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State Security Service
Sluzba drzavne bezbednosti [SDB]

Internal security forces were instrumental in establishing and maintaining the communist-controlled Yugoslav state after World War II. They were responsible for identifying and prosecuting Ustase leaders and others who collaborated with occupying German and Italian forces during World War II. But alleged collaboration became a pretext for reprisals against political opponents such as the Cetnici and others who did not support Tito's Partisans. Many, including Cetnik leader Draza Mihajlovic and Croatian Roman Catholic archbishop Stepinac, were executed or imprisoned after summary trials.

After the break in relations with the Soviet Union in 1948, the Yugoslav government feared that the Soviet Union might find or create a group within Yugoslavia to request Soviet intervention to assist it in "preserving socialism." The Yugoslav security agency investigated more than 50,000 alleged "Cominformists" or pro-Soviet party members, who were subsequently purged from the party. Several thousand were eventually jailed, either without trials or after show trials. They were interned in political prisons at Goli Otok in the Adriatic, Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina, and Stara Gradiska in Bosnia. Others were subjected to administrative punishment or petty harassment.

The Soviet Union formed the orthodox Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY) in exile in 1948 to rally Tito's opponents and to topple him. An estimated 200 to 300 Yugoslav "Cominformists" took up residence in Moscow. The YPA was an important target of their anti-Tito propaganda. The CPY held meetings outside the Soviet Union and clandestine party congresses inside Yugoslavia. During this time, Yugoslav internal security forces exercised great power and directed much of it at the army. Security agents exposed many real or suspected Soviet operatives in high positions in the army, and some of those accused were executed. The resulting bitterness and rivalry between the internal security forces and the army survived for decades afterward.

In 1966, a major purge of the Yugoslav internal security forces benefited the military in this rivalry. The de facto chief of the Department of State Security, or secret police (Uprava drzavne bezbednosti--UDB), Aleksandar Rankovic, was involved in the behind-the scenes struggle to succeed Tito. Allegedly on orders from Rankovic, the UDB covertly monitored the telephone calls of all major party leaders, including Tito. When Rankovi was finally dismissed, however, the official announcement mentioned only his responsibility for UDB brutality and repression of Kosovo's Albanian population. The military equivalent of the UDB, the Military Counterintelligence Service (Kontraobavesajna Sluzba--KOS) was instrumental in exposing UDB activities. The UDB was purged, its name was changed to State Security Service (Sluzba drzavne bezbednosti--SDB), and a YPA colonel general became its chief. In its new form the agency retained substantial secret police powers.

The army maintained some control over the civilian security service since the 1966 purge. After the Croatian nationalist unrest of 1971, a colonel general became federal secretary for internal affairs (the secretariat controlling the SDB), and another became federal public prosecutor. Using such appointments, the military controlled the internal security forces until 1984. In 1990, a former chief of the YPA general staff was federal secretary for internal affairs.

During the 1980s, the SDB actively pursued its mission of identifying and neutralizing émigré organizations in foreign countries to inhibit their efforts to establish contacts and support inside Yugoslavia. A small number of émigré groups of various political persuasions and nationalities committed violent acts against Yugoslav interests abroad. Those acts sometimes included assassinations of Yugoslav diplomats or representatives abroad. Special attention went to pro-Soviet Yugoslav exiles, whose activities against the Yugoslav government were well supported by Soviet funds. Believing that such groups threatened public order, the SDB and its clandestine foreign intelligence units used various means to counter their activities. The SDB monitored the activities of the pro-Soviet CPY in Yugoslavia and other countries. In 1974, thirty-two Montenegrins convicted of organizing a CPY congress received prison terms of up to fourteen years. A long investigation of this case ended in the arrest of a Soviet diplomat in 1976.

Another major task of the Yugoslav SDB was to monitor Croatian organizations in Austria, Sweden, France, West Germany, Canada, and the United States. Surveillance of those groups provided evidence for prosecuting Yugoslavs who contacted them when abroad and then returned home. The SDB reportedly abducted and assassinated prominent émigrés. A former YPA colonel who escaped imprisonment as an alleged "Cominformist" in 1948 was seized in Romania in 1976, clandestinely returned to Yugoslavia, and jailed. As many as twenty troublesome émigrés may have been killed in Europe by the SDB, other Yugoslav operatives, or their paid agents since the early 1970s. In 1981, two West Germans and one Yugoslav were convicted for murdering an émigré in West Germany. They were allegedly paid a large sum to kill a former SDB agent who defected from the security service while abroad. However, the Yugoslav government contended that most violence against emigres was committed by rival émigré organizations, not by the SDB.

