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Notorious “Secret Team” Headed by CIA Agent Theodore Shackley Was Involved in the Kidnapping and Assassination of Italian Premier Aldo Moro, Italian Parliamentary Investigations Show

Published: October 28, 2023 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Italian Christian Democracy President Aldo Moro. [Source: commons.wikipedia.org]

The Secret Team was a group of CIA agents run by CIA”s “Blond Ghost” Theodore Shackley that was involved in the most scandalous U.S. foreign policy interventions throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including the “October Surprise” and Iran-Contra affair. Now, Shackley’s “secret team” has been found to have had extensive connections to the assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro (1963-68 and 1974-76) by parliamentary commissions of inquiry in Italy and independent investigations.

Moro was long the nemesis of powerful conservative factions of the U.S. establishment, due to his insistence on engaging in direct political cooperation with the Italian Communist Party (PCI).

Secret Team member Edwin P. Wilson and his associate Frank Terpil, both former CIA officers, were running extensive operations in Qaddafi’s Libya, including delivery of weapons and military explosives, political assassinations and training and logistical support to various international terrorist groups, including the Italian Red Brigades, officially responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Moro in 1978.[1]  

A person with a mustache sitting in a chair

Description automatically generated
Frank Terpil [Source: theguardian.com]

For some of these illegal activities, Wilson was indicted and convicted by the federal government in the early 1980s and spent 20 years in prison.

In his trial defense, Wilson always maintained that he had conducted such operations on behalf of his former employer, the CIA.

A fraudulent affidavit signed by a top CIA official persuaded a U.S. jury that the Agency had terminated professional contacts with Wilson as of 1971.

However, subsequent investigations, initiated by Wilson and his attorney, exposed the government fraud, proving that Wilson had continued to operate for the CIA until at least 1982.

The documentation concerning the Secret Team connection to the Moro operation remains classified.

The Groundbreaking Findings of the New Moro Commission 

According to the official record, Italian Christian Democracy President Aldo Moro was kidnapped by a radical left terror group, known as the Red Brigades, in Rome, on March 16, 1978.

Moro, escorted by a very tight and professional security detail, was on his way to the Italian Parliament, where the order of the day was the discussion, for the very first time, of the possible participation of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in a coalition government.

Moro was ultimately assassinated, and his body found in the back of a red Renault in the center of Rome, on May 9, 1978.

Photos of the detained and deceased Aldo Moro. [Source: dagospia.com]

The official account, defended most stubbornly to this day, has always been that the Red Brigades had acted alone, without any significant external, especially governmental, intervention.

This author has reported about the intractable flaws and inconsistencies of the official narrative, and how that led to the establishment of a second parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Moro case, more than 35 years after the fact.

The last Moro Commission operated between 2014 and 2017, uncovering extremely valuable evidence and producing several final reports, the findings of which were largely inconsistent with the mainstream account. 

It is now necessary to focus on the most sensitive discoveries of the Commission, particularly its reference to the Secret Team. 

The details of Moro’s imprisonment and agony in the spring of 1978 have always been a matter of intense debate.

A particularly and persistently disputed point is the real hideout(s) where Moro was kept immediately after his kidnapping in Via Fani, Rome.

Multiple independent investigations and the last Moro Commission uncovered evidence that housing units in Rome, in Via Massimi 91 and 96, were used as Moro’s prison after the Via Fani operation.

Via Massimi 91, Rome. [Source: lavocedinework.com]

The units in question were owned by the “Institute for the Works of Religion” (IOR), the financial arm of the Vatican, implicated in highly controversial criminal episodes in the 1970-1980 timeline, and run by the even more controversial American archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who had strong ties to the Masonry and the U.S. intelligence establishment.

Paul Marcinkus [Source: wikipedia.org]

More disturbingly, the Via Massimi 91 address also turned out to be the fiscal domicile of the U.S.-based Tumpane, identified in these operations as “Tumco” (also referred to as “Tumpco”), an “American company which had provided services to NATO and the U.S. [military] in Turkey.”

The Moro Commission was able to acquire evidence that “Tumco was engaged in intelligence activity to the benefit of a U.S. military intelligence entity based in Via Veneto in Rome, generally known as the ‘The Annexe.’

