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Gladio: NATO’s stay-behind armies and terrorism in Cold War Italy




Daniele Ganser


At the end of the Cold War an important historical document was made public in Italy that shed new light on the secret aspects of the Cold War and formerly hidden structures of Italy’s First Republic. The document, dated 1 June 1959 and formerly classified “top secret”, had been compiled by the Italian military secret service SIFAR (Servizio Informazioni Forze Armate) and is entitled “The special forces of SIFAR and Operation Gladio”. It explained that a secret stay-behind army linked to NATO and trained by the US secret service CIA (Cental Intelligence Agency) had been set up in Italy under the codename “Gladio” for the purpose of unconventional warfare.

Also today, almost twenty years after the discovery of the 1959 SIFAR document and the exposure of Gladio, the reconstruction of the history of this secret Italian army and its international context remains challenging. Gladio has remained a complicated and controversial subject for contemporary historical research. Among the most important questions are the following four: 1. Why was the top secret document and the Gladio army discovered in Italy in 1990? 2. What was the structure and the task of the secret Gladio army? 3. Was Gladio linked to terrorism and other criminal activities? 4. What was the link to NATO? Hereafter I shall try to approach these four questions and offer some preliminary answers.

1. Why was Gladio discovered in Italy in 1990? 

In order to re-evaluate the terrorist attack which had occurred in the village of Peteano in 1972, Italian judge Felice Casson in January 1990 requested permission from the highest Italian authorities to extend his research to the archives of the Italian military secret service. In July 1990, Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti consented and allowed Casson to research in the archives of Forte Braschi, the headquarters of the Italian military secret service in Rome. This far reaching decision lead to the exposure of Gladio.

It was in the archives of the Italian military secret service that Casson discovered the SIFAR document that proved for the first time that a secret CIA-linked army of the Italian military intelligence existed in Italy under the codename “Gladio” – ”Sword”. Casson also found that the Peteano terror attack of 1972 had not been carried out by the left wing terrorist group Red Brigades, as believed for many years, but by right wing terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra. This was a very far reaching discovery. Casson had exposed the hidden structure of “false flag terrorism”, a strategy used to shock the public and discredit the political opponent who is wrongly blamed for the crime. „I wanted new light to be shed on these years of lies and mysteries, that’s all,” Casson later told journalists. “I wanted Italy for once to know the truth.“

After his discovery Casson informed the Italian parliamentarian commission which under the chairmanship of Senator Libero Gualtieri was investigating mysterious acts of terrorism that Italy had suffered from in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Gualtieri and his fellow senators decided that the investigation into the Gladio secret army had to be included in the work of the commission. On 2 August 1990, the senators ordered the head of the Italian executive, Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, „to inform the parliament within sixty days with respect to the existence, characteristics and purpose of a parallel and occult structure that is said to have operated within our secret service of the military with the aim to condition the political life of the country.“

The next day, on 3 August 1990, Prime Minister Andreotti took a stand in front of the parliamentary commission and, for the first time in Italy’s post-war history, confirmed that a NATO-linked secret army had existed in the country. First Andreotti claimed that the secret army had long been dissolved. Then he corrected this statement and admitted that the secret army was still active. On 24 October 1990 Andreotti handed a ten-page report entitled „The so called ‚Parallel SID‘ – The Gladio Case“ to the Senate investigative commission under Senator Gualtieri. 

In his 10-page report „The so called ‚Parallel SID‘ – The Gladio Case“ Andreotti explained that the secret Gladio army had been set up in order to fight a potential Soviet occupation of Italy and claimed that it had never been linked to terrorism. When challenged to reveal the names of the Gladiators, the prime minister regretted that these had to remain secret, as the „operation, on account of its current forms of organisation and application – as foreseen by NATO directives and integrated into its related planning – is to be carried out and refined in a framework of absolute secrecy.“ The names of the Gladiators remained secret.

