[ISN] The other Kosovo war

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 22:42:37 PDT

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    Forwarded by: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    By William Arkin
    and Robert Windrem
    On the night of May 15, 1999 day 53 of the Kosovo War a flight of
    American B-2 bombers attacked two industrial facilities in eastern
    Serbia. Before the raid, under a covert operation dubbed Matrix, U.S.
    and British information warfare specialists used e-mail, faxes and
    cell phones to forewarn the plant owners of the attack. The warnings
    had nothing to do with limiting casualties, nor were the targets of
    great military value. Rather, the operation was designed to send a
    message to cronies of President Slobodan Milosevics enriching
    themselves through these factories: Prevail upon the Yugoslav leader
    to withdraw his forces from Kosovo or face further attacks on your
    sources of income.
    THE ATTACKS on Bor and Smederevo were only the most dramatic examples
    of a joint U.S.-British effort designed to put pressure on the
    Yugoslav President through crony targeting.
    Its a powerful tonic to tell them when its going to happen and then
    for them to watch it happen, says an officer involved in the
    During the 78-day conflict, the Yugoslav president and his inner
    circle were treated to a small taste of what future wars may hold for
    American foes. Coupling computer technology with the power of the
    military, the United States waged information warfare on Milosevics
    closest political associates in an effort to frighten them into
    abandoning their leader.
    This new mode of combat combines cyber-war tactics, espionage,
    psychological warfare and propaganda under one umbrella and seeks to
    coordinate it with the planes, tanks and ships of the traditional
    military. Like most new endeavors, the Kosovo information war got off
    to a bumpy start, encountered fierce opposition from traditional
    soldiers and was dogged by planning problems. Yet even its fiercest
    critics acknowledge that in the future, information warfare will be a
    real factor in winning the battles of the 21st century.
    The steel plant at Smederevo and the copper smelter at Bor were
    painstakingly monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded
    that the two enterprises were being used to directly enrich the
    governing clique.
    At Bor, for instance, Nikola Sainovic, a former deputy prime minister
    in charge of Kosovo affairs and an indicted war criminal, used his
    management position to siphon gold from the plant gold that eventually
    found its way out of Yugoslavia and into the bank accounts of the
    A similar kickback scheme was uncovered at Smederevo, where Dusan
    Matkovic, the head of the plant and ex-deputy leader of Milosevics
    political party, found ways of turning steel making into a major money
    maker for Milosevics cronies.
    The full story of operation Matrix and crony targeting remains locked
    up in top-secret files, only whispered about by information warfare
    specialists. In months of interviews with senior military officers and
    government officials, MSNBC.com was able to piece together the untold
    story of this first information war.
    As NATO moved toward armed conflict in 1999, a full spectrum
    information warfare plan took shape, fondly referred to as Elephant
    Blanket, so-called because the operations intricacies were laid out in
    a series of diagrams on an enormous 5-foot square piece of paper, all
    meticulously printed in six-point type.
    By the time bombing began on March 24, the Special Technical
    Operations cell at U.S. European Command headquarters had mapped out
    an exquisite information warfare campaign against Milosevic. Special
    Technical Operations cells, or STOs, are the super-secret covert
    efforts by the U.S. military and government to coordinate traditional
    warfare with newer modes of combat from information warfare to
    espionage, psychological warfare, sabotage and other special weapons.
    An STO cell now exists in each major combat command, coordinated by a
    high-level panel of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
    The contents ranged from troop movements to public affairs strategies
    to covert action. At the helm of all of these interlocking operations
    and scenarios was U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied commander
    of the war.
    After the first few weeks of bombing, it became clear that the
    scenario Clark had predicted that Milosevic would fold within 48 hours
    was far too optimistic. At the same time, tremendous problems
    developed with the Elephant Blanket approach. The most serious issue:
    putting the details of sensitive operations on one document meant that
    only a small number of very senior officers had the required security
    clearance to see the whole plan. In fact, not a single European
    officer in the NATO command had such clearance. Information warfare
    officers didnt even arrive in Vicenza, Italy, to brief Gen. Michael
    Short, who was running the air war, until late April more than a month
    into the bombing campaign.
