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GLADIO (2011)
 The secret Armies in Europe

Authors: Wolfgang Schoen und Frank Gutermuth


Italy – Bologna

At 10:25 am on August 2, 1980, a sunny Sunday morning, a time bomb hidden in a suitcase explodes in a crowded waiting area of Bologna’s Central Station. The explosion, which is reported to be heard from people many kilometers away, destroys most of the station’s main buildings and leaves numerous passengers buried underneath the collapsing roof. 86 people die and over 200 are injured, some severely. For the present, this attack represents the peak of a series of assaults that have haunted Italy time and again since 1969.

The Italian government under Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga and the Italian police are quick to identify the militant, communist-inspired Red Brigades as responsible for the bomb attack. As the leading representative of the conservative Democrazia Cristiana, Prime Minister Cossiga stands for the values of Catholicism and Anticommunism. Future investigations, however, will uncover a different truth: the Italian Secret Service as well as right-leaning forces were involved in the assault – moreover, they were backed up by government officials. Only an isolated case?

GLADIO – The Secret Armies of NATO During the Cold WarIn June 1948, U.S. President Truman had endorsed the National Security Council’s multi-million program for the financing of covered operations. When it came to containing communist forces in Europe, American intelligence considered all means just and equitable. On the CIA’s initiative and under the military command of the secret Allied Clandestine Committee in NATO’s headquarter SHAPE in Paris, the build-up of secret armies all over Western Europe began under the code-name GLADIO (derived from the Latin word gladius, the sword). In order to be prepared to conduct sabotage and guerilla operations in the event of an attack by the Warsaw Pact, agents were hired and trained. These plans were called “Stay-Behind-Operations” and would be carried out behind the enemy’s lines. Establishing and maintaining armories were part of the activities too. Agents were recruited from the intelligence community, military special units as well as right-wing organizations. But GLADIO also focused on other tasks, such as the suppression of domestic communist influence.

1990: GLADIO is Uncovered – a Political Landslide in Europe

The following facts have been unearthed merely by chance. During the investigation of an unrelated assault, the Italian judge Felice Casson accidentally stumbles across the existence of GLADIO. In 1990 – under pressure of an incipient parliamentary inquiry – Italian Prime Minister Andreotti announces that GLADIO operated in other European NATO member states as well. His statement causes a European-wide political scandal. With the ending of the Cold War, NATO’s secret armies have likely been dissolved. For four decades, however, they have been operating without any parliamentary control.

In a November 1990 resolution, the European Parliament calls upon NATO as well as all member states to establish inquiry boards and launch a full investigation into the potential involvement of GLADIO in terrorist activities. But despite the pronounced European-wide indignation over the existence of GLADIO, only Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland put parliamentary investigations in place.

In order to highlight the international dimension and interlinkage of GLADIO activities in different countries, we will also bring Germanyand Franceinto focus. We present facts and hints indicating that GLADIO was operable and involved in terrorist activities here as well. The preliminary evidence we have gathered underlines the importance of instituting full-scale investigations in order to shed light on many unresolved cases. Furthermore, it is high-time for an investigation committee to clarify what happened to GLADIO, its operating agents and its armories after the collapse of the Soviet Union. One is also inclined to wonder which political interests have impeded comprehensive investigations up to day; another question that needs to be addressed thoroughly.


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