Document:Gladio - The Secret U.S. War To Subvert Italian Democracy
This January, Silvio Berlusconi rode onto the turbulent Italian political scene on a white charger. Voters had become disenchanted with long-time centrist leaders who were mired in massive corruption scandals. With crucial parliamentary elections only two months away and the likelihood that the left would win power for the first time since World War II, 1 the billionaire businessman entered the fray with a slate of right-wing candidates who had never held office. Helped by voter disgust and his own vast media and industrial holdings, Berlusconi’s coalition won big, averting the anticipated leftist victory. His win lifted the right, including the neo-fascists, to new postwar heights. 2 Real change seemed unlikely, however, as Berlusconi repackaged the old politics with new names and slogans. Berlusconi himself was weaned on the system and owed much of his success to Bettino Craxi, a former Socialist prime minister who went on trial for corruption the day after the March election. It wasn’t long before the right’s "clean hands" were upstaged by arms raised in fascist salutes and cries of "Il Duce."
While Berlusconi’s rapid ascent took most observers by surprise, the stage was set for it by nearly 50 years of U.S. interference in Italian politics. In the name of fighting communism, the U.S. helped generate a level of political turmoil that sometimes approached civil war. U.S. agents and their Italian surrogates took control of key government agencies, at times reducing Italian democracy to little more than a proving ground for the CIA’s and the White House’s aggressive tactics. The undercover campaign, known as "Gladio," for a double-edged Roman sword, was officially acknowledged for the first time in 1990, when it was finally closed down.
- 1 The Dimensions Of Gladio
- 2 The Secret NATO Cover
- 3 Operation Demagnetize
- 4 The Strategy Of Tension
- 5 Fraternal Bonds
- 6 Provocateurs on the Right
- 7 Plotting Coups D’etat
- 8 Gladio Unravels
- 9 Memento Moro
- 10 Penetrating The Red Brigades
- 11 The Bologna Train Station Bombing
- 12 Fruits Of Gladio
- 13 The Lessons Of Gladio
- 14 Gladio’s Roots
- 15 Selected Bibliography
The Dimensions Of Gladio
The Italian people had received many signs over the years that the centrist parties (the Christian Democrats and the Socialists) were promoted and to some degree controlled by Washington. But it was only when the Italian government officially admitted it in 1990 that the ruling coalition began to crumble, ready to be picked apart two years later by corruption scandals. The startling story of Gladio, which continues to make headlines in Europe, has barely been mentioned in the U.S., where many of its darkest chapters remain secret.
The program in Italy was aimed at the threat that communists might mount an insurrection or gain a share of political power through the ballot box. An insurrection was unlikely, however, since nearly all posts in the bureaucracy were filled after the war by solidly anticommunist veterans of Mussolini’s forces, with Allied approval.
During the war, most Americans considered themselves heroes who freed Western Europe from its brutal Nazi and fascist rulers. It wasn’t long after the American landings on Italian soil, however, that the white hats got sullied. While some OSS agents worked with antifascists to help lay the basis for Italian democracy, many of those higher up the ladder conspired with backers of Mussolini or the former king to impede it. 3
Although many European intelligence agencies have admitted participating, the CIA has denied any connection with Gladio. But enough information has emerged to show that the CIA sponsored and financed a large portion of the terrorism and disruption that plagued Italy for nearly half a century. Among other things, the U.S. government:
- Forged secret alliances with the Mafia and right-wing elements of the Vatican to prevent the left from playing any role in government;
- Recruited Mussolini’s ex-police into paramilitary bands secretly financed and trained by the CIA, ostensibly to fight Soviets, but really to conduct terror attacks blamed on the left;
- Employed the gamut of psychological warfare tactics, including paying millions in slush funds to political parties, journalists, and other influential contacts to tilt parliamentary elections against the left;
- Created a secret service and a parallel government structure linked to the CIA whose "assets" attempted several times to overthrow the elected government; and
- Targeted Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who was later kidnapped and murdered under mysterious circumstances after offering to bring communists into the Cabinet.
