Rogue Agents - 1964-1970 - Mobilisation
Rogue Agents: The Cercle and the 6I in the Private Cold War 1951 - 1991 is a book by David Teacher. It is reproduced here by permission of the author.
1964-1970 - Mobilisation
The Birth of the Strategy of Tension
The Paneuropeans and Europe's covert conservatives were not the only people to mobilise; in the mid-1960s, the forces of renascent fascism in Europe would regroup, most notably in Italy and in Portugal. In order to give an all-too-brief account of the main facts relevant to this history of the Cercle complex, we must first look at the Italian General Giovanni De Lorenzo who, for over a decade, held crucial posts in the Italian military hierarchy.
In December 1955, De Lorenzo was appointed head of the Italian military intelligence service SIFAR, serving until October 1962 when he became Commandant of the Carabinieri, a post he filled until January 1966. Both SIFAR and the Carabinieri came under the authority of the Defence Minister, a post filled from February 1959 to February 1966 by Giulio Andreotti. De Lorenzo then served as Chief of the Army General Staff until April 1967 when he was dismissed for having spied on the Italian government. Andreotti was entrusted with the destruction of the voluminous files De Lorenzo had built up on prominent Italian public figures, but it later transpired that, prior to their destruction, the files had been copied and given to Licio Gelli, Grand Master of the P2 masonic lodge, on whom see below. In May 1968, De Lorenzo was elected as a monarchist MP, joining the far-right MSI in 1971; he died in April 1973.
De Lorenzo was a major figure in the Italian strategy of tension, particularly during his time as head of the Carabinieri from 1962 to 1966. Following the 1963 elections, in which the Communists gained 25% of the vote, De Lorenzo used his unprecedented powers to launch a vast anti-communist operation which started with the training of the 'gladiators' the same year. Simultaneously, with some twenty top Carabinieri commanders, De Lorenzo finalised Plan Solo, a coup d'état scheduled for the summer of 1964 which included the assassination of Prime Minister Aldo Moro and his replacement by a right-wing Christian Democrat. Opposition to the coup would be minimised by a wave of preventive arrests based on the files that De Lorenzo had built up on 157,000 people since 1959. The coup was cancelled at the last moment as the result of a pact between the Socialists and the Christian Democrats, but De Lorenzo continued planning for a later coup.
Also in 1964, under De Lorenzo's guidance, SIFAR (renamed SID in 1965) funded the creation of the Alberto Pollio Institute which, the following year, would organise the now infamous conference which marked the ideological birth of the strategy of tension. Held in the Parco dei Principi hotel from 3rd - 5th May 1965, the conference was attended by the elite of the Italian military and the extreme Right, including Europe's most notorious fascist terrorist, Stefano Delle Chiaie, a key actor in the stragi which rocked Italy throughout the 1970s. Delle Chiaie's group Avanguardia Nazionale (AN) had been founded in 1959 with funding from prominent industrialist and banker Carlo Pesenti, a future backer of the Cercle complex and the sniffer plane project, detailed below. AN had been preparing for a strategy of tension since the spring of 1964 when the Italian neo-fascist militants had followed courses in terrorism and psychological warfare.
As well as the AN militants Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, another close associate of Delle Chiaie's during this period was Guido Giannettini, a journalist on military affairs, expert in revolutionary warfare and SIFAR informant. A veteran in fascist circles, Giannettini also had high-level transatlantic connections: in 1961, he had been invited to give a presentation at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis on "The techniques and possibilities of a coup d'état in Europe", a lecture attended by Pentagon officials and CIA officers (49). Giannettini did not confine himself to theory, giving shelter to former OAS members who had fled to Italy after their abortive coup attempt in 1962 (50). Whilst visiting Spain in 1962, Giannettini was awarded the honour of 'Captain of the Crusade' by the OAS for his services (51). Through his contacts with SIFAR/SID, Giannettini could also ensure a certain degree of protection for Delle Chiaie's militants. Giannettini and Delle Chiaie both attended the Parco dei Principi conference; Giannettini himself gave a presentation on "The variety of techniques for the conduct of revolutionary warfare", a subject he tackled in greater depth in his book published the same year, The techniques of revolutionary warfare.
