The final part of the series of articles written by American investigative journalist, Allan Nairn, about the connection between Indonesia’s current presidential candidate, NSA (National Security Agency), underground militia in secessionist areas, and other wrongdoings in the past.
By Allan Nairn
At one point during our meetings in Jakarta in 2001, General Prabowo started talking about the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Prabowo had already described how he reported to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at least weekly and had mentioned his extensive work with other parts of the Pentagon.
When I asked about crimes by the TNI/ ABRI (the armed forces of Indonesia) Prabowo said that evidence of them could be found in the archives of the NSA.
He said his US handlers had talked to him about the extensive electronic surveillance that NSA, with help from Australia, was carrying out against Indonesia.
Some of this was already public record, but Prabowo said he knew more.
I asked if he had passed this information to his superiors and subordinates in the TNI/ABRI.
Prabowo replied “I don’t remember if I sent a memo warning about it [the intercepts] but everyone should assume that” — ie. assume that they were taking place.
The context for this was interesting.
Prabowo was not referring to his own crimes, but to those of his rival, General Wiranto.
He said that Wiranto was responsible for the 1999 East Timor TNI militia arson and massacre, and that Wiranto’s main man on the ground was General Zacky Anwar Makarim.
Prabowo noted with apparent bitterness “I was the Americans’ fair-haired boy,” but now that the US had ditched him “Wiranto is their fair-haired boy.”
Prabowo said that during the terror Wiranto was “close to” the US CINCPAC (Commander in Chief, Pacific) Admiral Dennis Blair.
Prabowo added that from its intercepts and from its direct involvement, the US knew exactly what Wiranto had been up to.
As far as I can tell, all of this was accurate.
I had reported in 1999, as TNI and the militias were burning Dili, internal US documents showed that Wiranto had a green light from Blair. (“US Complicity in Timor,” The Nation [US], September 27, 1999; see also “Breaking News: US Intel Nominee Lied About ’99 Massacre. US, Church Documents Show Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting.”)
It was also the case, as I reported then, that many TNI atrocities were ordered through communications equipment that was interceptable.
Prabowo said “Only they [the NSA] would have the evidence of Wiranto’s militia operations.”
He said he had “heard that now DC is saying prosecution of Wiranto is no longer necessary.”
This latter statement was misleading, since the US had never backed prosecution (The UN, though, did indict Wiranto for crimes against humanity).
But Prabowo’s point that the US was shielding Wiranto was indeed correct.
Prabowo knew the US procedures well. The US had backed and shielded his crimes for decades.
NSA surveillance has recently become an international issue.
The US should be pushed to divulge what it has on crimes by itself and those it sponsors.
When Prabowo implicated General Zacky to me it wasn’t entirely self-serving, since Prabowo acknowledged that he himself had often set up such militias.
He said correctly that such forces were part of US counterinsurgency doctrine, and that he, Prabowo, had set militias up during his years in Timor.
He said “All counterinsurgency operations need militias, paramilitaries. The US uses them.”
“They speak the local dialect, know the area. They use tactics of claiming to be the other side.”
He said that he presumed that as we spoke, in 2001, Kopassus was running such militias in Aceh, and was hiding its men in plainclothes and in BRIMOB uniform.
Prabowo knew in detail about Zacky’s Timor operation because Zacky had been his — Prabowo’s — man until he “abandoned” Prabowo for Wiranto.
The TNI-run militiamen committed rape, mass murder, torture and arson.
But Prabowo’s objection to them was not their crimes but their uncouth personalities.
He said Eurico Guterres, of Timor’s Aitarak, was “a street punk, a gambler, barely literate.” Though Eurico worked for Kopassus, Prabowo said he found him “disgusting.”
Today, the press says Eurico is “ready to become a minister in a Prabowo cabinet.” (“Eurico Guterres siap jadi menteri kabinet Prabowo“).
At the time we spoke, there had been a bombing at the Jakarta stock exchange (JSX) nine months earlier.
Prabowo said one of those involved was an ethnic Acehnese ex-Kopassus (Group 5).
He said “Its a problem letting Acehnese in there,” (the military) because the Acehnese were not trustworthy.
Prabowo said”Its like Black Panthers in the US. Do you keep blacks out of the military?”
Today, the Aceh ex-GAM leadership has endorsed Prabowo for president.
I discussed this twice with Muzakir Manaf, the former GAM guerrilla commander.
The first time was on April 10, 2012 right after ex-GAM won local Aceh elections. The second was last February 9 when Muzakir was serving as the Aceh vice governor.
On both occasions I asked Muzakir if it was true that, as I had reported in 2010, the former Kopassus commander, General Sunarko, had helped assassinate pro-GAM activists during 2009.
Muzakir’s response on this was significant since, by 2012, Sunarko had become a Muzakir ally. They were waging an election campaign together.
On both occasions Muzakir said yes, it was true, Sunarko helped command the murders.
So why was GAM now supporting Sunarko, this man who had killed their comrades?
Two reasons, Muzakir said, first, Sunarko could help with the Central Aceh Gayo vote, and second, Sunarko was in Prabowo’s party and Prabowo was giving GAM lots of money.
Last February Muzakir acknowledged to me that Prabowo’s Kopassus had murdered Aceh civilians.
But Muzakir said “He [Prabowo] had his orders, that was his national necessity. That is all in the past now.”
When I asked Muzakir if his new friend Prabowo should be tried for crimes against humanity, he replied “That is not up to me. That is up to others, maybe internationally.”
Prabowo was careful when he spoke to me to avoid implicating himself criminally.
It was not that he was denying things, he was just refusing to talk about them.
But there was one interesting case, when he appeared to come to the verge of discussing his role in the 1998 Jakarta riots that featured murder, rape and anti-Chinese violence.
Prabowo had just finished blaming Wiranto for a long list of what he saw as political embarrassments, including the highly-publicized ABRI murders of civilian demonstrators at Trisakti and at Semanggi 1 and 2.
But when it came to the riots, Prabowo did not attempt to blame Wiranto.
Instead, he said, with what could have been pride: “There were 128 fires at one time. This was an operation: planned, instigated, controlled.”
The only thing he would not say was who had done the controlling.
Prabowo reminisced that during his time in occupied Timor, in the Kopassus camps, he had the use of “slaves.”
But then Prabowo caught himself.
Boasting about “slaves” was not advisable.
He corrected, in good American idiom: “Well, not really slaves — gofers.”
He complained that as we spoke, in 2001, he was short of money: “I am not rich.”
Prabowo said “I have 15 servants. Maybe you really only need 3.”