- In his book, "NATO's Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO
and Terrorism in Western Europe," Daniele Ganser described their clandestine
Cold War operations, run by European secret services, collaborating with
NATO, the CIA and Britain's MI6 and Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) against
a possible Soviet invasion, internal communist takeovers, or others on
the political left gaining power.
- The network included France, Germany, Belgium, Norway,
Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Luxemburg,
as well as politically neutral European countries - Austria, Finland, Sweden
- Named "Gladio" (Latin for double-edged sword),
NATO's armies remained secret until August 1990, when then Prime Minister
Giulio Andreotti confirmed Italy's participation in testimony before a
Senate subcommittee investigating terrorism, General Vito Miceli, former
Italian military secret service director, saying in protest:
- "I have gone to prison because I did not want to
reveal the existence of this super secret organization. And now Andreotti....tells....parliament!"
- According to a 1959 Italian military secret service document,
"these armies had a two-fold strategic purpose: firstly, to operate
as a so-called 'stay-behind' group in the case of a Soviet invasion and
to carry out a guerrilla war in occupied territories; secondly, to carry
out domestic operations in case of 'emergency situations.' "
- In Italy, against both communist and socialist parties,
it was claimed they wanted to weaken NATO "from within," Italian
judge, Felice Casson, learning that right-wing terrorists carried out bombings
against civilians, blamed them on the left, neo-fascist Vincenzo Vinciguerra
explaining the scheme as follows:
- "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 which remain unpunished, because the state
cannot convict itself or declare itself responsible for what happened."
- In 2000, the Italian Senate was more explicit, saying:
- "Those massacres, those bombs, those military actions
had been organized or promoted or supported by men inside Italian state
institutions and, as had been discovered more recently, by men linked to
the structures of United States intelligence," meaning CIA mainly.
- Former director William Colby admitted in his memoirs
that covert western armies were a major CIA initiative, begun post-WW II,
and restricted "to the smallest possible coterie of the most reliable
people, in Washington (and) NATO" to keep the initiative secret.
- Yet once its existence was confirmed, the EU parliament
drafted a sharply critical resolution saying:
- "These organisations (sic) operated and continue
to operate completely outside the law since they are not subject to any
parliamentary control....call(ing) for a full investigation into the nature,
structure, aims and all other aspects of these clandestine organisations."
- Only Italy, Belgium and Switzerland did them, the GHW
Bush administration not commenting when it was preparing for war against
Iraq, fearing it might harm its alliance.
- Gladio, however, was real, designed like Winston Churchill's
British Special Operations Executive (SOE) - to help anti-Nazi resistance
forces carry out insurgencies in occupied territories. After NATO's 1949
creation, the so-called Clandestine Committee of the Western Union (CCWU)
was secretly integrated into its operations, by 1951 called the Clandestine
Planning Committee (CPC).
- Then in 1957, a second secret army called Allied Clandestine
Committee (ACC) was established by NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe
(SACEUR), giving America overall command and control. It relyied heavily
on dedicated anti-communists, largely from the political right, including
former Nazis and like-minded terrorists, operatives to weaken the political
left and neutralize and defeat Soviet Russia, ostensibly in case of invasion,
the chance for which was practically nil.
- Italy's Secret Army
- In researching right-wing terrorism, Judge Felice Casson
discovered them, their link to the political right, and examples of their
lawlessness. One instance was in 1972 when a car bomb killed three Carabinieri,
Italy's parliamentary police, wrongly blamed on the Red Brigades like for
other attacks carried out by extremist anti-communist groups, blamed on
- Right wing terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra was later charged
with the Carabinieri killings, explaining at his 1984 trial that Italy's
security apparatus supported his crimes, saying:
- "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 organize a resistance on Italian soil against a Russian
- In fact, he revealed Gladio and its link to terrorism
without naming it, calling it "a secret organization, a super-organization
with a network of communications, arms, and explosives, and men trained
to use them."