The year after the Parco dei Principi conference, the paramilitary far Right and the OAS joined forces in 1966 to set up the now-notorious revolutionary fascist group Aginter Presse. Sheltered in Lisbon under the protective wing of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, Aginter Presse was run by former OAS activist Ralf Guérin-Sérac (Yves Guillou), with Delle Chiaie one of the pioneers of the strategy of tension. Aginter Presse worked under the cover of a press agency, but in reality was a coordination centre for destabilisation. In close cooperation with Salazar's secret service, the Policia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado (PIDE), one section of Aginter Presse ran a parallel intelligence service with links to the CIA, the German BND, the Spanish DGS, the South African BOSS and the Greek KYP. Another section of Aginter Presse organised the recruitment of terrorists for bomb attacks and assassinations - an important contact here was Delle Chiaie. A third group dealt with psychological operations, and Aginter Presse's fourth section, called Ordre et Tradition, was an international fascist contact network with a clandestine paramilitary wing, the Organisation Armée contre le Communisme International.
Aginter Presse's Italian contacts included Delle Chiaie and Giannettini, one of the most active Aginter Presse members, responsible for liaising between Aginter's Lisbon offices, Delle Chiaie's AN and the Italian secret services. Aginter Presse started up in Lisbon in September 1966, and the Italian strategy of tension would be launched in April 1969 with AN's bomb in Milan. After the failure of Plan Solo in 1964, another coup attempt would be launched on the night of 7th December 1970. In Operation Tora Tora, now known as the Borghese coup after its fascist leader Prince Borghese, the putschists who included Delle Chiaie and other AN and Fronte Nazionale militants seized the Ministry of the Interior but then withdrew, abandoning the operation on "orders from above". News of the coup attempt was suppressed by SIFAR, and none of the participants was prosecuted. Amongst those implicated in the Borghese coup were several of the members of the Istituto di Studi Strategici e per la Difesa (ISSED) in Rome, an Italian body that would cooperate closely with Brian Crozier's Institute for the Study of Conflict in the 1970s, described in the next chapter.
ISSED's founder, General Diulio Fanali, a former Chief of General Staff of the Airforce, was one of the people accused with Delle Chiaie and Giannettini of involvement in the Borghese coup. Fanali's name would also crop up in the judicial inquiry into the Rosa dei Venti covert network, detailed below. The Director of ISSED's magazine Politica e Strategia was Filippo de Iorio, a close friend of Giulio Andreotti with links to the Italian secret service. A future member of the P2 lodge run by Licio Gelli, de Iorio was forced to flee Italy after being implicated in the Borghese coup with Fanali, Giannettini and Delle Chiaie. The Co-Director of the ISSED magazine was Eggardo Beltrametti, who with Giannettini was one of the speakers at the 1965 Parco dei Principi conference. Beltrametti would also be mentioned alongside Giannettini during the judicial inquiry into the Milan bombings which launched the strategy of tension in 1969 (52).
IRD, Forum World Features and the ISC
Amongst the Allied partners in the immediate post-war period, it was the British who had first recognised the need for media manipulation to check the threat of communism throughout the colonies and at home. Unlike the CIA's anticommunist programme which concentrated on the creation of mass movements like the European Movement and the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the British Foreign Office had decided in 1947-48 to counter the ideological offensive launched by Stalin by setting up a covert propaganda and disinformation unit called the Information Research Department (IRD) (53). The IRD would grow to become the biggest department in the Foreign Office with some 400 staff. The IRD network of 'press agencies' which distributed both attributable research papers and unattributable briefings would serve as the model for one of the CIA's most important clandestine media manipulation operations.
In 1965, the International Organisations Division of the CIA decided to use its intellectual front group, the Congress for Cultural Freedom, to create a new propaganda outlet, a press agency called Forum World Features. This CIA features service, which at its peak supplied over 150 newspapers worldwide, would be run - from its launch in 1966 until its exposure in 1974 - by Brian Crozier. Whilst still Editor of the Economist Foreign Report, Crozier had already provided articles for the CCF journal Encounter as well as working on commission for the IRD for who he "transformed a thick folder of IRD documents into a short book" later published under the title Neo-Colonialism as part of a series called Background Books. After his departure from the Economist in February 1964, Crozier accepted a part-time consultancy for the IRD, advising departments and writing research papers. A few weeks later, Crozier was contacted by the CCF who offered him the job of taking over the CCF's features service and commercialising its output. Tied up with the IRD consultancy and other contracts, Crozier refused but accepted a second more limited commission: to tour South America and report on how the CCF could improve the distribution of the Spanish-language version of their magazine, Encounter. Concerned by Crozier's involvement with a CIA front, his MI6 contacts invited Crozier to MI6 headquarters upon his return in November 1964 and commissioned him to write an extensive background report on Sino-Soviet subversion in the Third World; a sanitised version of the report would be published in 1966 as part of the Background Books series under the title The Struggle for the Third World (54).
