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Research Last Updated: Aug 30, 2019 - 11:41:17 AM

U.S. sought to preserve close ties to Indonesian military as it terrorized East Timor in runup to 1999 independence referendum in East Timor, 1999
By Brad Simpson and Varsha Venkatasubramanian, National SDecurityu Archive 28/8/19
Aug 29, 2019 - 2:26:25 PM

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The U.S. government was aware for months that the Indonesian military had created, and was arming and directing paramilitary militias in East Timor in the leadup to the territory’s historic August 30, 1999, independence referendum, according to recently declassified documents posted today by the National Security Archive based at The George Washington University.  The documents provide an unprecedented window into U.S. policymaking and reporting in the aftermath of the May 1998 resignation of Indonesian President Suharto; the unexpected decision of President B.J. Habibie in January 1999 to suggest that East Timor would be allowed to vote on its political future after 24 years of Indonesian military occupation; the negotiations which led to the formation of the United Nations mission in East Timor (UNAMET); the months-long campaign waged by the Indonesian armed forces and its militia proxies in East Timor to terrorize the population and prevent it from voting for independence; and the systematic campaign of murder and destruction carried out by the Indonesian armed forces and its militia proxies in the wake of the referendum.


The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, State Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Pacific Command, and Defense Department all closely monitored events in East Timor during 1999 and produced hundreds of updates and reports on the events there, which had wide-ranging implications for Indonesia’s democratic transition, the role of the Indonesian armed forces, and events in other parts of the archipelago, such as Aceh and West Papua, where the military also faced independence movements which sought to capitalize on the resignation of Suharto. The records published here are highlights of more than 200 documents from 1999 obtained through declassification requests to the U.S. government by the nongovernmental National Security Archive, and which can be made available to journalists, scholars, and others by contacting Indonesia and East Timor project director Brad Simpson.

The newly released documents add to the significant declassified record on U.S.-Indonesia relations, which includes important materials the National Security Archive has posted on topics such as Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and regime human rights abuses dating back to the mid-1960s (see links in left column).

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Twenty Years after East Timor’s 1999 Referendum

By Brad Simpson

Twenty years after East Timor’s historic August 30, 1999, referendum on independence, the National Security Archive published formerly classified documents detailing U.S. policy toward Indonesia and East Timor in the year leading up to the vote; the Clinton Administration’s determination to preserve military ties to the Indonesian armed forces in the face of opposition from Congress, human rights groups, and U.S. embassy personnel; the administration’s early awareness of Indonesian military determination to thwart an independence vote in East Timor through terror and violence; and the muted US attempts to convince Indonesian officials to allow a fair vote to proceed.


Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in December 1975, a year-and-a-half after the April 1974 collapse of the António de Oliveira Salazar dictatorship in Portugal. Indonesian officials decided in the fall of 1974 to incorporate Timor, through political subversion if possible, and through force if necessary, launching a covert operation (code-named Komodo) to this end, whose activities increased in intensity as the depth of Timorese support for independence became apparent.

The U.S. government knew nearly a year in advance of Indonesian plans to invade East Timor but viewed the territory as insignificant and its incorporation by Indonesia an inevitable outcome. National Security Council staffer W.R. Smyser recommended to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger “a general policy of silence,” arguing “that we have considerable interests in Indonesia and none in Timor.”[1] When Indonesian President Suharto visited Washington in July 1974 he raised his concerns about Timor with President Gerald R. Ford, who expressed sympathy for Indonesia’s position.[2] A month later, Indonesia helped provoke a civil war in East Timor, hoping that the small pro-integration party APODETI would prevail. However, the Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor (Fretilin), emerged victorious and sought to accelerate the timetable for independence, which it declared in late November, amidst a small-scale covert Indonesian invasion of the territory.  Fretilin’s “unilateral declaration of independence,” or UDI, convinced Suharto to approve a full-scale attack on East Timor, delayed only by the visit of President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger on December 6, where they explicitly approved of the Indonesian invasion, which began the next morning as they departed.[3]