The Secret NATO Cover
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) provided international cover for Washington’s postwar operations in Italy. A secret clause in the initial NATO agreement in 1949 required that before a nation could join, it must have already established a national security authority to fight communism through clandestine citizen cadres. This "Stay Behind" clause grew out of a secret committee set up at U.S. insistence in the Atlantic Pact, the forerunner of NATO. Each NATO member was also required to send delegates to semiannual meetings on the subject. 4
U.S. authority for such moves flowed in a steady stream of presidential directives transmitted through the National Security Council (NSC). In December 1950, the council gave the armed forces carte blanche to use "appropriate" military force even if the communists merely "gain participation" in government by legal means or "threaten to achieve control…or the government ceases to evidence a determination to oppose communist internal or external threats." 5
The CIA helped the Italian police set up secret squadrons staffed in many cases with veterans of Mussolini’s secret police. 6 The squadrons were trained for intensive espionage and counter-espionage, against communists and other perceived enemies of the status quo. The plan to use "exceptional means" was patterned after the highly militarized French intelligence service, the Suret Nationale, which was reportedly so tough on communists that many fled to other countries. 7
The newly organized intelligence agency, SIFAR, began operations in September 1949, under the supervision of an undercover American, Carmel Offie, nicknamed "godfather" by the Italians. 8 Interior Minister Mario Scelba headed the operation. At the same time, Scelba was directing a brutal repression, murdering hundreds of workers and peasants who sought improved conditions after the war. 9
With the Italian secret service under control, the Americans then expanded it under the name Operation Demagnetize and tied it to an existing network of cadre in northern Italy. In 1951, the Italian secret service formally agreed to set up a clandestine organization within the military to coordinate with the northern cadres. In 1952, SIFAR received secret orders from Washington to adopt "a series of political, paramilitary and psychological operations destined to diminish the power of the Italian Communist Party, its material resources, and its influence on government. This priority objective must be attained by all means." 10
Operation Demagnetize marked the institutional hardening of Gladio. A State Department historian characterized it as the "strategy of stabilization," 11 although it could be more accurately described as one of destabilization. From the start, the offensive was secretly directed and funded by the U.S. government. In 1956, the arrangement was formalized in a written agreement, using the name "Gladio" for the first time. According to 1956 documents uncovered in Italy in 1990, Gladio was divided into independent cells coordinated from a CIA camp in Sardinia. These "special forces" included 40 main groups. Ten specialized in sabotage, six each in espionage, propaganda, evasion and escape tactics, and 12 in guerrilla activities. Another division handled the training of agents and commandos. These "special forces" had access to underground arms caches, which included hand guns, grenades, high-tech explosives, daggers, 60-millimeter mortars, 57-millimeter machine guns and precision rifles. 12
In 1956, Gen. Giovanni De Lorenzo was named to head SIFAR on the recommendation of U.S. Ambassador Claire Boothe Luce, the avidly anticommunist wife of the publisher of Time magazine. 13 A key player in Gladio was now in place. In 1962, the CIA helped place De Lorenzo at the head of the national police (carabinieri), while he retained effective control of the secret service.
The general brought with him 17 lieutenants to begin purging insufficiently right-wing officers. It was the first step to a right-wing coup attempt, with U.S. military attaché Vernon Walters in the vanguard. In a memo to De Lorenzo the same year, Walters suggested types of intervention aimed at provoking a national crisis, including blocking a center-left coalition, creating schisms among the socialists, and funding forces favorable to the status quo. 14
Meanwhile, according to CIA files found in Rome in 1984, CIA station chief William Harvey began to recruit "action teams" based on a list of 2,000 men capable of throwing bombs, conducting attacks, and accompanying these actions with indispensable propaganda. 15 These teams had a chance to practice their skills in 1963 as part of an anti-union offensive. U.S.-trained gladiators dressed as police and civilians attacked construction workers peacefully demonstrating in Rome, leaving some 200 wounded and a large section of the city in shambles. The link to Gladio was made in later testimony by a former general in the secret service. 16
SIFAR Lt. Col. Renzo Rocca was also training a civil militia composed of ex-soldiers, parachutists and members of Junio Valerio "Black Prince" Borghese’s paramilitary organization, Decima MAS (Tenth Torpedo Boat Squadron), for the pending coup. 17 President Antonio Segni reportedly knew of the plan, which was to conclude with the assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro, under fire for not being tough enough with the communists. 18
The long-planned takeover, known later as Plan Solo, fizzled in March 1964, when the key carabinieri involved remained in their barracks. As a subsequent inquiry moved to question Rocca about the coup attempt, he apparently killed himself, possibly to fulfill Gladio’s oath of silence. After officials determined that state secrets were involved, three hamstrung inquiries failed to determine the guilty parties. 19
The Strategy Of Tension
Despite the failure of Plan Solo, the CIA and the Italian right had largely succeeded in creating the clandestine structures envisioned in Operation Demagnetize. Now the plotters turned their attention to a renewed offensive against the left.
