the pork-bolter

The Politics of Fear: Terrorism and State Control

From a talk given to Worthing Alliance on April 24, 2008. For sources see bibliography.

AFTER the end of the Second World War, the USA and UK secretly set up a network of "stay-behind" guerrilla units across western Europe, ostensibly to form a resistance movement in the event of a Soviet invasion. However, they quickly became part of efforts to keep communist and radical movements from challenging capitalism and acted as terrorist cells, murdering hundreds of innocent people in a "strategy of tension" to scare the public into the arms of the state.

You would be forgiven for thinking this was some mad conspiracy theory documented only in some obscure website in darkest Arizona, alongside reports telling us that Elvis is still alive, President Kennedy was assassinated by Buddy Holly and the Royal Family are shape-shifting lizards controlled by Lord Lucan.

Gladio - as this network is known - is certainly not a widely acknowledged reality or a central part of the contemporary political background. And yet, with the end of the Cold War it is now well documented, it is in the public sphere and it is absolutely and undeniably true.

After many years of suspicions and rumours, initial confirmation of Gladio's existence came in Italy in 1974 as part of a probe into right-wing terrorism by investigative magistrate Giovanni Tamburino. He arrested General Vito Miceli, chief of the Italian military secret service SID, on a charge of "promoting, setting up and organising, together with others, a secret association of military and civilians aimed at provoking an armed insurrection to bring about an illegal change in the constitution of the state and the form of government".

At his trial in November of that year, Miceli revealed the existence of a special section of SID, saying (in the words of this rather clumsy translation): "A Super SID on my orders! Of course! But I have not organised it myself to make a coup d'etat. It was the United States and NATO who asked me to do it!".

And 16 years later, in 1990, an official confirmation came from Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, again as a result of Tamburino's investigations.

Andreotti revealed that, as far as Italy was concerned, a resistance movement had been set up immediately after the war and later formalised, in 1956, in a secret agreement between SIFAR (Italian military intelligence) and the CIA.

Says author Philip Willan, an expert in Italian political intrigue and author of a 1991 book on the subject: "Senior members of the network attended courses run by the Training Division of the British Intelligence Service. It was clear from the report that the organization had been in large part financed and controlled by the CIA."

On November 5, 1990, after Andreotti had already released details of Gladio, a NATO spokesman issued an official denial, stating firmly: "An organization of this kind does not and never has existed within the framework of the NATO military structure".

But the next day a different spokesman had to issue an embarrassed retraction, saying the previous announcement had been "a mistake" and that NATO had no comment to make on the subject!

Shortly afterwards, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the network and saying it "protests vigorously at the assumption by certain US military personnel at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) and in NATO of the right to encourage the establishment in Europe of a clandestine intelligence and operation network."

Obviously Andreotti and Italian president Francesco Corsica were not going to actually own up to any link between Gladio and terrorist attacks, but with connections already being made to the secret services, it did not take much of a leap of imagination to start to fill in the gaps and subsequent research and information leaves us with a pretty clear picture of what was going on.

Gladio's cover story of providing a "stay-behind" anti-Soviet network was undermined by the discovery of some of its 136 arms caches buried at secret locations around Italy. The weapons largely consisted of Kalashnikovs and other Soviet guns, plus explosives from Czechoslovakia (as it was). As Philip Willan comments, why would the Americans and British go out of their way to supply groups with Eastern Bloc weapons if they were really intended to fight a Soviet invasion? The only obvious purpose is to use them to commit acts that can then be blamed on left-wing groups and the communist bloc.

In 1992 BBC2 screened a Timewatch documentary on Gladio by Allan Francovich, showing the close links between terrorists and western intelligence operatives - which can be found on YouTube.

The review in The Times at the time stated: "It was one of those programmes which you imagine will bring down governments, but such is the instant amnesia generated by television you find that in the newspapers the next morning it rates barely a mention."

Francovich went on in 1995 to make The Maltese Double Cross about the 1988 Lockerbie bombings. He died from a heart attack under mysterious circumstances upon entering the USA at the customs area of Houston, Texas, on April 17 1997.

Meanwhile, the investigations carried on, particularly in Italy. An Italian parliamentary commission into the country's years of terrorism concluded in 2000: "Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions had been organised or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state institutions and, as has been discovered more recently, by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence."

There were even confessions from the horse's mouth. In March 2001 General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counter-intelligence, admitted: "The CIA, following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left and, for this purpose, it may have made use of right-wing terrorism."

The implications of all this are obviously enormous. As American author and intelligence analyst John Prados has commented: "In this age of global concern with terrorism, it is especially upsetting to discover that western Europe and the United States collaborated in creating networks that took up terrorism. In the United States such nations are called 'state sponsors' and are the object of hostility and sanction. Can it be the United States itself, Britain, France, Italy and others who should be on the list of state sponsors?"

Perhaps it is not so difficult to see why, despite the mountain of evidence on Gladio, it is still not widely mentioned in our media.

How did it all start?