- A 2000 parliamentary investigation concluded that operatives
"linked to the structures of United States intelligence" were
involved in bombings, massacres, and other terrorist attacks as part of
a campaign against the political left. In 2001, General Giandelio Maletti,
former Italian counterintelligence head, confirmed CIA's involvement to
"do anything to stop Italy from sliding to the left."
- Turkey's Secret Armies
- During the Cold War, Turkey guarded a third of NATO's
borders with Warsaw Pact countries. Its "Counter-Guerrilla" secret
army carried out some of the most sensitive missions, under the command
of Turkish special forces to "organize resistance in case of a communist
- According to then Turkish army commander, General Semih
Sancar, America financed it, committing terror attacks against the political
left, one of many occurring in 1977 in Taskim Square, Istanbul. During
a mass May 1 (May Day) trade union rally, snipers on surrounding buildings
killed 38 attendees, injuring hundreds more during a 20 minute rampage.
Several thousand police on hand did nothing to intervene.
- "Counter-Guerrilla" also engaged in torture,
survivors later explaining their ordeal. Some became outspoken critics,
but never got authorities to investigate their ordeal or expose other crimes.
- Spain's Secret Armies
- From his Spanish Civil War victory until his 1975 death,
Francisco Franco's fascist dictatorship ruled Spain, his government the
embodiment of Gladio, according to early 1980s prime minister Calvo Sotelo.
- In his book titled, "Gladio," its 1971 - 74
Italian commander, Gerardo Serravalle, explained that Franco tried to establish
contacts with NATO's secret army long before Spain became an official NATO
member in 1982. However, its secret service wasn't interested in a stay-behind
function, but wanted a tool for internal control to neutralizes leftist
- Portugal's Secret Armies
- Gladio was active in Portugal, the nation's press telling
a national audience in 1990 about "a secret network, erected at the
bosom of NATO....financed by the CIA" in the 1960s and 1970s. It was
called 'Aginter Press,' " involved in assassinations and other terrorist
acts, internally and in Portugal's African colonies.
- A later Italian Senate inquiry learned that Yves Guerin-Serac,
a French secret warfare specialist, directed Aginter Press. In November
1990, Portuguese defense minister Fernando Nogueira insisted he knew nothing
about it, saying no "information whatsoever (existed) concerning (any
form of) Gladio structure in Portugal."
- Italians had to confirm it, including Judge Guido Salvini
saying it conducted secret military operations during the Cold War to defend
"the Western world against a probable and imminent invasion of Europe
by the troops of the Soviet Union and the other communist countries."
- In fact, like other Gladio operations, it waged global
war against the political left, killing thousands to defend privilege against
beneficial social change, what remains ongoing today, America its leading
- Greece's Secret Armies
- In late 1944, Winston Churchill ordered a secret Greek
army created to prevent leftists from gaining power, called by various
names, including the Greek Mountain Brigade, the Hellenic Raiding Force,
or Lochos Oreinon Katadromon (LOK). Field Marshall Alexander Papagos excluded
"almost all men with views ranging from moderately conservative to
left wing," assuring its members would be exclusively hard right anti-communists.
- In 1952, Greece joined NATO and was fully integrated
into its stay-behind network, the CIA and LOK reconfirming their mutual
cooperation in a secret March 25, 1955 document, British journalist, Peter
Murtagh, later learning that:
- "The Raiding Force doubled as the Greek arm of the
clandestine pan-European guerrilla network set up in the 1950s by NATO
and the CIA which was controlled (in) Brussels by the Allied Coordination
Committee." It was a stay-behind force against a possible "Soviet
invasion of Europe. It would co-ordinate guerrilla activities between Soviet
occupied countries and liaise with governments in exile."
- According to former CIA agent Philip Agee, it also served
as "a nucleus for rallying a citizen army against the threat of a
leftist coup," each of several groups "capable of mobilizing
and carrying on guerrilla warfare with minimal or no outside direction."