Taking into account the Italian operations of Tumpane, [Tumco] officially supported the U.S. radar monitoring network supporting NATO, named Troposcatter/NADGE.[2]

The Commission noted that these activities had not been properly disclosed to competent Italian authorities.

These revelations are significant enough. Yet, one cannot fail to add that Via Veneto in Rome is also the street of residence of the U.S. Embassy.

The Commission also found out that the Via Massimi unit had seen the extensive presence of Omar Yahia (1931-2003), a Libyan financier tied to Libyan and U.S. intelligence.

Yahia “collaborated extensively with Italian intelligence services” and “was, most likely, the person who put in touch the source ‘Damiano,’ who provided quality information on the Red Brigades to Italian intelligence.
His operations in Via Massimi 91 confirm the density of intelligence presences in that condo.”[3]

Evidently aware of the extremely sensitive nature of these findings, and already subject to an incredible amount of pressure, the Commission ordered the classification of the entire documentation concerning the intelligence connections in Via Massimi.

Shortly after the Moro Commission terminated its operations, however, one of its ranking representatives, Marco Carra, made more explicit and unsettling comments. 

Marco Carra [Source: gazzettadimantova.gelocal.it]

After pointing out the many investigative breakthroughs of the Commission’s work, Carra singled out the Secret Team specifically: “Omar Yehia [was] in touch with the Secret Team, an anti-communist structure set up by U.S. intelligence operatives, both in service and retired, conceived to make up for the CIA constraints resulting from the Watergate scandal reforms. It is worth bearing in mind this name, Secret Team, because it could come back to the forefront of the Moro affair as a very ‘protagonist’ actor.”[4]

This explosive comment by representative Carra, which also clearly proves that the Commission knew more than what it was willing to enter into the public record, was quickly eclipsed.[5]

Journalists and investigators familiar with the case, recently contacted by the author, confirmed that Carra has been extremely reluctant to revisit this episode and has avoided the subject altogether. 

Such recent and groundbreaking developments, concerning the U.S. intelligence connection to the Moro affair, acquire even more value (and the ensuing, massive cover-up becomes more understandable), when viewed in the historical context of the U.S. investigation into Edwin Wilson and the Secret Team.

The sensitive information exposed by the last Moro Commission dovetails perfectly with the original investigations by U.S. authorities, which ultimately led to the indictment and conviction of Wilson in the early 1980s.

Extensive illegal operations of the Wilson group, particularly in Qaddafi’s Libya, were then exposed, sometimes leading to stunning connections of the “Secret Team” to international terrorism, including, which matters more to our case, in Italy.

A person in a military uniform Description automatically generated
Muammar Qaddafi [Source: ilcorriereapuano.it]

In June 1981, quoting one such investigation from federal authorities, Seymour Hersh reported for The New York Times that the logistics and training provided by Wilson’s group were exploited in “support of such terrorist groups as the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Red Brigades of Italy, the Red Army of Japan, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany and the Irish Republican Army.” [Emphasis added.]

It was by moving from, and expanding on, these initial findings that two Italian investigative journalists, Mimmo Scarano and Maurizio de Luca, in their early work on the case, first advanced the theory that the two “Secret team” agents, Wilson and Terpil, were involved in the Moro affair, which stands largely vindicated today.[6]

The findings of the Moro Commission on Libyan operative Omar Yahia are also supported by the original investigations into this highly controversial figure, who enjoyed extensive connections to, and protection from, U.S. and international diplomacy and intelligence

High-level insiders in the special forces known as the Green Berets, such as Luke F. Thompson, repeatedly went on record to confirm that they were dispatched to Libya to train terrorists, supervised by Wilson and Terpil, under the understanding that the whole operation had been sanctioned by the CIA.

The mention of the Green Berets in this affair is of great significance.

Kevin P. Mulcahy, a former CIA agent himself and a key whistleblower in the Wilson-Libya connection, referred to an unspecified “Italian involvement” with the Green Berets being trained in Libya.[7]

The possible presence of a Green Beret among the commandos that masterminded the Moro operation in Rome, has emerged repeatedly in Italian investigations.[8]

As has been noted since almost the inception of the inquiry into the Moro case, the Italian terrorist group known as the Red Brigades did not have—not remotely—the military training or operational capacity to execute such a complex action as the kidnapping of a high-profile political leader like Moro, who was escorted by five experienced law enforcement officers who were all killed in the operation.