The SDB was responsible for identifying and neutralizing subversive elements regarded as threats to the constitutional order and the socialist self-management system. Both violent groups and peaceful dissidents were included in this broad category. Plainclothes SDB agents investigated and monitored such groups and infiltrated their ranks. One of the SDB's most effective weapons was the concept of social self-protection. It was the equivalent of the Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) in internal security matters. Article 173 of the Constitution declared the duty of all citizens to participate in social selfprotection by reporting immediately to the SDB their knowledge of "hostile activities" including ordinary crime, political offenses, and terrorism.

The State Security Service functioned as a unified service on the level of Yugoslavia, and until Tito's death the service enjoyed clear autonomy on the republican level. The last Federal State Security Chief in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was Zdravko Mustac. At the beginning of the Kosovo crisis in the late 1980s, republican autonomy was reduced, and the Yugoslav SDB gave preference to curtailing republican competences and strengthening control in Serbia. When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991, the SDB of the Bosnia-Herzegovina MUP [Ministry of Internal Affairs] severed all contacts with the Serbian SDB and the SDB of the Federal SUP [Secretariat for Internal Affairs]. The Federal State Security Service has not operationally existed since the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and it has existed only on paper, especially since the Interior Ministry of Serbia moved into the federal service's office building.

Currently the State Security Service is engaged in intelligence and counter-intelligence activities. It is divided into departments for domestic problems and for extremists, analytical services, the technical service (bugging, filming, etc.), and a personnel department. It has agents who are recruited when necessary and paid for their work, including people inclined to crime but not necessarily criminals. The SDB's budget is top secret, and money partly comes from the Interior Ministry's budget, along with secret funds and other money that comes from goods seized by customs and fines for violations of customs regulations. The SDB also has legal export companies which also cooperate with some banks.

The State Security Service was responsible for protecting Slobodan Milosevic. Senta Milenkovic, the Serbian president's bodyguard, moved from the special unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to State Security in 1992. The Serbian secret service division was also in charge of the safety of President Milosevic's family.

After the experience of March 1991, when mass demonstrations nearly toppled the regime, and other smaller clashes in more subsequent years, the SBD decided to take preventive action, infiltrating these special agents into all the structures of the university and all the gathering places of people that were potentially politically dangerous in crisis situations. Their intent was not only gather information, but also focus the crowd in a direction that the regime could control. They were responsible for "programmed provocations" such as battering official buildings with eggs rather than rocks. These "state provocateurs" also wrote prescribed graffiti on facades, distributed preprinted leaflets with content concocted by the police, spread rumors, and incited violence.

All important telephone lines and interesting installations dangerous to the regime were eavesdropped on, including key departments in the SBD's own ranks. Through tapping mobile-phone connections, and especially through private radio stations, the secret police monitored the activities of students' leaders and the Serbian nouveaux riches. Using secret video cameras and photographs, the children of anti-regime figures under surveillance were also monitored.

The SDB has the top English wiretapping system 2001 at its disposal, imported in the time of Ante Markovic [1990]. This system can program the recording to be triggered by a certain key word (for example "party," "state," "opposition, and so on), and its capacity is around 40,000 recorded conversations in one minute. For the needs of "direct" wiretapping, a special squad is always on hand in the building of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kneza Milosa Street. Around 20 clerks, mostly middle-aged women, wearing earphones, diligently record every word of "interlocutors" in whom the police have an interest.

The SBD also tried to obstruct the British monitoring installation at the Turdos base on Cyprus with devices placed in Kaludjerica near Belgrade and Ivanjica in Sumadija. Those devices are produced in Russia, and some are even from the EI Nis local electronics factory] and the institute Mihajlo Pupin. However, technologically the SBD equipment is far behind that of the Western intelligence services. This includes the Western equipment bought in 1996 and 1997 -- 3,000 sets of sophisticated electronic equipment for the wiretapping of telephone and radio signals and mobile telephones.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:27:32 ZULU