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NATO's Secret Armies

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NATO's Secret Armies
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Daniele GanserIn 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 and Switzerland.

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 the left.

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 army."

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 occupation."

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 elements.

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 exponent.

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 was justified.

France's Secret Armies

Fearing a communist takeover, it was established post-WW II, socialist interior minister Edouard Depreux explained in June 1947 that:

"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.



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