Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gladio - Britain criminal towards Italy in 1976

January 14, 2008

Britain joined plot to overthrow a Communist Italian government


Britain plotted to support a coup d’état in Rome in 1976 because of grave fears that the Italian Communist Party would win the election and form a government, according to declassified documents.

The papers, uncovered by an Italian researcher at the National Archives at Kew, reveal a flurry of anxious correspondence between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its diplomats, as well as with Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State, European officials in Brussels and even the Vatican in the months before the election.

One paper dated May 6, 1976 – when James Callaghan was the Labour Prime Minister – from the planning staff of the Foreign Office, is entitled Action in Support of a Coup d’État or Other Subversive Action. It says: “By its nature a coup is likely to be an unexpected development, but theoretically a coup could be promoted . . . it would presumably come from the right wing drawing in the army and the police.”

Last night Sir Guy Millard, 90, who was the British Ambassador to Rome between 1974 and 1976, toldThe Times that he knew nothing of a coup plot. “I never thought the Communists would win the election because the Italians would have been scared of separating themselves from the Americans,” he said.

Sir Guy left Rome in October 1976, four months after the Italian elections when the Communists were just pipped at the post, winning 34.3 per cent of the vote, compared with 38.7 per cent for the Christian Democrats.

“If there was a plot to mount a coup the Foreign Office never told me, but then it would have been so secret that they wouldn’t have wanted diplomats to know about it,” he said. “It may be that the CIA was planning something, and if the CIA was involved, SIS [Secret Intelligence Service, MI6] may have been conscious of it, but I knew nothing about it. Communism in Italy, you know, was a pretty mild variety. We called it Eurocommunism, and the ones I met seemed most civilised.”

According to the documents, senior officials in the Foreign Office thought otherwise. Aldo Moro, the Christian Democrat leader who was assassinated two years later by the Red Brigades terrorist group, was the head of a weak government and the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) had made significant gains in administrative elections.

Parliamentary voting was scheduled for June 1976, and the possibility that the PCI would garner more votes than the Christian Democrats was real. The Foreign Office believed that a Communist presence in the Italian Government “could turn out to be an event with catastrophic consequences”, especially for Nato and the European Economic Community. The contents of the declassified documents appeared in yesterday’s La Repubblica newspaper.

The CIA had set up a secret network in Italy many years before the 1976 election to prepare for the possibility of a Communist takeover in Rome. It was called Operation Gladio. American documents declassified in the 1970s revealed that the chief of Italian military intelligence had joined the US in the 1950s in preparing a plan against a Communist takeover. MI6 and other Nato intelligence agencies were thought to have been involved.

The National Archives documents reveal for the first time that the Foreign Office contemplated having to give its backing to a coup. In one, dated April 13, 1976, the Western European department of the Foreign Office offered a variety of possible approaches to the Communist problem.

Some proposed ways to avoid a victory of the party, headed by the popular Enrico Berlinguer, including financing opposing parties, and a media blitz about the dangers of Communism, thus discrediting the PCI.

Other documents addressed the prospect of the Communist Party in government: “Option No 4: subversive or military intervention against the PCI.” There was talk of financial support to “democratic forces” to “direct intervention in support of a coup encouraged from outside”.

It was acknowledged that a coup plot would not remain secret, and exposure of the plan would cause an international backlash that might result in more support for the PCI.

A fifth option called for the immediate expulsion of Italy from Nato, which would protect military secrets but would probably result in the closing of all the alliance bases in Italy, which were of strategic importance during the Cold War.

In a dispatch to London, John Killick, the British Nato Ambassador, wrote: “The presence of Communist ministers in the Italian Government would pose an immediate security problem for the alliance.”

He added: “Any information in the hands of the Communists must be considered to be at risk.”

He recommended that in the event of a Communist government in Rome “a clean amputation is preferable to internal paralysis”.

Dr Kissinger wrote to Willy Brandt, who headed the Socialist International at the time, giving warning that antiCommunist Italian politicians “seem to be hypnotised by the success of the PCI, and don’t know how to stop it”.

According to the documents, Sir Guy shared this view. “There is a perceptible climate of profound depression, almost desperation, if not panic,” he wrote.


Greece 1967 A junta seizes control of the country, declaring its intention to save Greece “from internal enemies”. The former Prime Minister George Papandreou Sr is arrested. The junta retains power until 1974

Portugal 1974 A military coup ends nearly 50 years of dictatorship with the promise of a transition to civilian government. Two-party system gradually established

Britain 1975 Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister, told journalists he believed himself to be the target of a coup planned by MI5. Fears of covert Soviet influence on the Government and extensive union activism are thought to have been driving factors in the alleged plot

Spain 1981 Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Tejero Molina, right, a supporter of the late General Franco, attempts to seize control of the Government, leading armed troops into parliament and capturing national TV and radio stations. The rebels dispersed and surrendered in 22 hours

Sources: Chronicle of the Twentieth Century; Times archives

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Operation Gladio

"One of the most secret programs that ever existed"
[Image]"Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the State" - James Jesus Angleton, Head of CIA Counter Intelligence 1954-1974

Originally aired on BBC2 in 1992, 'Operation Gladio' reveals 'Gladio', the secret state-sponsored terror network operating in Europe.

This BBC series is about a far-right secret army, operated by the CIA and MI6 through NATO, which killed hundreds of innocent Europeans and attempted to blame the deaths on Baader Meinhof, Red Brigades and other left wing groups. Known as 'stay-behinds' these armies were given access to military equipment which was supposed to be used for sabotage after a Soviet invasion. Instead it was used in massacres across mainland Europe as part of a CIA Strategy of Tension. Gladio killing sprees in Belgium and Italy were carried out for the purpose of frightening the national political classes into adopting U.S. policies.

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