Well, dirty tricks go back a long way - from ancient Greece and Rome, through to the British Empire and the current day, all across the world and in all sorts of circumstances. The term "false flag", now often applied to terrorism carried out by someone other than it appears, originally came from a naval trick of attacking another force flying the flags of an enemy, to prompt retaliation against the wrong target. Any power struggle or war has probably involved elements of deceit and manipulation.

But for the purposes of this talk we will start the story at 9.15pm on the night of February 27, 1933, when a Berlin fire station received an alarm call that the Reichstag building, the home of the German Parliament, was ablaze.

The police quickly found a shirtless Dutch communist called Marinus van der Lubbe. He and four communist leaders were arrested and it was declared that the communists were beginning a plot against the German government. Adolf Hitler, who had been sworn in as chancellor four weeks previously, urged President Hindenburg to pass an emergency decree in order to counter the "ruthless confrontation of the KPD". The passing of the Reichstag Fire Decree and then the Enabling Act led to the communists being barred from elections, various dissident papers being suppressed and generally allowed Hitler to take over the role of dictator. In 1990 material from the Gestapo archives held in Moscow became available to researchers for the first time and a 2001 work by two German authors, Alexander Bahar and Wilfried Kugel, demonstrated that the fire was almost certainly started by the Nazis themselves.

We now jump across the North Sea and forward five years to 1938, when, with war with Germany looming, a report on guerrilla warfare by Major Lawrence Grand of the British army, suggested "The use of organisations already existing in Germany, eg: the Communists." Using communists against fascists or fascists against communists - it was all fair game in British realpolitik.

In 1939 Col Colin Gubbins produced some papers on guerrilla warfare. In The Secret History of SOE - the Special Operations Executive, historian William Mackenzie notes: "In their final form, they consisted of three slender pamphlets printed on rice paper and bound in brown cardboard covers without indication of their contents. The original intention was to have them translated into various languages, but it is not at all clear what use was eventually made of them. They were entitled The Art of Guerrilla Warfare (22 pages), Partisan Leader's Handbook (40 pages) and How to Use High Explosives (16 pages plus diagrams). Of The Art of Guerrilla Warfare, Mackenzie writes: "It is plain... that the doctrine is largely drawn from British experience in the offensive under Lawrence, on the defensive in Ireland, Palestine, the North-West Frontier and Russia."

By 1940, after Dunkirk, Britain was thinking as much about anti-Nazi resistance at home as on the continent. In May of that year Col Gubbins formed a new British resistance network to be supplied with the best weapons available and modern plastic explosives. It was highly secretive and its name, "Auxiliary Units", was chosen to be as nondescript as possible. It's still secret today, in fact, with official documents not to be released until 2020.

Author Daniele Ganser comments in his authoritative 2005 book "Nato's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe": "These first British Gladio units received special training and were instructed to 'stay behind' enemy lines in case of a German invasion of the island. Operating from secret hideouts and arms caches, they would be able to carry out sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the German invaders."

Secret underground hideouts were set up all over England - The Secret Sussex Resistance by Stewart Angell (1996) describes some in Amberley and Arundel Park, with the local HQ at Tottington Manor in Small Dole, near Henfield. They contained arms to blow up railway lines and attack German army convoys. 50-gallon oil drums filled with an inflammable mixture and buried in roadsides.

This is, in fact, pretty similar to the methods of the Iraqi and Afghan insurgencies against the US/UK occupations. But, of course, they are terrorists and our boys in the Second World War would have been resistance fighters, which is a completely different kettle of fish!

Britain was never invaded and so the stay-behind network was never activated. But the Germans left fascist stay-behinds as they withdrew across Europe to attack behind enemy lines, including the so-called Werewolves.

Experience from these paramilitary operations on both sides of the Second World War was to be used in the anti-communist struggle, with the "stay-behind" resistance networks set up supposedly in case of a Soviet invasion of American-controlled western Europe.

The Special Operations Executive had officially been disbanded in January 1946, but was secretly kept alive for the Cold War and on June 30 1947 a new 'Special Operations' section was set up within MI6 under Gubbins. SOE personnel remained after the end of the war in Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey and elsewhere as part of this new anti-communist operation, working closely alongside the Americans.

Gladio was first coordinated by the Clandestine Committee of the Western Union (CCWU), founded in 1948. After the creation of NATO in 1949, the CCWU was integrated into the Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC), founded in 1951 and overseen by the SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). In Britain the Special Operations Executive - which had formed the wartime stay-behind units - was, naturally enough, involved. While the USA provided much of the funding for Gladio, Britain played a major role. There was a base near London and Gladio recruits trained with the SAS at Fort Monckton near Portsmouth, at Poole and also at Hereford - home of the SAS.

What sort of people were recruited to become part of this pan-European network?

Ganser, the author mentioned earlier, notes that in Germany in 1945 "the supply of thoroughly anti-communist men trained in guerrilla warfare and experienced with arms and explosives was abundant." Former nazis were used to set up a stay-behind network, including "Butcher of Lyon" Klaus Barbie and Hitler's spy chief Reinhard Gehlen. Elsewhere, fascist veterans of the Spanish Civil War, militants from Mussolini's last-stand Salo republic and other right-wing extremists were recruited and formed into squads of nine men, with two leaders. They were armed with light machine guns and hand grenades.