Aftermath of the Via Fani kidnapping [Source: agi.it]

Ballistic experts have claimed consistently that the operational team in Via Fani must have included at least one professional military shooter flanking the official Red Brigades. 

Senator Sergio Flamigni, the most prominent researcher of the Moro case in Italy, commented that, as to this unidentified shooter, investigations should focus on “the Libyan airplane heading to Geneva which, in the late afternoon of March 15, 1978 (the day before the Via Fani massacre), landed in [Rome’s] Fiumicino Airport instead, with four people on board, to take off again the following day…That flight is strongly suspected of having carried one or more killers affiliated with a particular structure training and supporting terrorist organizations, established in Tripoli (Libya) by Edwin P. Wilson and Frank Terpil, both former CIA agents.” 

Despite the astonishing nature of these developments, a thick layer of stone-cold silence has fallen on the case and the findings of the Moro Commission.

In the U.S., the silence is even more deafening. In the virtually unique case when the results of the last Moro investigation were addressed, U.S. mainstream academia set a new standard of denial, claiming that “the commission thus took a ‘ghost story’ approach to the case, but then found absolutely nothing to bear out any of the conspiracy theories. The parliamentary investigators produced a vast quantity of documents without adding anything of substance to our knowledge about Moro’s tragic end.”[9]

Kissinger’s nightmare: The Italian Communist Party and Moro’s “Historic Compromise”

How did agents of the U.S. establishment end up being connected to one of the most notorious criminal cases of the 20th century, targeting a major political leader of an allied country? 

As it happens, the story between Moro and the U.S.-NATO establishment accounted for a long series of reciprocal misunderstandings, distrust and ultimate hostility.

It would be accurate to state that Moro and the U.S. went back a long way.

As a matter of fact, Moro had already ignited intense controversy in the U.S. in the early 1960s, because of his efforts to involve the Italian Socialist Party in a political coalition with the Christian Democracy Party. 

Yet, it was certainly Moro’s policy of seeking political involvement of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in Italy’s government—the so-called “Historic Compromise” in the 1970s, justified, in his view, by the indisputable influence of the party in Italy’s politics and society—which drew the fatal ire of the U.S. (and others).

It is true that the PCI, with its strong ties to Moscow, had always been a source of extreme concern for the U.S., since the end of the Second World War.

It is a matter of record that the first major operation of the CIA was indeed aimed at preventing an electoral victory of the PCI in the crucial Italian elections of 1948.

“Vote, or they will be your master,” poster concerning Italy’s 1948 elections. [Source: Wilsoncenter.org]

From the U.S. standpoint, Italy, since 1949 a crucial NATO ally in Southern Europe, hosting a large number of U.S. bases, simply could not be allowed to “go communist.”

Very few representatives in the U.S. political and diplomatic establishment epitomized the hostility toward Moro’s policies more than Henry Kissinger.

Powerful mastermind Henry Kissinger. [Source: newyorker.com]

The obsession of Kissinger with the Italian PCI actually verged on the pathological.

So extreme was the sensitivity of Kissinger to this issue that he constantly referred to Italy, almost reflexively, any time the possibility of a “communist,” if not just “socialist,” takeover would materialize anywhere in the world, regardless of how grounded in fact such concerns were.

The National Security Archive of George Washington University, which conducted prodigious research unveiling the U.S.’s extensive subversive activities in South America, and Kissinger’s role in them, documented quite an enlightening episode.

The recently declassified record shows that plans to remove Salvador Allende from power in Chile were actually devised early on, shortly after Allende’s historic electoral victory in 1970.

Central to the hostility against the Chilean leader was the fear that his case could be replicated elsewhere in the world, including Western Europe.

Salvador Allende [Source: alphahistory.com]

In a briefing memo addressed to President Nixon, in preparation for the crucial NSC meeting which took place on November 6, 1970, Kissinger struck a very ominous note, anticipating the darker course of actions ahead: “The election of Allende as President of Chile poses for us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in this hemisphere…Your decision as to what to do about it may be the most historic and difficult foreign affairs decision you will have to make this year…for what happens in Chile over the next six to twelve months will have ramifications that will go far beyond just U.S.-Chilean relations.”

