This article is part of a continuing project to translate an Italian Parliamentary report on Operation Gladio. It details how a clandestine organisation acting in parallel with the Italian state, and with the support of the United States, committed crimes, engaged in political subversion, and prevented leftist parties from coming to power in Italy. As stated in previous sections, this is the first time the report has appeared in English. I understand that the translation of primary sources may be of more interest to historians, but this summary provides context, and a final commentary will follow.

The last section of the report published on this website documented how, after a period of diminished function (especially as the prospect of an invasion from Soviet-allied Warsaw Pact states receded into the distance) Operation Gladio was reoriented from an active military defence mechanism into an intelligence organisation geared towards ‘anti-subversion’ and domestic surveillance.

This section details the end of Gladio, covering the period from 1977 until 1992, when the operation came to light and was ultimately disbanded. It should be noted that, when the report was published on the 22nd of April 1992, Operation Gladio was treated as an exclusively Italian structure. But Gladio was active all over Europe, in concert with national security services and creating a web of clandestine, armed military cells hidden by intelligence services from the public and, in some cases, from national governments themselves.

As stated in the introductory article to this series, aside from Italy, only Switzerland and Belgium held parliament inquiries into the matter and they confirmed the existence of clandestine organisations on their soil. Other countries, including major centres in France and Germany, and most conspicuously the UK (one of the two main architects of the network) refused to hold any inquiry or provide accountability to their citizens.

To drive the point home: there was an international concert between intelligence agencies funded by foreign governments to hide weaponised, interconnected guerilla cells initially convened to prevent an improbable Soviet invasion, but which then turned into an anti-subversion and surveillance program to monitor leftist movements – and to prevent leftist governments coming to power at the very, very least in Italy – and no collective post-factum inquiry was attempted.

To drive the point home even further: the European Parliament documented that the clandestine network may have “interfered illegally in the internal political affairs of Member States,” that they “were involved in serious cases of terrorism and crime,” had “independent arsenals” with “unknown strike potential, thereby jeopardising the democratic structures” of the involved countries, and for 40 years “eluded all democratic controls and [were] run by the secret services of the states concerned in collaboration with NATO.”

The European Parliament demanded that parliamentary investigations into Gladio were made. Again, these did not take place. This evasion makes a complete mockery of European post-war democracy. If Gladio had been a small, rogue operation with no influence, inquiries would have been held and those responsible would have been charged with treason. Nothing happened. This raises uncomfortable questions about our political past and present, and this is why these documents are so important to add to the historical record.

The US was the main source of funding and coordination for Operation Gladio, providing a communications grid and ample supplies to anti-leftist causes which altered Italy’s political trajectory starting from the founding of the Republic in 1946. As the concluding remarks of this document put it:

“The charge levelled at the aforementioned officials is membership of an ‘armed group’ (…) for having, while in office, encouraged and organised (by enlisting personnel, training recruits, and resupplying weapons and materiel) an armed group operating in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, with the goal to deny certain changes in the political life of Italy, both obstructing the creation of electoral majorities of the left, as well as preparing for violent action if such a situation were to eventuate; and this was all performed in close cooperation with a foreign power (through links to the CIA) who supplied considerable and ongoing funding and the delivery of military equipment.”

The introductory article to Operation Gladio with the quotes in full from the European Parliament can be found here, and you are invited to read the first and second parts of this report, however dry they may be. After this article, a final analysis will be built off the concluding section of the report by the Commissione Parlamentare d’Inchiesta sul Terrorismo in Italia e sulle Cause della Mancata Individuazione dei Responsabili delle Stragi – the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into Terrorism in Italy and the reasons for the lack of identification of perpetrators of massacres – whose work investigating unsolved terrorist and political massacres in Italy lasted over a decade and spanned over a million pages, amongst which this report was found.

3.4 1977 to 1990: the post-reform period.

Surveillance activities had, in fact, been within Gladio’s purview since its inception, as attested by the November 28, 1956 document (“A reworking of the agreements…”), the official founding charter of the stay-behind network on Italian soil.

