Covert intelligence agency operations

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Clandestine intelligence operations
Covert cooperation among secret services
Unreported cooperation between intelligence agencies
Unaccountability of government security services
Immunity of intelligence services from public scrutiny
Underground sabotage networks
Underground resistance networks
Underground intelligence networks
Rivalry between security services

Following the Second World War, the USA and the UK developed underground networks in Europe in preparation for the Third World War. In some cases this involved reactivation of wartime resistance networks. The UK was responsible for northern Europe and the USA for Italy, the Mediterranean and the neutral countries. Because the resistance networks had had a strong Communist involvement, a new underground was formally begun in Belgium in 1952 and place under the control of a secret committee of SHAPE. It operated in the NATO countries, Austria, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Knowledge of it was restricted to conservative officials and politicians and to the secret services. This secretive right-wing character has raised questions about the involvement of such networks in a series of scandals in different European countries. It is alleged that these networks are being used for domestic subversion in order to destabilize democratic governments and push public opinion towards authoritarian solutions. There are suggestions that the networks are no longer under the effective control of the governments that agreed to set them up.

One better known example is in Italy, where the USA and Italian secret services set up a shadow army in the 1950s, called Gladio, as part of a NATO-wide plan to create guerrilla resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion or communist takeover. By 1972 Gladio was considering pre-emptive action against the Italian Communist Party. Explosives from one Gladio arms dump were used in a car bombing in Venice. It has been alleged that other explosives were used in the Bologna station bombing in 1980 in which 85 people were killed. Since the original trial for that bombing, evidence emerged pointing to an alliance of right-wing forces, corrupt politicians and secret service agents ready to intervene when the Russians can but also in the case of the Left winning a general election. A shadow right-wing government with neo-fascist, Masonic (P2 lodge) and NATO chief connections was ready to take over Italy. General Vito Miceli, Italian secret service chief and linked to an abortive coup in 1970 by Prince Valerio Borghese, received an $800,000 handout from the CIA. The entire operation resulted in the death of one Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro, the downfall of another, Giulio Andreotti, and a rash of judicial investigations still outstanding in 1993. A terrorist organization "Armed Phalange", linked to Gladio and using cooperators from the Sismi military intelligence service, has been responsible for most of the bombings and killings in Italy since 1990, including a number of Mafia and Camorra murders. Another wing of Gladio, the Scorpion Group, was found in existence in Sicily in 1992 and to be made up of Sismi agents.

The USA secret intelligence budget, which doubled during the 1980s, remained largely unchanged at Cold War levels in 1992, despite the 7% cut in the defence budget. Publicized target areas for US intelligence are the spread of nuclear weapons in the Third World, terrorist activity and the political fortunes of the former Soviet Union. Other unclassified items are allocation money for the technical means to track other countries' acquisition of chemical weapons, and to track the intentions of dangerous Third World leaders. In 1990, the CIA admitted in 1990 that it had spent nearly $100 million supporting politicians.

In 1993, the EEC/EU K4 Committee met for the first time to inaugurate a Europe-wide security and intelligence system. One task is the establishment of a vast police intelligence database containing files on criminals and suspected illegal immigrants. The European Information Service (EIS) will link the security services of the member countries. The committee will also oversee the establishment of Europol, a European police network based in the Netherlands to focus initially on the illegal drugs trade. It could evolve into a Union-wide police force with operational powers, including the power of arrest. It is the deliberate intention of the member states that such matters remain as far as possible outside the scrutiny of elected officials.

In 1992 the Goldstone Commission in South Africa submitted proof of the existence of a secret operational centre run by the military intelligence service and supposedly unknown to the President of the country. One of its functions was to destabilize the African National Congress. The unit was alleged to have hired political assassins and planned to compromise the ANC using drug dealers, prostitutes and homosexuals.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST