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04ZAGREB2044 2004-11-26 15:03:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Zagreb
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261503Z Nov 04
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  ZAGREB 002044 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/26/2014


Classified By: Political Officer Kirsten B. Selinger for Reasons 1.4 (b
) and (d)

Summary and Comment

1. (C) In recent weeks, the Counterintelligence Agency (POA)
has been the focus of both media and parliamentary scrutiny
because of its alleged intimidation of a journalist. Helen
Puljiz alleges that the POA tried to blackmail her in an
attempt to persuade her to collaborate with them and provide
information about President Mesic' former advisor , who
allegedly has links to indicted war criminal Ante Gotovina.
Puljiz is now planning legal action against the POA for
violating her human rights. The independent Council for
Oversight of the Security Services investigated and --
although it doubted the veracity of the POA's version of the
story -- was unable to find any wrong-doing. Parliament,s
Committee for Internal Affairs and National Security also
reviewed the case, but drew criticism for its weak
investigation and possibly partisan findings. On November
25, Mesic forwarded a request to PM Sanader to dismiss POA
Director Josek Podbevsek.

2. (C) Human rights organizations and the press are
criticizing the lack of civilian protection against the POA's
methods and calling for a legal revamping to better protect
citizens, human rights - but they are not accusing the GOC
or the POA of attempting to stifle the media. While the case
has snowballed into a political issue ) because of upcoming
presidential elections and because of institutional
immaturity - at heart is the POA's methods for gathering
intelligence. It also highlights the lack of authority of
parliamentary bodies to exercise appropriate control over
security services. End Summary and Comment.

POA Oversteps Its Limits(

3. (C) Last month, the POA called journalist Puljiz for an
investigative interview during which officers allegedly
offered her a newspaper job in return for information about
Mesic's former advisor Zeljko Bagic and his links to ICTY
fugitive Ante Gotovina via indicted fugitive tycoon Hrvoje
Petrac. When Puljiz demurred, the POA allegedly tried to
intimidate and blackmail her with compromising tapes of her
personal life. Puljiz approached the Council for Oversight
of the Security Services and requested an investigation.
However, the Council concluded it could not determine whether
the POA had violated Puljiz, rights. Puljiz is now is
planning legal action against the POA; the Journalist,s
Association has taken on her cause and a subgroup has
approached international organizations for assistance calling
the Council,s work "nontransparent." Mesic stepped into the
issue this week by signing a decision to dismiss POA Director
Josko Podbevsek, stating that the POA infringed upon her
Constitutional human rights and acted inappropriately in
gathering information. PM Sanader,s co-signature is
required; he has refused to do so, charging that Mesic is
politicizing the case because earlier this fall Mesic,
advisor Zeljko Bagic was forced to resign and on November 23
criminal charges were filed against him. (Reftel)

(And Parliament Steps In

4. (U) Last week Parliament,s National Security and Internal
Affairs Commission also investigated, but not before GOC
spokesman/HDZ party spokesman Ratko Macek leaked Commission
findings stating the POA acted appropriately. Suspecting
collusion, opposition members of the Commission charged Macek
with revealing secret material and questioned his access to
Commission materials. Parliament,s Commission also got
bogged down when one independent MP revealed the sensitive
contents of the Council's report. Opposition members slammed
his unprofessionalism and have called for a Parliamentary
debate, asserting that so far all have failed to clarify the

Oversight Institutions Remain Weak

5. (C) We spoke to Vlatko Cvrtila (strictly protect),
Director of the Council for Civilian Supervision of Security
Services about the case. Cvrtila said that he was not
satisfied by the POA's non-credible response that it only had
the investigating officers' notes of the conversation rather
than a recorded version. The incident underlines the lack of
authority of his Council, Cvrtila said. As neither the
Council nor Parliament,s Commission have subpoena authority,
the Council cannot hold the POA accountable if it in fact
deceived the Council. The case also demonstrates a lack of
development of Croatia's parliamentary institutions: given
Croatia's history of the security services taking on a
political role, Cvrtila said was important for the parliament
to assert true civilian supervision over these services to
ensure their activities are directed against genuine threats.

As such he criticized Parliament,s President Vladimir Seks
and its leadership for failing to deal with the political
"hot potato" of revising the Council,s regulations to
improve its oversight capabilities and provide it with
permanent, professional staff.

POA Operated in "Gray Zone"

6. (C) Of equal concern is that this incident reflects a lack
of professionalism on the part of the POA. Under Croatian
law, Puljiz had the right to refuse the POA's interview
request. Had she done so, the POA could have sought a court
order and Puljiz could have had an attorney present.
However, the POA has no such internal procedures, thus
officers were able to operate in a gray zone where their
activities may have been legal, but certainly were
questionable. The Centre for Peace Studies, a human rights
organization, has called for amending the Security Services
Act to better protect civilians by requiring that the POA
tell citizens they have a right to refuse an interview and
requiring that a record of an interview be given to the
individual for confirmation.