- Agree also explained that "Paramilitary groups,
directed by CIA officers, operated in the sixties throughout Europe,"
stressing that "perhaps no activity of the CIA could be as clearly
linked to the possibility of internal subversion."
- Evidence points to LOK's involvement in the Greek April
20, 1967 coup, one month before national elections likely to have overwhelmingly
elected the left-leaning George and Andreas Papandreou's Center Union.
Under NATO's Prometheus plan, LOK took over the Defense Ministry. Tanks
rolled through Athens, and rightist forces took control of communications
centers, parliament, and the royal palace, arresting over 10,000. Many
were later tortured and killed.
- In 1990, the socialist opposition wanted a parliamentary
investigation, denied by public order minister Yannis Vassiliadis, saying
there was no need to examine such "fantasies," meaning what happened
- France's Secret Armies
- Fearing a communist takeover, it was established post-WW
II, socialist interior minister Edouard Depreux explained in June 1947
- "Toward the end of 1946, we got to know of the existence
of a black resistance network (a secret army), made up of resistance fighters
of the extreme right, Vichy collaborators and monarchists. They had a secret
attack plan called 'Plan Bleu,' which should have come into action either
towards the end of July or on August 6, (1947)."
- Though public outrage closed it down, the military secret
service (Service de Documentation Exterieure et de Contre-Espionnage -
SDECE) under Henri Alexis Ribiere set up another, again fearing a Soviet
invasion, more likely to prevent leftists from gaining power.
- In the early 1960s, it saw the de Gaulle government as
a threat like the communists, inciting some in the stay-behind network
to initiate "terrorist actions" against his Algerian peace plan,
later confirmed in 1990 by then French military secret service Admiral
Pierre Lacoste. Even so, he felt the stay-behind network was justified,
no matter its hard right militancy.
- During his presidency (from 1981 - 1995), President Francois
Mitterrand distanced himself from the initiative, saying in 1990:
- "When I arrived, I didn't have much left to dissolve.
There only remained a few remnants, of which I learned the existence with
some surprise because everyone had forgotten about them."
- Italian Prime Minister Giulo Andreotti, however, wasn't
pleased by how Mitterrand dismissed France's involvement, saying that far
from being shut down, France's secret army participated in a secret October
24, 1990 ACC meeting in Brussels. Mitterrand refused to comment.
- Germany's Secret Armies
- In 1990, when learning about Germany's secret army, socialist
parliamentarian Hermann Scheer called for an investigation at the highest
- "....the existence of an armed military secret organization
outside all governmental or parliamentary control is incompatible with
the constitutional legality, and therefore must be prosecuted (under) criminal
- Later he stepped back after learning that socialists
knew and suppressed it. At the same time, press reports claimed right-wing
extremists, including former Nazis, were part of a secret army called Organisation
Gehlen (ORG, later changed to BND), named for WW II General Reinhard Gehlen,
head of Eastern Front intelligence. He was later recruited by America to
establish an anti-Soviet spy ring, and by West Germany to head its intelligence.
- According to a former NATO intelligence official, "Gehlen
was the spiritual father of Stay Behind in Germany....his role known to
the West German leader Konrad Adenauer from the outset."
- On September 9, 1952, former SS officer Hans Otto told
Frankfort police that he "belong(ed) to a political resistance group,
the task of which was to carry out sabotage activities and blow up bridges
in case of a Soviet invasion," adding that while "neo-fascist
tendencies were not required, most members" had them. In addition,
financing was "provided by an American citizen (named) Sterling Garwood."
- Otto said the initiative was code-named Technischer Dienst
des Bundes Deutscher Jugend (TD BDJ), commanded by Erhard Peters, and financed
by the CIA. It had a blacklist of leftists to be assassinated in case of
an emergency, perhaps manufactured ones to do it anyway.
- Though officials like August Zinn, Hessen state Prime
Minister, were outraged and wanted members investigated, the highest Karlsruhe
court, Bundesgerichshof (BGH), ordered all TD BDJ members released, Zinn
believing "The only legal (reason was that) they acted (in response
to) America('s) direction."