To win intellectual support, the secret services set up a conference in Rome at the luxurious Parco dei Principi hotel in May 1965, for a "study" of "revolutionary war." The choice of words was inadvertently revealing, since the conveners and invited participants were planning a real revolution, not just warning of an imaginary communist takeover. The meeting was essentially a reunion of fascists, right-wing journalists, and military personnel. "The strategy of tension" that emerged was designed to disrupt normality with terror attacks in order to create chaos and provoke a frightened public into accepting still more authoritarian government. 20
Several "graduates" of this exercise had long records of anticommunist actions and would later be implicated in some of Italy’s worst massacres. One was journalist and secret agent Guido Giannettini. Four years earlier, he had conducted a seminar at the U.S. Naval Academy on "The Techniques and Prospects of a Coup d’Etat in Europe." Another was notorious fascist Stefano Delle Chiaie, who had reportedly been recruited as a secret agent in 1960. He had organized his own armed band known as Avanguardia Nationale (AN), whose members had begun training in terror tactics in preparation for Plan Solo. 21
General De Lorenzo, whose SIFAR had now become SID, soon enlisted these and other confidants in a new Gladio project. They planned to create a secret parallel force alongside sensitive government offices to neutralize subversive elements not yet "purified." Known as the Parallel SID, its tentacles reached into nearly every key institution of the Italian state. Gen.Vito Miceli, who later headed SID, said he set up the separate structure "at the request of the Americans and NATO." 22
Two ancient, mysterious, international fraternities kept the loosely-linked Gladio programs from flying apart. The Knights of Malta played a formative role after the war (see box), but the order of Freemasonry and its most notorious lodge in Italy, known as Propaganda Due (pronounced "doo-ay" ), or P-2, was far more influential. In the late 1960s, its "Most Venerable Master" was Licio Gelli, a Knight of Malta who fought for Franco with Mussolini’s Black Shirts. At the end of World War II, Gelli faced execution by Italian partisans for his Nazi collaboration, but escaped by joining the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps. 23 In the 1950s, he was recruited by SIFAR.
After some years of self-imposed exile in Argentine fascist circles,24 he saw his calling in Italy as a Mason. Quickly rising to its top post, he began fraternizing in 1969 with Gen. Alexander Haig, then assistant to Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s national security chief. Gelli became the main intermediary between the CIA and SID’s De Lorenzo, also a Mason and Knight. Gelli’s first order from the White House was reportedly to recruit 400 more top Italian and NATO officials. 25
To help ferret out dissidents, Gelli and De Lorenzo began compiling personal dossiers on thousands of people, including legislators and clerics. 26 Within a few years, scandal erupted when an inquiry found 157,000 such files in SID, all available to the Ministers of Defense and Interior. 27 Parliament ordered 34,000 files burned, but by then the CIA had obtained duplicates for its archives. 28
Provocateurs on the Right
In 1968, the Americans started formal commando training for the gladiators at the clandestine Sardinian "NATO" base. Within a few years, 4,000 graduates had been placed in strategic posts. At least 139 arms caches, including some at carabinieri barracks, were at their disposal. 29 To induce young men to join such a risky venture, the CIA paid high salaries and promised that if they were killed, their children would be educated at U.S. expense. 30
Tensions began to reach critical mass that same year. While dissidents took to the streets all over the world, in Italy, takeovers of universities and strikes for higher wages and pensions were overshadowed by a series of bloody political crimes. The number of terrorist acts reached 147 in 1968, rising to 398 the next year, and to an incredible peak of 2,498 in 1978 before tapering off, largely because of a new law encouraging informers (penitenti). 31 Until 1974, the indiscriminate bombers of the right constituted the main force behind political violence.
