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While "stay-behind" anti-communist networks existed in all NATOmarker countries, the Italian branch of Operation Gladio was the first one to be discovered. It was set up under Minister of Defense (from 1953 to 1958) Paolo Taviani's supervision. Prime minister Giulio Andreotti (DC) publicly recognized it on 24 October 1990, speaking of a "structure of information, response and safeguard", with arms caches and reserve officers.

Giulio Andreotti's revelation

Prime minister Giulio Andreotti (DC) publicly recognized the existence of Gladio, a NATOmarker stay-behind anti-communist organisation, on 24 October 1990. He gave to the Commissione Stragi, the parliamentary commission led by senator Giovanni Pellegrino in charge of investigations on bombings committed during the years of lead in Italy, a list of 622 civilians who according to him were part of Gladio. Andreotti also assured that 127 weapons caches had been dismantled, and claimed that Gladio had not been involved in any of the bombings committed from the 1960s to the 1980s (further evidence implicated neofascists linked to Gladio, in particular concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombingmarker, the 1972 Peteano attack by Vincenzo Vinciguerra, the 1980 Bologna massacremarker in which SISMI officers were condemned for investigation diversion, along with Licio Gelli, head of Propaganda Due masonic lodge, etc.). Andreotti declared that the Italian military services (predecessors of the current SISMI had joined in 1964 the Allied Clandestine Committee created in 1957 by the US, France, Belgium and Greece, and which was in charge of directing Gladio's operations. However, Gladio was actually set up under Minister of Defense (from 1953 to 1958) Paolo Taviani (DC) 's supervision.

Vincenzo Vinciguerra, a far-right terrorist, had already revealed Gladio's existence during his 1984 trial. Gladio was involved in the "strategy of tension" ( ) during the "lead years", which started with Piazza Fontana bombingmarker in December 1969. Thirty years later, during a trial of right-wing extremists, General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counter-intelligence, claimed that the massacre had been carried out by the Italian stay-behind army and right wing terrorists on orders of the CIA in order to discredit the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

After the discovery by judge Felice Casson of documents on Gladio in the archives of the Italian military secret service in Rome, Giulio Andreotti, head of Italian government, revealed to the Chamber of deputies the existence of "Operazione Gladio" on 24 October 1990, insisting that Italy has not been the only country with secret "stay-behind" armies. He made clear that "each chief of government had been informed of the existence of Gladio". Former Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi claimed that he had not been informed until he was confronted with a document on Gladio signed by himself while he was Prime Minister. Former Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini (Republican Party), at the time President of the Senate, and former Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani, at the time secretary of the ruling Christian Democratic Party claimed they remembered nothing. Spadolini stressed that there was a difference between what he knew as former Defence Secretary and what he knew as former Prime Minister. Only former Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga (DC) confirmed Andreotti's revelations, explaining that he was even "proud and happy" for his part in setting up Gladio as junior Defence Minister of the Christian Democratic Party. This lit up a political storm, requests were made for Cossiga's (Italian President since 1985) resignation or impeachment for high treason. He refused testifying to the investigating Senate committee. Cossiga narrowly escaped his impeachment by stepping down on April 1992, three months before his term expired.

In addition to preparing for a Soviet invasion, the stay-behind also was to act in case of a communist government being elected in Italy. Since Italy was the country most likely to vote into power a communist government (with the communist party receiving up to 36% of the popular vote, being at times the strongest party in parliament), the Italian branch of Gladio also became the largest NATO "stay-behind" organization.

Gladio's subversion

  • In 1974, an attack committed by Ordine Nuovo during an anti-fascist demonstration in Bresciamarker, kills eight and injures 102 (Piazza della Loggia bombingmarker). The same year, a bomb in the Rome to Munich train "Italicus Expressmarker" kills 12 and injures 48. Also in 1974, Vito Miceli, P2 member, chief of the SIOS (Servizio Informazioni), Army Intelligence's Service from 1969 and SID's head from 1970 to 1974, got arrested on charges of "conspiration against the state" concerning investigations about :it:Rosa dei venti, a state-infiltrated group involved in terrorist acts. During his trial, he reveals the NATO stay-behind secret army. In 1977, the secret services were reorganized in a democratic attempt. With law #801 of 24/10/1977, SID was divided into SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), SISDE (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Democratica) and CESIS (Comitato Esecutivo per i Servizi di Informazione e Sicurezza). The CESIS has a coordination role, led by the President of Council. General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa's murder, in 1982, by the mafia in Palermomarker is allegedly part of the strategy of tension. Alberto Dalla Chiesa had arrested Red Brigades founders Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini in September 1974, and was later charged of investigation concerning Aldo Moro, assassinated in 1978.