The Indonesian invasion was a bloody and brutal affair. Indonesian officials anticipated that they would quickly establish control over the territory, but Timorese guerillas quickly retreated to the mountains where they established and maintained a dogged insurgency that would last for the next 24 years. The Ford Administration resolutely backed Indonesia, whose military forces were almost wholly US supplied and trained, and increased military aid in the aftermath of the invasion of East Timor. The U.S. government also blocked the United Nations from taking effective action against Jakarta and tacitly approved its illegal annexation of East Timor in May 1976, even as evidence mounted that Indonesian forces were committing atrocities on a massive scale. The Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations continued to pursue close diplomatic and military ties with Indonesia, resisting efforts by congressional and human rights critics to condition or reduce military assistance to the Suharto regime or to pressure it to withdraw from East Timor.

Between 1975 and 1983, according to the U.N.-sponsored Truth Commission for East Timor (http://www.chegareport.net/), between 106,000 and 180,000 Timorese died from massacre, starvation, and disease attributable to Indonesia’s invasion and occupation. While only Australia legally recognized Indonesia’s formal May 1976 annexation of East Timor, most Western countries, including the United States and Britain, informally recognized Indonesia’s control of the territory. Indonesia maintained a heavy military presence in the territory and ruthlessly repressed opposition to its occupation, which included a November 1991 massacre of at least 271 unarmed Timorese civilians in the capital of Dili by Indonesian army units using U.S.-supplied weapons. 

As domestic opposition to Suharto grew in the mid-1990s, so too did opposition to Indonesia’s continued occupation of East Timor by a growing network of human rights groups, parliamentarians, exiled Timorese, and Indonesian pro-democracy forces. In 1996 two East Timorese were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their nonviolent resistance to the Indonesian occupation, increasing international pressure on Jakarta to find a peaceful solution to the long-simmering conflict.

When mass protests forced Suharto’s resignation in May 1998, East Timor’s resistance movement began mobilizing to demand a vote on self-determination. Indonesian military and intelligence officials responded by organizing and arming violent local militias to terrorize pro-independence supporters. Indonesian military forces and their militia proxies killed hundreds and displaced thousands between May 1998 and May 1999, a development closely monitored by U.S. officials, who still prioritized the maintenance of close military ties with Jakarta.

In January 1999 Suharto’s civilian successor, B.J. Habibie, unexpectedly announced that Indonesia would work with the United Nations to organize a referendum in which East Timor could choose between “special autonomy” within Indonesia or independence. Indonesian military officials were bitterly opposed to giving up East Timor, and immediately began organizing a terror campaign to derail the vote, initially scheduled for early August and later delayed until August 30, 1999.  In June the United Nations Mission in East Timor began registering East Timorese to vote and organizing the referendum, a process monitored by international human rights groups and solidarity activists.

U.S. officials closely documented the widening Indonesian terror campaign in the months leading up to the referendum, worried that violence in East Timor would destabilize Indonesia itself and embolden congressional and human rights critics, whose calls for an end to U.S. military training, arms sales, and military aid had grown louder since 1998. U.S. Embassy and intelligence agencies noted overwhelming evidence of direct Indonesian military involvement in militia violence, and some State Department officials pressed their Indonesian counterparts to rein in the terror and allow a free vote in East Timor. But U.S. military officials resisted efforts to pressure the Indonesian armed forces and opposed efforts to reduce military aid, convinced that the Indonesian military remained a crucial force for political and military stability in the archipelago during a fragile democratic transition.