- Austria's Secret Armies
- In 1947, Austria's first secret army became known when
a right-wing stay-behind network was discovered. The so-called Soucek-Rossner
conspiracy resulted in a number of arrests, Soucek and Rossner testifying
that they had recruited and trained right-wing partisans to prepare for
a Soviet invasion, insisting Washington and Britain had full knowledge
and approved. Nonetheless, both men were convicted and sentenced to death
in 1949, yet were mysteriously pardoned by Chancellor Theodor Korner, perhaps
following CIA orders.
- Thereafter, senior Austrian officials approved of a stay-behind
army and began cooperating with the CIA and MI6. Franz Olah set one up,
code-named Osterreichischer Wander-Sport-und Geselligkeitsverein (OWSGV),
later saying "special units were trained in the use of weapons and
plastic explosives." His prime motive was to prevent a leftist takeover,
- "It wasn't our intention to fight communism in the
Soviet Union but to fight against" internal leftist elements. "We
took weapons. We also had modern plastic explosives that were easy to handle.
I had a small arsenal of weapons in my office. There must have been a couple
of thousand people working for us....Only very, very highly positioned
politicians and some members of the union knew about it."
- In 1996, the Boston Globe revealed the existence of secret
CIA arms caches in Austria, President Thomas Klestil and Chancellor Franz
Vranistzky insisting they knew nothing about it or the existence of a secret
- Clinton's State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns,
called their aim "noble," admitting that similar networks operated
in other European countries. In August 2001, GW Bush appointed Burns US
Permanent Representative to NATO, where he headed the combined State-Defense
Department US Mission and coordinated NATO's response to the 9/11 attacks.
- Switzerland's Secret Armies
- Despite its neutrality, a 1990 parliamentary investigation
revealed a secret stay-behind army, code-named Special Service, then P26,
operating within the Swiss military secret service Untergruppe Nachrichtendienst
und Abwehr (UNA), during most of the Cold War.
- Yet Switzerland experienced no terrorist attacks or coup
threats throughout the period, so why the need for extremism. Parliamentary
commission Senator Carlo Schmid said he "was shocked that something
like this" went on, calling it "conspiratorial....like a black
- A judicial investigation, headed by Judge Pierre Cornu,
was charged to learn if Swiss neutrality was violated. Evidence confirmed
that P26 cooperated closely with Britain's MI6 and other UK intelligence,
concluding, however, that no Swiss laws were broken, whether or not true.
- Belgium's Secret Armies
- On November 7, 1990, socialist defense minister Guy Coeme
told a national TV audience that a NATO-linked secret army operated covertly
throughout the Cold War, adding:
- "I want to know whether there exists a link between
the activities of this secret network, and the wave of crime and terror
which our country suffered from during the past years."
- A parliamentary investigation followed, Belgium's Senate
confirming that its secret army consisted of two branches, called SDRA8
and STC/Mob, the former a military unit within Belgium's military secret
Service General du Renseignement (SGR) under the Defense Ministry. Its
members were trained in unorthodox warfare, combat, sabotage, parachute
jumping, and maritime operations.
- STC/Mob was part of the civilian secret service - Surete
de L'Etat (Surete), under the ministry of justice. Its members were technicians,
trained in radio operations and intelligence gathering under enemy occupation
- While senators obtained good information on the stay-behind
armies' structure, they learned little about their involvement in terrorist
operations, including so-called Brabant massacres from 1983 - 85, killing
28 and injuring many more. Despite exerting enormous pressure, they never
got names of key operatives or who carried out the Brabant terror.
- Netherlands' Secret Armies
- Like Belgium, it had two branches, one called Operations
(O for short), directed by Louis Einthoven, a staunch anti-communist, to
carry out sabotage, guerrilla operations, and building a local resistance.