Similar networks were set up all across Europe, and I'll just briefly mention the sort of things they were up to before returning to look at the place where it all first went public - Italy.

SPAIN. Under Franco it has been said that Gladio was the actual government. CIA instructors trained European fascists in the Spanish Canary Islands. Parliamentarian Antonio Romera, of the Spanish United Left opposition party investigated and found Gladio in Spain had "acted against militant Communists and anarchists, such as against the miners of Asturias and the Catalan and Basque nationalists". In 1977, two years after Franco's death, a secret stay-behind army, with the support of Italian right-wing terrorists, carried out the Atocha Massacre in Madrid, attacking the offices of a lawyer connected to the Communist Party, killing five people.

PORTUGAL. A front organisation called Aginter Press was set up, backed by the CIA and used to recruit and direct fascists, backing Salazar's regime at home and in Portugal's African colonies. Anarchist Stuart Christie, in his book ôStefano della Chiaie" says of Aginter Press's activities in the Portuguese African colonies: "Their aim included the liquidation of leaders of the liberation movements, infiltration, the installation of informers and provocateurs and the utilisation of false liberation movements." (Ganser) In Mozambique in 1969 Aginter Press assassinated Eduardo Mondlane, President of the Mozambique Liberation Party and leader of the FRELIMO movement. It is also believed that Portuguese and CIA agents from Aginter Press worked with Italian right-wing groups like Ordine Nuovo to plant bombs in Italy in 1969, that were blamed on left-wingers.

BELGIUM. In 1950 Gladio cells are thought to have been involved in the assassination of communist leader Julian Lahaut. In the 1980s, a horrific series of terrorist attacks was carried out, resulting in 28 deaths. Many suspect the Belgian branch of Gladio was involved. In an article in The Observer on June 7 1992, Hugh O'Shaughnessy wrote: "The objective of the exercise had been twofold: to jolt the Belgian police into a higher state of alert and, no less important, to give the impression to the population at large that the comfortable and well-fed Kingdom of Belgium was on the brink of red revolution."

GREECE. From the end of the war there was a long and bloody battle by Britain and the USA to keep the left out of power. When Greece joined NATO in 1952, the country's special forces, the LOK, were integrated into Gladio. Former Greek defence minister, Yannis Varvitsiotis has since admitted: "Local commandos and the CIA set up a branch of the network in 1955 to organise guerrilla resistance to any communist invader". In 1967 they were involved in a CIA-backed military coup one month before elections which the left was expected to win. This established the right-wing "Regime of the Colonels", which ran Greece until 1974.

TURKEY. The stay-behind army was known as "Counter-Guerrilla" and closely linked to the MIT, the Turkish intelligence agency. It was involved in domestic terrorism, killing hundreds of people as part of a "strategy of tension" that led to two military coups d'Útat in which it was directly involved - with of course secret American support - in 1971 and 1980.

HOLLAND. A Dutch section of the Gladio network in Holland, known as 'O' and involved in top secret covert action and sabotage was partly financed from private sources, it has emerged, particularly multinational firms (Ganser).

NORWAY. The Norwegian stay-behind network defined its enemy of "fifth columnists" as "Norwegians or foreigners who, within the nation's borders, work for a foreign power through illegal intelligence activities, planning and carrying out sabotage, assassinations etc." Ironically, this is a perfect description of Gladio itself.

GERMANY. In the country where, you will recall, the network was set up with the help of senior nazis, in 1981 a large stay-behind arsenal was discovered and linked to the bombing of the Munich October Beer Fest in 1980 that killed 13 and left 213 wounded.

Gladio has also been shown to have operated in France, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Luxembourg.


At the end of the Second World War, the American OSS, Office of Strategic Services, later to become the CIA- was at the head of the Allied wave invading Italy and the X2 counter-intelligence branch was charged with setting up a stay-behind network. Agent James Angleton deliberately recruited fascists, often saving them from execution by partisans out for revenge for atrocities committed against the local population.

The USA was desperate to keep the PCI - the communists - out of power in Italy. A cable sent in 1947 by George Kenna, director of the US State Department's Policy Planning Staff, stated: "As far as Europe is concerned, Italy is obviously key point. If communists were to win election there our whole position in the Mediterranean, and possibly in Western Europe as well, would probably be undermined." (Willan)

CIA agent William Colby has said: "My job, simply put, was to prevent Italy from being taken over by the Communists in the next 1958 elections." (Ganser)

The USA was not too fussy about who it worked with to achieve its aims. It decided to use the mafia to rule southern Italy. Says Philip Willan: "It was a natural choice, since Mussolini's ruthless crackdown on the criminal organizations meant the conservative-minded Mafia could be relied upon to be both anti-fascist and anti-communist."

