Italy a Special Place in the Heart of the Dirty War

By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere
Friday August 18, 2006

As the investigation into covert CIA’s and local rogue intelligence operatives in Europe expands across the continent, Italy’s emerges as the thinking head of a hydra whose tentacles reach far into worldwide communication net and backward into the history of international conspiracies. 

Because of its unique politically hybrid nature—Italy contains both a strong Christian Democrat constituency as well as the largest Communist Party of a Western country—the nation has as been at the crossroads of political exchanges between East and West. This has been true since the end World War II and remained so until the fall of the Berlin Wall. The crossroads was economic, too; affinities between Christian Democrats, Italian Socialists and Communists and political parties and leaders in the Middle East and the socialist countries made it easy for Italy to win strategically important contracts in the field of energy, construction and telecommunications.  

Some of those contracts are still operative, like those international telecommunications routing through Italian networks coming from North Africa, the Middle East and some of the world’s remaining Communist countries. Telecommunications apparatus that formerly belonged to STET, the Italian state-owned telephone company, today are owned by Telecom Italia.  

Italy is not new to convoluted networks that bind security and military elites to conservative business leaders in long-term secret pacts to carry out subversive activities. Historically such networks have morphed into massive bribing machines.  

The Masonic Loggia P2 and Gladio are just two examples. The first, a network comprised of about 2,000 military officers, public servants, bankers, journalists and business-people, operated between the 1970s and the ’80s, some say in concert with the CIA. Its secret goal was to keep Italy solidly in the hands of center-right administrations. The P2 network is reputed to have begun the “Strategia della Tensione,” a concoction of terrorist attacks, political unrest and economic crises that created a feeling of uncertainty among Italians, which in turn led them to vote for centrist administrations.  

In the case of Gladio, a much wider intelligence and military net was created to prevent the rise to power of the Communist and Socialist Parties in Italy. Although supposedly disbanded at the beginning of the 1990s, this network is said to have transformed into the Department of Anti-terrorism Strategic Studies, a neo-fascist organization that in 2004, to benefit economically from funding made available to fight al-Qaeda, didn’t hesitate to disseminate false information about an impending attack on Milan’s Linate International Airport and on the city’s historical Duomo. 

Some European prosecutors and journalists are now trying to discern how today’s covert intelligence networks altered political discourse on the continent.