The other was called Intelligence (or I), established post-WW II by JM
Somer, but led by JJL Baron van Lynden, responsible for intelligence gathering
and dissemination to those with a need to know.
- Dutch parliamentarians weren't happy about keeping them
out of the loop, but never ordered investigations into what clearly was
an abuse of power.
- Luxemburg's Secret Armies
- On November 14, 1990, Luxemburg's Prime Minister Jacaques
Santer told his parliament:
- "all NATO countries in central Europe have taken
part in these preparations, and Luxemburg could not have escaped this international
solidarity," explaining that the Service de Renseignements (its secret
service) ran the network in peacetime, but wasn't linked to terrorism or
other abuses of power.
- Denmark's Secret Armies
- Code-named Absalon, EJ Harder led it, an unnamed network
- "There were twelve districts, structured according
to the cell principle, but not as tightly organized as during the War."
- Also, there were no alleged terrorist links, yet another
member said its mission was to act in case of a Soviet invasion as well
as prevent leftists from gaining power, both called "a clear and present
- As in other countries, operations were secret. Its members
were "ninety-five per cent....military, conservative, and staunchly
- Norway's Secret Armies
- After European secret armies became known in 1990, journalists
asked Norway's Defense Ministry for an explanation, its spokesman, Erik
Senstad, saying only that they were essential to the country's security.
- Code-named Rocambole (ROC), it was run by Norway's secret
service (NIS), its "philosophy....based on the lessons learned during
the German occupation," to prepare for a potential future one, and
like elsewhere to prevent leftists from gaining power. "Cooperation
with the CIA, MI6, and NATO was intense," but not without controversy,
one example being NATO ordering intelligence conducted on anti-NATO Norwegians
with strong pacifist convictions.
- Clearly, Norway's sovereignty was breached, enough to
get Brigadier Simon, chief of NATO's Special Projects Branch, to apologize
and promise to end to these type operations.
- Sweden's Secret Armies
- Sweden's Sakerhetspolis (SAPO), its security police,
helped recruit it, working with Britain's MI6 "to learn how to use
dead letter box techniques to receive and send secret messages," as
well as intelligence gathering and ways to deal with emergency situations.
- Swedish officials never provided details, denied any
link to NATO or CIA, but the Agency's operative, Paul Garbler, explained
that Sweden was a "direct participant" in the network, adding:
"I'm not able to talk about it without causing the Swedes a good deal
of heartburn," clearly suggesting disturbing abuses of power, possibly
including the 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme, a staunch
anti-nuclear proponent, wanting Scandinavia freed from nuclear weapons.
- Finland's Secret Armies
- As the only Western European country invaded by the Soviet
Union during the so-called Winter War (November 30, 1939 - March 13, 1940),
Finland lost 20% of its forces and 16,000 square miles of territory. It's
why Finns sided with the Nazis, to regain its land and prevent this happening
- During the Cold War, Finland's border with Soviet Russia
was guarded by fences, land mines, and regular patrols. Also, a secret
Western-linked resistance organization existed, made up largely of retired
Finnish army officers - armed, trained, CIA-funded and equipped, and ready
to respond in case history repeated. "Secrecy was extremely tight,"
no one talking about what they did or why. Even Finland's government was
kept out of the loop.
- A Final Comment
- Until made public in 1990, Western Europe's secret armies
remained a closely held secret - to defend capitalism against communism
and the political left, individual countries having discretion on their
operations, some mainly or entirely stay-behind, others involved with terrorism.
- The former group included Denmark, Finland, Norway, Luxemburg,
Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands. In contrast, Italy, Turkey,
Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Sweden actively engaged
in terrorism, including against their own citizens to hype fear.
- America, to this day, is the world's leading state-sponsored
terrorism exponent, at home and abroad. CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security
operatives are in the lead, putting a myth to their abiding by the rule
of law or a nation espousing democratic freedoms, human rights, civil liberties,
and equal justice, what only an aroused public can stop if awakened to
the danger and acts.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays
at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs
are archived for easy listening.