
2005 and subsequently leaked to the press, "accuses Ramush
Haradinaj (head of government from December 2004 to March 2005),
Hashim Thaci (prime minister since January 2008) and Xhavit Haliti,
who sits in the parliament presidium, of being deeply implicated
in the drugs trade."
According to the BND report, "Regarding
the key players (e.g., Haliti, Thaci, Haradinaj), there exists
the closest ties between politics, business and internationally
operating OC [organized crime] structures in Kosovo. The criminal
networks behind this are encouraging political instability. They
have no interest in building a functioning state, which could
impair their flourishing trade." (WSWS, op. cit.)
Haradinaj, an American protégé,
became Prime Minister in 2004. However, he was forced to resign
his post in March 2005 when the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia indicted him for crimes against humanity.
Among other things, Haradinaj was accused of abducting civilians,
unlawful detention, torture, murder and rape. Schwarz notes he
was acquitted in April 2008 "for lack of evidence, after
nine out of ten prosecution witnesses died violently and the tenth
withdrew his statement after narrowly escaping an assassination
attempt." Talk about friends in high places!
Mirroring evidence uncovered by journalists
and investigators regarding the control of the drugs trade by
15 Albanian crime families, the Berlin Institute for European
Policy laid similar charges against Thaci, stating that real power
in Kosovo is wielded by 15 to 20 family clans who control "almost
all substantial key social positions" and are "closely
linked to prominent political decision makers."
According to Spiegel, when the BND operation
was run to ground with the possible connivance of the CIA, its
secret network of informants, instrumental to gaining insight
into the interconnections amongst state actors and organized crime
were compromised. The BND's Department Five, responsible for organized
crime wrote a confidential report linking Thaci as "a key
figure in a Kosovar-Albanian mafia network."
Department Two, according to Spiegel,
was responsible for telecommunications surveillance. In 1999,
the BND launched operation "Mofa99," a wiretap intercept
program that targeted high-ranking members of the KLA--and exposed
their links to dodgy criminal syndicates and Islamist allies,
al-Qaeda. The program was so successful according to Spiegel that
since then, "the BND has maintained an extensive network
of informants among high-ranking functionaries of the KLA and
the Kosovar administration."
Functionaries in possession of many dangerous
secrets and inconvenient truths!
As researcher and analyst Michel Chossudovsky
wrote back in 2001, among the "inconvenient truths"
unexplored by Western media is the close proximity of far-right
Islamist terror gangs and planetary U.S. destabilization operations.
Since the Soviet-Afghan war, recruiting
Mujahedin ("holy warriors") to fight covert wars on
Washington's behest has become an integral part of US foreign
policy. A report of the US Congress has revealed how the US administration--under
advice from the National Security Council headed by Anthony Lake--had
"helped turn Bosnia into a militant Islamic base" leading
to the recruitment through the so-called "Militant Islamic
Network," of thousands of Mujahedin from the Muslim world.
The "Bosnian pattern" has since
been replicated in Kosovo, Southern Serbia and Macedonia. Among
the foreign mercenaries now fighting with the KLA-NLA are Mujahedin
from the Middle East and the Central Asian republics of the former
Soviet Union as well as "soldiers of fortune" from several
NATO countries including Britain, Holland and Germany. Some of
these Western mercenaries had previously fought with the KLA and
the Bosnian Muslim Army. (Michel Chossudovsky, "Washington
Behind Terrorist Assaults in Macedonia," Global Research,
September 10, 2001)
Fast forward seven years and one can hypothesize
that the BND, stepping on the CIA's toes and that agency's cosy
intelligence "understanding" with Mafia-linked KLA fighters
and al-Qaeda assets, would have every reason to sabotage the BND's
organized crime operations--not that the German military intelligence
service's hands are any cleaner!
While we may never know all the facts
surrounding this curious affair, one thing is certain: the role
played by powerful Mafia gangs as a source for black funds, intelligence
assets and CIA "agents of influence" will continue.
Administrations come and go, but like motherhood and apple pie
the shadowy workings of America's deep state is an eternal verity
you can count on!
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist
based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing
in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent
research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and
activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on Dissident
Voice, The Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the
editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance"
Planning, distributed by AK Press.