Declassified files expose British role in terror armies

10:31 02.07.2023 •

Newly declassified British files shed disturbing light on the origins and internal workings of Operation Gladio, a covert NATO plot deploying fascist terror militias across Italy. Have spies in London applied these lessons in Ukraine? – asks ‘The Gray Zone’, which presents new documents on the case.

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.

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.

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.”

In this context, the newly declassified documents may be one of the most valuable primary sources to date offering new insights into the origins and internal workings of NATO’s secret terror militias in Italy.

Take for example an aide-mémoire prepared by Francesco Fulci, Italy’s permanent representative to the UN, which was shared at a “super-restricted” November 6th 1990 meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political decision-making body, then forwarded to senior British officials at home and abroad.

Based on a note provided by Rome’s then-premier Giulio Andreotti to “the Head of the Italian Parliamentary Commission investigating terrorist incidents,” the aide-mémoire begins by noting that following World War II, Western intelligence agencies devised “unconventional means of defence, by creating in their territories a hidden network of resistance aimed at operating, in case of enemy occupation, through information gathering, sabotage, propaganda and guerrilla warfare.”

“Operational materials”, including a wide variety of explosives, weapons – such as mortars, hand grenades, guns and knives – and ammunition were stashed in 139 secret underground caches across the country. In April 1972, “to improve security,” these arsenals were exhumed, and moved to offices of the Carabinieri, Rome’s military police, near the original sites. Only 127 of the weapons storehouses were officially recovered.

This may reflect the fact that political violence was one of Gladio’s “proper objectives.” A June 1959 SIFAR (Italian Military Intelligence) report unearthed by historian Daniele Ganser confirms guerrilla action against “domestic threats” was hardwired into the operation from its inception. In the Italian context, this entailed systematically terrorizing the left.

The 1963 general election saw the Christian Democrats prevail again, this time under the leadership of left-leaning politician Aldo Moro, who sought to construct a coalition with the Socialists and Democratic Socialists. In the meantime, SIFAR and CIA black ops specialists such as William Harvey, known as “America’s James Bond,” cooked up a plot to prevent that government from taking office. Known as “Piano Solo,” it dispatched Gladio operatives for a false flag.

Moro became Prime Minister without incident and governed until June 1968. Piano Solo fell under official investigation four years later, yet the results were not published until the public first learned of Gladio’s existence. Though the findings omitted any reference to Britain’s role in the planned coup, the newly released documents strongly suggest London’s involvement.

Italy’s then-President Francesco Cossiga requested the ministry hand over “details of UK stay behind measures in 1964,” according to a detailed February 1991 Foreign Office memo on recent developments in the scandal. His Foreign Office query strongly suggests British intelligence played a role in Piano Solo

On March 16th 1978, a unit of the leftist militant Red Brigades kidnapped Moro. He was on his way to a high-level meeting where he planned to give his blessing there to a new coalition government that relied on communist support, when the kidnappers violently extracted him from his convoy. Five of Moro’s bodyguards were murdered in the process.

Famous photograph of Aldo Moro – doomed Italian PM while in captivity of the Red Brigades.

After almost two months in captivity, when it became clear the government would neither negotiate with the Red Brigades nor release any of its jailed members in return for Moro, the kidnappers executed the former Italian Prime Minister. His bullet-riddled corpse was left in a car trunk to rot, and for authorities to find.

Whether or not Moro was a casualty of Gladio, a declassified November 5th 1990 Foreign Office memo authored by Britain’s then-ambassador to Rome, John Ashton, makes it clear that London knew much more about the case than has ever been disclosed publicly by any official source.

“There is circumstantial evidence one or more of Moro’s kidnappers was secretly in touch with the security apparatus at the time; and that the latter deliberately neglected to follow up leads which might have led to the kidnappers and saved Moro’s life,” Ashton declared.

What’s more, according to the British diplomat, the presidential crisis committee responsible for attempting to rescue Moro was part of the notorious P2 – the “subversive Masonic lodge” composed of political elites loyal to Gladio.

It was not until 1993 that the public learned how the US and British gifted munitions to Gladio operatives to foment bloody acts of terror across Italy. As Francesco Fulci told his NATO friends at the “super-restricted” meeting, Washington and London supplied the perpetrators of mass casualty attacks including the 1980 bombing of Bologna Centrale railway station, which killed 85 people and wounded over 200.

The extensive experience British intelligence obtained in Operation Gladio raises questions about the lessons the MI6 has applied to current covert operations in theaters of conflict.

As ‘The Grayzone’ revealed in November 2022, British military and intelligence veterans have trained and sponsored a secret partisan terror army in eastern Ukraine to carry out acts of sabotage in Crimea and other majority-Russian areas.

As ‘The Grazyone’ previously reported, the same coterie of military-intelligence operatives was responsible for drawing up plans to blow up Crimea’s Kerch Bridge. That goal was fulfilled on October 8th 2022 in the form of a suicide truck bomb attack, temporarily disabling the sole connecting point between mainland Russia and Crimea, and triggering a major escalation in Moscow’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.

If British agents had indeed orchestrated the attack on the Kerch Bridge, they likely drew on past operations that bore eery similarities. In 2006, an NGO known as British Irish Rights Watch published testimony by anonymous former British intelligence informants revealing that MI6 had spearheaded a false flag terror strategy known as the “human bomb” in Northern Ireland.

Civilians were strapped into explosive-packed vehicles, then coerced to drive into military checkpoints, inflicting incendiary attacks on targets that killed soldiers and civilians alike. The wave of bombing strikes inflamed local tensions, and provided justification for draconian British state repression of the province’s Catholic population.

“It is known that at least two security force agents were involved in these bombings and allegations have been made that the human bomb strategy was the brainchild of British intelligence [emphasis added],” British Irish Rights Watch stated in an accompanying report.

Given the contents of the leaked material reviewed by ‘The Grayzone’, it is striking that the explosives used to target the Kerch Bridge originated in Odessa – just across the Black Sea from Crimea – the city that served as the basis for British secret terror army.


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