The revival of Freemasons was also encouraged after the war by the UK and USA and the secretive and powerful P2 masonic lodge, under Licio Gelli, became a central point in the undercover battle to retain US/UK control of Italy. Silvio Berlusconi's name was among those found on a P2 membership list, and while P2 was supposedly banned in 1981, no doubt the same basic network still performs the same role today.

P2 membership included army officers, cops, judges and neo-fascists. Members boasted unswerving loyalty to anti-communism and American aims and policies in western Europe.

And for this role the Americans and British knew they could make good use of Italian fascists: An Ordine Nuovo document revealed in court in 1973 declared: "Behind the proud axe of Ordine Nuovo have gathered men who have no fear, whose violent force will descend implacably upon the filthy, bleating herd, led by Christian-Communist jackals." As Philip Willan comments: "This is just the frame of mind required if one is to plant bombs in crowded public places."

Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a jailed neo-fascist bomber and Ordine Nuovo member who has spoken freely about the Gladio network, has said the "parallel structures" involving the intelligence forces were "an invisible army that is not poised for battle against a hypothetical invader, but rather one meant to be used internally".

The key to the Gladio approach in Italy was the "Strategy of Tension", designed to frighten the Italian into the arms of a right-wing state and thwart any radicalisation of Italian society.

The idea began at a Pollio Institute conference at the Parco dei Principe Hotel in Rome on May 3 to 5 1965, calling for all means possible to be used to defeat communism - secret service personnel, conservatives and fascists were involved.

In 1963 a secret NATO base was set up near Capo Marrargiu on the west coast of Sardinia which, it has now been officially admitted, was the official Gladio training centre. In 1968 it was expanded and modernised under the guidance of American 'technicians'. Its ostensible purpose was to train 'stay-behind' units - supposedly to organise resistance and sabotage in case of a Soviet invasion of Italy. Says Willan: "More realistically, the units were to carry out sabotage and terrorism in peacetime Italy to ensure that Italian communists never got their hands on the levers of power".

Between 1965 and 1975 between 1,000 and 4,000 potential terrorists were trained at the base. At the end of the course, Capo Marrargiu graduates would be allowed to keep the weapons and explosives with which they had been provided on arrival at the base.

The fascist Vinciguerra told the 1992 Timewatch documentary that he and other "Gladiatori" were transported to their training in Sardinia in blacked-out planes and buses and shown how to use explosives.

On December 12 1969 came the first major bombing of the Strategy of Tension in Italy at Piazza Fontana in Milan. 17 people killed and 88 injured. The attack was blamed on anarchists at the time. One of the suspects, Giuseppe "Pino" Pinelli, secretary of the Italian Anarchist Black Cross, died in police custody after being arrested and was the inspiration for Dario Fo's play Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

But in 1976, General Giandelio Maletti and Captain Antonio Labruna, both of the SID counter-espionage department, were arrested by magistrates investigating the bombing and accused of protecting suspects.

One of these, a right-winger by the name of Marco Pozzan, was hidden in a secret service office for several days, supplied with a false passport and escorted to safety in Franco's Spain by a secret service officer.

Eventually, 17 years after the bombing, General Maletti was sentenced to a year in jail and Captain Labruna to ten months for their part in what was described in the charge as "a wider criminal plan aimed at preventing the judicial authorities from throwing light on the tragic terrorist events which bloodied Italy in 1969."

The pattern repeats over years of the Strategy of Tension, with official secrecy invoked to block investigations into terrorist acts. In 1989, in a speech marking the 20th anniversary of Piazza Fontana, Libero Gualtieri - a Republican Party senator and the president of an Italian parliamentary committee investigating the right-wing bomb massacres - said the judiciary had identified at least 40 instances of collusion between the secret services and right-wing terrorists.

Some fascinating documents, dated May 4 1969 (seven months before the Piazza Fontana bomb), were uncovered in 1971. They belonged to right-wing bombing suspect Giovanni Ventura and appeared to be reports drawn up for Italian secret services. One referred to a number of detailed steps to be taken towards moving the Italian government to the right, including "a possible wave of terrorist attacks to convince public opinion of the dangers of maintaining the alliance with the left (industrial groups in northern Italy would finance the planting of a few bombs by isolated neo-fascist groups)."

On May 17, 1973 Gianfranco Bertoli threw a hand grenade into a crowd outside the Milan police HQ, killing four people. He said he was an anarchist, but it later emerged he had worked for SIFAR (military intelligence) as well as for the right-wing CIA-Funded Peace and Freedom Association.

Mysterious deaths of witnesses were strangely frequent:

* Ermanno Buzzi, a right-wing bomber who was expected to make sensational revelations in court, was strangled in the corner of a prison yard by two right-wingers, Mario Tuti and Pierluigi Concutelli, on April 13, 1981.

* Carmine Palladino, thought to have inside info about the Bologna bombing, was murdered by Concutelli in the same corner of the same yard just over a year later, on August 10 1982.

* Pierluigi Paglia, a right-winger, who decided to return from Bolivia to tell magistrates what he knew about fascist bombings, was arrested in a joint CIA/Italian secret service operation and fatally wounded while apparently resisting arrest on October 10 1988.