The Italian press was very critical of the Gladio revelations and the dominant role of the USA in the secret affair. The daily La Stampa commented: „No raison d’état could be worth maintaining, covering up, or defending a secret military structure composed of ideologically selected members – dependent upon, or at least under the influence of, a foreign power – that allegedly serves as an instrument of political struggle. It cannot be defined as any less than high treason and an attack on the Constitution.“ 

The Italian Communist Party PCI was convinced that not foreign armies, but they themselves had been the true target of the Gladio armies during the entire post-war period: „With this mysterious Parallel SID, conjured up to head off an impossible coup by the left, we have seriously risked making a coup d’état by the right possible … We cannot accept that … this super-SID was passed off as a military instrument destined to operate ‚in case of enemy occupation‘. The true enemy is only and has always been the Italian Communist party, i.e. an internal enemy.“ 

Faced with a political scandal Andreotti insisted in front of parliament that „each chief of government has been informed of the existence of Gladio.“ This meant that all Prime Ministers were part of the conspiracy. Bettino Craxi (Prime Minister from 1983-1987) claimed that he had not been informed, until he was confronted with a document on Gladio that he had signed himself as Prime Minister. Francesco Cossiga (Prime Minister from 1978-1979) said he was well aware of the secret Gladio army, and amidst public protest added that he was “proud of the fact that we have kept the secret for 45 years.“

2. What was the structure and the task of the secret Gladio army? 

According to Prime Minister Andreotti the main task of the Gladio stay-behind army was to fight a potential Soviet occupation of Italy. Data from other sources confirm this. Gladio was thus a guerrilla created during peacetime in order to be ready in wartime. The Gladio idea was based on the experience of the Italian resistance fighters during World War Two. But unlike the partisans of World War Two which were dominated by the Communists, the Gladio guerrilla was controlled by men of the political right firmly opposed to atheists and Communism both in Italy and beyond.

Licio Gelli, the Venerable Master of the Propaganda Due Masonic Lodge and a famous Italian anti-Communist, explained that Gladio had the task to fight both a potential Soviet invasion as well as the coming to power of the strong Italian Communist Party (PCI). “The aim of Gladio and other similar organisations which existed in all countries of Western Europe was to counter the invasion of the Red Army or the coming to power by coup d’état of the communist parties”, Gelli said. “That the PCI, during all those years, has never come to power, although they have tried to do so repeatedly, is the merit of the Gladio organisation.” 

Gladiator Giuseppe Tarullo, who had entered the Italian military secret service SIFAR in 1961, confirmed to the Italian senators that Gladio was a tool to control the Italian Communists: “Among ourselves, we also spoke of the internal task of Gladio. It was said that the structure and its foreign connections would also have been activated against domestic subversion with support by the Special Forces. We understood “domestic subversion” to mean a change of government that did not respect the will of the ruling authority.” 

In order to guarantee for strong anti-Communist convictions the members of the Gladio network were recruited on the political right and as a rule excluded Communists and Socialists: “Many came from the ranks of mercenaries who had fought in the Spanish Civil War and many came from the fascist republic of Salo”, Gelli said. “They chose individuals who were proven anti-communists. I know it was a well constructed organisation. Had communist strength grown in Italy, America would have assisted us, we would have unleashed another war and we would have been generously supplied with arms from the air.” Gelli, who cultivated very close contacts to the United States, made it clear that the costs for the secret Gladio army were covered by Washington: “The Americans pay them [the Gladiators] large sums of money, the equivalent of an excellent salary. And they guaranteed the financial support of the families in case the Gladiator was killed.” The Gladio network was a secret US army in Italy.

The 1959 SIFAR document confirms that Gladio was designed to confront both a foreign as well as a domestic threat: “The possibility of an emergency situation, either through domestic upheaval or through military invasion forces, that involves all or some of the territories of the NATO countries, has for some time already been the subject of studies and preparations. Some of these studies and preparations have been carried out on the level of NATO, others have been carried out on a national level.” The crucial phrase “domestic upheaval” (“sovvertimenti interni”) shows clearly that both the CIA and SIFAR had designed Gladio as a tool to fight also an internal enemy. “Gladio”,  the short Roman sword that is double-edged, literally cut both ways: against a domestic and against a foreign enemy.