In May 1965, Crozier finally accepted the post of Director of the CCF features service, Forum World Features, and Crozier started at FWF that July. Initial control of FWF ran via two CIA officers, CCF President Michael Josselson, and FWF auditor "Charles Johnson". The legal and financial infrastructure for FWF was provided by one of the CIA's "quiet channels", millionaire John Hay Whitney, a wartime member of the OSS (55), former US Ambassador to Britain during Crozier's time at the Economist and future publisher of the International Herald Tribune. Whitney obligingly registered FWF under his own name as a Delaware corporation with offices in London (56); CIA funding for FWF was channelled through Kern House Enterprises, a publishing firm run by Whitney. For a while, wrangles between Crozier and the CCF continued about FWF's independence from the CCF; Crozier eventually ensured complete separation of FWF from the CCF and direct control via a CIA case officer he calls "Ray Walters". Walters brought in an office manager, Cecil Eprile, and FWF opened its doors on 1st January 1966.
Crozier was however absent for much of 1966, researching a biography of Franco in Spain. An interview with the Caudillo won Crozier high level access within the Falangist government and particularly with Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Franco's Minister for Information and Tourism from 1962 to 1969 when he would be dismissed and replaced by Opus Dei's Alfredo Sánchez Bella, co-founder of CEDI with Otto von Habsburg. Long networked with the European Right, Fraga would become a key Spanish partner in the Cercle complex and a leading conservative politician in the post-Franco era (57)*.
It was also in Madrid – in Franco's waiting room - that Crozier met one of the future main backers of the UK counter-subversion lobby: Frank Rockwell Barnett who since 1962 had been running the New York-based National Strategy Information Center (NSIC) with the assistance of his Director of Studies, Frank N. Trager. Barnett had had long experience in Cold War propaganda, having served from 1958 to 1962 as Program Director of the Institute for American Strategy. Barnett's colleagues in the IAS were IAS Administrative Director and Air Force Major-General Edward Lansdale and Colonel William Kintner. Lansdale had been a CIA advisor to French counter-insurgency operations in Vietnam in 1953, then serving as Head of the Saigon Military Mission from 1954-57, a period which spanned the disasterous defeat of French forces at Điện Biên Phủ, the July 1954 Geneva Accords which ended the First Indochina War and partitioned Vietnam, and the rigging of the October 1955 referendum in the South which installed the Catholic strongman Ngô Đình Diệm as President of the Republic of Vietnam. Returning to the US in 1957, Lansdale then worked as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, coordinating the CIA's Operation Mongoose to overthrow Fidel Castro until his official retirement in 1963; he would nonetheless return to serve in the American Embassy in Saigon from 1965 to 1968. As for Kintner, he worked as a Department of Defense planning officer and liaison to the CIA for eleven years before retiring from the US military in 1961. Kintner was then appointed Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania where he ran the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a career interrupted by service as American Ambassador to Thailand from 1973 to 1975 during the height of the Vietnam War.
The IAS had its origins in the American Security Council (ASC), founded in 1955 by General Robert Wood, pre-Pearl Harbor Chairman of the isolationist America First Committee, together with ex-FBI man John M. Fisher who became the ASC Executive Secretary and later Chairman of the ASC Board. From 1955 to 1961, the ASC organised a series of annual "Military-Industrial Conferences"; the IAS was founded as the response of the Military-Industrial Conference of 1958 to a National Security Council Directive the same year recommending that "the military be used to reinforce the Cold War effort".
The IAS became the vehicle for the National Security Council's propaganda campaign and ran into controversy in 1961 for its political indoctrination of the military and its use of active-service military personnel for its foreign policy propaganda in civilian forums. The influence of the ASC and IAS over the American political process became so great that outgoing President Eisenhower gave a specific public warning about this "military-industrial complex" in his farewell speech in January 1961. Further details of IAS activities were published in the March 1961 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and in August 1961 the IAS was denounced directly to newly-elected President Kennedy by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Senator William J. Fulbright in his Memorandum on Propaganda Activities of Military Personnel Directed at the Public (58)*.
No doubt due to the uncomfortably high profile acquired by the IAS, Barnett left the institute in 1962 to found the NSIC together with wartime OSS veteran William Casey, Reagan's future campaign manager and his first Director of the CIA. The new group rapidly expanded its network of influence, particularly focusing on the university system, as Casey explained: "As a founding Director of the National Strategy Information Center, I supported the establishment of chairs and professorships in national security on 200 campuses throughout the United States" (59)*.