On August 30, 1999, more than 98 percent of eligible East Timorese cast ballots to determine their political future. A few days later U.N. officials announced the results: over 78 percent of East Timorese rejected Indonesia’s autonomy proposal and opted for independence. In retaliation, Indonesian military and police forces and their local paramilitary allies launched a scorched earth campaign, killing more than 1,500 Timorese, displacing nearly half the population, including more than 100,000 forced across the border into neighboring West Timor, and razing much of East Timor to the ground. President Bill Clinton suspended military relations with Indonesia on September 9, 1999, in response to events in East Timor, pressure from U.S. NATO allies, human rights groups, and Congress, which had already voted almost unanimously to suspend all military aid to Indonesia.  Global outrage finally forced Habibie to accept an Australian-led U.N. peacekeeping mission in late September.

The documents published here were released as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed by the author and the National Security Archive between 2002 and 2007. They comprise a substantial portion of the daily reporting on East Timor of the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia and U.S. intelligence agencies from late 1998 through September 1999. Many of the documents contain substantial redactions on claimed “national security,” or B(1), exemptions to the FOIA, and Archive appeals for the release of more information have thus far been unsuccessful. Many documents, especially from the CIA, were withheld in their entirety. There are thus many questions that these documents cannot currently answer, particularly about the extent of U.S. knowledge of Indonesian military contingency plans in August and September 1999 to destroy East Timor. The documents nevertheless provide a valuable contemporary record of events in East Timor and of internal U.S. policy deliberations during the period

The Documents

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Document 01
State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) Report on East Timor, January 28, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This State Department intelligence report analyzes President B.J. Habibie's January 27, 1999, announcement that he will consider independence for East Timor if it should reject his recent offer of "Special Autonomy" for the territory. The offer came amidst a wave of public demonstrations in East Timor after Suharto's resignation demanding independence. The report notes "the military's decision to arm pro-integration (pro-Jakarta) civil militias" and "a disturbing pattern of violence, in which paramilitary groups armed by the military provoke conflict that leads to a military response."

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Document 02
U.S. Embassy Jakarta Telegram to Department of State, "Official Informal Jakarta to PIMBS No. 20," February 3, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This telegram discusses Indonesian thinking regarding the possible form a vote on independence in East Timor might take, as well as the possible role of the United Nations. The telegram notes that Foreign Minister Ali Alatas "still seems dead set against a referendum." It also notes that most observers agree "that ABRI arming of civilians is a major problem," and that "it may ultimately be harder to convince ABRI to stop arming and start disarming now that [Indonesian Armed Forces Commander] Wiranto has taken so disingenuous a position" as to deny the Indonesian armed forces' role in creating, arming, and directing militia groups in East Timor.

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Document 03
State Department Memo from Phyllis Oakley of INR to the Secretary, "East Timor - More Questions than Answers," February 9, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This memo notes that "Indonesian officials and the Australian prime minister have reiterated that autonomy is the preferred outcome, but the momentum is toward full independence," and presciently warns of the need for the international community to devise a face-saving exit for Indonesian military forces if the Timorese choose independence.

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Document 04
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "Differences in GOI over Habibie East Timor Policy," February 19, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This lengthy analysis describes the wide-ranging opposition within Indonesia to East Timorese independence and Habibie's offer of "special autonomy." It notes that organized opposition efforts "appear to be orchestrated by elements within the Foreign Ministry and ABRI who oppose letting the province become independent." These opposition forces, the document notes are promoting the possibility of trying to keep the western half of the territory bordering West Timor, and fear that even acceptance of “special autonomy” will set dangerous precedents for other parts of the archipelago.

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Document 05
State Department INR Report, "Indonesia: Timor Positioning," February 26, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This memo notes efforts by imprisoned East Timorese leader Xanana Gusmao and other moderate East Timorese leaders, both pro- and anti-integrationist, "to promote stability on the ground so that an agreement can be worked out" on the mechanics of an independence vote. The memo also notes that, according to U.S. Embassy officials in Jakarta, ABRI is "arming small, roving bands of East Timorese paramilitary groups to create unrest and portray the security situation as 'incipient civil war,'" and that plainclothes ABRI personnel are participating directly in the groups.