In order to be able to operate independently of regular forces in case of a Soviet invasion or a domestic crisis, the secret stay-behind army controlled independent arms caches. According to Andreotti, the equipment had been provided by the CIA and was hidden in 139 arms caches across the country in forests, meadows and even under churches and cemeteries. The Gladio arms caches included „portable arms, ammunition, explosives, hand grenades, knives and daggers, 60-mm mortars, several 57-mm recoilless rifles, sniper rifles, radio transmitters, binoculars, and various tools.“ 

According to the 1959 SIFAR document Gladio was hidden within the Italian Military Secret service SIFAR, which in 1965 changed its name to SID (Servizio Informazione Difesa), and then again in 1978 to SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare). Therefore the Gladio army at times has also been referred to as “the parallel SID”. The directors of the Italian military secret service controlled the secret Gladio army.

The SIFAR was created on 30 March 1949, when US troops were still in Italy, and just days before Italy joined NATO, in order to guarantee that Italy would remain solid and firm in the anti-Communist camp. Under the control of the Defence Ministry, the military secret service SIFAR was staffed with staunch anti-Communists, with General Giovanni Carlo as its first director. The American CIA sponsored a large part of the SIFAR budget, and often directed the Italian secret service by remote control from Washington. SIFAR was financed by „the boys in Via Veneto“, i.e. the CIA in the US embassy in the heart of Rome, as Paulo Taviani, Italian Defence Minister from 1955 to 1958, put it.

Among other things the USA paid for the headquarters of the Gladio army on the Italian island of Sardinia. This was the most expensive and prestigious project of SIFAR in the 1950s. SIFAR Director Giovanni de Lorenzo charged SIFAR Colonel Renzo Rocca, Chief of Office R, with supervising the construction of the center. The Gladio headquarters was called “Centro Adestramento Guastatori “(CAG) and was located at Capo Marragiu near the village of Alghero. Behind walls and high-security electric fences, a little harbour was built, underground bunkers were constructed, strong long-distance radio transmitters were set up, underwater facilities were installed for training frogmen, and two small runways for airplanes and a helicopter landing pad were built. Several other specialized buildings were added for shooting and explosives training as well as for indoctrination. In one room the CAG had a billiard table above which a shining brass plate was hanging with the inscription: „To the men of Gladio from Giulio Andreotti“, in order to remind the conspirators of their powerful high level protection.

Allegedly, as the Italian Senators found with much surprise, the CAG would have served as a prison for Communists and Socialists in case of a national emergency. The fragmentary data available suggests that SIFAR director General De Lorenzo had in 1964 in the context of Piano Solo threatened to imprison members of the Italian left in the CAG, allegedly on the orders of the USA.  „There is no doubt that the operation corresponded to the interests followed by sectors of the administration of the United States“, the Italian senators criticized, and pointed out that in the CAG on Sardinia up to 1’200 people designated by SIFAR could have been imprisoned. „This is a very grave situation,” the senators concluded. „I confirm that the V section, and therefore the S/B [stay-behind] organisation, and therefore the CAG had an anti-subversive function in the case that the forces of the left should come to power“, testified Gladiator General Manlio Capriata, who within the SIFAR had directed office R from February to June 1962.

According to the 1959 SIFAR document the numerical strength of the Italian Gladio standby force amounted to 1’500 men, with an additional 1’500 men that could be mobilised in case of need, giving a maximum numerical strength of 3’000 men.“I was at Capo Marragiu for the first time in 1959″, Gladiator Ennio Colle related after the end of the Cold War. He explained that Gladiators were kept in the dark on the larger international framework and at the time did not even know where they were trained: „I didn’t know where I was because we were transported in planes with blacked-out windows“, Colle related. Decimo Garau, a Gladio instructor at CAG who had been trained in Great Britain, confirmed to journalists that Italian Gladiators were literally kept in the dark: „They arrived in an unmarked plane and were transferred to an unmarked coach. They were then dropped off in front of their quarters. Then training would start.“

3. Was Gladio linked to terrorism and other criminal activities? 

“In order to keep the power, one has to use terror sometimes”, the Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli suggested 500 years ago. Today such an approach to politics is morally unacceptable. The most difficult and most sensitive questions for historians who try to reconstruct the Gladio history is today, whether this US sponsored anti-Communist army of the Italian secret service has together with right-wing extremists been involved in terrorist attacks in Italy during the Cold War which were wrongly blamed on the Italian Communists in order to discredit and weaken them. 