The most notorious terrorist outrage in Italy probably took place on the morning of August 2, 1980, when a bomb at Bologna's main railway station killed 85 people and wounded more than 200.

Most people are probably aware that right-wing terrorists were to blame, and after lengthy investigations and countless court cases, in November 1995 (15 years later), the Court of Cassation (Corte di Cassazione) confirmed life imprisonment for the neo-fascists Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, members of the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (NAR).

But perhaps less well known is that sentences for "investigation diversion" - blocking the inquiry - were given by the same court to Licio Gelli (head of P2), and to secret service agents Francesco Pazienza, Pietro Musumeci and Giuseppe Belmonte.

Vincenzo Vinciguerra, the talkative fascist terrorist, told the Timewatch documentary: "The massacre at Bologna came at a time of maximum concern on the part of the Italian, American and Allied secret services because of the electoral success of the Italian Communist Party. The massacre at Bologna responds, as do all the other massacres, to the logic of a state which, no longer knowing how to confront a political enemy, resorts to extreme measures of violence, attributable to extremists, on the left or the right, in order to justify its own actions. That is the only truth about Bologna."

Another key event in recent Italian history was the kidnap and murder in 1978 of Christian Democrat leader and former Prime Minister Aldo Moro.

The one big difference between this and the other terrorist act we've mentioned so far is that it was carried out not by fascists, or fascists pretending to be anarchists or communists, but by the Red Brigades.

While nobody is suggesting that the Red Brigades were the total invention of the Italian state or the Gladio network, in the way that at least some of the neo-fascist groups undoubtedly were, there is much evidence to suggest that they were at least heavily infiltrated and probably even eventually secretly controlled by state forces.

Toni Negri, considered by many to be one of the leaders of the Red Brigades, spent a period of his life engaged in studies in the USA, financed by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He returned to the USA a number of times and does not appear to have had any difficulty in getting a visa, unlike many much more moderate communists and radicals.

An Italian intelligence officer has said the Red Brigades could be divided into three levels - the young fanatics, the Eastern Bloc agents and "further in, in the most secret compartment, the infiltrators of the Interior Ministry and Western secret services".

One strange piece in the jigsaw puzzle is a photocopier sold off as unserviceable from the Rome administrative office for the Gladio training base on Sardinia, which later appeared in perfect working order in the Red Brigades' printing shop in Via Pio Foa.

Left-wing terrorists sometimes chose some strange targets. For instance, in 1979 Prima Linea (Front Line), shot dead examining magistrate Emilio Alessandri, who was best known for his investigations into secret service involvement in right wing terrorism and who had just begun a probe into Banco Ambrosiano, the Milan bank headed by P2 member Roberto Calvi.

The change in the Red Brigades from its original relatively mild and idealistic nature to the blind terror of its later incarnation came in 1974 with the arrest of Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini, two of the founding fathers.

As author Gianfranco Sanguinetti has pointed out, nothing is easier for the secret services than to infiltrate a terrorist group and supplant the original leadership "either through certain timely arrests or through the killing of the original leaders, which generally occurs in a shoot-out with the police, prepared for the operation by their infiltrators".

Franceschini himself, one of the two arrested Red Brigades founders, had time in jail to work out what exactly he had been caught up in. He said: "We were the only revolutionary organization in an advanced capitalist country that had lasted over the years. I used to think that this meant that Italy was a country ripe for revolution... I had the impression that the carabinieri could have arrested us whenever they wanted, but they never went the whole way. Our activities were destabilising; those who used us did so in order to achieve a stabilizing effect, so that there should be no change to Italy, to maintain the exclusion from power of the Communist Party and of the left. We were acting to bring about change and those who used us did so to prevent change."

The kidnapping of Moro in particular has raised many questions about the Red Brigades. He was conveniently removed from the political scene while he was pursuing a policy of alliance with the Communist Party - a policy opposed by the P2 masonic lodge and the US government. He was kidnapped in a textbook operation on March 16. Two days later, an unnamed secret service officer told La Repubblica newspaper that the kidnap operation was a technical jewel, "so perfect as to seem almost artistic". He said it had to have been carried out either by highly trained soldiers or civilians "who have undergone lengthy commando training in specialized bases". He also referred to the Red Brigades' "genuinely ideologically motivated members" and "sectors that are controlled by other directors, for other purposes" and said their aims "paradoxically coincide".

During his 55 days in captivity, Moro is said to have experienced the "Stockholm syndrome" of empathy with his kidnappers, and gave his captors controversial written confessions about the Strategy of Tension including, allegedly, the existence of Gladio. Bizarrely, his Red Brigade captors decided not to do anything with the material and, equally bizarrely, the Italian authorities declined to come to an agreement which would have led to his release - as they often did with much less prominent kidnap victims. On May 9 he was found dead in the boot of an abandoned car.

Moro's daughter Maria Fida, later a Christian Democrat senator, said: "Absolutely nothing was done. There were no negotiations; various attempts to negotiate were nipped in the bud."