The first major explosion occurred in 1969 in Milan’s Piazza Fontana; it killed 18 people and injured 90. In this and numerous other massacres, anarchists proved handy scapegoats for fascist provocateurs seeking to blame the left. Responding to a phone tip after the Milan massacre, police arrested 150 alleged anarchists and even put some on trial. But two years later, new evidence led to the indictment of several neofascists and SID officers. Three innocent anarchists were convicted, but later absolved, while those responsible for the attack emerged unpunished by Italian justice. 32
Conclusive Gladio links to political violence were found after a plane exploded in flight near Venice in November 1973. Venetian judge Carlo Mastelloni determined that the Argo-16 aircraft was used to shuttle trainees and munitions between the U.S. base in Sardinia and Gladio sites in northeast Italy.33 The apogee of right-wing terror came in 1974 with two massacres. One, a bombing at an antifascist rally in Brescia, killed eight and injured 102. The other was an explosion on the Italicus train near Bologna, killing 12 and wounding 105. At this point, President Giovanni Leone, with little exaggeration, summed up the situation: "With 10,000 armed civilians running around, as usual, I’m president of shit.” 34
At Brescia, the initial call to police also blamed anarchists, but the malefactor later turned out to be a secret agent in the Parallel SID. 35 A similar connection was also alleged in the Italicus case. Two fascists who were eventually convicted were members of a clandestine police group called the Black Dragons, according to the left-wing paper, Lotta Continua. 36 Their sentences were also overturned. Although in these and other cases, many leftists were arrested and tried, fascists or neofascists were often the culprits, in league with Gladio groups and the Italian secret services. Reflecting the degree to which these forces controlled the government through the Parallel SID, nearly all the rightists implicated in these atrocities were later freed.
By 1974, right-wing terror began to be answered by the armed left, which favored carefully targeted hit-and-run attacks over the right’s indiscriminate bombings. For the next six years, leftist militants, especially the Red Brigades, responded with a vengeance, accounting for far more acts of political violence than the right. 37 For several years, Italy plunged into a virtual civil war.
Plotting Coups D’etat
Meanwhile, groups of right-wingers were busy planning more takeovers of the elected government, with the active encouragement of U.S. officials. A seminal document was the 1970 132-page order on "stability operations" in "host" countries, published as Supplement B of the U.S. Army’s Field Manual 30-31. Taking its cue from earlier NSC and CIA papers, the manual explained that if a country is not sufficiently anticommunist, "serious attention must be given to possible modifications of the structure." If that country does not react with adequate "vigor," the document continues, "groups acting under U.S. Army intelligence control should be used to launch violent or nonviolent actions according to the nature of the case." 38
With such incendiary suggestions and thousands of U.S.-trained guerrillas ready, the fascists again attempted to take over the government by force in 1970. This time, the instigator was the "Black Prince" Borghese. Fifty men under the command of Stefano Delle Chiaie seized the Interior Ministry in Rome after being let in at night by an aide to political police head Federico D’Amato. But the operation was aborted when Borghese received a mysterious phone call later attributed to General Vito Miceli, the military intelligence chief. The plotters were not arrested; instead, they left with 180 stolen machine guns. 39
News of the attack remained secret until an informer tipped the press three months later. By then, the culprits had escaped to Spain. Although the ringleaders were convicted in 1975, the verdict was overturned on appeal. All but one of the machine guns were returned earlier. 40
It was in this atmosphere that the U.S. decided to make another all-out effort to block the communists from gaining strength in the 1972 elections. According to the Pike Report, the CIA disbursed $10 million to 21 candidates, mostly Christian Democrats. 41 That amount did not include $800,000 that Ambassador Graham Martin, going around the CIA, obtained through Henry Kissinger at the White House for General Miceli. 42 Miceli would later face charges for the Borghese coup attempt but, fitting the pattern, he was cleared.