The easy part of the question is: Did Italy suffer from terrorism during the Cold War? The answer is clearly yes: Peteano, Piazza Fontana, Brescia and Bologna are but the most famous terrorist attacks. The hard part of the question is: Was Gladio, SIFAR or the CIA involved in these terrorist attacks? As even Italian judges and parliamentarians to this very day have great difficulties in answering these questions satisfactorily, it remains impossible for a historian to deal with them in an exhaustive manner. But as these questions have surfaced repeatedly in the Gladio debate, they cannot be neglected and shall be approached here, offering indications where further research is needed.

The historical data suggests that the Italian secret service has indeed cooperated with right- wing terrorists in order to discredit the Italian Communists and Socialists with false flag terrorism. Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a member of the Italian fascist organisation Ordine Nuovo, had carried out the Peteano terror attack in 1972 which the SIFAR then wrongly blamed on the extreme left-wing terrorist organisation Brigate Rosse. It was in 1984 when judge Felice Casson arrested Vinciguerra and reopened the long-dormant Peteano case which then lead to the discovery of the Gladio army. Judge Casson was able to prove that the explosive used in Peteano was C4, the most powerful explosive available at the time, also used by NATO and stored in the Gladio arms caches. Without a detailed study of the Peteano terror attack Gladio might never have been discovered.

Right-wing terrorist Vinciguerra testified that in 1972 not only the SIFAR, but large segments of the Italian security apparatus had supported crimes that discredited the left. Many Catholics in Italy at the time were ready to fight atheist Communists, also with dirty tricks. After the bombing „a whole mechanism came into action”, Vinciguerra recalled, “that is, the Carabinieri, the Minister of the Interior, the customs services, and the military and civilian intelligence services accepted the ideological reasoning behind the attack.“ The SIFAR, Casson found, had deliberately followed a so-called “strategy of tension”, through which it had manipulated political violence. „As far as the secret services are concerned, the Peteano attack is part of what has been called ‘the strategy of tension’”, Casson explained in a BBC documentation on Operation Gladio. “That is to say, to create tension within the country to promote conservative, reactionary social and political tendencies. While this strategy was being implemented, it was necessary to protect those behind it because evidence implicating them was being discovered. Witnesses withheld information to cover right-wing extremists.“

“With the massacre of Peteano”, Vinciguerra explained at his trial in 1984, “and with all those that have followed, the knowledge should by now be clear that there existed a real live structure, occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving a strategic direction to the outrages.” The structure, he said, “lies within the state itself. There exists in Italy a secret force parallel to the armed forces, composed of civilians and military men, in an anti-Soviet capacity, that is, to organise a resistance on Italian soil against a Russian army.” This was an extremely far-reaching testimony, for it revealed the Gladio structure – but not the code name! – in Italy for the first time. Vinciguerra added that what he was describing was ”a secret organisation, a super-organisation with a network of communications, arms, and explosives, and men trained to use them.” Vinciguerra claimed that this “super-organisation [which], lacking a Soviet military invasion which might not happen, took up the task, on NATO’s behalf, of preventing a slip to the left in the political balance of the country. This they did, with the assistance of the official secret services and the political and military forces.” 

After this testimony Vinciguerra was imprisoned for life. In jail, reporters asked him why the Gladio network had been used for terrorist attacks: „You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game” Vinciguerra reasoned behind prison bars. “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 the bombings that remain unpunished, because the state cannot convict itself or declare itself responsible for what happened.“

Historians must decide whether the testimony of Vinciguerra is reliable. In 1984 it would have been incautious to take his word for a historic fact. People lie at times, and historians are well aware of that fact and therefore need more than one source. But when in 1990 an original SIFAR document from 1959 and also Prime Minister Andreotti confirmed the existence of exactly that same secret army which Vinciguerra had exposed already years earlier, his value as a historical source increased greatly.

If the testimony of Vinciguerra is reliable, and if it is true that SIFAR and its successors SID and SISMI had cooperated with right-wing terrorists and Gladiators, then due to the very close cooperation between SIFAR and CIA, the questions arise how much the CIA and the White House knew about these crimes? This delicate issue focuses on the transatlantic relationship between Italy and the United States during the Cold War and boils down to the highly controversial question: Has the CIA, in cooperation with members of the Italian security establishment, attacked the Italian population with terrorism during the Cold War?