The intelligence component had always been an integral part of the arrangements establishing the post-occupation clandestine structure. From their first appearance (Basic Directives issued by SACEUR, 1968 edition), plans for ‘unorthodox warfare’ were articulated at two distinct levels: activities entrusted to the clandestine network, and activities entrusted to specially-trained departments of the Armed Forces. In the event of an invasion of national territory, the link between the two was to be established through intelligence activities carried out by resistance forces in occupied territory, in order to aid external unorthodox military forces (UMF) who would be called upon to intervene.

To this end, along with the caches stocked with guns and explosives, around the beginning of the 1960s they began to set up an extensive radio transmission network. These were completely integrated – in their operational and technical characteristics – into the American military radio communications system.

The type of information activity envisaged through this operation was, quite logically, essentially military in nature. The clandestine network was required to relay as much information as possible from the occupied zones to prepare and guide the intervention of liberation forces.

The ‘news’ that members of the clandestine network was to communicate to their counterparts – so that they would in turn relay them to the High Command in charge of directing overall military operations – primarily concerned the size and location of potential military targets (troops, commands, facilities) and thus the general ‘state’ (including psychological) of the occupation forces.

It is obvious that, to ensure reporting standards and thoroughness, the branch of the stay-behind structure engaged in intelligence-gathering needed to receive specialised training. Ample documentation can be found around teaching materials (training summaries, course syllabuses, outline templates of draft information reports) for the period spanning from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s.

There is no lack of mention of intelligence-gathering on civilians in the teaching material; but this was still a limited field, mainly aimed at building an overall picture of the occupied territories to determine the most convenient moment to launch counteroffensive manoeuvres.

This was the situation at the end of the 1960s. But the events of 1972 profoundly changed intelligence procedures within the covert network.

Faced with the weakened condition of the entire organisation, the gradual mobilisation of Gladio for surveillance purposes appeared to be the only way, given the impossibility (and, possibly, the futility) of bringing the organisation to a level of practical operational efficacy, to use the existing system to immediately carry out activities for the Secret Service at no additional cost.

The Inzerilli administration followed this course of action throughout his term (October 1974 – December 1986), beginning with his tenure as head of the 5th Section – ‘R’ Office and then as director of the 7th Division .

This shaped Gladio’s particular ‘contributions’ during the post-reform period.

In 1977, the Parliament instituted a reform of the secret service. The SID, established in 1966 to replace SIFAR, was replaced in turn by two new bodies: SISMI, responsible for military security matters, and SISDE, tasked to ensure democratic stability. Following the reform, the SAD Section which oversaw Gladio, hitherto incorporated into the ‘R’ Office for the purpose of “enhancing its concealment,” became the 7th Division of SISMI.

And it was in these years that a detailed outline was issued to the peripheral structures of Gladio to be used as a template to guide intelligence reports (see Annex 10). The six cardinal points framing the outline were: population, government, politics, economy, transportation and communications.

One can clearly note the prevalence of entirely ‘civilian’ topics which had little bearing on the collection of information for military operations (albeit in the context of ‘unorthodox warfare’). The information focused on profiling the most influential political figures (from the local up to the national level), on organised movements, associations, parties and trade unions; on newspapers, advertising and news agencies; on the structure of industries and goods they produced.

Unlike in the past, this schema was not only a training tool: following the six-point report template, peripheral Gladio structures were ordered to produce quarterly reports.

Some of these reports were found in the archives of the 7th Division. Amongst them are investigations into the political circumstances in Sassari, Porto Torres, Cervignano del Friuli, and that of the Corriere della Sera.

All evidence points towards the fact that the network progressively extended its information-gathering functions during the 1980s, and did so exclusively for domestic surveillance.

There is evidence of this in the memo in which Inzerilli, on July 29, 1982, replied to the director of SISMI, General Nino Lugaresi, advising against a generalised use of Gladio personnel for any “particular activities before the emergency,” considering possible, however, “an eventual studied deployment in areas or on particular information targets to be defined after joint examination with the lst Division (areas not covered by the C.S., particular targets, etc.)”

General Inzerilli’s report went on to point out “the necessity that any eventual deployment” should not involve “any contact with elements outside the 7th Division, which must remain the only intermediary between sources and the 1st Division.” The phrase used – “eventual deployment” – seemed to indicate the intention on Inzerilli’s part to gloss over previous arrangements assigning Gladio to intelligence tasks.