Journalist Mino Pecorelli was amassing information on the Moro case and an unpublished article concerned speculation that the Americans were behind the kidnapping. He was shot dead in his car outside his office in March 1979. Pecorelli's friend Colonel Antonio Varisco of the carabinieri was murdered with a sawn-off shotgun in July 1979 and his colleague Captain Antonio Straullu, who investigated Pecorelli's death, was also assassinated.

While the USA has now admitted the existence of Operation Gladio, it insists it was merely a stay-behind network and, not surprisingly, denied it was involved in terrorist attacks in Italy and elsewhere.

But all the evidence points to heavy American involvement. This wasn't always necessarily the CIA, by the way. It was not always right tool for covert actions in Europe. There was the threat of exposure and thus an own goal in the sensitive game of US involvement in European politics. It is believed the FBI might have often been involved, even though - or rather because! - it ostensibly only operated on home soil. But the US also used other secret networks and channels - parallel structures that did not show up on official paperwork.

As well as the statements linking the USA to Italian terrorism cited at the start of the talk, various other clues have cropped up over the years. For instance, a document confiscated from a plotter in a failed 1974 coup d'etat, said the (proposed) new government's policies would include "maintenance of the present military and financial commitments to NATO and the preparation of a plan to increase Italy's contribution to the Atlantic Alliance" and the appointment of a special envoy to the USA to organise an Italian military contribution to the Vietnam war.

In 1981 top secret American documents were found in the false bottom of a suitcase being carried by the daughter of P2 boss Licio Gelli. These describe how US Army intelligence operatives should respond to communist insurgencies in Allied countries. One section warns that HC - Host Country - governments may be lulled into a false sense of security if the communist threat seems to have subsided: "In such cases, US Army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince HC governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger and of the necessity of counteraction. To this end, US Army Intelligence should seek to penetrate the insurgency by means of agents on special assignment, with the task of forming special action groups among the more radical elements of the insurgency. When the kind of situation envisaged above arises, these groups, acting under US Army intelligence control, should be used to launch violent or non-violent actions according to the nature of the case."

Concludes Willan: "It is by no means easy to determine who was responsible for day-to-day tactical decisions in the running of the strategy of tension. But there can be little doubt that overall responsibility for the strategy lay with the government and intelligence services of the United States."

But it would be wrong to think that the USA is the only state heavily implicated in Gladio and officially sanctioned terrorism. And also wrong to think that the waves of terror that hit Italy were the worst in Europe.

In Italy between 1969 and 1987 in Italy, 365 people were killed and more than 1,000 wounded in political violence.

But during the same years in another part of Europe. 2,618 were killed and more than 33,000 injured. Where was that troubled place? Northern Ireland. And what is the state often accused of involvement in the violence? Britain.

We haven't got time here to do anything more than scratch the surface of the history of the troubles, but if we did, we might want to look closer at:

* Freddie Scappaticci, alias Stakeknife, the British agent who infiltrated the IRA to run its internal security and ordered 40 people to be murdered as security risks - presumably the wrong ones. He's now said to be living in Italy, where he no doubt feels very much at home.

* Brian Nelson, the British agent who became the intelligence chief of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association - performing a similar role on the other side of the deadly hall of mirrors.

* The Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, and the Maguire Seven - all people wrongly convicted of republican bombing atrocities. Or maybe we should put some inverted commas around 'republican', because if they're not responsible, who knows who was really behind the outrages and why the British establishment was so keen to find someone to blame for them. Incidentally, the Birmingham bomb led to the 1974 Labour government passing the original Prevention of Terrorism Act.

* Question marks remain over the Omagh bombing of August 15 1998, generally blamed on a republican splinter group. Suspicious minds have pointed to the fact that public horror at the attack, in which 29 people died, allowed Tony Blair's government to rush through controversial "emergency" anti-terrorist legislation, in the form of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, less than a month later in September 1998. This allowed people to be convicted of belonging to a proscribed organisation merely on the say-so of a senior police officer, created an offence of conspiracy to commit offences abroad and generally prefigured more recent terrorist legislation. Helpfully, it included a clause giving "all crown agents immunity from prosecution under the legislation".

* Constant suspicions of the involvement of the British state in sectarian killings, which still won't go away, despite the official end of the "troubles" just as the British state turns its attention to a new "war on terror". An article in The Guardian on April 16 (2008), stated: "a public inquiry into alleged collusion between security forces and terrorists in Northern Ireland will hear 'very troubling suggestions of state involvement in the murder of one of the state's own citizens', it was told yesterday. Rosemary Nelson, a prominent Catholic solicitor, was killed in March 1999 by a booby-trap bomb placed under her car by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name for the Ulster Defence Association and Loyalist Volunteer Force. But her murder swiftly attracted allegations of security force involvement. The inquiry... will consider allegations that the then Royal Ulster Constabulary, British army, Northern Ireland Office and MI5 failed to protect her and may have incited or "facilitated" her killing. It will also examine whether the investigation into her murder was obstructed. No one has ever been charged with the crime." (which sounds rather similar to the Italian cases we mentioned...) The article added that there are also suspicions of state involvement in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, of loyalist Billy "King Rat" Wright, catholic Robert Hamill and RUC officers Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan.

