Bombing of Chinese Embassy in Belgrade

From 7 May 1999

Materials presented in chronological order.

Schmitt, Eric. "Human Error: Aim, Not Arms, at the Root of Mistaken Strike on Embassy." New York Times, 10 May 1999. []

Bombs from a B-2 bomber struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on 7 May 1999 "because C.I.A. analysts misidentified the building, and military databases used to catch such mistakes had the wrong address for the embassy." See also, Bradley Graham and Steven Pearlstein, "Belgrade Target Never Verified on Outdated Map," Washington Post, 10 May 1999, A1.

Schmitt, Eric. "Pentagon Admits Its Maps of Belgrade Are Out of Date." New York Times, 11 May 1999. []

According to government officials on 10 May 1999, "[i]n confusing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade for a Yugoslav arms agency, the CIA relied on old maps and educated guesses rather than on first-hand information." NIMA, "the Pentagon agency that drew up the map of Belgrade," also "prepared the maps for the Marine Corps jet that struck a ski-lift cable last year near Aviano, Italy. Defense lawyers contended that the crew was not to blame because the cable did not appear on the Pentagon map....

"[I]ntelligence experts said [that] a decision made in 1996 may have contributed to the problem of reading [airborne reconnaissance] photographs: The CIA photographic intelligence center, which analyzes reconnaissance photographs, was folded into the Pentagon's mapping agency, prompting many of the government's most experienced photographic analysts to leave." See also, Bradley Graham, "The Explanation in Washington: U.S. Analysts Misread, Relied on Outdated Maps," Washington Post, 11 May 1999, A17.

Gates, Robert M. "In War, Mistakes Happen." New York Times, 12 May 1999. [http://]

The former DCI argues that "there was a system failure as well as mistakes by individuals. The source of all mapping information for United States military targeting is" NIMA, "a joint military and civilian intelligence organization. According to The New York Times, that agency was apparently the source of outdated maps. Then the C.I.A. analysts apparently misidentified the target. And finally, military databases in the United States and NATO used to check the accuracy of such information failed to catch the error.... Americans ... should understand that outdated maps and insufficient personnel are related to 12 years of budget cuts in both the military and intelligence."

Gertz, Bill. "Spies Tell China Embassy Attack Was No Accident." Washington Times, 24 May 1999.

"A classified report based on National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence data" revealed that the Chinese intelligence service reported to Beijing that the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade "was a deliberate attack aimed at dragging China into the Balkans conflict, according to Pentagon intelligence officials."

Loeb, Vernon, and Steven Mufson. "CIA Analyst Raised Alert on China's Embassy." Washington Post, 24 Jun. 1999, A1. []

"A mid-level intelligence officer assigned to the CIA persistently questioned the targeting of a building that turned out to be the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia, but his concerns went unheeded inside the spy agency and at the U.S. military's European Command, a senior U.S. intelligence official said [on 23 June 1999].... The analyst's warnings are noted in a classified internal report by the CIA's inspector general, which has not been made public but has been given to some members of Congress." See also, Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, "Analyst Questioned Target Before Chinese Embassy Bombing," New York Times, 24 Jun. 1999.

Eddington, Patrick G. "Get Ready For More Targeting Disasters." Los Angeles Times, 5 Jul. 1999, 15.

"Since October 1996, when the CIA was told by Congress to turn its imagery components over" to the Department of Defense's NIMA, "there has been loss of key personnel and a lack of coordination between the intelligence and operational communities. This has left the United States and its allies vulnerable to making catastrophic errors like bombing the Chinese embassy. Congress must rethink how things are done or tragic mistakes will continue to happen."

[Tenet, George J.] "[Text of] DCI Statement on the Belgrade Chinese Embassy Bombing, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Open Hearing, 22 July 1999." Washington, DC: CIA, 1999. []

See Vernon Loeb, "CIA Accepts 'Responsibility' for Embassy Bombing," Washington Post, 23 Jul. 1999, A16; and Eric Schmitt, "In a Fatal Error, C.I.A. Picked a Bombing Target Only Once: The Chinese Embassy," New York Times, 23 Jul. 1999.

Laris, Michael. "U.S. to Pay Embassy Bomb Victims." Washington Post, 31 Jul. 1999, A16. []

On 30 July 1999, "the U.S. government agreed ... to pay $4.5 million to the families of those killed and wounded in the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.... The money will be given to the Chinese government, which will decide how to divide the funds among the families of the three people killed and the 27 injured, according to State Department legal adviser David Andrews." See also, Seth Faison, "U.S. to Pay China $4.5 Million for Embassy Bombing," New York Times, 31 Jul. 1999.

Sweeney, John, Jens Holsoe, and Ed Vulliamy. "NATO Bombed Chinese Deliberately." The Observer, 17 Oct. 1999. []

"NATO deliberately bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the war in Kosovo after discovering it was being used to transmit Yugoslav army communications. According to senior military and intelligence sources in Europe and the US, the Chinese embassy was removed from a prohibited targets list after NATO electronic intelligence (Elint) detected it sending army signals to Milosevic's forces." Reuters, "NATO Bombed Chinese Embassy Deliberately -- UK Paper," 16 Oct. 1999, and Associated Press, "NATO Denies Deliberate Embassy Hit," 17 Oct. 1999, quote NATO officials as denying The Observer's report.

Loeb, Vernon. "CIA Fires Officer in Embassy Bombing." Washington Post, 9 Apr. 2000, A1. []

The CIA announced on 8 April 2000 that DCI George J. Tenet "has fired one intelligence officer and reprimanded six managers, including a senior official, for errors that led to the U.S. bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade." The disciplinary actions were taken "late last week after two internal reviews" of the bombing, and ranged "from oral warnings to letters of reprimand that impose one-year probationary periods in which the officials will not be eligible for promotions, financial awards or other forms of recognition." See also, Steven Lee Myers, "C.I.A. Fires Officer Blamed in Bombing of China Embassy," New York Times, 9 Apr. 2000.

New York Times. "[Editorial:] Blame in the Chinese Embassy Bombing." 11 Apr. 2000. []

"Mr. Tenet has had the courage to admit his agency's errors and to hold individuals accountable. The Pentagon should do the same."

Sui, Cindy. "China Unmoved by CIA Sanctions Over Embassy Attack." Washington Post, 11 Apr. 2000, A24. []

In a statement released by the official New China News Agency on 10 April 2000, PRC Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao "expressed strong dissatisfaction ... with CIA disciplinary action taken against several employees in connection with the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and once again rejected U.S. conclusions that human error caused the attack."

Myers, Steven Lee. "Chinese Embassy Bombing: A Wide Net of Blame." New York Times, 17 Apr. 2000. []

This is a lengthy investigative report on the circumstances surrounding targeting issues in the NATO war against Yugoslavia. "In an attempt to unravel what really happened, spurred in part by articles in two European newspapers suggesting that the bombing had been deliberate, The New York Times interviewed more than 30 officials in Washington and in Europe."

The "investigation produced no evidence that the bombing of the embassy had been a deliberate act." It did, however, provide "a detailed account of a broader set of missteps than the United States or NATO have acknowledged, and a wider circle of blame than the government's explanation of a simple error of judgment by a few people at the C.I.A.... The bombing resulted from error piled upon incompetence piled upon bad judgment in a variety of places -- from a frantic rush to approve targets to questionable reliance on inexpert officers to an inexplicable failure to consult the people who might have averted disaster, according to the officials."


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