A further element that clarifies the contours of the transformation undergone by the Gladio structure during the 1980s is provided by the creation, between 1985 and 1987, of the Special Training centres (CAS) and the Special Operations Group (GOS), both of which operated within the 7th Division.

The Special Training centres came into existence around the mid 1980s as part of a further restructuring of the organisation. Following the example of the two active external centres – the ‘Aries centre’ in Udine, heir to the Monograph Office of the V Comiliter, active since 1957 under the leadership first of Specogna and then of Cismondi, and the ‘Orion centre’ in Rome, established in 1959 as an external operational base, strategically located outside the institutional headquarters of the Service – the Special Training Section of the 7th Division brought about three new bases: the ‘Libra centre’ in Brescia (1985), the ‘Pleiades centre’ in Asti (1986) and the ‘Scorpio centre’ in Trapani (1987).

The functions of the CAS were supposed to be limited to training Operation Gladio’s external personnel and related operational arrangements. In reality, following a memo dated February 17, 1987, signed by the then director of the 7th Division, Lt. Col. Luciano Piacentini, and with the approval of the director of SISMI, Admiral Fulvio Martini, the CAS were deemed to be fully operational facilities “given their peculiar characteristics which potentially make them suitable to provide a discrete intelligence contribution, in parallel with wartime preparations.”

Explaining the reasons for such suitability, the memo clarified that “however, the information activity carried out by the S/B organisation would have special characteristics not found in other data collection structures, both because of the high capacity of penetration in the most diverse work and social environments, and for the wide reach that could be achieved over time; moreover, a limited flow of information (albeit episodic and untargeted) from external staff to the centre leaders has always been present.”

A table was attached to the memo showing the distribution of the information tasks entrusted to the different centres: the ‘Aries centre’ in Udine was to deal with counterterrorism, the ‘Libra centre’ in Brescia with organized crime, the ‘Pleiadis centre’ in Asti with both organized crime and industrial security.

In the archives of the 7th Division a total of eight memos were found, all headed “Pleiades centre” and signed “Homer” (code name of the divisional chief). It should be borne in mind, however, according to the statement of Lt. Col. Piacentini, that intelligence activity related to terrorism was never transcribed due to security concerns.

The recovered information dealt with two distinct strands: a) industrial security in the Turin area (with particular reference to Aeritalia); b) the identification of two possible information sources to be used in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.

The Special Operations Group (GOS), also referred to as the ‘K cell’, was formed around 1986. The director of the 7th Division, Colonel Inzerilli, took the initiative to create it.

The GOS appears to have been a rigidly compartmentalised structure endowed with strong operational and managerial autonomy. This autonomy is demonstrated by the position that the GOS occupies in the diagram attached to the document titled “Hypotheses on a new S/B structure”. Hierarchically subordinate to the Special Training Section, the Group was completely independent of the three levels of the organisation (green, yellow, red) dictated in the restructuring project.

The “Hypothesis of a new S/B structure” plan, although of uncertain dating, can certainly be placed in the first half of the 1980s. The event from which it draws is most likely the revival in ministerial circles of a proposal to coordinate military and non-military forces tasked with ‘unorthodox warfare’ nationally. Such a plan had already been put forth on several occasions, beginning in 1969, but the project of coordinating the structures dedicated to special operations had

foundered repeatedly due to the mutual distrust between intelligence services and the Chiefs of Staff of the three military branches.

It was not until December 30, 1985, that Defence Minister Spadolini, at Admiral Martini’s proposal, approved the creation of a Committee for the coordination of unorthodox warfare operations that was tasked with directing activities in potentially occupied national territory. The chairmanship of this committee was entrusted, to the displeasure of the Defence Staff, to the director of SISMI.

The document in question seems to indicate the intention of the Service to restructure Gladio on three levels, opportunistically making some sections ‘disclosable’, following what “certain (political and military) authorities will ‘believe’ to have brought into existence, and which for us will only have to represent a source of recruitment and an extra cover for the essential core, which must continue to be sanitised and redesigned according to need. In other words, our same current organisation.”

Within this plan the ‘green’ organisation represented the grade to be shared with the three Armed Forces, the ‘yellow’ organisation constituted a filter to select the best and most trustworthy members, and the ‘red’ organisation, the actual clandestine network, known only by and reporting to the Service.

