Turkey was on the Gladio coordination committee, but it was not on the political committee, he said, adding that the Turkish organization had a more independent structure.
In an interview with Sabah daily reporter Nur Batur, Cossiga said that although similar organizations were set up in NATO countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Greece and non-NATO countries such as Austria, Sweden and Switzerland, the Turkish Gladio was different.
Noting that Turkey did not allow NATO to interfere in its internal affairs, Cossiga pointed out some of the similarities between Gladio and Ergenekon, a clandestine organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government.
In light of Cossiga's comments, it is clear that Italy experienced the same developments Turkey is going through during the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon.
The existence of a clandestine 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 and the assassination of political leaders to prevent communists from obtaining power bring to mind some of the similar claims that have been made about Ergenekon.
In both operations, retired generals, doctors and journalists were questioned, telephones were bugged and there were murder cases committed by unknown perpetrators.
The existence of the clandestine organization was accepted in Italy after arms and explosives caches buried underground were discovered.
Noting that secret organizations were formed in Europe after World War II, Cossiga said Winston Churchill ordered the finance minister to set up a secret organization that would not be like the usual intelligence service. The English Special Operation Executive (SOE) was ordered to infiltrate among Nazis, and a secret American organization called the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was set up to gather intelligence. Both had similar goals, and both were operating in Italy.
Noting that the stay-behind network was formed in Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Greece and Turkey, Cossiga said similar organizations were established in non-NATO countries such as Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. "But the strongest leg of the organization was in Germany. The clandestine organization in NATO countries and non-NATO countries were always in contact with each other. An organization similar to Gladio was established in Turkey, but it was different from the European-based structure. Turkey was on Gladio's coordination committee but not on the political team, so it was a more independent structure. The Turkish Gladio was only going to engage if war broke out. But it was not on the committee that organized secret exercises. European countries were informed of each others' operations, but Turkey was far from all this," he stated. "For example, Turkey did not participate when the French and Italian Gladios conducted secret exercises."
Asked who headed the Turkish Gladio, Cossiga said the stay-behind network did not have a central administration and, therefore, did not know anyone from the Turkish Gladio. "But I can assure you that Turkey always held a special place. Turkey never allowed NATO to interfere in its internal affairs," he said.
Noting the organization in Italy was established in 1954, Cossiga said he was appointed as the deputy defense minister and also headed the fifth department, which was the special operations unit. "It was top secret. Military intelligence services relayed intelligence to special operations. But special operation did not reciprocate. It only provided the government with intelligence and not the military. Only the prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs, the defense minister and the minister of domestic affairs knew about the organization. We hid the organization's hierarchy chart in a safe. But as one of the founders, I knew everyone in the chart," he said.
He said a separate budget had been created for special operations. Its funds were located in the intelligence service's budget and transferred to the intelligence service by the Finance Ministry.
Aside from the Defense Ministry, no one knew that Gladio was funded by the Finance Ministry, he said, adding that money was allocated to special operations with the words "top secret" across it and only the defense minister knew which fund in the military intelligence budget was allocated for special operations.