During their 1966 meeting in Madrid, Barnett invited Crozier to come over to the United States once his Franco research was over. The visit would not occur until 1968 but would ensure substantial backing for Crozier's future ventures. Soon after Crozier returned from Spain, his previous insistence on a complete separation of FWF from the CCF in early 1966 was vindicated. In March 1967, the American magazine Ramparts exposed covert CIA funding of a series of organisations. This revelation was compounded by an article by Thomas Braden, head of the CCF's parent body, the International Organisations Division of the CIA, which linked the CCF to the CIA. Despite the attention devoted to the CCF, FWF prospered and by the 1970s had added a Spanish service followed by French and Chinese, becoming one of the CIA's main covert propaganda outlets which would run for eight years before its exposure in 1974. In reflection of FWF's importance, Crozier recalls flying to Washington and Langley three or four times a year in the early seventies for briefings with Cord Meyer and the Covert Action department (60).
Crozier's operation with FWF would considerably expand with the advent of 1968 which brought student revolt and a major change in intelligence and security service tasking: subversion from the New Left. The IRD asked Crozier to prepare a briefing paper on the New Left which was circulated in 1969 under the title The New Apostles of Violence; a condensed version was marketed by FWF and placed with the Washington Post and the London Times. For the IRD, Crozier then expanded his paper "on the basis of a vast supply of classified documents" into a book entitled The Future of Communist Power which "incorporated, with slight amendments, the paper on political violence I had prepared for IRD" (61).
As Crozier noted: "In this increasingly threatening situation, I saw a serious gap. Existing institutes or research centres (or 'think tanks' as the Americans called them), however worthy, were either too academic, or too neutral, or too heavily concentrated on hardware strategy [...] they failed to take account of the more dangerous Soviet strategy of take-overs by 'non-military' means, such as subversion and terrorism [...] The need, as I saw it, was for a research centre which would produce studies on the ever-widening range of groups and forces bringing violence, chaos and disruption into our societies, but always in the context of Soviet strategy"(62). Crozier therefore set up a low-key features service within FWF called the Current Affairs Research Services Centre in 1968. CARSC started publication of a series of monthly monographs on conflict, the first one appearing in December 1969. Crozier records that "the Agency had permitted me to produce the first five Conflict Studies under CARSC as a commercial imprint" using the FWF address; the sixth would go out in January 1970 under the name of Crozier's new venture, the Institute for the Study of Conflict (63).
Kern House provided the start-up capital for the ISC, and Crozier functioned as Director of both FWF and the ISC. Several of FWF's research staff and the FWF library were absorbed into the ISC; FWF then paid the ISC the sum of £2,000 for use of the library it had once owned. Oil companies put up seed capital: first was Shell, who put up £5,000 a year for three years, and British Petroleum £4,000 for two years (64)*. Then the real money came in, thanks to the Agency and via an old American friend: Frank Barnett of the NSIC (65)*. Having met Barnett in Madrid in 1966, Crozier visited him in New York in 1968. When the ISC was then set up in 1969-70, the NSIC provided substantial assistance. Apart from a guaranteed regular purchase of each issue of the Conflict Studies, Barnett's NSIC also provided the salary for one of the ISC researchers and footed the printing and publicity bill for the ISC's annual publication, the Annual of Power and Conflict (66).
Above all, beyond NSIC funding, Barnett could provide contacts, arranging a meeting with Dan McMichael, who would remain a true friend to Barnett's NSIC for more than fifteen years, serving on its Advisory Council until at least 1985. McMichael was administrator of the trust funds of the Scaife family, major shareholders in Gulf Oil. Barnett persuaded Richard Mellon Scaife ("Dick Scaife as he liked to be called – a tall, fair-haired man with film-star good looks", as Crozier puts it) to provide $100,000 a year for the ISC as well as taking over the FWF subsidies from Jock Whitney. According to Crozier: "From that moment on, the ISC took off" (67). Between 1973 and 1981, Dick Scaife would donate a total of $6 million to the NSIC and their London friends at the ISC.
The Foreign Office's covert propaganda arm IRD also contributed to the setting-up of the new Institute; indeed, "IRD became the midwife of the ISC" (68)*. When seeking initial funding to set up the ISC in January 1970, Crozier wrote to a powerful friend, Sir Peter Wilkinson, a senior veteran of the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE) and former head of the IRD later to become Coordinator for Security and Intelligence in the Cabinet Office. Wilkinson arranged for a retired Major-General, Fergus A. H. Ling, to act as a fundraiser for the ISC in military circles; Ling would serve as the ISC's Financial Director before becoming its Defence Services Consultant. This early assistance for the ISC by a former head of the IRD was only the beginning; almost all the key ISC staff were former MI6, IRD, CCF or FWF personnel:
-Brian Crozier was Director of both FWF and the ISC, and a consultant to the IRD.
- Iain Hamilton, a former Editor of the Spectator, replaced Crozier as Managing Editor of FWF before moving to the ISC as its Editorial Director. Both Crozier and Hamilton were fully aware of the CIA's role in supporting FWF and the ISC.
