By Joseph FitchettNato cites early lapse in air war
Paris, Saturday, March 11, 2000
PARIS - NATO's air war in Kosovo suffered from poor security in its initial weeks, but there is no reason to believe that allied operations were betrayed to Belgrade by a spy, according to U.S. officials.
''What we do know is that our operational security procedures in the early stages of the war were probably not as good as they should have been,'' a Defense Department official, Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, said Thursday night in Washington.
Admiral Quigley was responding to allegations in a British documentary film, to be broadcast Sunday night, that a spy had divulged allied battle plans.
But the admiral and other officials denied the central thesis of the BBC program: that Belgrade had a spy who provided advance notice of allied targets in time for Serbian forces to hide their key equipment.
Allied pilots have complained that tanks and other mobile equipment vanished shortly before they were due to be hit by air strikes. But U.S. officials said this pattern could be explained by several early shortcomings when NATO embarked on its first air war, in March 1999.
The most important weakness, the officials said, was pilots' transmissions, which often could not be coded because sophisticated U.S. electronics did not meld with European capabilities.
This technological mismatch has already been cited as an example of lagging European military modernization, which could put U.S. pilots at risk if they have to adjust equipment to cooperate with allies that are less well equipped.
Another possibility is that Serbian forces gained access to parts of NATO's blueprint for its bombing missions when documents were faxed by representatives at NATO headquarters in Brussels back to their home capitals.
Officials also denied that a secret U.S. report, referred to by the BBC documentary film, indicated the existence of a spy.