Strategy of tension: Where NATO-enabled fascist terror armies meet UK undercover police entrapment
For decades, UK undercover cops pushed activists to commit crimes to increase their perceived danger. Ironically, a tangled, tangential web links their activities to a NATO-backed programme to do the same — on a European scale.
The long-running practice of entrapment by undercover police has been dragged into the public spotlight by a recent statement to the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI).
On 17th November, Dave Smith, a former construction worker and activist, gave a searing statement to the Inquiry on ‘blacklisting’ — a conspiracy in which big business and UK security agencies colluded to identify ‘troublemakers’ in workplaces and secretly ban them from employment.
‘Leading horses to water’
The statement also accused ‘Carlo Neri’, a Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officer, of multiple transgressions — including attempting to incite three individuals to firebomb a charity shop.
‘Neri’, whose real name was published online by an investigative journalist in 2019 as Carlo Soracchi, alleged the establishment was owned by Roberto Fiore, an Italian neofascist implicated in the 1980 Bologna massacre, with the proceeds used to fund a fascist training centre in Spain.
Soracchi frequently told his comrades he felt very strongly about the bombing — which killed 85 people, including a three-year-old child, and wounded over 200 — as his parents hailed from the region. At a drunken party at his North London home in 2003, Soracchi suggested to three antifa friends they visit the charity shop, which was just a few minutes walk away, to which they agreed.
After returning, Soracchi said something along the lines of “it would be unfortunate if it was set alight” — one of the activists has since appraised this as an effort to “lead the horses to water and see if they would drink.”
He raised the prospect with one of the activists on another occasion, driving them past the charity shop to show them “how to do” what he’d mooted, but it was never mentioned again thereafter, likely due to lack of interest — the individuals he’d seemingly tried to entrap were committed to non-violence.
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Network of fascist fronts
Still, as wrongheaded as his attempts to stir pacifists to arson may have been, Soracchi’s suggestion the charity shop was a fascist clearing house was on the money.
In 1978, Fiore founded Terza Posizione (Third Position), a far-right Italian political group — it served as the public, political wing of Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (NAR), a neo-fascist militant organization which killed at least 33 people between 1977 – 1981, the tail end of Italy’s blood-soaked ‘Years of Lead’. In June 1983, a judge investigating links between the two groups was assassinated.
After police found a large quantity of explosives and weapons in a local Terza Posizione office in the wake of the Bologna massacre, Fiore and 15 others linked to the bombing fled to London to escape justice.
British security services may have secured their passage, and prevented their extradition subsequently — a 1991 European Parliament inquiry into racism and xenophobia noted Fiore had been an MI6 agent since the early 1980s.
Upon arrival in ‘Perfidious Albion’, Fiore set about establishing an extensive network of front organisations to fund his political activities, and founded International Third Position (ITP) with, among others, later-British National Party leader Nick Griffin.
Extolling racial separatism, rural traditionalism, and Catholic fundamentalism, ITP bought a remote Spanish village in 1997, to use as a summer camp for right-wing extremists — undoubtedly the site mentioned by Soracchi.
It was later revealed the purchase was paid for with the proceeds from an organization run by Fiore, Saint Michael the Archangel, which purported to be an apolitical Roman Catholic philanthropic initiative and had many charity shops in the UK, eight in London alone.
Fiore’s voluminous business portfolio also included restaurants, Italian food shops, English-language schools, and travel-employment agency Meeting Point/Easy London.
The company offered young Italians wanting to work and/or study in the UK capital a package deal comprising transportation, a well-remunerated job and plush central accommodation, for an attractive fee.
When they actually reached London though, they found themselves toiling in one of Fiore’s front enterprises for meagre wages, while paying a premium to stay in one of 1,300 slum dwellings he maintained, with tiny and overcrowded shared bedrooms, mattresses in corridors, and communal bathrooms used by up to 15 people. An army of violent skinheads managed the properties, administering late-night beatings to those unable to pay their rent on time, among other peccadilloes.
In February 1994, 28 Labour MPs — among them Jeremy Corbyn — signed an early day motion criticising the then-Conservative government’s refusal to extradite Fiore.
The motion noted his maintenance of a “Rachmanite housing scam”, the “strong likelihood” profits from this activity contributed to “racist, thuggish activities” by organisations such as the BNP, and accused Whitehall of having “behaved disgracefully and against the national interest” in not deporting him and his “skinhead cohorts”.
These endeavours were surely known about by British security services, and allowed to endure unmolested for many years, despite their flagrantly criminal character. Meanwhile, spycops surveilled, subverted and sabotaged an untold number of left-wing, progressive political groups, which posed no risk to anyone’s health or safety.
While cleared in 1985 of direct involvement in the Bologna bombing, Fiore was convicted of subversive association in absentia and jailed for nine years due to his membership of NAR, reduced to five-and-a-half on appeal. Even this brief term was eventually cancelled under Italy’s statute of limitations, and he was able to return to his homeland in April 1999.
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Strategies of tension
The question of who or what was ultimately responsible for the train station massacre somehow remains unanswered four decades later. In the years following the bombing, a number of NAR operatives were prosecuted and sentenced for their apparent roles in the attack, although they and NAR denied all involvement, and most convictions secured were subsequently overturned on appeal.