- Michael Goodwin, the ISC's Administrative Director, had been involved with the CCF since January 1951 when he was a founding member and Honorary Secretary of the British Society for Cultural Freedom, subsidised by the CCF to the tune of £700 a month deposited in Goodwin's account. As the editor of the journal The Twentieth Century and a contract employee of the IRD, Goodwin was considered by the CCF's Paris office to be "a vital contact", and as such the CCF bailed out Goodwin's indebted journal in 1951 with a lump sum payment of some £3,000 and a monthly subsidy of £150. As for the British Society, it had gotten off to a shaky start and was soon riven by dissensions centred on Goodwin; he resigned in January 1952, and worked for the IRD from 1952 to 1956 as editor of the Bellman Books series for Ampersand, the IRD's publishing outlet. Goodwin's post as Secretary of the British Society was then filled by the IRD's John Clews (69)*.
- Nigel Clive, an MI6 officer from 1941 to 1969 who served in Greece, Israel and Iraq before being appointed head of the MI6 Special Political Action section created to reproduce in Egypt the success of the 1953 MI6/CIA coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. As such, Clive worked closely with the then head of MI6 Middle Eastern operations G. K. Young in planning the 1956 invasion of the Suez Canal Zone following its nationalisation by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in July of that year. Clive went on to serve as MI6 head of station in Tunisia and Algeria before returning to London in 1966 to become head of the IRD until 1969. He then worked as Advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD from 1970 to 1980, during which time he wrote Conflict Studies for the ISC, later acting as the ISC's editorial consultant from 1982 on (70).
- Kenneth Benton, an MI6 officer from 1937 on, served in Italy and Spain (under Philby) before becoming MI6 Head of Recruitment from 1956 to 1962. He then worked as head of station in Peru and Brazil and rose to become Deputy Director for Latin America before his retirement from MI6 in 1968, joining the ISC whilst their Conflict Studies were still published by the Current Affairs Research Services Centre of FWF.
- David Lynn Price, a regular author of ISC Conflict Studies, first worked for the IRD before moving to FWF in 1969 and the ISC in 1970.
- Peter Janke, the ISC's senior research officer and specialist on Southern Africa, had also previously worked for the IRD.
- Patrick 'Paddy' Honey, a Vietnam expert and former colleague of Crozier on the Economist Foreign Report, wrote for both the IRD and the ISC.
- Tom Little, another Economist journalist, was a central figure in an IRD front, the Arab News Agency, before writing Conflict Studies for the ISC (71).
Another important staff member of the ISC who would become Crozier's inseparable partner throughout the 1970s and 1980s was Robert Moss, like Crozier born in Australia. Educated at the University of Canberra and the London School of Economics, Moss first met Crozier in 1969 when Moss came to see him with an introduction from his father-in-law Geoffrey Fairbairn, a founding member of the ISC Council (72). A central figure in the ISC and many later Crozier ventures, Moss would follow Crozier's precedent in becoming Editor of the Economist Foreign Report from 1974 to 1980 and would serve as one of the CIA's main disinformation assets, particularly in the campaign to destabilise Chile's Salvador Allende in 1973.
Besides its staff's extensive links to MI6, the IRD and the CIA's FWF, the ISC also had on its Council senior figures from MI5 and the military intelligence community: Leonard Schapiro, ISC Chairman from 1970 on, had been a war-time member of MI5 and an advisor to MI6's G. K. Young some time between 1953 and 1956, when Young as Director of Requirements was reorganising MI6's chaotic information collation and analysis methods (73). In the 1970s, Schapiro held the Chair of Soviet Studies at the London School of Economics; he would later be a foreign policy advisor to Thatcher.
A top military intelligence officer was Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly, from 1972 to 1975 the Director-General of Intelligence at the MoD and a member of MI5's recruitment panel, who would later serve on the ISC Council, as would Sir Edward Peck, former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 1968 to 1970 and thereafter UK Permanent Representative to the NATO North Atlantic Council until 1975, a post then filled until 1979 by later Cercle member Sir John Killick, detailed in the Postscript.
Two leading counter-insurgency experts would also join the ISC Council, the first being Sir Robert Thompson, a key figure in the British Army's campaign during the Malayan Emergency of the late 1950s, serving as Deputy Secretary of Defence for Malaya in 1957 and Permanent Secretary for Defence from 1959 to 1961. From 1961 to 1965, the year in which he received his knighthood, Thompson would be the main architect of early American counter-insurgency strategy in Vietnam as Head of the British Advisory Mission (74)*. Thompson's books on his experiences of counterinsurgency in Malaya and in Vietnam were published by Forum World Features.
