Newly declassified British Foreign Office files have added disturbing details to the history of Operation Gladio. The covert operation was uncovered in 1990, when the public learned that the CIA, MI6 and NATO trained and directed an underground army of fascist paramilitary units across Europe, deploying its assets to undermine political opponents, including through false flag terror attacks.
Among them was a young Silvio Berlusconi, the media oligarch who served as Italian Prime Minister in four separate governments between 1994 and 2011. Listed as a member of the P2, the secret Cold War-era cabal of political elites devoted to Gladio’s aims, Berlusconi undoubtedly took some weighty secrets to the grave when he died this June 12th.
It is almost impossible to believe that inconvenient truths were not weeded from Britain’s documentary record on Operation Gladio prior to declassification. Nonetheless, the recently released material is highly illuminating. Covering a fraught twelve month period after the first public disclosure of Gladio’s existence, the papers illustrate how London’s foreign intelligence apparatus kept a keen eye on the continent as events unfolded.
The papers not only shed fresh light on the conspiracy, they underline Gladio’s relevance as British intelligence joins its America counterparts in contemporary plots involving secret partisan forces from Syria to Ukraine.
Various passages dotted across the tranche strongly suggest the British knew much more than they publicly admitted about egregious criminal deeds, including the attempted overthrow of an allied Italian government and the kidnap and murder of its leader.
A ‘clandestine resistance network’ goes to work
Gladio consisted of a constellation of “stay behind” anti-communist partisan armies whose ostensible mission was to fend off the Red Army in the event of Soviet invasion. In reality, these forces committed countless violent and criminal acts as part of a “strategy of tension” designed to discredit the left and justify a security state clampdown.
As Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a Gladio operative jailed for life in 1984 for a car bombing in Italy that killed three police officers and injured two, explained:
“You were supposed to attack civilians, women, children, innocent people from outside the political arena. The reason was simple, force the public to turn to the state and ask for greater security…People would willingly trade their freedom for the security of being able to walk the streets, go on trains or enter a bank. This was the political logic behind the bombings. They remain unpunished because the state cannot condemn itself.”
The scandal triggered in Western capitals by the exposure of Gladio dominated mainstream headlines for months. The European parliament responded by passing a resolution condemning the existence of a “clandestine parallel intelligence and armed operations organization [which] escaped all democratic controls, may have interfered illegally in the internal political affairs of member states [and] have at their disposal independent arsenals and military resources…thereby jeopardizing the democratic structures of the countries in which they are operating.”…