    One official U.S. Air Force report on this super-secret effort tersely
    concluded: Special Access Programs were of little value; no one was
    special enough to have access.
    Frustrated by the bureaucratic roadblocks, information warfare
    officers managed to win support from the White House, which quickly
    set in motion a plan to streamline Elephant Blanket. What emerged was
    the Day 54 plan, an amalgam of top-secret projects developed
    independently by a variety of agencies.
    I want to see the rapid economic death of Serbia, Deputy National
    Security Adviser James Steinberg told covert operators, according to
    an account he later gave reporters.
    At a top secret facility near Washington, an influence net essentially
    a model of Milosevics inner circle was quickly prepared. It showed who
    owed what, who talked to whom and where influence flowed inside
    Milosevics Yugoslavia. The model served as the blueprint for targeting
    the right people. CIA, NSA and military intelligence operators broke
    into Yugoslav communications and computer networks, inserting messages
    that repeated NATOs surrender terms.
    Separately, broader efforts to support the Day 54 plan came into play.
    Diplomatically, the United States and European Union began pressuring
    neighboring states to freeze bank accounts and deny transit to certain
    members of the Yugoslav elite.
    In one case of a Milosevic crony, Berger says, the family in tow,
    suitcase bulging, found themselves denied entry to a nearby country.
    The Department of Treasurys Office of Foreign Assets Control set up
    shop in Cyprus, which one senior U.S. government official calls the
    money-laundering center for the region.
    Despite this major information warfare initiative, high ranking U.S.
    officers remained deeply skeptical, most notably, Gen. Clark.
    Its a joke, Clark told MSNBC.com, referring to tactics that included
    calling and faxing Milosevic insiders. Thats not anything but
    The multinational war operated under such political constraints that
    many of the plans information warfare efforts were never fully
    implemented. Most urban targets continued to be restricted, for
    instance. Internal alliance politics also presented a problem. For
    instance, Yugoslav cell phone and telephone networks couldnt be bombed
    because Italian and Greek telecommunications companies had a financial
    stake in them.
    There also were legal concerns expressed inside the U.S. government
    regarding proposals to do things like insert viruses in Serb computer
    systems or hack into bank accounts thought to contain plundered funds.
    Crony targeting and Operation Matrix dirty tricks sound exciting, but
    all we did was spam the Serbs, says one officer skeptical of the
    operation. We spammed their e-mail. We spammed their faxes. We spammed
    their phone lines.
    In the end, no computer viruses were planted, and there was no effort
    to penetrate networks and subtlety change data.
    Someone wants to put a virus into a Yugoslav system, sure maybe it
    will work, says Clark. But is this what I would base success or
    failure on?
    Moreover, Milosevic played the information warfare game himself in
    some ways better than NATO. Milosevic was far more skilled in the
    manipulation of the media than we were in getting our message out,
    Secretary of Defense William Cohen told Congress in October 1999.
    Yugoslav propaganda dominated Western media coverage, and there are
    hints that Belgrades own covert psychological warfare had an impact on
    NATO. Though the National Security Agency wont confirm the rumor, more
    than one source told MSNBC.com that Serbian linguists working for U.S.
    intelligence quit their jobs during the war for fear of personal
    attack after being contacted by the Serbian diaspora and possible Serb
    government agents.
    Whatever the shortcomings of NATOs information war in Kosovo from
    Elephant Blanket to the Matrix operation important lessons were
    We cannot ignore this set of tools, said a retired officer steeped in
    information warfare.
    Military strategists believe that information warfare may someday be
    accorded the same stature as air and ground warfare. The ultimate goal
    is an integrated information strike against potential enemies, with
    information and electrons joining traditional weapons in the American
    strategic arsenal.
    William Arkin is an independent military analyst and a frequent
    contributor to MSNBC.com. Robert Windrem is an investigative producer
    at NBC News.
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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