Elaborating on the ramifications of an accepted “Marxist” government such as Allende’s, Kissinger warned that Allende’s “model effect can be insidious”:

“The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on—and even precedent value for—other parts of the world, especially in Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” [Emphasis added.] 

A quote oscillating between creative ways to endorse democratic processes and quite evocative “domino theory” interpretations applied elsewhere in the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, with not exactly enthusiastic outcomes.

In fact, Kissinger almost overwhelmed the historical record with his anti-PCI outbursts.

The volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States published in the past decade, concerning the Ford administration’s policy on Western Europe and NATO, exhaustively illustrate Kissinger’s obsession with the Italian case.

President Ford [Source: whitehousehistory.org]

A September 1975 meeting between Kissinger and European senior officials, gathered in New York to discuss Europe’s “Southern flank,” and the possible participation of “socialist” parties in the region governments, is a case in point.

The discussion was overwhelmingly dominated by the obsessive fear that any “opening to the left” in Southern Europe, regardless of how moderate, could represent a dangerous precedent for Italy and benefit the Italian Communist Party politically.

The connection to Italy of any détente policy with European socialist parties returns endlessly in the meeting, and the verbatim quote of not creating “a precedent for Italy” is repeated three times, with Kissinger stating it twice in the span of a few paragraphs.

The centenarian statesman was not shy in expressing his radical hostility to the possible opening to the PCI directly to Aldo Moro, irrespective of the actual intentions of Moro and of any moderation process the PCI was engaged in at the time, which would accept Italy’s membership in NATO.

Shortly before the New York Summit, on August 1, 1975, Ford, Kissinger, Moro and then Italian Foreign Minister Mariano Rumor met on the occasion of the famous Helsinki security accords, in Finland and the discussion centered again on European security.

Moro and Soviet Premier Brezhnev in Helsinki. [Source: affariinternazionali.it]

The theoretical possibility of the PCI joining the Italian government was again on the table, and the conversation escalated rapidly.

Regardless of the political merit of each side’s case, the incredibly tense exchange and the harshness and tone used by Kissinger toward Moro (on that occasion acting as Italy’s Prime Minister!), certainly not usual between representatives of two allies, especially in an official meeting, is still striking almost half a century later.

After Moro attempted to represent the difficult balancing act of the PCI with respect to NATO and its particular influence in Italian politics, Kissinger went off: 

“Secretary [Kissinger]: If I may speak more bluntly than the President, we don’t care if they [the PCI] sign onto NATO in blood. Having the communists in the Government of Italy would be completely incompatible with continued membership in the Alliance. There is a difference between an election tactic and reality. There is no way that we can be persuaded to be in an Alliance with governments including communists which is supposed to be against communism, no matter what you say.

President [Ford]: Henry is a very subtle diplomat.

Secretary [Kissinger]: If the President wants me to, I can say these things in undiplomatic language.”[10]

The exchange may be regarded as being eloquent enough. 

Suspicious minds may infer that, if U.S. officials were not afraid of sending such stern warnings in official meetings, they could be even more transparent off the record.

In fact, what the official government record does not, and cannot, reflect is the way more sinister machinations were taking place behind the scenes, in order to force Moro to abort his policy of opening to the Communist Party.

Moro told his closest associates, and his wife Eleonora, that senior American officials had explicitly threatened the gravest consequences, in case he did not relent in his “Historic Compromise” strategy toward the PCI.

The most serious episode had occurred in September 1974, in connection with several high-level meetings that an Italian government delegation, including Moro, then foreign minister, and Italian President Giovanni Leone, held with U.S. officials, notably President Ford and Henry Kissinger. 

German Chancellor Willy Brandt had reportedly warned Moro of “a worrying coalescence of hostile forces” against his politics, connected to “strong U.S. interest groups.” 

Willy Brandt [Source: britannica.com]

Moro was advised to accept a confidential meeting with a U.S. intelligence official to discuss his policies opening to the left.

The meeting would take place in the residence of the unidentified officer, located in the hinterlands of New York. 

While the Italian delegation was engaged in a social event, Moro went, escorted only by a trusted member of its security detail, Marshal Oreste Leonardi.

During the sinister meeting, Moro was told—in unequivocal terms—that the U.S. establishment opposed his policies and that there existed “firm

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