“In Europe's new order, they are the spies who never quite came in from the cold, foot soldiers in an underground guerrilla network with one stated mission: To fight an enemy that most Europeans believe no longer exists.Theirs is a tale of secret arms caches and exotic code names, of military stratagems and political intrigues.
At best, their tale is no more than a curious footnote to the cold war. The question is if, at worst, it could be the key to unsolved terrorism dating back two decades...
The focus of the inquiry is a clandestine operation code-named Gladio, created decades ago to arm and train resistance fighters in case the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded.
All this week, there have been disclosures of similar organizations in virtually all Western European countries, including those that do not belong to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” New York Times1
How far would the United States go to prevent the spread of communism in Western Europe? Especially considering the constant false information provided by Reinhard Gehlen and his Organization indicating that a Soviet invasion was imminent? The answer is Operation Gladio: The CIA and NATO campaign to create, arm and fund radical right wing 'stay behind' organizations that would fight communism to the death. When the Soviet invasion never happened, these organizations created networks with politicians and within the black market, and turned their goals towards preventing the rise of leftist political movements, often resorting to terrorism to create domestic tension, causing citizens to turn towards increasingly fascist governments to provide protection. Today, this process is known as the 'Strategy of Tension'.
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It was Judge Felice Casson who first dredged up the evidence for state sponsored terrorism, while browsing the archives of the Italian military secret service.2 In a BBC documentary on Operation Gladio, Casson described the operations as an effort...
“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.”3
Casson points to a 1972 car bombing in Peteano,that killed three paramilitary police and was blamed on leftists, after which 200 Communists were immediately arrested. He found that there were no police investigations of the scene, and the official report was a forgery4. In fact, it was perpetrated by a right-wing terrorist named Vincenzo Vinciguerra5, operating under Gladio orders, who later confessed to the crime. Vinciguerra's testimony reveals that it was easy to escape and remain hidden because everyone in the Italian security apparatus shared his anti-Communist convictions.6 His testimony further revealed “a secret organisation, a super-organisation with a network of communications, arms, and explosives, and men trained to use them.”7 Years later, in prison, he would claim “I say that every single outrage that followed from 1969 fitted into a single organised matrix.”8 Nearly 2,000 people would die from political murder or acts of terrorism over this period of time.
When ex-Prime Minister Andreotti finally testified in 1990, he revealed that arms and equipment were provided by the CIA and placed in 139 underground caches across the country. General Giandelio Maletti, a former head of Italian counterintelligence, in March 2001 confirmed the CIA involvement. He stated that after the Piazza Fontana bombing in 1969, pieces of a bomb were planted in a leftist editors villa in order to blame the communists. He stated:
"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.”9
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Another Gladio hotspot was Turkey. During the Cold War, Turkey shared a third of the total borders with the Soviet bloc and maintained the largest standing army in Europe, and the second in NATO after the United States. In 1952, a stay-behind army was organized under the codename 'Counter-Guerrilla'.
“On November 3 (1996), a truck crashed into a Mercedes Benz in Susurluk, ninety miles south of Istanbul, and killed three Turkish passengers: a fugitive heroin smuggler and hitman, a former high-ranking police officer, and a former "Miss Cinema." The lone survivor was a right-wing member of parliament. In the car's trunk, police found a forged passport, police identification papers, ammunition, silencers, and machine guns.
Abdullah Catli, the fugitive heroin smuggler, had escaped from a Swiss prison. The dead beauty queen, Gonca Uz, was his girlfriend.
The police officer was Huseyin Kocadag, head of a Turkish police academy and a former Istanbul deputy police chief who reportedly organized hit squads in the southeast that kill Kurdish guerrillas and their supporters.
The survivor, Sedat Bucak, a member of parliament from the conservative True Path Party, is reportedly in charge of 2,000 Kurdish mercenaries paid by the government to fight Kurdish guerrillas.
The car crash has created a sensation in Turkey and has led parliament to hold hearings on the ties linking the True Path Party, the police, and thugs like Abdullah Catli. Newspapers in Turkey are making connections between what they are calling the "state gang" and a secret paramilitary force that for decades has attacked the left...
The United States funded these stay-behind groups for decades. Even though there was no Soviet occupation, some of the groups did take up arms-- against left-wing dissidents in their own countries. Some descendants of these groups are still at it, especially in Turkey.
Abdullah Catli was one of those.
"The accident unveiled the dark liaisons within the state," former prime minister Bulent Ecevit told parliament in December. Now leader of a small opposition social-democratic party, Ecevit knows a lot about those liaisons. He first told me about them -- and the American connection -- back in 1990, when I interviewed him in his Ankara office.” - The Progressive10
Bulent Ecevit, five time Turkish prime minister, who is cited in the above quote, declared that the Taksim Square massacre was a Gladio operation, where half a million citizens had rallied. It was organized by trade unions, and the shooting lasted for 20 minutes while a thousand policemen in attendance did not intervene. About 40 people were killed, and though none of the perpetrators were caught, 500 demonstrators were detained. The massacre occurred during a broader wave of political violence.11
The U.S. State Department in its 1995 Human Rights report noted that:
“Prominent credible human rights organizations, Kurdish leaders, and local Kurds asserted that the government acquiesces in, or even carries out, the murder of civilians... Human rights groups reported the widespread and credible belief that a Counter-Guerrilla group associated with the security forces had carried out at least some 'mystery killings'".12
American journalist Lucy Komisar, when asking U.S. officials about investigating the human rights reports, was told “That's classified.” The Turkish military would likewise block all investigations in their country.13
There is evidence of Gladio operatives extensively operating torture campaigns for political purposes. For example, Talhat Turhan, former Turkey General, survived torture at the hands of special forces. He was told “...I was now ‘in the hands of a Counter Guerrilla unit operating under the high command of the Army outside the constitution and the laws.’ They told me that they ‘considered me as their prisoner of war and that I was sentenced to death.”14
Much of the violence was directed at the Kurdish minority. In 1984 the Counter-Guerrillas were behind the brutal crackdown that would kill and torture thousands over the next 5 years. Among other operations, Counter-Guerrillas would dress up as PKK members (A Kurdish political party) and attacked villages, raping and executing people randomly.15
The political violence in Turkey, with Gladio operatives responsible to at least a moderate extent, paved the way for the series of military coups that have occurred in the country. A 1996 New York Times article notes that:
“evidence suggests that officially sanctioned criminality may have reached levels that few had imagined...