When Gladio was exposed in 1990 an unnamed „US government official familiar with Operation Gladio“ explained to the US press, that Gladio was „solely an Italian operation. We have no control over it whatsoever.“ Adding, that „If there are allegations that the CIA was involved in terrorist activities in Italy, they are absolute nonsense.“ To this very day the USA has not revised this position and claims that it has nothing to do with terrorist attacks in Italy. In March 2001, General Giandelio Maletti, the former head of Italian counter-intelligence, contradicted this analysis and suggested that the CIA had directly promoted terrorism in Italy. „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“ Maletti testified on the Piazza Fontana terror of 1969, which had killed 16 and wounded 80. „The impression was that the Americans would do anything to stop Italy from sliding to the left,“ the General explained at the Piazza Fontana trial, and added: „Don’t forget that Nixon was in charge and Nixon was a strange man, a very intelligent politician, but a man of rather unorthodox initiatives.“ Aged 79 at the time of his testimony Maletti offered criticism and regret: „Italy has been dealt with as a sort of protectorate” of the United States. “I am ashamed to think that we are still subject to special supervision.“ Following these far reaching claims Maletti was sentenced to 31 years of prison which he did not serve, however, as he had set up his home in South Africa beyond the reach of the Italian justice system.

The Italian Senate under the presidency of Senator Giovanni Pellegrini concluded its Gladio investigation in 1995 and presented a 370 page long public report in which they cautiously confirmed that the “CIA [had] enjoyed maximum discretion” in Italy during the Cold War. In 2000, a second parliamentary investigation into Gladio carried out by the leftist Gruppo Democratici di Sinistra concluded in a more outspoken fashion that the strategy of tension had been supported by the United States in order to “stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country.” The results of the Italian investigation were quoted in the international press in the following way, which clearly blamed the US for sponsoring terrorism in Italy: “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.”

Also German journalist Regine Igel comes to the conclusion that the CIA had secretly attacked the Italian population with terrorism during the Cold War. Igel bases her claim on the findings of Italian judge Guido Salvini, who found that Italians had helped the CIA to carry out the attacks. Among them was Carlo Maria Maggi, a medical doctor, who helped the CIA and NATO to link up with Italian right-wing terrorists. One of Maggi’s men was Carlo Digilio, a CIA agent and expert for explosives. “As an expert for weapons and explosives and as an agent of the CIA I had the task to support the men in the handling and storage of the material” Digilio explained. As Italian right-wing extremists were often critical of the United States Digilio had to be careful with what he told them. “The members of the units of course did not know that [I worked for the CIA], for they were not really friends of the Americans. They wanted a military dictatorship as the one in Spain or Greece, or the system of Mussolini, whereas we wanted to preserve liberal democracy.” According to Digilio the neofascist right-wing extremists were used against the communist left wing extremists to save democracy. Digilio stressed that everything was carried out under the strictest secrecy procedures. “Actually only Maggi knew of it, and I knew it because of my special position as an expert for arms and explosives.”

Italian CIA agent Carlo Digilio explained that most things were discussed orally, leaving no paper trail. This made it very difficult for historians to reconstruct the hidden story behind the terrorist attacks. CIA agent Digilio said that they often met with the Americans in restaurants. “One evening in Mai 1974 … a group of men who knew each other met for dinner at the restaurant of Marcello Soffiati and his father in Colognola ai Colli close to Verona. Regular guests in this restaurant included American military officers” who were stationed at the NATO military base in Verona as Digilio explained. “On this evening next to Maggi, the two Soffiati and me also Sergio Minetto was present. Minetto was an important person, for the outside world he was just a man who fixed refrigerators. But in reality he was a CIA agent and worked on a higher command level as the contact man among the Americans and our boss Maggi. This evening Maggi told Minetto that another large bomb attack was going to take place in a few days.” Digilio according to his own testimony on this specific conspiracy, had to check whether the bomb was operational.  It was and exploded on May 28 1974 in Brescia in the midst of an anti-fascist demonstration, killing eight and injuring 102 Italians.