The second leading counter-insurgency expert was another old Malaya hand, Major-General Sir Richard Clutterbuck, who was Senior Army Instructor at the Royal College of Defence Studies when he joined the ISC Council (75)*. The early ISC Council also included Brigadier W. F. K. Thompson, a powerful voice in the British Press as military correspondent of the Daily Telegraph from 1959 to 1976. Another senior military figure who would later join the ISC Council was General Sir Harry Tuzo, General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland from 1971 to 1973 and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe from 1976 to 1978.
Through these extensive contacts with the British security establishment, the ISC gained a unique role as an unofficial (deniable) but powerful propaganda tool, which could put over the intelligence community's views to the Press under the guise of a 'neutral' academic research body. It could also take over some of the networking with private bodies that the IRD had recently abandoned. As Crozier reports, by the end of the 1960s, the IRD had "decided to sever all relations with two major continental networks with which I had been associated. One was the Hague-based Interdoc group. The other was admittedly more controversial. This was a private but highly effective French group controlled by a friend of mine, the late Georges Albertini. [...] In return for all information and the contacts he gave me, I made sure that he received the IRD output, of which he made good use. [...] There was no question of restoring these official contacts, however, once they had been broken. In any case, Interdoc's value had decreased sharply after the advent of Willy Brandt as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in September 1969. As for Albertini, whom I met frequently in Paris or London, I made sure both that he received IRD material likely to be useful to him, and that I made good use of his own information and influence" (76). Albertini's influence would indeed be of use to Crozier, particularly after the presidential election of June 1969 when Albertini's old schoolmate and Bilderberg member Georges Pompidou replaced Général de Gaulle.
The ISC also developed excellent relations with four private anti-union blacklisting groups: the Economic League, Common Cause, Aims of Industry and the Industrial Research and Information Service (IRIS). In 1970, whilst the ISC was being established, Crozier had edited the anti-communist anthology We Will Bury You, published by Common Cause. Alongside Neil Elles of Common Cause and John Dettmer of the Economic League, the authors included Charles Ellis of Interdoc and two founding members of the ISC, Crozier and Brigadier W. F. K. Thompson, the latter serving as Interdoc Chairman from 1971 on. This early joint venture was the first in a series of collaborative efforts throughout the 1970s and 1980s; Aims of Industry and IRIS, in particular, would work with the ISC during their countersubversion campaigns.
The Monday Club and SIF
Besides its intelligence and industrial sponsors, the ISC also gained considerable political support, particularly in the favourable climate that followed the election victory of the Conservatives under Edward Heath in June 1970. The main political group echoing the ISC's concerns on Communist subversion was the Monday Club, a ginger group within the Conservative Party which included many Members of Parliament, several of whom were veteran British intelligence operatives.
The Monday Club had been set up within the Conservative party in 1961 to bring together defendants of South Africa and White Rhodesia who opposed the new decolonisation policy announced by Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in his "winds of change" speech. One of the earliest members of the Monday Club, joining in 1962, was the Catholic traditionalist Sir John Biggs-Davison, a Conservative MP from 1955 until his death in 1988. From at least 1965 on, Biggs-Davison served on the PEU Central Council alongside Vice-President Otto von Habsburg and the PEU International Events Secretary Florimond Damman, the future Belgian keystone of the Cercle complex, described in the next chapter. A stalwart in the Monday Club, Biggs-Davison would serve as its President from 1974 to 1976 (77).
Another Monday Club member with links to the Cercle complex – indeed a future Chairman of the Cercle Pinay itself - was Julian Amery. Amery was a prominent MP on the Conservative Right with a long history of extensive intelligence contacts. Having served in the Balkans with MI6's Section D and the SOE during the war, he was one of the major figures who pushed MI6 in the immediate post-war period to adopt its disastrous plan "to liberate the countries within the Soviet orbit by any means short of war", notably the catastrophic attempts to "set the Soviet Union ablaze" by landing armed bands of émigrés in Albania, Latvia, the Caucasus and the Ukraine. In June 1950, Amery attended the founding conference in Berlin of the CIA-funded CCF and served on its International Steering Committee; at the time, Amery was also one of the leading members of the Central and Eastern Europe Commission of Retinger's CIA-funded European Movement. Amery would also sit in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly from 1950 to 1957 and on the Central Committee of the Paneuropean Union in the mid-1950s (78)*.
