Operation Gladio: Interview With Daniele Ganser
(Norway's Le Monde Diplo has just produced a special 9/11 5th anniversary issue. It features several new articles including this new interview with Dr. Daniele Ganser by Diplo journalist, Kim Bredesen. We'll post the English translations as they come.)
A STATE WITHIN A STATE: Europe’s so-called stay behind organisations have committed numerous acts of terrorism against the civilian populations of their home countries – and outside parliamentary control. In a succession of “false flag” terrorist operations, the perpetrators always manage to somehow evade the police. These are strategies of tension that work from the premise that, with the aid of terrorist acts, the population will come to seek protection from the incumbent government. An example is provided by the activities of the secret armed organisation in Italy, called Gladio, headed by the military secret service and trained and supported by the CIA. There are also contemporary cases; in Basra in September 2005, members of the British Special Forces, the SAS, were arrested by Iraqi police. The Britons were dressed as Arabs, wore wigs and were in possession of a car full of explosives, which they allegedly planned to detonate by remote control in the midst of Basra’s crowded marketplaces. The British army stormed the Iraqi police station and liberated the SAS members. However, it is difficult to say whether or not such groups had anything to do with September 11th.
In his book “NATO’s Secret Armies Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe” (2005),(1) the Swiss researcher Daniele Ganser at the Centre for Security Studies in Zürich charted the secret armed organisations, known as “stay behind” organisations or “Operation Gladio,” (sword). These groups, established during the Cold War by NATO and the CIA in every Western European country, were charged with forming underground resistance movements against the Soviet Union in the event of an invasion. These armed organisations were beyond parliamentary control in several countries and often recruited members from the extreme-right. They were coordinated by NATO’s Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) and Clandestine Planning Committee (CPC). The codenames of the groups varied from country to country. The organisations could be called SDRA8/STCmob (Belgium), Absalon (Denmark), TD BJD (Germany), LOK (Greece), I&O (the Netherlands), ROC (Norway), Aginter Press (Portugal), SDECE (France), P26 (Switzerland) , Counter-Guerrilla (Turkey), OWSGV (Austria) or Stay Behind (Luxembourg). The names of the groups in Finland, Spain and Sweden are still not known. In 1990, the EU Parliament passed a resolution condemning Operation Gladio and calling for an investigation of all stay behind organisations in Europe.
IT IS KNOWN THAT several of secret armed groups deviated from their original mission and engaged in warfare against civil society. In Italy, this became common knowledge through Judge Felice Casson’s discovery of documents in 1990. He knew that an organisation known as Gladio had infiltrated the Red Brigade during the Cold War and had carried out acts of terrorism in the latter’s name – all the while remaining outside both parliamentary and governmental control. Gladio recruited members from the fascist organisations Avanguardia Nazionale and Ordine Nuovo, and had for several decades been under the control of a parallel state consisting of both Italian Military Intelligence (SID/SIFAR), the Freemason’s Lodge in Italy known as Propaganda Due (P2), the Mafia and the CIA. In the period 1969 to 1987, 491 innocent civilians were killed and 1181 injured in acts of terrorism carried out by Gladio. An example of this is the terrorist attack that took place on the 2nd of August 1980, during which 85 people were killed and 200 injured in the waiting room of a train station in Bologna. In the series of “false flag” terrorist operations the perpetrators always manage to somehow evade the police. The aim of these acts was to bring the growing Italian Communist Party into disrepute and tighten the Christian Democratic Party’s grip on power, through the use of what became known as “strategies of tension.” The strategy works from the premise that, with the aid of terrorist acts, the population will come to seek protection from the incumbent government. In so doing, the CIA would be able no matter what, to check the influence of the Soviet Union by preventing the Communist Party from attaining positions of power in Parliament. This was also a strategy the CIA adopted elsewhere in Europe.
MANY OF THE OTHER European stay behind organisations carried out terrorist acts against the civilian populations of their home countries. Examples of these are provided by events in Turkey in 1977, when Counter-Guerilla snipers allegedly opened fire on demonstrators from Istanbul’s trade unions, killing 38 and injuring hundreds more. Some years previously, on the 20th of April 1969 in neighbouring Greece, LOK was purportedly involved in a coup d'état during which General Sylianos Pattakos gained control of Greece. In 1990, it was revealed that members of TD BDJ were behind a bombing in Munich in September 1980 which killed 13 people and injured 213. In neighbouring Belgium - after Italy, possibly the nation hardest hit by false flag terrorism - the SDRA8 and STC/Mob were probably responsible for a series of actions against innocent civilians in the Brabant area, in the course of which 28 people were killed and several injured. The terrorists were never identified or imprisoned, even though the Belgian parliament demanded that top-ranking officers of the military intelligence service provide a list of the perpetrators.