Still today Italy has great difficulties asking the United States about its role in terror attacks carried out on Italian soil. “The great limitation of our culture is that we did not contextualize the internal events with the framework of the international Cold War”, said Senator Giovanni Pellegrini.

4. What was the link to NATO? 

In his written 10-page report „The so called ‚Parallel SID‘ – The Gladio Case“, Andreotti revealed that Gladio was the Italian branch of an international network of secret stay-behind armies that existed in all countries of Western Europe. In case of invasion, the stay-behind armies would have operated behind enemy lines and set up a resistance movement. The secret stay-behind armies, as Andreotti revealed, were supervised and coordinated by two secret unconventional-warfare centres of NATO named ACC and CPC: “Once the clandestine resistance organisation was constituted, Italy was called upon to participate … in the works of the CPC (Clandestine Planning Committee) of 1959, operating within the ambit of SHAPE [NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe] …; in 1964 the Italian secret service also entered the ACC (Allied Clandestine Committee).“

NATO to this very day refuses to comment on Gladio, ACC and CPC. But according to the accounts of two former members of the Italian military intelligence service representatives of the European secret armies met regularly in the clandestine NATO groups to discuss unconventional warfare. Italian General Paolo Inzerilli, who commanded the Italian Gladio stay-behind force from 1974 to 1986, and later wrote a book on the topic, highlighted that the “omnipresent United States” dominated the CPC. The CPC, as Inzerilli related, had been founded “by order of the Supreme Commander of NATO Europe”, traditionally a US General. “It was the interface between NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) and the Secret Services of the member states as far as the problems of non-orthodox warfare were concerned.“ 

When the European headquarters of NATO were in France, the CPC met in Paris. Thereafter, when NATO had to leave France and move on to Belgium, the CPC met in Brussels. „The meetings were held on average once or twice a year in Brussels at CPC headquarters, and the various problems on the agenda were discussed with the ‚Executive Group‘ and the Military“, Inzerilli related. Also Italian General Gerardo Serravalle, who as predecessor of Inzerilli had commanded Gladio from 1971 to 1974, related in his book that “in the 1970s, the members of the CPC were the responsible officers of the secret structures of Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Italy. These representatives of the secret structures met every year in one of the capitals.“ According to Serravalle the omnipresent USA dispatched officers from the CIA and the US Special Forces to the meetings. „At the stay-behind meetings, representatives of the CIA were always present”, Serravalle remembered. “They had no voting rights and were from the CIA field office in the capital in which the meeting took place.” Also, “members of the US Forces Europe Command were present, also without voting rights.“ 

The ACC, which was created after the CPC, seems to have been a much less formal and hierarchical organisation. Inzerilli claims that „relations in the ACC (Allied Clandestine Committee) were completely different” from those in the CPC. “The atmosphere was clearly more relaxed and friendly compared to the CPC“. The ACC, founded by “a specific order from SACEUR to CPC”, supposedly “became a sub branch” of the CPC.“ Apparently, the body served above all as a forum in which know-how on stay-behind operations and secret warfare was exchanged between the numerous heads of intelligence. “It was of reciprocal interest. Everybody knew that if for an operation he lacked an expert in explosives or in telecommunications or in repression, he could request them from another country without difficulty, because the agents had been trained in the same techniques and used the same materials.“Conclusion

The historical data available today shows that Gladio was a secret stay-behind army set up within the Italian military secret service SIFAR with the assistance of the CIA during the Cold War. Gladio was part of an international stay-behind network coordinated by NATO through the clandestine command centres CPC and ACC. Gladio prepared both to fight a Soviet invasion and occupation of Italy, as well as the rise to power of the Italian Communist party. In this latter context the Italian military secret service, right-wing extremists and representatives from the US military seem to have engaged in false flag terrorism in order to discredit the Italian left, a sensitive aspect of the Gladio history which merits further research.