Police foiled another attempted coup that same year. They found hit lists and other documents exposing some 20 subversive groups forming the Parallel SID structure. Roberto Cavallaro, a fascist trade unionist, was implicated, as were highly placed generals, who said they got approval from NATO and U.S. officials. In later testimony, Cavallaro said the group was set up to restore order after any trouble arose. "When these troubles do not erupt [by themselves]," he said, "they are contrived by the far right." Gen. Miceli was arrested, but the courts eventually freed him, declaring that there had been no insurrection. 43
Still another right-wing attempt to overthrow the government was set for 1974, reportedly with the imprimatur of both the CIA and NATO. Its leader was Edgardo Sogno, one of Italy’s most decorated resistance fighters, who had formed a Gladio-style group after the war. Sogno, who had gained many influential American friends while working at the Italian embassy in Washington during the 1960s, was later arrested, but he, too, was eventually cleared. 44
A triple murder at Peteano near Venice in May 1972 turned out to be pivotal in exposing Gladio. The crime occurred when three carabinieri, in response to an anonymous phone call, went to check out a suspicious car. When one of them opened the hood, all three were blown to bits by a boobytrap bomb. 45 An anonymous call two days later implicated the Red Brigades, the most active of the left’s revolutionary groups. The police immediately rounded up 200 alleged communists, thieves and pimps for questioning, but no charges were brought. Ten years later, a courageous Venetian magistrate, Felice Casson, reopened the long-dormant case only to learn that there had been no police investigation at the scene. Despite receiving a false analysis from a secret service bomb expert and confronting numerous obstructions and delays, the judge traced the explosives to a militant outfit called New Order and to one of its active members, Vincenzo Vinciguerra. He promptly confessed and was sentenced to life, the only right-wing bomber ever locked up. 46
Vinciguerra refused to implicate others, but described the coverup: "The carabinieri, the Ministry of Interior, the Customs and Excise police, the civilian and military secret services all knew the truth behind the attack, that I was responsible and all this within 20 days. So they decided, for totally political reasons, to cover it up. 47" As for his motive, the fascist true believer Vinciguerra said his misdeed was "an act of revolt against the manipulation" of neofascism since 1945 by the whole Gladio-based parallel structure. 48
Casson eventually found enough incriminating evidence to implicate the highest officials of the land. In what was the first such request to an Italian president, Casson demanded explanations from President Francesco Cossiga. But Casson didn’t stop there; he also demanded that other officials come clean. In October 1990, under pressure from Casson, Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti ended 30 years of denials and described Gladio in detail. He added that all prime ministers had been aware of Gladio, though some later denied it. 49 Suddenly, Italians saw clues to many mysteries, including the unexplained death of Pope John Paul I in 1978. Author David Yallop lists Gelli as a suspect in that case, saying that he, "for all practical purposes, ran Italy at the time." 50
Perhaps the most shocking political crime of the 1970s was the kidnapping and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro and five of his aides in 1978. The abduction occurred as Moro was on his way to submit a plan to strengthen Italian political stability by bringing communists into the government.
Earlier versions of the plan had sent U.S. officials into a tizzy. Four years before his death, on a visit to the U.S. as foreign minister, Moro was reportedly read the riot act by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and later by an unnamed intelligence official. In testimony during the inquiry into his murder, Moro’s widow summed up their ominous words: "You must abandon your policy of bringing all the political forces in your country into direct collaboration…or you will pay dearly for it." 51
Moro was so shaken by the threats, according to an aide, that he became ill the next day and cut short his U.S. visit, saying he was through with politics. 52 But U.S. pressure continued; Senator Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) issued a similar warning two years later in an interview in Italy. 53 Shortly before his kidnapping, Moro wrote an article replying to his U.S. critics, but decided not to publish it. 54
While being held captive for 55 days, Moro pleaded repeatedly with his fellow Christian Democrats to accept a ransom offer to exchange imprisoned Red Brigade members for his freedom. But they refused, to the delight of Allied officials who wanted the Italians to play hardball. In a letter found later, Moro predicted: "My death will fall like a curse on all Christian Democrats, and it will initiate a disastrous and unstoppable collapse of all the party apparatus." 55
During Moro’s captivity, police unbelievably claimed to have questioned millions of people and searched thousands of dwellings. But the initial judge investigating the case, Luciano Infelisi, said he had no police at his disposal. "I ran the investigation with a single typist, without even a telephone in the room." He added that he received no useful information from the secret services during the time. 56 Other investigating magistrates suggested in 1985 that one reason for the inaction was that all the key officers involved were members of P-2 and were therefore acting at the behest of Gelli and the CIA. 57
Although the government eventually arrested and convicted several Red Brigade members, many in the press and parliament continue to ask whether SID arranged the kidnapping after receiving orders from higher up. Suspicions naturally turned toward the U.S., particularly Henry Kissinger, though he denied any role in the crime. In Gladio and the Mafia, Washington had the perfect apparatus for doing such a deed without leaving a trace.