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Document 06
DIA Military Intelligence Digest, "East Timor: Transitioning to Independence," March 12, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This document is a lengthy analysis of Indonesian military and civilian views on a possible U.N. force in East Timor to oversee a vote on independence, the presence of foreign observers, and possible Australian involvement in an armed or unarmed peacekeeping operation. It notes that "Jakarta has been unwilling to consider a sizeable U.N. Security Presence at this stage." It also reports on close ties between ABRI and local militias, many created by Indonesian Special Forces and Intelligence officers, and Wiranto's decision in early 1999 to provide hundreds of weapons to militia groups, while local District Headquarters (KODAM) "have provided ammunition, logistics, and advice to the militias."

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Document 07
State Department Memo from Phyllis Oakley to the Secretary of State: "East Timor-Momentum Shift," April 14, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
In the aftermath of the Liquica massacre, in which Indonesian military-backed militias killed more than 50 unarmed civilians sheltering in a church, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Phyllis Oakley warns Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that "prospects are high that a cycle of intimidation and terror will intensify" in East Timor, requiring U.N. intervention. Oakley observes that some Indonesian military officers view militia terror as a winning strategy that might deliver a pro-autonomy vote, despite widespread evidence that East Timorese will choose independence.

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Document 08
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "Military Backed Militias Take Control of Dili," April 16, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
The U.S. Embassy reports that military-backed militias have taken control of the capital, Dili, and that "Indonesian security forces are lending support to this massive display of militia strength." Embassy contacts report "full military and police support for the militia activity to include joint detachments of militia and security forces personnel transported in the same trucks."

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Document 09
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State, "Militias rampage in Dili, East Timor," April 17, 1999.
The U.S. Embassy describes a deadly rampage by Indonesian-military backed militias in Dili, in which hundreds of paramilitaries killed an estimated twenty-four people at the home of prominent independence supporter Manuel Carrascalao. According to reliable embassy sources, local Indonesian military personnel present did nothing to stop the massacre and were seen “handing out cigarettes and water to the militias.

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Document 10
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "Ambassador's April 25-27 visit to East Timor," April 29, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Jean Stapleton Roy's visit to Dili reveals "a striking disconnect between the situation and attitudes on the ground and the U.N.-sponsored diplomatic process." Roy notes that, despite a recent "peace accord" between Indonesia-sponsored militias and pro-independence forces, "the militia and security forces appear to be attempting to decapitate the pro-independence movement by intimidating, driving underground, or in some cases killing the key leaders and activists down to the village level."

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Document 11
Memo from Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley to Ambassador Scheffer, "East Timor: The Worst Case," April 30, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This memo outlines possible worst-case scenarios in East Timor, including for "the Indonesian military to decide, with or without Jakarta's political acquiescence, to keep the province at all costs and undertake a massive sweep against pro-independence activists and sympathizers. This could result in significant deaths or disappearances."

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Document 12
CIA Intelligence Report, "Indonesia: Challenges Facing East Timor [redacted]," May 10, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This lengthy intelligence analysis describes bureaucratic and political conflicts among Indonesian political and military officials over how to proceed in East Timor. The authors note that "Wiranto has repeatedly promised that the military is a neutral force, but local commanders would have required at least tacit approval from headquarters in Jakarta to allow the militias the blatant free hand they have enjoyed." The military's strategy, the CIA notes, "is to kill, drive out, or intimidate into silence independence activists and to cow the general population into acceptance of an East Timor under Jakarta's control."

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Document 13
DIA Intelligence Report, "Indonesian Military Motives in East Timor," May 14, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This relatively detailed DIA analysis covers the military's approach to East Timor and discusses a number of problems and challenges to be confronted by the U.N. and others. It begins by noting the "violent excesses" of militant groups supported by the Armed Forces and assesses that the military "will be hard pressed to prevent a pro-independence victory during the planned U.N. referendum in August."

