Monday, July 25, 2005


"False flag" operations

I'm working on several posts that I seem unable to complete at the moment, so I thought you might like to mull over a post sent today to the Network of Activist Scholars of Politics and International Relations (NASPIR) concerning European and American false-flag operations.

"False flag" operations are operations carried out by a group or nation, either military or terrorist in nature, that are designed to falsely implicate another group or nation. Perhaps the most historically famous of these was "Operation Himmler," which Hitler used to justify the invasion of Poland.


So that Germany did not officially seem the aggressor (which it was), Hitler needed an excuse for entering/attacking Poland. It was Heinrich Himmler who came up with the idea; thus the plan was code named Operation Himmler.

On the night of August 31, 1939, Nazis took an unknown prisoner from one of their concentration camps, dressed him in a Polish uniform, took him to the town of Gleiwitz (on the border of Poland and Germany), and then shot him. The staged scene with the dead prisoner dressed in a Polish uniform was supposed to appear as a Polish attack against a German radio station.

Hitler used the staged attack as the excuse to invade Poland.

Naturally, you don't hear very often about the many other instances of the technique. Israel appears to be the leading exponent and perpetrator at the moment. But as you may well imagine, in the world of geopolitics it is truly difficult to know who is doing what to whom.

Danielle Ganser's post, which is in reply to a previous post on NASPIR, speaks for itself—

In your last email you wrote:
But of course, the police want terrorism so they can impose a police state. That's why in Italy in the 1970s the police deliberately planted bombs so they could mass arrest leftists and dissidents and impose new repressive laws.

I am a NASPIR member and was born in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. I have for a long time been extremely interested in these "false flag strategy of tension operations" that you refer to in your above quote and therefore researched them for four years in the context of my PhD which I completed in 2001.

The data shows that you are right, despite that fact that not many people want to speak about it. It was not the Italian police who planted the bombs to be precise. It was the Italian military secret service SISMI1 which linked up with neofascists of Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale and the latter planted the bombs while SISMI covered up the traces and flew the terrorists to Franco's Spain where they were safe from prosecution.

SISMI during the same period was also running a secret army called "Gladio" - the sword - which had been set up and financed by the CIA. Gladio units trained with US Special Forces such as the Green Berets and the British Special Air Service SAS and the MI6. They were part of a stay-behind network which - as I found - covered all countries of Western Europe.

Gladio was the name for the Italian stay-behind. In other countries different code-names were used, such as SDRA8 in Belgium, ROC in Norway, Counter Guerrilla in Turkey and P26 in Switzerland. The networks controlled secret arms caches filled with explosives and guns and handgrenades. In case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe they should have operated as a guerrilla behind enemy lines, that's why they were called stay-behind networks.

The data available suggests that the Italian military secret service SISMI used Gladio assets (men and explosives) when they carried out the strategy of tension with bombings in public places in Italy. Also, in Turkey and in Belgium and in Greece the secret networks seem to have been involved in domestic terror and coup d'etats to stop the political left. By manipulation of the traces the crimes were regularly blamed on the political enemy, at the time the communists and socialists.

NATO coordinated the stay-behind network through the so called Clandestine Planning Committee CPC and the Allied Clandestine Committee ACC, both formed in the 1950s. The last known meeting of the ACC was in October 1990, exactly at the time when Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti for the first time officially confirmed the existence of Gladio and other secret armies in countries all over Western Europe. CIA and MI6 refused to comment. NATO first denied, then said the denial of the previous day had been a mistake, and refused to comment due to national and military security. I have a FOIA pending with CIA on that matter.

If anybody wants to know more about this story: I collected all the data and in January 2005 published a book on the topic with Frank Cass in London: NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. They printed some 1000 copies which are all gone I'm afraid, but they said they will go into reprint, it's available at Amazon. Also, the Guardian said they wanted to bring a piece on the story but have not done so far, I hope they will in the future, or some other paper in the UK, for the matter remains almost completely unknown. Here at ETH in Switzerland we set up a homepage on the topic with more information:

The book has just been translated and published by Fazi in Italy these days. Also, I wrote an article which is available for free online on the links between the NATO secret armies and terrorism in Western Europe: [PDF]

I hope that was of interest. I think you raised an important point that merits further investigation. I am very sorry for all the war and terror victims and their families. I do believe that we as academics and NASPIR members must be a voice for reconciliation, forgiveness, balanced and in-depth analysis and non-violent solutions.

with best wishes from Switzerland

Dr Daniele Ganser
Senior Researcher

Center for Security Studies (CSS)
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich)
[Edited for appearance and links]

Related post
Plamegate (7/21/05)


1You will recall the invaluable service provided by SISMI to the Bush (Cheney) administration by providing it with what amounted to no more than a rumor that Saddam Hussein was trying to procure uranium from Niger.

According to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker—

In the fall of 2001, soon after the September 11th attacks, the C.I.A. received an intelligence report from Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service, or sismi, about a public visit that Wissam al-Zahawie, then the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, had made to Niger and three other African nations two and a half years earlier, in February, 1999. The visit had been covered at the time by the local press in Niger and by a French press agency. The American Ambassador, Charles O. Cecil, filed a routine report to Washington on the visit, as did British intelligence. There was nothing untoward about the Zahawie visit. “We reported it because his picture appeared in the paper with the President,” Cecil, who is now retired, told me. There was no article accompanying the photograph, only the caption, and nothing significant to report. At the time, Niger, which had sent hundreds of troops in support of the American-led Gulf War in 1991, was actively seeking economic assistance from the United States.

None of the contemporaneous reports, as far as is known, made any mention of uranium. But now, apparently as part of a larger search for any pertinent information about terrorism, sismi dug the Zahawie-trip report out of its files and passed it along, with a suggestion that Zahawie’s real mission was to arrange the purchase of a form of uranium ore known as “yellowcake.” (Yellowcake, which has been a major Niger export for decades, can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors. It can also be converted, if processed differently, into weapons-grade uranium.)

What made the two-and-a-half-year-old report stand out in Washington was its relative freshness. A 1999 attempt by Iraq to buy uranium ore, if verified, would seem to prove that Saddam had been working to reconstitute his nuclear program—and give the lie to the I.A.E.A. and to intelligence reports inside the American government that claimed otherwise.

The sismi report, however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that sismi would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” No credible documents have emerged since to corroborate it.

The intelligence report was quickly stovepiped to those officials who had an intense interest in building the case against Iraq, including Vice-President Dick Cheney. “The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said. “He asked the briefer a question. The briefer came back a day or two later and said, ‘We do have a report, but there’s a lack of details.’ ” The Vice-President was further told that it was known that Iraq had acquired uranium ore from Niger in the early nineteen-eighties but that that material had been placed in secure storage by the I.A.E.A., which was monitoring it. “End of story,” Martin added. “That’s all we know.” According to a former high-level C.I.A. official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the initial response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice-President’s office.

Which, of course, gets us back to Plamegate. [back]

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