Following the Gladio discoveries in Italy the parliament of the European Union (EU) debated the legal, social and political implications of the secret armies. In a special resolution passed on 22 November 1990 the EU parliament made it clear that it „Condemns the clandestine creation of manipulative and operational networks and calls for a full investigation into the nature, structure, aims and all other aspects of these clandestine organisations or any splinter groups, their use for illegal interference in the internal political affairs of the countries concerned, the problem of terrorism in Europe and the possible collusion of the secret services of Member States or third countries”. The EU made it clear that secret armies and the manipulation of terrorism were unacceptable on European soil. Due to the prominent role of the Pentagon and NATO in the secret operation the EU parliament in its resolution stressed that it “Protests vigorously at the assumption by certain US military personnel at SHAPE and in NATO of the right to encourage the establishment in Europe of a clandestine intelligence and operation network”. The United States under President George Bush Senior refused to comment.

The conclusion of the Italian Senate investigation into Gladio and the terrorist attacks from 1995 is still valid: „The final picture that emerges from the analysis is one of a country that for more than 40 years has lived through a difficult frontier situation”, the senators noted. “Obviously, the tensions which have characterised these 40 years and which were the object of the analysis also had social, and therefore internal, roots. However, such tensions would never have lasted as long and they would not have taken on such tragic dimensions as they did, and the path towards the truth would not have been blocked so many times, if the internal political situation had not been conditioned and supervised by the international framework into which Italy was integrated.“ Gladio thus can only be adequately understood if US secret warfare during the Cold War and the larger historical context are included in the analysis.

Conclusion and ongoing 911 terror debate

Given the links of NATO to terrorism during the Cold War it is not astonishing that today’s terror debate does not remain confined to the Cold War, but has also encompassed 9/11, the largest terror attack in history which occured on 11 September 2001 in the US with 2973 dead. 

9/11 is by far the most important terrorist attack in NATO’s history, because already on 2 October 2001 NATO invoked for the first time Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – ist collective defence clause – declaring the 9/11 attack to be an attack against all NAOT members. On that day NATO member counties had been briefed by three representatives of the Bush administration about the details of 9/11: Paul Wolfowitz from the Pentagon as well as Richard Armitage and Ambassador Frank Taylor from the US State Departement. After that crucial meeting british NATO Secretary General George Robertson declared on 2 October 2001: „We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the wordlwiede terrorist network of Al-Qeda, headed by Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taliban. On the basis of this briefing, it has now been determined that the attack against the US on 11 September was directed from abroad and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Art. 5 of the Washington Treaty.“

But were the representatives of the Bush administration Wolfowitz, Armitage and Taylor telling the truth? In the past twelfe years, various films, websites and books about 9/11 have challenged the official 9/11 story leading to a nearly unmanageable mass of allegations and counter-allegations. Today three mutually exclusive 9/11 theories stand in opposition to one another. All three theories are conspiracy theories, because they all assume a secret agreement between two or more actors before September 11th as a given. 

The first theory, the so-called “Surprise Theory,” comes from the US government and is supported by the official American investigation, the 9/11 Commission Report by Thomas Kean, which appeared in the Summer of 2004. This is the official 9/11 story which also Wolfowitz, Armitage and Tayler presented to NATO: Osama bin Laden planned the attacks together with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed first in Afghanistan, then a group of 19 Muslims led by Mohammed Atta carried out the terror attack in the US with four airplanes. Bin Laden and his network are guilty of the criminal act. 

The second theory, the so-called “Let It Happen On Purpose Theory” (LIHOP), alleges bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network had planned and carried out the attack. Portions of the US government found this out, but despite this deliberately did not avert the attack and sacrificed almost 3000 people to legitimize a series of wars, of which those in Afghanistan and Iraq were only the first two. Both bin Laden as well as portions of the US government are guilty of the criminal act. 

Finally, the third theory, the so-called “Make It Happen On Purpose Theory” (MIHOP), maintains the attacks were carried out but the Pentagon and/or the US intelligence agencies, the videos of bin Laden were faked. Almost 3000 people were sacrificed in cold blood, and the people in the US and the world were deceived, in order to legitimize a series of wars. Portions of the US government are guilty of the criminal act. 

As a Swiss historian I have been working on the 9/11 issue for many years now, especially the collapse of WT7 and the BBC reporting of the event, but have still not been able to conclude which of the three theories comes closest to the historical truth. Given the data that we have from Gladio clearly more research is needed in the future into 9/11 and the invokation of the collective defence clause.

Quelle: Online-Zeitung Schattenblick,