1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and others massacres

1969 Piazza Fontana bombingmarker, which started Italy's anni di piombo, and the 1974 "Italicus Expressenmarker" train bombing were also attributed to Gladio operatives. In 1975, Stefano Delle Chiaie met with Pinochet during Franco's funeral in Madridmarker, and would participate afterward in operation Condor, preparing for example the attempted murder of Bernardo Leighton, a Chilean Christian Democrat or participating in the 1980 'Cocaine Coup' of Luis García Meza Tejada in Boliviamarker. In 1989, he was arrested in Caracasmarker, Venezuelamarker and extradited to Italy to stand trial for his role in the Piazza Fontana bombing. Despite his reputation, Delle Chiaie was acquitted by the Assize Court in Catanzaromarker in 1989, along with fellow accused Massimiliano Fachini (as yet no convictions have been made for the attack). According to Avanguardia Nazionale member Vincenzo Vinciguerra: "The December 1969 explosion was supposed to be the detonator which would have convinced the politic and military authorities to declare a state of emergency".

1972 Peteano massacre and the strategy of tension

Avanguardia Nazionale member Vincenzo Vinciguerra confessed in 1984 to judge Felice Casson of having carried out the 31 May 1972 Peteano terrorist act, in which three policemen died. Until Vinciguerra's trial, the Red Brigades were accused of having carried it out. Vinciguerra explained during his trial how he had been helped by Italian secret services and fled away to Francoist Spainmarker after the Peteano massacre. He was abandoned by Gladio as soon as he started talking about it, declaring for example during his 1984 trial:

With the massacre of Peteano and with all those that have followed, the knowledge should now be clear that there existed a real live structure, occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving a strategic direction to the outrages. [This structure] lies within the states itself. 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 organise a resistance on Italian soil against a Russian army.

1980 Bologna massacre

In November 1995, Neo-Fascists terrorists Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro were convicted to life imprisonment as executors of the 1980 Bologna massacremarker, for which Gladio's direct influence has been accused; Licio Gelli, headmaster of P2 and former OSS/CIA operative, received a sentence for investigation diversion, as well as Francesco Pazienza and SISMI officers Pietro Musumeci and Giuseppe Belmonte. Avanguardia Nazionale founder Stefano Delle Chiaie, who was involved in the Golpe Borghese in 1970, was also accused of involvement in the Bologna massacre.

Aldo Moro's 1978 assassination

In May 1978, investigative journalist Mino Pecorelli thought that Prime Minister Aldo Moro's kidnapping and assassination by the Red Brigades had actually been masterminded by a "lucid superpower" and was inspired by the "logic of Yaltamarker". Christian-Democrat Aldo Moro was negotiating the "historic compromise" which would have allowed the Communist Party to enter into government for the first time since the May 1947 expulsion (which had also taken place in France).

Pecorelli painted the figure of General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa as "general Amen", explaining that it was him that, during Aldo Moro's kidnapp, had informed Interior Minister Francesco Cossiga of the localization of the cave where Moro was detained. In 1978, Pecorelli wrote that Dalla Chiesa was in danger and would be assassinated (Dalla Chiesa was murdered four years later). After Aldo Moro's assassination, Mino Pecorelli published some confidential documents, mainly Moro's letters to his family. In a cryptic article published in May 1978, wrote The Guardian in May 2003, Pecorelli drew a connection between Gladio and Moro's death. During his interrogation, Aldo Moro had referred to "NATO's anti-guerrilla activities." Mino Pecorelli, who was on Licio Gelli's list of P2 members discovered in 1980, was assassinated on 20 March 1979. The ammunitions used, a very rare type, where the same as discovered in the Banda della Magliana 's weapons stock hidden in the Health Minister's basement. Pecorelli's assassination has been thought to be directly related to Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who was condemned to 20 years of prison for it in 2002 before having the sentence cancelled by the Supreme Court of Cassation in 2003.

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