Our guest this week is Swiss historian Dr. Daniele Ganser, author of the seminal book NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism. Buy NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe (Contemporary Security Studies) 1 by Ganser Daniele (ISBN: ). For the first time in this book, Daniele Ganser has brought together the full story of the networks the Italians came to call ‘Gladio’. This is a significant and.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Both sides deployed military power along this line in the expectation of a major combat.

The Soviet Union, and after the mids the Soviet Bloc, consistently had greater numbers of troops, tanks, planes, guns, and other equipment. This is not the place to pull apart analyses of the military balance, to dissect issues of quantitative versus qualitative, or rigid versus flexible tactics.

Rather the point is that for many years there was a certain expectation that greater numbers would prevail and the Soviets might be capable of taking over all of Europe.

Planning for the day the Cold War turned hot, given the expected Soviet threat, necessarily led to thoughts of how to counter a Russian military occupation of Western Europe.

That immediately suggested comparison with the Second World War, when Resistance movements in many European countries had bedevilled Nazi occupiers. In the anti-Nazi Resistance forces had had to be improvised. How much the better, reasoned the planners, if the entire enterprise could be prepared and equipped in advance. Other major actors included security services in a number of European countries. In all cases identical techniques were used.

The intelligence services made an effort to establish distinct networks for spying on the occupiers, that is espionage, and for sabotage, or subverting an enemy occupation. To establish the networks the CIA and others recruited individuals willing to participate in these dangerous activities, often allowing such initial, or chief, agents to recruit additional sub-agents.

Intelligence services provided some training, placed caches of arms, ammunition, radio equipment, and other items for their networks, and set up regular channels for contact.

The degree of cooperation in some cases ranged up to the conduct of exercises with military units or paramilitary forces. The number of recruits for the xi secret armies ranged from dozens in some nations to hundreds or even thousands in others.

Operation Gladio – Wikipedia

The Resistance example was always an obvious one. Observers of the secret Cold War assumed the existence of the networks; so there are occasional references to the stay-behind networks in spy memoirs and literature. But by and large the subject was acknowledged with a wink and a nod.

Until almost the end of the Cold War. In the summer ofafter the collapse of Soviet-dominated regimes in Eastern Europe, but prior to the final disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Italian government made public the existence of such a network in that country. Over the years since there has been a recurrent stream of revelations regarding similar networks in many European nations, and in a number of coun- tries there have been official investigations. For the first time in this book, Daniele Ganser has brought together the full story of the networks the Italians came to call ‘Gladio’.

This is a significant and disturbing history. The notion of the project in the intelligence services undoubtedly began as an effort to create forces that would remain quiescent until war brought them into play. Instead, in country after country we find the same groups of individuals or cells originally activated for the wartime function beginning to exercise their strength in peacetime political processes.

Sometimes these efforts involved violence, even terrorism, and sometimes the terrorists made use of the very equipment furnished to them for their Cold War function. Even worse, police and security services in a number of cases chose to protect the perpetrators of crimes to preserve their Cold War capabilities. These latter actions resulted in the effective suppression of knowledge of Gladio networks long after their activities became not merely counterproductive but dangerous.

Mining evidence from parliamentary inquiries, investigative accounts, documentary sources, trials, and individuals he has interviewed, Ganser tracks the revelation of Gladio in many countries and fills in the record of what these networks actually did.

Ganserr of their accomplishments were in fact antidemocratic, undermining the very fabric of the societies they were meant to protect. Moreover, by laying the records in different nations side by side, Ganser’s research shows a common process at work. That is, networks gladi to be quiescent became activists in political causes as a rule and not as an exception. Deep as Dr Ganser’s research has been, there is a side to the Gladio story he cannot yet reveal.

Because of the secrecy of government records in the United States, for example, it is still not possible to sketch in detail the CIA’s orders to its networks, which could show whether there was a deliberate effort to interfere with political processes in the countries where Gladio networks were active.

There were real efforts carried out by Gladio agents but their controllers’ orders remain in the shadows, so it is not yet possible to establish the extent of the US role overall in the years of the Cold War. The same is true of MI6 for Great Britain and for security services elsewhere. At a minimum Dr Ganser’s record shows that capabilities created for straightforward purposes as part of the Cold War tladio turned to xii more sinister ends. Freedom of Information in the United States provides an avenue to open up government documents; but that process is exceedingly gpadio and subject to many exemptions, one of which is intended precisely to shield records on activities of this type.