Penetrating The Red Brigades
That the Red Brigades had been thoroughly infiltrated for years by both the CIA and the Italian secret services is no longer contested. The purpose of the operation was to encourage violence from extremist sectors of the left in order to discredit the left as a whole. The Red Brigades were a perfect foil. With unflinching radicalism, they considered the Italian Communist Party too moderate and Moro’s opening too compromising.
The Red Brigades worked closely with the Hyperion Language School in Paris, with some members not realizing it had CIA ties. The school had been founded by three pseudo-revolutionary Italians, one of whom, Corrado Simioni, had worked for the CIA at Radio Free Europe. 58 Another, Duccio Berio, has admitted passing information about Italian leftist groups to SID. 59 Hyperion opened an office in Italy shortly before the kidnapping and closed it a few months later. An Italian police report said Hyperion may be "the most important CIA office in Europe." 60 Mario Moretti, one of those who handled arms deals and the Paris connection for the Red Brigades, managed to avoid arrest in the Moro case for three years even though he personally handled the kidnapping. 61
Venice magistrate Carlo Mastelloni concluded in 1984 that the Red Brigades had for years received arms from the PLO. 62 Mastelloni wrote that "the de facto secret service level accord between the USA and the PLO was considered relevant to the present investigation into the … relationship between the Red Brigades organization and the PLO." 63 One Gladio scholar, Phillip Willan, concludes that "the arms deal between the PLO and the Red Brigades formed part of the secret accord between the PLO and the CIA." 64 His research indicates that the alleged deal between the CIA and the PLO occurred in 1976, a year after the U.S. promised Israel that it would have no political contacts with the PLO.
At the time of the Moro kidnapping, several leaders of the Brigades were in prison, having been turned in by a double agent after they kidnapped a judge. According to journalist Gianni Cipriani, one of those arrested was carrying phone numbers and personal notes leading to a high official of SID, who had boasted openly of having agents inside the Red Brigades. Other intriguing finds included the discovery in the Brigade offices of a printing press which had previously belonged to SID and ballistics tests showing more than half of the 92 bullets at the kidnapping scene were similar to those in Gladio stocks. 65
Several people have noted the unlikelihood of the Red Brigades pulling off such a smooth, military-style kidnapping in the center of Rome. Alberto Franceschini, a jailed member of the Brigades, said, "I never thought my comrades outside had the capacity to carry out a complex military operation. … We remembered ourselves as an organization formed by inexperienced young lads." 66 Two days after the crime, one secret service officer told the press that the perpetrators appeared to have had special commando training. 67 When letters written by Moro were found later in a Red Brigades site in Milan, investigators hoped they would reveal key evidence. But Francesco Biscioni, who studied Moro’s responses to his captors’ questions, concluded that important sections had been excised when they were transcribed. Nonetheless, in one uncensored passage, Moro worried about how Andreotti’s "smooth relationships with his colleagues of the CIA" would affect his fate. 68
The two people with the most knowledge of Moro’s letters were murdered. The Carabiniere general in charge of anti-terrorism, Carlo Alberto Della Chiesa, was transferred to Sicily and killed Mafia-style in 1982, a few months after raising questions about the missing letters. 69 Maverick journalist Mino Pecorelli was assassinated on a Rome street in 1979 just a month after reporting that he had obtained a list of 56 fascists betrayed to the police by Gelli. 70 Thomas Buscetta, a Mafia informer under witness protection in the U.S., accused Andreotti of ordering both killings for fear of being exposed. 71 But an inquiry by his political peers last year found no reason to prosecute the prime minister. Della Chiesa and Pecorelli were only two of numerous witnesses and potential witnesses murdered before they could be questioned by judges untainted by links to Gladio. 72 President Cossiga, the interior minister when Moro died, told BBC: "Aldo Moro’s death still weighs heavily on the Christian Democrats as does the decision I came to, which turned my hair white, to practically sacrifice Moro to save the Republic." 73
The Bologna Train Station Bombing