In connection with the five year anniversary of September 11th, we interviewed Dr. Daniele Ganser, author of “NATO’s Secret Armies”.(2)
Your research has uncovered secret armed organisations that may have undermined the democratic process in several countries in Europe. Can you, very [briefly] and with the help of one example, explain how this was done?
With the concrete data that we have, for instance from Italy, we know that the activities [of] the secret army called Gladio [were] directed by the military secret service [and with training and support from] the CIA. We also know that the CIA wanted Gladio to attack and weaken the strong Italian Communist party. Gladio linked up with right-wing extremist Catholics who were strongly opposed to atheist Communism, and they planted bombs in Italy. The blame was unjustly put on the Communists. That is what is called false flag terrorism. Some members of the Italian military secret service claimed the CIA had ordered them to do this. When some Italian judges found out that the secret armies existed within the state, they reported it to the senators, who were surprised and said: “We did not know that this existed”. In 1990, the Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti stepped forward and said: “Yes, this is a fact, the secret army existed, but it was to protect the state and to fight the Russians if ever they attacked Italy, it was nothing illegal, it was a good thing.” If you have a secret armed organisation in a democratic society, then it is very difficult to guarantee that it [will] never attack the citizens. We can of course have armed organisations in a democracy, but they should not be secret. The whole basis of a democratic system is that you control power through accountability and through transparency. Once this is gone, the danger of abuse of power will be imminent. And we can show that in some cases, not only in Italy, but also in Greece, Turkey, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and other countries, secret armies abused their power.
Stay behind organisations [are, to a great extent], an example of how terror operations are directed internally against [the] citizens [of] a state. But it also happens that a state uses terror operations against another state or enemies from another country. What historical examples can shed light on false flag terror operations directed at external enemies?
In 1954 for instance, the Lavon affair was revealed. Members of the Israeli military secret service went to Egypt and placed firebombs in a post office and other places and made it look as if [the] Arabs had committed the crime. That is the whole point about false flag terrorism; the perpetrators always make it look as if somebody else did it. It is a diabolical strategy which very often [destroys] all traces. The Israelis did not want the British Army to leave Egypt; they wanted them to be there in order to protect Israel from an attack by Nasser’s Egyptian army which they feared. That is why they [conducted] the operation. In the same way as the CIA feared the communists, or as the French army feared Algerian independence. Fear always plays a central role in false flag terrorism. In Israel, the secretary of defence at the time, Pinhas Lavon, denied any knowledge of the operation and later had to resign when it became known that he was responsible. That is why it is called “the Lavon affair”.
False flag terror operations are a reality, and they are a political and military tool. Very few people know that they exist. We have also had false flag terror operations in Iraq. In September 2005 for example, in Basra, two members of British Special Forces, the SAS, were arrested by Iraqi police. The Iraqis were surprised to find out that the two Britons were dressed as Arabs, were wearing wigs and had a car full of explosives which they apparently planned to remotely detonate in the busy markets of Basra. It is therefore probable that the British, too, have carried out false flag operations. In this case the Iraqi police could not find out [whether] the British wanted to create terror and make it look [like] Arab terrorism. The reason is that the two SAS [members], who had been put [in] jail in Basra, were liberated by the British army, which stormed the Iraqi police station in Basra and simply flattened the walls with tanks and took the SAS home so they did not have to testify.
False flag terrorism also seems to belong to the enigmatic world of unanswered questions surrounding September 11, 2001. In your opinion, to which of these questions is it most important to seek answers?
Whenever you approach September 11th, it is most important to first have an overview of the different theories that exist today as to what really happened on this date. I did a history course at Zürich University on September 11th, and together with the students we tried to figure out how many different theories there are. And, there are basically three according to my view. The first is called the surprise theory: Osama bin Laden is in Afghanistan together with Chaild Sheik Mohammed. He thinks about a plot and attacks America. America is totally surprised, Bush and Cheney knew nothing about it and then that is the end of the story. Many people believe in the surprise theory because it is being presented in most of the media. The second theory is the so-called LIHOP-theory, Let It Happen On Purpose. This theory argues that Osama bin Laden again is in Afghanistan, he thinks he wants to attack the United States, and does so, not himself, but through these 19 Arabs lead by Mohammed Atta. In this case, Bush and Cheney know that the attack is coming, but they let it happen deliberately. So in this case, both Osama bin Laden, Bush and Cheney are criminals. The third theory on what happened on September 11 is that Osama bin Laden is in Afghanistan, he rides a camel and he is not doing anything at all. Instead the Americans themselves carry out the attack against their own population as false flag terrorism and blame it on the Arabs. It is called the MIHOP-theory, Made It Happen On Purpose, also called the Inside Job theory. And these three theories, they are all over the world, where they fight against each other. As an academic my job is to find out whether it is possible, scientifically, to say which of the three is correct. But one should never jump to conclusions. One must study the specific crime and see then what the data suggests.
In your opinion, which theory is the most plausible?
