Sunday, August 15, 2010

Newly Declassified COINTELPRO Files Detail Anti-Serbian Campaign

In the course of my thesis research, I had a FOIA request submitted to the FBI seeking their COINTELPRO records on its program directed against Yugoslav emigres. According to their FOIA website, the COINTELPRO files pertaining to Yugoslav (Violence Prone Yugoslav Emigres in U. S. ) amounted to just 84 pages. I thought the FOIA request that I had submitted would be quick and free, given my entitlement to the first 100 pages of duplication being without charge.

Much to my surprise and delight, the response to my request was substantially more than expected. I actually received 178 pages of records in total. Plus, with the exception of agent names, informant names, and the names of their unwitting targets, there is little redaction allowing for a detailed and accurate reconstruction of the COINTELPRO operations directed at the Serbian emigre community in the United States.

Analysis below comes from a portion of my yet to be completed thesis:

Another reason for the lackluster response by the American government to Ustasha activities was that Ustasha activities in the United States were limited and eclipsed by the more active (in America ) Serbian émigré groups.
The Serbian émigrés were active in the United States before the Ustasha movement’s splinter factions began to take center stage. In February 1966, eight Yugoslav embassies and consulates throughout the United States and Canada were bombed. The FBI affixed responsibility for the bombings on Serbian émigrés, through it never arrested anyone in connection with the attacks. However, by the beginning of 1969, the FBI, having grown weary with the Serbian émigré communities actions, had position itself to strike back those “who have frequently capitalized on the bombings to build their reputations with the Serbians”.

A COINTELPRO campaign directed against VIOLENCE PRONE-Yugoslav émigrés were launched. The purpose of this COINTELPRO operation was “to create a feeling of mistrust” toward violent émigrés. From the currently declassified files, it appears that the first operation directed at violent Serb émigrés occurred in early 1968. The initial operation was to clandestinely distribute a flyer from a faux Serbian émigré group condemn violence against Yugoslav. However, it appears from the released records that the operation in question was long in development raising questions about possible earlier COINTELPRO operations despite FBI claims that all remaining files on COINTELPRO operations directed at violence prone Yugoslav émigrés have been released.

In October 1969, the FBI launched a plan to flush out Serbian terrorists by conducting faux investigations designed to capitalize on Yugoslav émigrés fears, spawned by a series of violent assassinations believed by most to have been done by the Yugoslav government, and convince them that Yugoslav intelligence services had infiltrated their ranks and were plotting similar acts here in the United States. Fears that this operation might lead to the widespread rupturing of the Serbian community led to modifications of the program. There were also concerns that Serbian émigrés might respond with violence, fearing the Yugoslav government. However, approval was given for the operation with the Chicago field office being given orders to formulate a plan to achieve their campaign’s objective.

Croatian terrorist are not mentioned until February 1970 as a possible target of COINTELPRO attention and investigation. In a memorandum to the FBI office, the Chicago field office reports that it had “recently been involved in determining the extent of” Otpor which the Chicago field office believed was “inclined toward militant direct action.” Chicago field office recommends expanding the planned operation to include Croatian émigrés and organizations. The FBI director agreed.

Ultimately, the Croatians were dismissed as a threat to the American national security. The FBI San Francisco found no evidence that they either promoted or were planning any violent actions against the Yugoslav government. The office reported that Croatians passively demonstrated in front Yugoslav consulate and that had been “incidents” where individuals had protested against the presence of Yugoslav officials at Croatian social gatherings. San Francisco Field Office also reported that the Ustasha movement was weak and resorted to tactics such as founding numerous organizations to all of its members would then join, creating the illusion of political clout. Ultimately, the operation was aborted due to “paranoiac fear” among Yugoslav émigrés of assassination by Yugoslav intelligence which was bolstered by the FBI’s early interviews.

Yugoslav COINTELPRO Files