There is an overspill into mainland politics as well, with researcher Larry O'Hara, for example, pointing to a state agenda to reflect the IRA/Loyalist battleground with an anti-fascist/extreme right conflict in England, by use of infiltrators, agents provocateurs and pseudo-gangs. The 1999 nail bombings bombings in London, supposedly carried out alone and unaided by a right-wing extremist David Copeland, come under some suspicion, not least because the authorities seem to have known, in advance, exactly what area he would target with his final bomb.

There are, of course, continuing questions marks over recent "Islamic" terrorist attacks, with theories abounding over who was really responsible for 9/11 or 7/7 and attention drawn to the links between British and American intelligence services, Pakistani intelligence services and groups like Al Quaeda.

One state organisation heavily involved in the dirty war in Ireland was the SAS. Glorified by the right-wing media, this elite and secretive branch of the military is in fact more or less Britain's answer to the SS.

Formed in 1942 to strike behind enemy lines in North Africa, it was disbanded at the end of the war in October 1945, its job apparently over. Adds Ganser in his book on Gladio: "Yet as the need for top-secret dirty tricks and daredevil operation resurfaced as quickly as the global power of the British Empire was declining, the SAS was reborn and in 1947 fought behind enemy lines in Malaysia."

Since then, the SAS has remained at the forefront of British imperialism - it stormed the Iranian embassy in 1980, fought in the Falklands War in 1982, the First Gulf War in 1991, and secretly trained and equipped Kosovo Liberation Army forces in 1999, in close liaison with their friends in the US Green Berets, a kind of transatlantic twin organisation. In 1990 a BBC documentary called "The Unleashing of Evil" revealed how the SAS and the Green Berets had used torture against prisoners over the past 30 years and in every major campaign from Kenya to Northern Ireland, Oman, Vietnam, Yemen and Cyprus. The SAS and Green Berets trained Khmer Rouge units in Cambodia under Thatcher and Reagan and the SAS trained the Mujahedin, future Al Quaeda and Taliban fighters, in bomb-making and other black arts in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s, as revealed by John Pilger in his book The New Rulers of the World.

Current SAS roles are said to include "Counter Terrorism operations inside and outside UK territory; training soldiers of other nations, and training guerrillas in unconventional warfare and counter revolutionary warfare activities in support of UK government Foreign Policy."

As we mentioned earlier, the SAS was definitely involved in Gladio, acting as the training arm for guerrilla warfare and sabotage. Italian stay-behind units were trained in Britain and the SAS built secret hides where arms were stashed in West Germany. They also collaborated closely with an armed undercover Swiss organisation called P26. They offered training in Britain, with the SAS also visiting Switzerland. The Swiss even took part in a real assault on an IRA arms depot in which at least one IRA activist was killed, reveals Ganser.

This insidious role carries on today. Take Simon Mann, the supposedly "former" SAS man who has admitted being involved in an attempted coup d'etat in Equatorial Guinea, along with Margaret Thatcher's son Mark.

Or Ben Griffin, the ex-SAS soldier who spoke at a Stop the War press conference earlier this year about Britain's role in illegally kidnapping people and handing them over to be tortured and was promptly served with a gagging injunction by the British government.

It is sometimes too easy to focus on American atrocities across the world, from Latin American coups to Vietnam or Guantanamo Bay, and turn a conveniently blind eye to the role our own state has played and still is playing, as the USA's number one partner in crime.

Historian Mark Curtis wrote in Web of Deceit in 2003: "The idea that Britain is a supporter of terrorism is an oxymoron in the mainstream political culture, as ridiculous as suggesting that Tony Blair should be indicted for war crimes. Yet state-sponsored terrorism is by far the most serious category of terrorism in the world today, responsible for far more deaths in many more countries than the 'private' terrorism of groups like Al Quaeda. Many of the worst offenders are key British allies. Indeed, by any rational consideration, Britain is one of the leading supporters of terrorism in the world today. But this simple fact is never mentioned in the mainstream political culture."

So what lessons can we learn from all this?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that there does exist a powerful capitalist military-industrial complex, which is completely ruthless in pursuing its aims. It's clear that it is not specifically communism that is the enemy of this system - though during the cold war and specifically in Italy the communists were seen as the main threat - but anything that threatens to block the domination of certain commercial interests. Mark Curtis, a historian of the UK's foreign policy, has written of "Britain's overwhelming need to keep economic resources in the correct hands - elites who give favourable treatment to western business."

In his 1988 book The Culture of Terrorism, Noam Chomsky recalls how, in the Second World War, US president Franklin Roosevelt had announced the Four Freedoms that the US and its allies would uphold in the conflict with fascism: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Says Chomsky: "The central - and not very surprising - conclusion that emerges from the documentary and historical record is that US international and security policy, rooted in the structure of power in the domestic society, has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call 'the Fifth Freedom', understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced."