One of Turkey's most prominent pro-Kurdish politicians, Guven Ozata, said the car crash and its aftermath had convinced him that state-sponsored death squads were behind many of the estimated 3,500 unsolved killings that have been committed in the southeastern part of the country in the last decade. Most of the victims had been suspected of sympathizing with separatist Kurdish causes.
''These gangs have a direct link with mystery killings,'' Mr. Ozata said at a news conference. ''This is no longer a hypothesis or a guess. It is a reality acknowledged by Government officials.''
Several politicians and others who are calling for investigations into the Government's relationship with criminal gangs believe that the gangs used their official ties as cover for involvement in Turkey's lucrative heroin-smuggling trade. They suspect that senior officials were engaged in the trade or tolerated it as a way of repaying gangs that killed at their behest.” - New York Times16
The evidence of Gladio operations in Turkey reveal another important link: The collusion between paramilitary forces and drug traffickers. At the time (and to this day), Turkey served as a major hub in the smuggling of drugs into Western Europe, from the Southeast Asian 'Golden Triangle' and later the Middle East. It is likely that drugs served as a significant source of funding for these decentralized operations and was the catalyst for a bond between the state and the criminal underworld that ensured massive corruption in the country that exists to this day. After all, we know that the Gehlen Organization was involved in the black market in the area to raise extra funds for their intelligence operations. It seems that this practice spread throughout the web of 'stay-behind' armies financed and armed by the CIA and NATO.
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One of the countries that suffered the most from the Cold War terrorism groups was Greece, the country with perhaps the most significant propensity for the rise of a natural leftist coalition. Former CIA agent and Gladio whistleblower Philip Agee claimed that:
“The Greek-American CIA officer recruited several groups of Greek citizens for what the CIA called ‘a nucleus for rallying a citizen army against the threat of a leftist coup’ … Each of the several groups was trained and equipped to act as an autonomous guerrilla unit, capable of mobilizing and carrying on guerrilla warfare with minimal or no outside direction.”17
These groups were equipped with automatic weapons and small mountain mortars stashed in underground caches throughout the country.18
The group was involved with the 1967 coup, where leftists were widely reported to have large leads in the polls. As NATO orders were to prevent any type of leftist 'insurgency', the group took over the Greece Defense Ministry, rolled into Athens, took control of communications centers, Parliament, the Royal Palace, and arrested over 10,000 people, many of whom were tortured.19
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Although the CIA and NATO have steadfastly refused to acknowledge the existence of Gladio, giving them deniability from ever having to disclose documents related to the operation, the existence of these fascist and violent underground networks has been acknowledged by the governments of nearly every NATO country. Furthermore, official documents in German, Dutch, French and Italian confirming the network, its organization and practices have been declassified.20
Operation Gladio is not just some ancient history. Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti confirmed that the last coordination meeting he was aware of was held in 1990.21 It has to be noted that this was a period of time where terrorism was evolving, moving towards the widespread radical Islamic terror that bombards our television screens daily, just 3 years before the first World Trade Center bombing and two years after the creation of Al-Qaeda. At the same time the geopolitical strategies of the United States were moving away from Europe and towards the Middle East. Unfortunately, the available information on Operation Gladio raises more questions than it answers.
Food for Thought:
- Knowing that the last Gladio meeting was in 1990, can we say with any certainty that the program ever ended?
- How many people involved with Gladio are still operating in the CIA and other agencies?
- Seeing that the 'Strategy of Tension' proved to be an effective tool, in what other instances has it been implemented?
- Is there currently a 'Gladio B' in operation in the Middle East, as former FBI agent Sybel Edmonds asserts?
- Are the criminal alliances that formed during Gladio in places such as Turkey still in effect today?
- How did the 'stay-behind' organizations affect domestic politics in ways other than terrorism?
- Is the ongoing assassination campaign in Iraq, discussed in the chapter 'The War on Terror is a Fraud', a part of an evolved Gladio campaign?
1New York Times, “Evolution in Europe: Italy Discloses its Web of Cold War Guerillas.” November 6, 1990
3Operation Gladio, a 1992 BBC production, watch it here.
4Historian Daniel Ganser, eminent Gladio researcher, in his book NATO's Secret Armies, page 3, available in PDF here. Ganser is the eminent authority on Operation Gladio and has done tremendous work in synthesizing the various evidence from nearly a dozen different languages into one source. This book is a must-read to gain a full understanding of Operation Gladio.
6Daniel Ganser, in a paper published in the Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 72, available in PDF here.
8Ganser's NATOs Secret Armies page 8.
9Ganser's Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations page 73.
10The Progressive, “Turkey´s Terrorists: A CIA Legacy Lives On,” April 1, 1997
11Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 73
12Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 20
14Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 74
15Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 240
16New York Times, “Scandal Links Turkish Aides to Death, Drugs and Terror”, December 10, 1996
17Len Scott, “Intelligence, Crisis and Security.” Excerpt available here.
18Ganser´s Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, page 77
20Dozens of these documents are hosted here.
21Ganser's NATO's Secret Army, page 1