As for his parliamentary career, Amery was elected as a Conservative MP in 1950, marrying Harold Macmillan's daughter the same year. He went on to hold several government posts under his father-in-law, firstly as Under-Secretary of State at the War Office in 1957 and the Colonial Office in 1958, before being promoted to the post of Secretary of State for Air from 1960 to 1962; he would then serve in the Cabinet as Minister for Air until the Conservatives' electoral defeat by Labour's Harold Wilson in 1964. Amery had joined the Monday Club soon after its creation in 1961; he was the guest of honour at the Club's annual dinner in 1963. In 1966, he would lose his parliamentary seat but regain it in 1969, remaining MP until 1992, when he was created a life peer. By the time of the ISC's creation in 1970, the political pendulum had just swung back to the Right. New Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath appointed Amery Housing Minister, where he served until 1972 when he became Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (the cover department for MI6), holding the post for a crucial two years until Heath's defeat by Wilson in 1974 (79)*.
Another Monday Club member was Amery's Private Secretary as Housing Minister, Winston Churchill, an MP from 1970 until 1997. Churchill's father Randolph had been one of the founding members of the SAS and a life-long intimate of SAS co-founder David Stirling, who would contribute to the counter-subversion campaign of the mid-1970s by founding the citizens' militia GB75 in 1974.
One of Amery's oldest political allies in the Monday Club was Sir Stephen Hastings, an Old Etonian born in Rhodesia. During the war, Hastings had served with Stirling in North Africa as one of the founding members of the SAS before moving to SOE and fighting in France. In 1950, he joined MI6 and was stationed first in Helsinki until 1954 and then in Paris until 1958, reporting on the French side of the Suez invasion and de Gaulle's rise to power. His colleague and close friend at the MI6 station in Paris was Christopher Phillpotts, a future Head of MI6 Counter-Espionage. In 1958, Hastings was then posted to Cyprus, serving alongside Peter Wright of MI5 who would work extensively with Phillpotts in the molehunts of the late 1960s. Disgusted with the outcome of the Suez operation, Hastings left MI6 in 1960 and was elected as Conservative MP; his first appearance in the House of Commons was sponsored by Amery, then Aviation Minister. Hastings then joined Amery in the Monday Club as one of the Club's eleven MPs in 1963. In 1965, Amery and Hastings campaigned with newly elected Conservative MP Cranley Onslow against the cancellation of the nuclear-capable TSR2 strike aircraft. Onslow shared Hastings' and Amery's intelligence connections, having served in MI6 until 1960; he would work briefly for the IRD before being elected to Parliament in 1964, remaining MP until 1997.
Another early – and key - member of the Monday Club from 1964 on was Geoffrey Stewart-Smith, later a Conservative MP from 1970 to 1974. In 1962, Stewart-Smith had founded the Foreign Affairs Circle, the British section of WACL until 1974, which produced the hardline anti-Soviet journal East-West Digest, a fortnightly publication sent free of charge to all MPs. Stewart-Smith's journal East-West Digest would appear to be one of the outlets created around Interdoc following the foundation in the late fifties of the Deutsche Vereinigung für Ost-West Beziehungen in Germany, the Oost-West Instituut in Holland, the Schweizer Ost-Institut in Switzerland and Albertini's Est et Ouest magazine in France. Stewart-Smith would later create the Foreign Affairs Publishing Company (FAPC), which continued the East-West Digest and published many works by Crozier and other figures on the British Right. As well as distributing the publications of the four British anti-union groups Aims of Industry, Common Cause, the Economic League and IRIS, the FAPC also acted as agent for the SOI press in Switzerland, SOI-Verlag, and for Interdoc in Holland (80)*.
Last and very definitely not least amongst the Monday Club members was George Kennedy Young, a veteran MI6 coup-master closely involved in MI6's Albanian landings in the immediate post-war period, strongly supported by Amery. Unfortunately for all concerned, the top MI6 officer in Washington liaising with the CIA for the operation was Kim Philby, who promptly blew it to the KGB. Young was later a key figure in Project Ajax, the coup against Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, the year that Young would be promoted to Deputy Chief of MI6. Young also held the post of MI6 Director of Requirements and re-organised MI6 intelligence-gathering in the 1950s before taking early retirement in 1961 and joining Kleinwort Benson, the merchant bankers.
Young was brought into the Monday Club by Biggs-Davison in 1967, and was largely responsible for the Monday Club's rapid lurch to the extreme Right, particularly on the issues of immigration and subversion. In 1969, the Monday Club published Young's Who Goes Home, an anti-immigration pamphlet that stirred up controversy due to its call for mandatory repatriation of black people. Besides running the Halt Immigration Now Campaign (HINC) from within the Monday Club, from 1967 to 1969 Young chaired the Monday Club Action Fund, which he used to pay for his supporters to work in Monday Club regional offices. In short, as a trained intelligence officer, Young planted his cadres throughout the Monday Club's national and regional groups; an ally of Young's, Bee Carthew, controlled the administrative structure of the Monday Club as Meetings Secretary (81).