It's not just through terrorism or repression that this control is maintained - there is a whole spectrum of activities ranging from funding of pro-western political parties and the grooming of up and coming politicians, through to the control of the media. We have to acknowledge this as a reality and direct our efforts accordingly. For instance, if this system is ruthless enough to commit acts of terrorism on its own public, or stage coups d'etat to keep its total grip on power, can anyone really believe it would allow a radical group to take that power away from it by winning an election? It's just not going to happen, any more than radical groups are going to seize control of the state through an armed revolution. There's no point fighting the state on a terrain on which it is bound to win. We have to look at more subtle, unstructured, chaotic, organic, subversive methods of bringing about change and winning our freedom, working through flexible protest and direct action, grassroots community activity, alternative media - building our own parallel structures, if you like.

Secondly, it is important that people realise that state infiltrators and agents provocateurs are not a paranoid invention - but do really exist. And they are particularly successful where there exists an organisation hierarchy which they can take control of.

Gianfranco Sanguinetti, in his book 'Of Terrorism and of the State", argues it is easy for secret services to take control of genuine terrorist groups and manipulate them to their own advantage: "All secret terrorist groups are organized and run by a hierarchy which is kept secret even from their own members, and which reflects the division of labour typical of this kind of social organization: decisions are taken at the top and carried out by the bottom. Ideology and military discipline protect the true leaders from any risk and the base from any suspicion." (Willan)

Obviously this doesn't just apply to paramilitary or terrorist groups, but any radical movement. Everyone has a responsibility to think for themselves. If you don't follow orders, you can't be used for someone else's purposes. It's no coincidence that it is fascist and communist groups - both very hierarchical in outlook - that were successfully hijacked for state purposes.

Thirdly, it is clearly important that we should not allow ourselves to be mentally manipulated by terrorism. The head of steam that had been built up by the anti-capitalist movement in the USA, after Seattle and so on, was pretty much dissipated by 9/11 - an example of the Shock Doctrine set out by Naomi Klein in her recent book. Anyone active in radical politics around that time will recall meeting people after the Twin Towers bombing who were saying the world had changed completely now and they couldn't carry on protesting. On 7/7 at the Stirling camp for the 2005 G8 protests, news came through of the London bombings. Immediately a resolution was proposed, and somehow passed by a system of delegate voting, declaring that in the circumstances "confrontational" protest was no longer appropriate...

We should also learn to tell the difference between armed resistance and terrorism - globally as well as domestically - and be able to spot the possible motivation behind attacks.

Ganser writes that the Rote Armee Fraktion and the Red Brigades (although they were eventually both infiltrated) "did not attack mass gatherings of the population, but very selectively targeted individuals whom they thought represented the 'state apparatus', such as bankers, generals and ministers whom they kidnapped and often assassinated... Contrary to the terror of the left, the terror of the right aimed to strike fear to the bones of the entire society and hence secretly planted its bombs among the population to kill large numbers indiscriminately in order to wrongly blame the Communists."

Said the fascist Vinciguerra: "You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the State to ask for greater security. This is the political logic that lies behind all the massacres and bombings which remain unpunished, because the state cannot convict itself or declare itself responsible for what happened."

Finally, the most important weapon in our armoury is information. We should spread knowledge of how the state operates, of the fact that it has used terrorism as a device for its own ends in the past and may well do so again. This is not the same as automatically assuming that every terrorist attack that happens is a fake - that won't always be the case. But by studying examples from the past and taking the patterns that they tend to follow, we can get a fairly good idea of what is likely to be going on and inform other people of this.

Ultimately, this is the only way to stop terrorist attacks of the kind carried out by Gladio. The whole point of them is to trick the population into reacting in the way that the state desires. If the powers-that-be know that nobody is falling for it any more, there will be no point in them using the strategy in the first place and the whole horrific story of state-organised false flag terrorism will finally be consigned to the history books.

More information and bibliography

The important 1992 Timewatch documentary on Gladio can be found online on YouTube - at the time of writing, go to:

Daniele Ganser, Nato's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (Cass, London, 2005)

Philip Willan, Puppet Masters - The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy (Constable, London, 1991)

Stewart Angell, The Sussex Secret Resistance (Middleton Press, Midhurst, 1996)

William Mackenzie, The Secret History of SOE - Special Operations Executive 1940-1945 (St Ermin's Press, London, 2000)

Martin Ingram & Greg Harkin, Stakeknife - Britain's Secret Agents in Ireland (O'Brien Press, 2004)

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (Verso, London 2002)

Noam Chomsky, The Culture of Terrorism (Pluto, London, 1988)

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine - The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Allen Lane, London, 2007)

Guardian report on Gladio

Reichstag fire

Bologna bombing

Bologna bombing



UPDATES 2011. Fascinating 85-minute interview on Gladio and related issues with author Daniele Ganser

Meanwhile, in related news...

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Report - FBI created 'Islamic' terrorists

Report - British intelligence link to Irish terrorists

Report - British intelligence link to Irish terrorists

Video - Israel link to Kurdish terrorists

Report - Israel link to Kurdish terrorists

Report - Israel link to Kurdish terrorists

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