from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
The CIA was created by the National Security
Act of 1947. The ink was barely dry on it before an army of spooks
began marching through the law's major loophole: the CIA could
"perform such other functions and duties...as the National
Security Council may from time to time direct." This deliberately
vague clause opened the door to a half-century of criminal activity
in the name of "national security."
One of the first duties the NSC deemed
necessary was the subversion of Italian democracy...in the name
of democracy, of course. Italy seemed likely to elect a leftist
government in the 1948 election. To make sure Italians voted instead
for the candidates Washington favored-leftover brownshirt thugs
from Mussolini's party and other Nazi collaborators-millions of
dollars were spent on propaganda and payoffs. It was also intimated
that food aid would be cut off if the election results were inconsistent
with US desires.
The US got its way in 1948 without having
to resort to violence but-as was discovered in 1990- the CIA had
organized a secret paramilitary army in postwar Italy, with hidden
stockpiles of weapons and explosives dotting the map. Called Operation
Gladio (gladius is Latin for sword), the ostensible excuse for
it was laughable-the threat of a Soviet invasion. But the real
purpose wasn't so funny-Operation Gladio's 15,000 troops were
trained to overthrow the Italian government should it stray from
the straight and narrow.
Similar secret armies were formed in France,
Belgium, the Netherlands and West Germany- often directed, quite
naturally, by former SS officers. They didn't just wait around
for the Russians to come marching in; they assembled huge arms
caches (many of which remain unaccounted for), compiled blacklists
of leftists and, in France, participated in plots to assassinate
Many members of Operation Gladio were
also in a shadowy organization known as P-2; it too was financed
by the CIA. P-2 had connections with the Vatican and the Mafia,
and eventually with an international fascist umbrella organization
called the World Anti-Communist League.
One of P-2's specialties was the art of
provocation. Leftist organizations like the Red Brigades were
infiltrated, financed and / or created, and the resulting acts
of terrorism, like the assassination of Italy's premier in 1978
and the bombing of the railway station in Bologna in 1980, were
blamed on the left. The goal of this "strategy of tension"
was to convince Italian voters that the left was violent and dangerous-by
helping make it so.