How the CIA and Italy’s Secret State Manipulated the Right and Infiltrated the Left

Asa Winstanley
Supporters of Italian neo-Nazi group National Vanguard at the 2019 funeral of its founder Stefano Delle Chiaie. Some of its members have been found guilty of the 1980 Bologna bombing. But questions remain as to what extent the group was simply a puppet of the Italian secret state and its CIA masters. (

Operation Gladio — NATO’s secret Nazi army — was used to impose secret control on political life in Europe for decades

Last year Italian prime minister Mario Draghi vowed to declassify government documents related to Operation Gladio.

Gladio was a far reaching state-backed anti-communist paramilitary formation, part of a wider NATO-backed network of far-right terrorist groups across Europe.

But eight months on, very few documents have actually been released.

According to Felice Casson (the former magistrate whose investigations in the 1980s were key to exposing Gladio) it’s highly unlikely that anything important will be released.

The attacks were usually blamed on far-left groups like the Red Army Faction in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy. In reality, many (if not most) of these bombings and attacks turned out to be the work of small neo-Nazi and fascist groups who were essentially puppets of the state, NATO and (at arms length) the CIA and MI6 (who we know from testimonies in the 1992 BBC series supplied arms and explosives training to Italian groups).

At the same time as secretly orchestrating these attacks, the governments used these events as pretexts to crack down on left-wing parties that were viewed as a challenge to the capitalist establishment, especially the communist parties of Italy, France and Belgium.

Unlike in Britain, where the Communist Party only ever had modest electoral success, in Italy, Belgium and France, the communists came very close to government after World War II. They had led the partisan resistance to Hitler, Mussolini’s fascists and other Nazi allies.

In 1948 the CIA heavily intervened in Italy’s first democratic election. They successfully prevented the communists from coming to power as part of the Popular Front. Gladio, then still in its infancy, hadn’t been needed. But there was also a mysterious assassination attempt on communist leader Palmiro Togliatti soon after.

Gladio is suspected of being behind a whole series of atrocities in the late 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s, including the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing (which killed 16) and the infamous 1978 kidnap and murder of former prime minister Aldo Moro.

Perhaps most infamously, Gladio is suspected to be responsible for the 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station, in which 85 people were killed and 200 injured.
Young British couple Catherine Mitchell and John Kolpinski were among 85 people killed in the Bologna station bombing. (BBC)

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s declassification announcement last year was timed to coincide with the 41st anniversary of the Bologna bombing. The bombing is widely believed in Italy to have been orchestrated by Gladio and covered up by the state.

NATO’s Secret Nazi Armies

Operation Gladio: How NATO Conducted a Secret War Against European Citizens and Their Democratically Elected Governments