The headquarters of the GOS was established at the wiretapping centre in Cerveteri. Until the end of 1990, some members of the GOS were placed at the five CAS to train external personnel belonging to the stay-behind network.

The GOS had a size of about 15 members with different specialisations, ready to go into action for the Service (and not only, therefore, of the 7th Division) by order of the Director, to operate in situations that required special training.

Among the activities GOS members (special operators of the Italian service-OSSI) was the escort of important figures (including for the Pope’s travels). The GOS were also mobilised during the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, for the Trani prison riot, for the hijacking of an Egyptian jet over Malta, and for the Dozier kidnapping.

Personnel were drawn from ‘special corps’ of the Armed Forces such as the Comsubin, the Colonel Moschin Battalion, and the Tuscania CC Paratrooper Battalion.

When, on the 1st of August 1988, a new “basic directive on unorthodox warfare” was released, the tasks of the GOS were thus defined: they were to be units composed of four members, all sourced from the special corps of the Armed Forces, and specifically trained for operations to be be carried out in the context of activities related to unorthodox warfare (in particular, sabotage and anti-sabotage).

Subsequently, on April 10th 1990, the SISMI chief of staff, General Inzerilli, presented plans to restructure the 7th Division. He proposed to eliminate Gladio’s ‘sabotage’ and ‘guerrilla’ networks and to strengthen its ‘intelligence’ and ‘infiltration-exfiltration’ wings. These changes were aimed at aligning the organisation with the Service’s existing activities. Further to this, the proposal suggested an increase in operational funding for special activities (GOS). These would remain within the Division, but would only report to the Director of the Service.

In conclusion: from the documentation reviewed, it appears that in the first half of the 1980s and on the initiative of its Director (Inzerilli), the 7th Division was restructured according to criteria that included both the downsizing of Gladio and its reorientation towards intelligence activities, as well as establishing an operational section formed by highly trained Service members. This transformation was thus implemented without the knowledge of its members from the early 80s onwards, presenting the intelligence activity as mere training, in order to prevent the possible refusal on the part of outsiders to be ‘sources’ for the Service. Those who were enlisted for the GOS (or “K core”) were also kept in the dark, recruited primarily from members of the three special corps of the Armed Forces and absorbed into Gladio circularly.

3.5: The discovery and dismantling of Gladio.

On the 2nd of August 1990, during a sitting of the Chamber of Deputies regarding the massacre at Bologna station, Prime Minister Andreotti accepted a Parliamentary agenda submitted by Deputies Quercini, Tortorella, Violante and others. With this, he committed the Government to inform Parliament within 60 days about “the existence, the characteristics, and the aims of a parallel and hidden structure that allegedly operated within our military Secret Service with the aim of influencing the political life of the Country.” The Prime Minister raised the possibility of providing the requested information to a more secure office, and the agenda’s sponsors agreed that the Committee of Inquiry into Terrorism and Massacres in Italy would be the one to receive the documentation promised by the Government.

The next day, August 3rd, 1990, the Committee received the Prime Minister and, confirming the commitments made at the Chamber, he stated: “I intend to present to the Commission a very detailed report that I have asked the Defence Staff to produce. It concerns activities which, following the NATO model, were put in place in the event of an attack and occupation of Italy, or regions of Italy. On the basis of what Intelligence has told me, these activities continued until 1972, after which it was believed that they were no longer needed. I will present all the necessary documentation to the Committee, both in terms of the general question as well as specific ones made during the inquiry into the massacre of Peteano by Judge Casson.”

These words thus expressed a willingness on behalf of the Prime Minister to declassify documents relating to the clandestine organisation. This had been a stumbling block that had stalled judicial investigation attempts in the past, most notably during the inquiry conducted by investigating judge Mastelloni on the crash of Argo-16, an aircraft used by Intelligence for Operation Gladio.

On the 18th of October 1990, the Prime Minister sent the promised document to the Committee, titled: “The so-called parallel SID – the Gladio case.” So it was discovered that the activities which the Prime Minister insisted had ceased in 1972 still existed.

On the 8th of August 1990, the director of SISMI, Martini, circulated a memo in which he directed Operation Gladio towards the war on drugs.