Suggestions of intelligence agency involvement have only gained in volume and credibility over the years, particularly in light of the exposure of ‘Operation Gladio’, a clandestine NATO connivance under which state-sponsored fascist elements carried out false flag terror attacks and criminal acts as part of a “strategy of tension” across Europe, designed to discredit the left, and justify ever-greater security measures, over the course of more than four decades.
The central role of MI6 and the US Central Intelligence Agency in recruiting and managing the terrorists involved may explain how Fiore came to serve as an agent for the former. Members of Gladio’s Italian unit were also reportedly trained on British soil.
These agencies were furthermore instrumental in the concealment of vast caches of explosives, weapons and ammunition in secret locations across NATO member states. In 1991, an Italian parliamentary committee concluded the explosives used in the Bologna bombing were drawn from one such Gladio arsenal.
Operation Gladio was uncovered as a result of investigations of the May 1972 Peteano bombing, in which five police officers were lured to investigate a suspicious parked car — it was packed full of explosives, which detonated when attempts were made to open its doors, killing three of the officers and seriously injuring the other two.
Initially, it was claimed the explosive involved was a kind typically employed by communist guerrilla group Brigate Rosse. However, over the course of the inquiry, it was determined the material in fact hailed from a Gladio munitions dump located beneath a cemetery near Verona.
The police explosives expert who’d alleged the attack was the work of Brigate Rosse was moreover found to be a member of Ordine Nuovo, the far-right terrorist group actually responsible.
Ordine Nuovo operative Vincenzo Vinciguerra was determined to have planted the Peteano bomb, and jailed for life. Over the course of his trial, he alleged “the Carabinieri, the Minister of the Interior, the customs services and the military and civilian intelligence services” had all accepted “the ideological reasoning behind the attack.”
In later years, Vinciguerra laid bare the “strategy of tension” in stark detail.
“You were supposed to attack civilians, women, children, innocent people from outside the political arena,” he said, “The reason was simple, force the public to turn to the state and ask for greater security…People would willingly trade their freedom for the security of being able to walk the streets, go on trains or enter a bank. This was the political logic behind the bombings. They remain unpunished because the state cannot condemn itself.”
On 22nd November 1990, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the Gladio affair, noting that for over 40 years, “a clandestine intelligence and armed operations organization” had existed in European countries, and “escaped all democratic controls,” having been “run by the secret services of the states concerned in collaboration with NATO.”
“Such a network may have interfered illegally in the internal political affairs of member states [and] may still do so. Military secret services (or uncontrolled branches thereof) were involved in serious cases of terrorism and crime. These organizations operated completely outside the law,” the resolution stated.
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The UCPI has only just begun, and the files released and evidence from former spycops heard so far have related to the four years following the 1968 founding of the SDS.
It’s abundantly clear though that from its very inception, the unit’s operatives weren’t passive participants in the groups they penetrated, but often instigators and organisers of highly provocative if not outright illegal activity, marshalling their surveillance targets to engage in subversive actions they wouldn’t normally have.
This ethos endured for the 40 years the SDS operated, and no doubt informs British secret policing strategy and tactics to this day. In 2012, it was alleged Bob Lambert, who as ‘Bob Robinson’ infiltrated animal rights and environmental campaign circles during the 1980s, fathering a child with an activist in the process, planted an explosive device in a branch of British department chain Debenhams in July 1987.
It was one of three bombs simultaneously detonated in Debenhams branches by Animal Liberation Front (ALF) activists, part of a crusade against the sale of real fur. ALF member Geoff Sheppard was responsible for planting another — he was caught red-handed months later as the group prepared for a second wave of arson attacks, and convicted.
“I wasn’t there when [Lambert] targeted the store because we all headed off in our separate directions but I was lying in bed that night, and the news came over on the World Service three Debenhams stores had had arson attacks,” Sheppard recalls, “I straight away knew Bob carried out his part of the plan. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind Lambert placed the incendiary device. I specifically remember him giving an explanation to me about how he’d been able to.”
In December 2014, Sheppard also claimed SDS officer ‘Matt Rayner’ encouraged and abetted other illegal activities he’d initially been unwilling to carry out. It was a “determined, cynical, and targeted effort”, which included coaxing him to buy a shotgun. ‘Rayner’ offered to fund the purchase, and asked him for instructions on how to make a bomb, testing the ‘recipe’ at least once.
In May 1995 police raided Sheppard’s home and found a shotgun, cartridges and components for making an incendiary device. He was jailed for four years – an appeal to overturn his conviction is ongoing.
At least 83 convictions of activists spied upon by undercover officers are currently under review — a great many others have been quashed since the spycops scandal erupted in 2010. In July this year, the Metropolitan Police confirmed ‘Rayner’ was subject to a criminal investigation.
On top of discrediting and disrupting the political groups they target, and ridding activist movements of particularly ‘troublesome’ individuals, playing agent provocateur creates threats to the public and contributes to a climate of fear, in which people “turn to the state and ask for greater security,” in Vincenzo Vinciguerra’s phrase.
As such, spycops can be considered just one strand in a wider “strategy of tension” which is waged without citizens’ knowledge or consent, or any democratic oversight whatsoever.
And what of Fiore? After returning to Italy, he founded the far-right Forza Nuova (New Force) party, which he leads today. In 2008, he took over the European Parliament seat of Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of infamous fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
In a perversely ironic twist, in March 2020 Fiore announced he was bringing legal action against the Metropolitan Police over Soracchi’s attempts to cajole activists into firebombing his property, on the basis he was “victim of a serious crime”. It’s unclear how far this effort has progressed since.
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