A huge explosion at the Bologna train station two years after Moro’s death may have whitened the hair of many Italians – not just for the grisly toll of 85 killed and more than 200 injured – but for the official inaction that followed. Although the investigating magistrates suspected neofascists, they were unable to issue credible arrest warrants for more than two years because of false data from the secret services. By that time, all but one of the five chief suspects, two of whom had ties to SID, had skipped the country. 74 The T4 explosive found at the scene matched the Gladio material used in Brescia, Peteano and other bombings, according to expert testimony before Judge Mastelloni. 75
In the trial, the judges cited the "strategy of tension and its ties to `foreign powers."’ They also found the secret military and civilian structure tied into neofascist groups, P-2, and the secret services. 76 In short, they found the CIA and Gladio.
But their efforts to exact justice for the Bologna bombing came to nothing when, in 1990, the court of appeals acquitted all the alleged "brains." P-2 head Gelli went free, as did two secret service chiefs whose perjury convictions were overturned. Four gladiators convicted of participating in an armed group also won appeals. That left Peteano as the only major bombing case with a conviction of the actual bomber, thanks to Vinciguerra’s confession.
The sorry judicial record in these monstrous crimes showed how completely the Gladio network enveloped the army, police, secret services and the top courts. Thanks to P-2, with its 963 well-placed brothers, 77 the collusion also extended into the top levels of media and business.
Fruits Of Gladio
By the early 1980s, however, court data revealed enough CIA fingerprints to provoke strong anti-U.S. sentiment. In 1981, the offices of three U.S. firms in Rome were bombed. In 1982, the Red Brigades kidnapped James L. Dozier, a U.S. general attached to NATO, calling him a "Yankee hangman." 78 He was freed after five weeks by police commandos, reportedly with the help of the CIA’s Mafia connections. 79 But damage to the U.S. image has been remarkably constrained considering what the U.S. did to Italian society and government for 50 years in the name of anticommunism.
Moro’s final prediction came true. Instead of bolstering the center parties, Gladio, helped by the corruption scandals, destroyed them. Instead of destroying the leftists, Gladio revelations helped them win control of major cities while retaining one-third of parliament. By the early 1980s, the Red Brigades were wiped out, but the major sources of right-wing terrorism – the Mafia and the neofascists – remained active.80
The end results lead some to question the whole rationale of U.S. involvement in Italy, particularly in regard to the "communist menace." According to Phillip Willan, who wrote the definitive book on Italian terrorism: "The U.S. has consistently refused to recognize the Italian Communist Party’s increasingly wholehearted commitment to the principles of Western democracy and its validity as an alternative to the generally corrupt and incompetent political parties that have governed Italy since the war. Had it done so, much of the bloodshed resulting from the strategy of tension might have been avoided. 81" Willan goes on to ask "whether U.S. and Italian intelligence officials may have deliberately over-emphasized the communist threat in order to give themselves greater power and greater leeway for their own maneuvers." 82
The Lessons Of Gladio
As long as the U.S. public remains ignorant of this dark chapter in U.S. foreign relations, the agencies responsible for it will face little pressure to correct their ways. The end of the Cold War brought wholesale changes in other nations, but it changed little in Washington. In an ironic twist, confessed CIA mole Aldrich Ames has raised the basic question of whether the U.S. needs "tens of thousands of agents working around the world primarily in and against friendly countries." "The U.S.," he adds, "still awaits a real national debate on the means and ends – and costs – of our national security policies." 83
The new government in Italy touts itself as a revolution of the disenfranchised, a clean break from the past. But the fascists are back and gaining ground. The anti-Mafia party has been rejected, and the big cartels have tightened their grip on the economy. With P-2 brother Berlusconi continuing to trade on the Cold War fear of communists, the Gladio perpetrators still unpunished, and "experts" in Washington raising fears of more terrorism, 84 it looks like business as usual in Italy.