The history of Gladio ends when, on the 27th of November 1990, the Prime Minister ordered for it to be dismantled; when, on the 26th of February 1991, he did not renew the mandate of Admiral Martini, interrupting his tenure before even naming a successor; and when he eventually denied forced General Inzerilli a promotion, forcing him out the Service.

When the inquiry began, the Committee requested documents from SISMI relating to the creation and the activities of Gladio. The documents, meanwhile, were under seizure orders by multiple levels of judicial authority given the possible criminal charges around Operation Gladio: the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Rome, the Military Public Prosecutor’s Office of Padua, and the investigating judges of Venice, Casson and Mastelloni. With orders made on the 21st and 22nd of December 1990, the Public Prosecutor of Rome seized all Gladio documentation from the SISMI archives and made them available to the Committee.

During the execution of the seizure, officers in charge of the 7th Division of SISMI placed a State Secret classification on some documents, including the SIFAR-CIA agreement of November 1956 and the Acts relating to the ACC and the CPC.

When questioned by the court, the Honourable Andreotti did not confirm the State Secret status of the SIFAR-CIA agreement, though keeping it under non-disclosure, though he invoked the inviolability clause of Article 7 of the Ottawa Convention with regard to the ACC and CPC Committee documents.

Successively, during the Senate sitting of the 25th July 1991 and after the necessary contacts were made with the Atlantic Alliance, the Prime Minister made the assessment that the the inviolability regime applied only to Acts relating to the CPC; the ACC documentation was instead only placed under non-disclosure, and was thus made available to the Committee on the 19th of December 1991.

In the sentencing passed on the 10th of October 1991, during which he sent part of the case file to the Public Prosecutor of Rome for jurisdictional reasons, Judge Casson expressed grave concerns about the legitimacy of Operation Gladio, both in terms of its constitutive process and the aims pursued. With this in mind, he argued the applicability of the crime of political conspiracy by association (article 305 of the penal code) to Admiral Martini and General Inzerilli.

After learning of Judge Casson’s sentence, President of the Republic Cossiga sent ‘a self-reporting’ letter to the Public Prosecutor of Rome on the 26th of November 1991. Inter alia, the letter reads: “Given that that I was the only political reference point, in my quality of undersecretary of Defence, Minster of the Interior, President of the Council of Ministers, and Head of State, to have publicly: a) declared to have been, given my institutional duties, completely informed of the stay-behind structure; b) affirmed to have formulated, through administrative procedures, orders to recall military personnel and send them to training activities; c) affirmed the constitutional legitimacy, the necessity under the defence of the State, and the opportunity and institutional congruence to maintain the political independence of the national structure belonging to the stay-behind net created within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance; I believe that, in the name of fairness and justice, I must also be served the same charges placed upon Admiral Fulvio Martini, former Director of SISMI, and General Paolo Inzerilli, Chief of Defence Staff of the same organisation; and thus of political conspiracy through association, Article 305 of the penal code.”

The letter ends: “If your Lordship were to conclude that the events in question would implicate me in charges relating to Articles 90 and 96 of the Constitution, you may wish to follow related procedural requirements.”

The next day, the Public Prosecutor referred the question to the so-called Tribunal of Ministers, under the eventual purview of President Cossiga.

This resulted in the temporary interruption of the inquiry by the Public Prosecutor of Rome.

Finally, it should also be remembered that on the 17th of December 1991, the substitute Military Prosecutors of Padua, doctors Dini and Roberti, proceeded to send a notice of investigation to Generals Gerardo Serravalle, Fausto Fortunato, Giuseppe Cismondi, Bernardo De Bernardi Bernini Buri, Pietro Savoca Corona, Giovanni Romeo: all persons responsible in various ways for the Gladio organisation.

The charge levelled at the aforementioned officials is membership of an ‘armed group’ (Article 78, n. 2 of the peacetime military penal code, relating to Articles 77 of the peacetime military penal code and 283 of the penal code) for having, while in office, encouraged and organised (by enlisting personnel, training recruits, and resupplying weapons and materiel) an armed group operating in Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, with the goal to deny certain changes in the political life of Italy, both obstructing the creation of electoral majorities of the left, as well as preparing for violent action if such a situation were to eventuate; and this was all performed in close cooperation with a foreign power (through links to the CIA) who supplied considerable and ongoing funding and the delivery of military equipment.