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Document 15
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor update," May 24, 1999.
This cable recounts a series of recent incidents of Indonesian military-backed militia violence and terror east of Dili as well as “ongoing reports of cooperation between militia and military units.”

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Document 16
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor: Militia Factionalism: Reported Clandestine Military Activity; Falantil Control Problems."
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This cable describes political conflicts between various Indonesian backed militias in East Timor which are being armed and sponsored by different military and police units. Also recounts evidence of Indonesian special forces personnel operating in plain clothes as members of local police units.

The U.S. Embassy provided regular updates on the situation on the ground in East Timor in the months leading up to the August 30, 1999, referendum. In these cables, Political Consul Ed McWilliams describes his visit to Dili, his meetings with Timorese human rights groups and pro-independence activists, and his observations on the Indonesian military-backed militia campaign of terror in East Timor.

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Document 17
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor: A Foray into Mahidi Country," June 1, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This cable describes the visit of a U.S. political consul to the Ainaro and Aileu districts of East Timor, controlled by the Mahidi militia. The author find "much evidence of a continuing reign of terror carried out by TNI-backed pro-integration militias who are a law unto themselves" which has "severely disrupted economic life, medical care, and the everyday lives of ordinary people, most of whom are too terrified to speak to outsiders." According the Embassy officer, "That the militias and local military were working hand in hand was taken as a given by local observers, and there was little effort to disguise this cooperation."

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Document 18
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor: A Scorched Earth Policy," June 24, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
In this cable, describing a visit to the Liquica district in militia-controlled East Timor, a U.S. Embassy political officer concludes that "it is clear that the Indonesian military and pro-integration militias, working together closely, are carrying out a scorched earth policy." He describes the town of Maubara as "a scene of utter devastation" with "almost every house burned or dismantled."

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Document 19
Stanley Roth talking points for meeting with General Wiranto, July 12, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth visited East Timor from July 12-14. Before and during his visit he met with Indonesian President Habibie, Defense Minister General Wiranto, and Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao. Roth's talking points for Wiranto stress "TNI contribution to Indonesia's democratization key to establishing more normal military-military ties with U.S." Even as he notes "overwhelming multi-source evidence of continuing close cooperation with militias by elements of TNI" in East Timor, he concludes that the Clinton administration trusts Wiranto is committed to military neutrality in East Timor and "not now question of blame but results."

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Document 20
Stanley Roth talking points for meetings with Habibie, Ali Alatas, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, July 13, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
These talking points for Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth's visit to East Timor from July 12-14 echo the theme of his notes for meeting with General Wiranto. While acknowledging "The elections themselves were a hugely important first step," he is still "Deeply concerned about developments" and calls for "real improvements, not mere rhetoric."

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Document 21
DIA Military Intelligence Digest, "UN Challenges in East Timor," August 3, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This Defense Intelligence Agency military analysis surveys the challenges facing the United Nations four weeks out from the August 30, 1999, referendum, originally scheduled for August 12 but delayed because of militia violence. The document describes the nearly 30 Indonesian military-backed militias continuing to operate across the territory, but notes that General Wiranto has attempted to rein in large-scale militia terror in the face of foreign criticism, revealing Indonesian military control over the levels of violence in East Timor.

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Document 22
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor: Observations from Dili," August 13, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This cable reports on a visit by a political officer from the U.S. Embassy describing conditions in Dili and other parts of East Timor just over two weeks from the referendum. It notes that despite the presence of nearly 1,000 U.N. personnel and several hundred foreign journalists and NGO observers, "detailed evidence compiled by UNAMET personnel, Carter Center observers, and East Timorese NGOs [has] made very clear that militias continue to operate unfettered, with TNI personnel playing integral roles in their activities," and that the response of Indonesian police has been "feeble and inadequate." The cable suggests overwhelming Timorese support for independence even amidst continued Indonesian military backed militia terror and violence.

