Turkish Gladio-like groups not a surprise, says researcher

January 29, 2009, Thursday/ 17:35:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN
It would be a surprise not to have clandestine groups and structures in Turkey that bear the basic qualities of Operation Gladio -- a stay-behind army set up in NATO countries during cold war years to counter a communist invasion -- says Philip Willan, who has been researching the level and pattern of cooperation between secret services and the mafia, in addition to unsolved and mysterious assassinations.

Speaking to the Cihan news agency, Willan said Ergenekon, a clandestine terrorist organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, is very similar to the Gladio network. He also stated that newly emerging evidence about Ergenekon in Turkey also highlighted the similarity. Describing Gladio as an organization set up by NATO through the US and British secret services and special operations units during World War II to prevent an invasion of Italy by the Eastern Bloc, Willan said the Gladio operation recruited individuals known for their anti-communist beliefs. The group also had arms and explosives caches buried underground in a large number of places in Italy.

Willan said Gladio employed a “Strategy of Chaos” to prevent some democratic forces from coming to power in Italy. He said at the time, secret services working for Gladio started gathering personal information about famous politicians, journalists and businessmen for the purpose of blackmail, just as some groups inside Ergenekon are accused of doing.

Willan said an ultranationalist group called “Grey Wolves” was active in Turkey’s intelligence services during the years of Gladio. CIA operations officer Duane Clarridge, who served both in Turkey and Italy, had contacts with both the Italian Gladio and its Turkish version. Mehmet Ali Ağca, whose attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II failed in 1981, was a link to the relationship between the secret services in the two Mediterranean countries, according to Willan. Gladio also had known links with a business group called P2, an illegal splinter Masonic organization led by Licio Gelli.

Willan said the role of the media is of prime importance in shedding light on the secret organizations that have created a society of fear, saying a free media and the elected parliament should make strong efforts to bring such networks to light. Willan said the failure to bring these to light would generate a constant environment of conflict within the country, endangering democracy.

He also said the prosecutors conducting the investigation and judges were facing great pressure from the probe’s rivals in Italy. The prosecutors could only start investigating these issues more comfortably after the end of the Cold War. Italian courts, he said, are given great powers by the Italian constitution, but their ability to use these powers depends on the courage of the judges.

He said the exposure of secret organizations that terrorize society, such as Ergenekon and Gladio, is extremely important for any society. He also said there still is much to be revealed about Ergenekon, noting that there were still many things in Italy that remain secret.

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