The policies that would evolve into Gladio began during World War II, when U.S. anticommunist nphobias combined with geopolitical fears of a victorious USSR to create a holy war against the left. An "ends justify the means" atmosphere within the U.S. government and particularly within the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), fostered the creation of "Stay Behind" programs throughout Western Europe, ostensibly as the first line of defense in case the Soviets invaded.
But the main worry was internal. The Americans’ great fear for Italy was that communist partisans fighting in the north would join with organized labor to bring the left to power. The OSS and its successors were apparently prepared to use any measures to forestall that event, including political assassination, terrorism, and alliances with organized crime. According to one OSS memo to Washington, the U.S. seemed to support a monarchist plan to use "fascist killers" to commit acts of terror and blame the left. 1 U.S. involvement in Italian politics began in 1942, when the OSS successfully pressured the Justice Department to release imprisoned mobster Charles "Lucky" Luciano. In return for early freedom, Luciano agreed to make contacts with Mafia pals to ease the way for the U.S. invasion of Sicily in 1943.2
The Luciano deal forged a long-standing alliance between the U.S. and the international Cosa Nostra. It also set a pattern of cooperation between U.S. intelligence agencies and international criminal organizations involved in drugs and arms traffic. The deal’s godfather was Earl Brennan, OSS chief for Italy. Before the war, he had served in the U.S. Embassy, using his diplomatic cover to establish contacts with Mussolini’s secret police and leading fascists. 3
The Catholic Church also cooperated. U.S. ties to the Vatican were already substantial; one of the strongest links was a secret fraternity, the Rome-based Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which dates back to the First Crusade. OSS head William "Wild Bill" Donovan was a member. So were other top U.S. officials, including Myron Taylor, U.S. envoy to the Vatican from 1939 to 1950, and William Casey, an OSS operative who rose to CIA chief under Reagan. OSS Italy chief Brennan had contacts as early as 1942 with Vatican Under-Secretary of State Gian Battista Montini, who became Pope Paul VI in 1963.4
Among the notable OSS operatives was James Jesus Angleton, the legendary, paranoid, future CIA counter-intelligence chief. Angleton built on family and business connections in Italy to lay the basis of Gladio by forming and financing a clandestine network of right-wing Italians who shared his fierce gung-ho style. 5 The paramilitary groups were filled with devout anticommunists ready to wage war on the left. He also helped notorious Nazi/fascist mass-murderers such as Junio Valerio "Black Prince;; Borghese elude justice at war’s end. 6 U.S. officials were worried that the communists and socialists would join forces after the fighting. The communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1948 added to their fears. As a result, the U.S. cooked up a variety of plans to manipulate Italian politics. Angleton, who by late 1948 had been promoted to special assistant to CIA director Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, used the Vatican’s 20,000 Civic Committees to conduct psychological warfare against communist influences, particularly in the unions. 7
The newly formed National Security Council (NSC) also joined the fray: "If the Communist Party wins the  election," the NSC advised, "such aggression should immediately be countered by steps to extend the strategic disposition of U.S. armed forces in Italy." 8 The Communists did not win that pivotal election (nor any subsequent ones). But that didn’t stop the U.S. from trying to destroy the left. The total cost to American taxpayers for such activities (and various aid programs) was $4 billion from the end of the war to 1953. 9 And that was just the beginning of the U.S. assault on Italian sovereignty.
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- Bale, Jeffrey McKenzie. "The 'Black' Terrorist International: Neo-Fascist Paramilitary Networks and the 'Strategy of Tension' in Italy, 1968-1974." UMI Dissertation Services. UMI Number 9529217. Michigan: Ann Arbor, 1996.
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