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Document 23
U.S. East Timor Working Group Summary, August 28, 1999
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This document describes military evacuation efforts being prepared by an interagency group of more than 40 U.S. officials representing DOD, AID, DOS, and other agencies in anticipation of post-referendum violence, including refugee flows into West Timor.

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Document 24
Doc.24. INR Report: "Indonesia and East Timor - Struggle for Control," September 2, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This INR report describes continued militia violence in the wake of the August 30, 1999, referendum, in which over 98 percent of eligible Timorese voted despite months of violence and terror by Indonesian military-backed militias. The report observes that it "is unclear whether Jakarta is now committed to restraining the militias it created. Also unclear is whether the current rampages are part of a campaign to derail the process or reflect a last gasp by gangs who fear the military will abandon them." The document notes, that "Although some Indonesian officials now talk about an eventual peacekeeping operation, they remain opposed to the deployment of armed peacekeepers as long as East Timor remains, in their view, a sovereign part of the nation."

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Document 25
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor Chooses Independence: Initial Observations," September 4, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
The Indonesian Destruction of East Timor@@In the wake of the announcement of the results of the August 30 referendum, in which more than 78 percent of East Timorese voted for independence, Indonesian army, intelligence, special operations forces, police, and their local militia proxies launched a scorched-earth campaign in which an estimated 1,500 Timorese were killed, more than 250,000 were forcibly driven across the border into West Timor, and an estimated 80 percent of East Timor's infrastructure was destroyed. The U.S. Embassy and intelligence agencies produced dozens of situation reports and analyses during the first three weeks of September, documenting the destruction of East Timor and the scorched-earth withdrawal of Indonesian military and militia forces, until global condemnation forced Indonesia to accept an Australian-led armed U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in late September.

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Document 26
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "East Timor Situation Report," September 7, 1999, 17pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This report from U.S. Embassy officials in Dili and UNAMET contacts conveys a sense of the widespread fear and uncertainty felt by the international community in Dili and other parts of East Timor, which was largely trapped in buildings surrounded by Indonesian military and police personnel and threatened by militia with whom they were openly cooperating, and who were engaged in widespread killing, shooting, looting, and destruction.

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Document 27
INR Report - Indonesia/East Timor: Roads not Taken, September 8, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This INR report notes that "The Indonesian Government had at least three operational plans under consideration for East Timor, although security forces now appeared intent on the third option, using a show of force to retain the province," and that "Common denominators underlay each approach."

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Document 28
INR Report on East Timor - Empty Hand, September 9, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
Dili is now "looted, gutted, and gone," according to the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, following the UNAMET decision to evacuate most of its personnel. This INR report notes that up to 100 people had been murdered by Indonesian military-backed militias in the southern coastal town of Suai. "With U.N. personnel and foreign journalists expelled and telecommunications cut, East Timorese over the next few days can expect little mercy from rampaging militias and increasing numbers of Indonesian military."

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Document 29
Telegram from Secretary of State to U.S. Embassy Canberra, "CINCPAC meeting with General Wiranto," September 9, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This heavily redacted cable describes a meeting CINPAC Admiral Dennis Blair had with General Wiranto on the day President Bill Clinton, then at an international summit of Asian leaders, suspended U.S. military relations with and all military assistance to Indonesia. Though U.S. officials had for months known of the TNI's creation, arming of, direction of, and direct cooperation with the militias with whom they were razing East Timor to the ground, Blair's talking points describe himself and the U.S. as "a friend" who want the Indonesian armed forces to play a productive role in Indonesian politics, and urged Wiranto to "pull back from the brink of disaster for his country." Blair urged Wiranto to accept a multinational force in East Timor, noting that Indonesian forces would still control the territory until foreign forces arrived. Blair concluded by telling Wiranto "the situation in East Timor is complicated and TNI has vast responsibilities elsewhere in the archipelago. I appeal to you to let the international community help Indonesia help itself."