The United Kingdom has a rule gahser releases documents after a certain number of years, but there is a longer interval required for documents of this type, and exceptions are permitted to government when documents are finally released to the public. The information superhighway is barely a ganswr path when it comes to throwing light on the truth of the Gladio networks.

In this age of global concern with terrorism it is especially upsetting to discover that Western Europe and the United Glafio collaborated gansre creating networks that took up terrorism.

In the United States such nations are called ‘state sponsors’ and are the object of hostility and sanction. Can it be the United States itself, Britain, France, Italy, and others who should be on the list of state sponsors?

The Gladio story needs to be told completely so as to establish the truth in this matter. Daniele Ganser has taken the critical first step down this road.

This book should be read to discover the overall contours of Gladio and to begin to appreciate the importance of the final answers that are still lacking. After some research I realised that despite its great importance for the most recent political, social and military history of Western Europe and the United States, only very limited work had been carried out on the phenomenon of the secret NATO armies, with no ganset study on the topic available in English. As the complex structure of the network and the mysteries surrounding it increasingly caught my interest, many well-meaning friends advised me against taking it as a PhD topic.

Very sensibly they argued that I would gain access neither to the archives of the secret services, nor to primary data on the topic from NATO and its Office of Security. Furthermore they predicted that the number of countries, which by the end of my research had unexpectedly risen to glladio, as well gsnser the time frame I intended to investigate in each of these countries, five decades, not only would wear me out, but would also necessarily leave my findings fragmented and incomplete.

That in addition to these problems I would have to work with texts in more than ten different European languages, of which I personally could only read five, made matters crystal clear: Gladio was not a suitable PhD research topic. With great fascination for the phenomenon, a certain degree of youthful stubbornness, and above all a supportive environment I nevertheless embarked upon the research project and dedicated the next four years of my life to the investigation.

In retrospect I therefore have to admit that my well-meaning friends had been right. For among the numerous obstacles that arose during the years of research many were the ones predicted.

First of all, the field of research was indeed large, both as to the number of countries, and to the time frame. I started with a focus on Italy, where operation xiv Gladio was exposed in Based on the Italian sources I quickly realised, however, that the so-called stay-behind armies had existed in all 16 NATO coun- tries during the Cold War. Further research led me to conclude that of the 16 NATO countries both Iceland, with no armed forces, and Canada, far removed from the Soviet frontier, could be neglected.

Yet, while I was somewhat relieved to calculate that this would leave me with the analysis of stay-behind armies in 14 countries, I found with a certain surprise that secret stay-behind armies with indirect links to NATO had also existed in the four neutral countries, Sweden, Finland, Austria and my native Switzerland, during the Cold War. A forthcoming publication will deal specifically with the equally sensitive issues of secret NATO-linked stay-behind armies in the neutral countries.

NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe by Daniele Ganser

Next to the challenges that arise with respect to the number of countries, gath- ering data for each single country too proved difficult. Next to only a very small number of primary documents, the analysis had therefore to be based on numerous secondary sources, including parliamentary reports, testimonies of persons involved as reported by the international press, articles, books and documentaries, needless to say, such secondary sources can never be a substitute for the original primary docu- ments, and all future research must clearly aim for access to primary documents.

If, however, the data presented hereafter first of all enables researchers to gain an overview of a phenomenon which otherwise might have remained inaccessible, and in the second place enables processes which in the future will lead to access to primary documents, then the main purposes of this book will have been achieved. That despite the mentioned numerous obstacles, the years of intensive research have led to a hopefully valuable international analysis of the stay-behind armies and the secret war in Western Europe is to a large degree attributable to the international professional help and support that I was allowed to enjoy.

First of all I want to thank my two academic advisers for their truly valuable assistance, Professor Georg Kreis of Basel University, and Professor Jussi Hanhimaki of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, formerly with the London School of Economics and Political Science where we met in a most stimulating environment.

Their feedback on numerous drafts sharpened my questions when they were too vague. Their frank criticism helped me to focus on the secret armies when I was drifting away.

And their experience in the field of academic research restrained my judgement, and opened the way for a balanced understanding. When I presented my Gladio research and passed my final PhD exams in Septemberwe all felt that it was a timely book, for in that month, investigations into international terrorism had become a high priority on the agenda.

During the subsequent years we have in a very strange way become accustomed to living in a world that suffers from both war and terrorism, and my warm thanks therefore xv also go to Professor Andreas Wenger, Director of the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, for his support gahser future research into Gladio and terrorism here at the institute. Furthermore my gratitude goes gander Washington-based CIA author Glado Blum who first drew my attention to Gladio and taught me a lot on covert action and secret warfare.