Many people have called me and said: “You have shown me that during The Cold War, governments in Europe attacked their own people, so September 11th must be a MIHOP and the Americans are again attacking their own population in order to push them to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which they would not otherwise accept.” But from a scientific point of view you cannot say: “It has happened in the past, and now it can happen again, even if we do not have the proof, it is a pattern we are convinced is the same.” This is the first thing we must keep in mind. At the other extreme [are] people who believe the Surprise theory, who say that it is totally unthinkable that democratic governments would attack their own population, that this is crazy, that this has never happened. But people who say this argue with their feelings, they know nothing about the history of secret warfare. Here I have to insist from a scientific viewpoint that history in some cases shows us that strategy of tension is applied and false flag terrorism has existed as a reality. My book on Gladio is full of examples. Some then say, well that is Europe; it could not happen in the US. But that is wrong again. Look for example at the data from the Northwoods operation, which was not carried out in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy did however stop the plan from being implemented. But this was a plan [by] the US military to attack the US population with terror, and make it look as if Castro had done it - and then use the anger and rage of the population to attack Cuba. Therefore all three theories on September 11th are actually possible – Surprise, LIHOP and MIHOP - that is the most important issue. That is the first step you have to go through if you really want to reflect about September 11th in a serious manner.
If an internationally acknowledged criminal investigation was carried out on the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, where would be the best place to begin the investigation?
I think the most controversial piece of evidence that is being debated between these three theories, between Surprise, LIHOP and MIHOP, is data from the World Trade Centre 7. It is crucial that this is kept apart from WTC 1 and WTC 2 which were hit by a plane at 8:45 and 9:05 am in the morning. They collapsed at 10:00 am and 10:30 am, less than two hours later. But people are very confused about the details of the September 11th attacks in New York. Many think only two skyscrapers came down. But the fact is that three collapsed. The third one is WTC7. It collapsed on September 11th at 5:20 pm and it is a building of 170 meters but it was not hit by a plane! Then there [are] two possibilities: either it was brought down by controlled demolition, or it was brought down by fire. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, published a report in early 2002 which stated that it was brought down by fire.
But then several professors [of] building safety, to whom I presented this claim here in Switzerland, said it was not possible. It was just a small fire - it could not bring down this big building as fast as 7 seconds. [My students and I] were waiting [during the years that followed], to see how the official Keane report, which was published in 2004, deals with the question. But what surprised us was that the Keane report does not even mention the existence of WTC 7. This delicate question was simply done away with. For a historian, this is a very grave omission. The Keane report is the official story of September 11th, but it is not a high quality product, it is almost useless from a historical perspective because it does not even get right the number of skyscrapers which collapsed in New York.
Most citizens in Western countries think that they live in a protected world and that the state - with the help [of] the police, the judiciary and parliament - secures reliable protection, order and stability. But if this is removed, then the social contract would definitely be broken and you would [no longer]have anything reliable. For a number of people it is therefore more natural not to think of this as a possible reality. And if the terror attacks on September 11th [were] an inside job, then one cannot exclude the possibility that a parallel state was responsible, not unlike the P2 Lodge, the Mafia and the military intelligence in Italy in the 70’s. Do you agree?
I do not really think so. If it was an American inside job, as in the MIHOP-theory, it will take a long time to find out. But if WTC 7 was brought down by controlled demolition, then it was not Osama bin Laden who was responsible. This is because it was not even in the report of the 9/11 Commission. Nobody ever blamed him for being responsible. So if it is controlled demolition, then it is an inside job. There is no other logical conclusion. In such a scenario, I think that the administration [of] Bush and Cheney must have been aware of that. Johnson knew about the Gulf of Tonkin, and Kennedy knew about Northwoods, Nixon new about Gladio. I do not think that there is anybody behind Cheney that keeps Cheney from knowing that this happened. And I know that people are scared to think – you are right, this is a psychological question – people are scared to think that Bush and Cheney would murder American citizens.
People must be informed about the different theories [surrounding] September 11th and the controversial WTC7 debate. Only then they can pick [which] theory [to] put their faith in. The worst [thing] you can do is to tell people that only this or [that] theory on September 11th is true. That is what Bush and Cheney and Blair are doing, they do not let people figure it out themselves - they do not even given them all the data. They only tell people what to think and whom to fear. And that is not good for a democracy. Everybody should be allowed to make up their own mind. And, as Roosevelt said, the only thing we need to fear is fear itself. It can totally paralyse you.
© Diplo Norway (This article has nothing to do with the french edition.)
1 Ganser, Daniele (2005): NATO’s Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. Frank Cass Publishers, London.
2 Ganser is senior researcher at the Centre for Security Studies in Zürich, Switzerland. His most recent book is: NATO’s Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (2005). He has also contributed a chapter to the book “9/11 & American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out”, by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott this month in the USA. His homepage is: www.danieleganser.ch