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Document 30
Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing, September 15, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This intelligence briefing for President Bill Clinton and other top officials notes the widespread killing, displacement, and destruction by Indonesian military-backed militia forces and the TNI itself. The document observes that "Hundreds of people have been killed and as many as 300,000 have been displaced, of whom 200,000 are in immediate need of assistance."

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Document 31
Senior Executive Intelligence Briefing, September 17, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
One of a number of intelligence briefings prepared for the president and other senior officials, this document notes that "The Indonesian military will retain links to prointegration militias despite reports that growing numbers of militia elements are retreating to West Timor, where they can regroup, rearm, and recruit" and continue to conduct covert operations in the territory.

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Document 32
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to the State Department, "Ambassador Roy Meeting with [Excised]," September 22, 1999
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
With members of the Australian-led International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) arriving in Dili, East Timor, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia J. Stapleton Roy meets with an Indonesian General (name excised) to discuss the deployment and the larger question of U.S.-Indonesian relations. The general expressed strong opposition to Indonesian President B.J. Habibie's East Timor policy, which he suggested was never supported by the Indonesian Armed Forces. Remarkably, just days after the U.S. severing of military ties with Indonesia over the destruction of East Timor, Ambassador Roy told his Indonesian colleague that the U.S. "does not want East Timor to further damage ties between the two nations" and emphasized the need to "pay attention to Indonesian sensitivities" regarding the deaths of Indonesians in East Timor during the 24-year Indonesian occupation. Appropriately, the Indonesian general ended this revealing conversation by reminding the ambassador that he "should not forget the starting point in East Timor" and the "strong support" of both the U.S. and Australia for Indonesia's 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation of the territory.

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Document 33
Doc.33. INR Report: "East Timor: Kiki Leaves, Fillings Continue," September 28, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
This INR report describes murders and wanton destruction that were carried out by Indonesian armed forces units and their Timorese militia proxies as General Kiki Syanakri handed control over to Interim Force for East Timor (INTERFET) forces in Dili. The document notes that "Though few Timorese are starving, many towns and villages continue to burn. Departing TNI soldiers on September 25 massacred 14 church members on the road between Baukau and Los Palos." The report concludes that "With growing operational confidence, and remaining TNI troops sticking closer to their barracks, INTERFET will be extending methodically the parameters of relief activity. Beyond this thin zone, and especially in western Timor, militias will terrorize and loot at will."

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Document 34
Telegram from U.S. Embassy Jakarta to State Department, "SecDef Mtg with Wiranto," September 30, 1999.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive
In late September 1999, Defense Secretary William Cohen traveled to Jakarta, where he had high-level meetings with Indonesian civilian and military officials, including Wiranto. In this heavily redacted document, Wiranto flatly denies official Indonesian military involvement in the destruction of East Timor and the murder of civilians, suggesting that any violence was the work of soldiers operating against orders. Cohen states that resumption of U.S. military assistance to Indonesia will depend in part on accountability for military involvement in atrocities in East Timor.



[1] Memo from W. R. Smyser to Kissinger, 4 March 1975, NSC Country Files, EAP, Indonesia, Box 6, Gerald Ford Library (GFL).

[2] Memorandum of Conversation, 5 July 1975, NSC Country Files, EAP, Indonesia, Box 6, GFL;

Telegram 170357 from State to Jakarta, 18 July 1975, ibid.

[3] CIA National Intelligence Daily, 5 December 1975, GFL; Telegram 3749 from State Department to USDEL Secretary of State, 4 December 1975, Kissinger-Scowcroft Temporary Parallel File, Box A3, Country File, Far East-Indonesia, State Department Telegrams 4/1/75-9/22/76, GFL; RG 59, Executive Secretariat Briefing Books, 1958-1976, Box 227, President Ford’s Trip to the Far East (Follow-Up) Nov.-Dec. 1975, NARA.

Source:Ocnus.net 2019

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