Very warm thanks also go to Professor Noam Chomsky in Boston who not only encouraged my research, but also provided me with valuable contacts during our meetings in the United States and in Switzerland.

In Austria, Professor Siegfried Beer provided me with valuable data and kindly encouraged my research. In London, finally, I copied numerous valuable documents at the State watch institute, where Trevor Hemmings proved to me how excellent work can be done with little money.

It must be stated here at the outset of the book that all quotes other than from English originals are translations by the author, who alone bears responsibility for their accuracy. At the same time it goes without saying that the numerous countries could not have been investigated without the help of my international network, which assisted me both in the initial phase of locating and getting hold of the documents, and during subsequent translation hours.

Operation Gladio

In Germany I want to thank journalist and Gladio author Leo Miiller, as well as Erich Schmidt Eenboom from the research institute on peace and politics. In Norway, I want to thank my friend Pal Johansen for our excellent time at the London School of Gladil and Political Science and his professional help in crucial times when it came to the translation of Norwegian texts.

In Austria, journalist Markus Kemmerling and the Zoom political magazine supported my research. In Basel, Ali Burhan Gladil helped me greatly with the translation of Turkish texts and provided me with important documents on Gladio in Turkey. Academic Ivo Cunha glaido shared with me data on Gladio in Portugal and in Spain, while my university friends Baptiste Blanch and Francisco Bouzas assisted me with the Portuguese and Spanish translations.

My friend and fellow academic Gansre Kamber finally had the energy to plough through an early PhD manuscript of over a thousand pages, whereupon he wisely let me know that the text had to be shortened. Thanks to Ruth Eymann I was able to retreat to a both beautiful and silent chalet in a remote valley of the Swiss mountains to carry out that task.

Special thanks go to my gadio, my father and my sister, to Sherpa Hanggi, Marcel Schwendener, Tobi Poitmann, Dane Aebischer, Rene Ab Egg, Laurenz Bolliger, Philipp Schweighauser, Niko Bally, Yves Pierre Wirz and Andi Langlotz for numerous inspiring and controver- sial late-night discussions on international politics, global trends and problems, and our personal quest for happiness and meaning in life.

The clandestine network, which after the revelations of the Italian Prime Minister was researched by judges, parliamentarians, academics and investigative journalists across Europe, is now understood to have been code-named ‘Gladio’ the sword in Italy, while in other countries ganaer network operated under different names including Absalon’ in Denmark, ‘ROC in Norway and ‘SDRA8’ in Belgium. In each country the military secret service operated the anti-Communist army within the state in close collaboration with the CIA or the MI6 unknown to parliaments and populations.

The last confirmed secret meeting of ACC with representatives of European secret services took place on October 24, in Brussels. As the details of the operation emerged, ganesr press concluded that the ‘story seems straight from the pages of a political thriller’. Recruited among strictly anti-Communist segments of the society the secret Gladio soldiers 1 included moderate conservatives as well as right-wing extremists such as notorious right-wing terrorists Stefano delle Chiale and Yves Guerain Serac.

In its strategic design the secret army was a direct copy of the British Special Operations Executive SOEwhich during the Second World War had pararachuted into enemy-held territory and fought a secret war behind enemy lines.

In case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe the secret Gladio soldiers under NATO command would have formed a so-called stay-behind network operating behind enemy lines, strengthening and setting up local resistance movements in enemy-held territory, evacuating shot-down pilots and sabotaging the supply lines and production centres of the occupation forces with explosives.

Yet the Soviet invasion never came. The real and present danger in the eyes of the secret war strategists in Washington and London were the at-times numerically strong Communist parties in the democracies of Western Europe.

Hence the network in the total absence of a Soviet invasion took up arms in numerous countries and fought a secret war against the political forces of the left.

The secret armies, as the secondary sources now available suggest, were involved in a whole series of terrorist operations and human rights violations that they wrongly blamed on the Communists in order to discredit the left at the polls. The operations always aimed at spreading maximum fear among the population and ranged from bomb massacres in trains and market squares Italythe use of systematic torture of opponents of the regime Turkeythe support for right-wing coup d’etats Greece and Turkeyto the smashing of opposition groups Portugal and Spain.

As the secret armies were discovered, NATO as well as the governments of the United States and Great Britain refused to take a stand on what by then was alleged by the press to be ‘the best-kept, and most damaging, political-military secret since World War II’.