The Monday Club Subversion Committee was chaired by another associate of Young's, Ian Greig, one of the four founding members of the Monday Club in January 1961 and a close partner of the ISC and Crozier throughout the 1970s. In January 1970, Greig's Committee organised a Monday Club seminar on subversion, at which the panel included Greig, Young, Charles Lyons of the FBI and the ISC's Sir Robert Thompson. Young and Greig's preoccupation with subversion was certainly shared by the main speaker at that Monday Club seminar: General Giovanni De Lorenzo, former head of SIFAR and of the Carabinieri and main actor in the aborted 1964 coup attempt, Plan Solo.
De Lorenzo, now a monarchist MP close to the MSI, had been invited by Young, who was an expert on Italian fascist policing methods. Posted to Rome just after the war, Young had dismantled the German and Italian intelligence networks for MI6 in close cooperation with his OSS X-2 counterpart from 1945 to 1947, James Jesus Angleton, later the legendary (and notorious) chief of CIA Counter-Intelligence from 1954 until his dismissal in December 1974, and thereafter a powerful focus of opposition to restriction of the CIA until his death in 1987.
De Lorenzo's speech to the Monday Club came midway between the beginning of the strategy of tension in April 1969 and the Borghese coup in December 1970; at the time of his visit, De Lorenzo was also a key figure in an anti-communist resistance network within the Carabinieri and the secret services codenamed Rosa dei Venti [Compass Rose], which had been set up after the failure of Plan Solo. The Rosa dei Venti group, a major component in the Italian Gladio network, would later be implicated in a further coup planned for the spring of 1973 (82).
As the same time as he was taking over the Monday Club, G. K. Young was tightening his grip on another right-wing group, the Society for Individual Freedom, formed by the fusion of two other groups in 1942. By 1970, Young had succeeded in becoming Chairman of SIF; the remaining posts on the SIF National Executive were filled by Young's allies, such as Biggs-Davison and later Conservative MP Gerald Howarth, SIF General Secretary from 1969 to 1971, member of the Monday Club National Executive Council in 1971-72 and also a member of Young's Monday Club Immigration Committee. Other associates of Young's on the SIF National Executive included Michael Ivens, Director of the anti-union outfit Aims of Industry from 1971 to 1992, and Ross McWhirter; Ross and his brother Norris were veteran figures on the British ultra-right and editors of the Guinness Book of Records. Another member of the SIF National Executive was Monday Clubber Sir John Rodgers, Conservative MP from 1950 to 1979 who became SIF President in the summer of 1970. A CEDI regular since at least 1963, Rodgers had served as CEDI International President from 1965-67. Like his fellow SIF and Monday Club colleague Biggs-Davison, Rodgers would later become a Life Member of the AESP (83).
A final SIF National Executive member was the Conservative MP Sir Frederic Bennett, a close associate of SIF President Sir John Rodgers as Chairman of the SIF Parliamentary Committee. Bennett was Senior Director of the Kleinwort Benson bank alongside G. K. Young, and also a Director at Commercial Union Assurance, where he worked with another retired MI6 officer with long experience in the Middle East, Ellis Morgan. Bennett would later assist Young in creating the 'private army' Unison in 1974-76. Besides being a close ally of Rodgers and Young within SIF, Bennett was also a stalwart member of the Bilderberg Group, attending fourteen annual Bilderberg conferences between 1963 and 1984 (84)*. Bennett's significance within the Bilderberg Group can be judged by the fact that Bennett was chosen as host for their 1977 conference, crucial for the restoration of the Bilderbergers' tarnished reputation after the Lockheed bribe scandal which led to the cancellation of their 1976 conference and the resignation in disgrace of the longstanding Bilderberg President, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The conference, organised in the UK to commemorate the Jubilee, was held in Bennett's constituency of Torquay in April (85)*.
In 1970-71, SIF was active in opposing demonstrations by the Stop The Seventy Tour campaign chaired by Young Liberals Peter Hain to protest against sporting tours in the UK by South African cricket and rugby teams: one photograph illustrating a SIF action shows Young, Howarth, Biggs-Davison and McWhirter carrying an urn of "ashes of English liberty". In 1971, SIF set up the Hain Prosecution Fund which raised £20,000; its Chairman was Ross McWhirter, its Treasurer Howarth. A valuable partner of SIF in support of their actions against anti-apartheid demonstrators was the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS). Gordon Winter, one of BOSS's key agents in London working under journalistic cover (including seven years for Crozier's FWF), had regular meetings with Howarth to coordinate BOSS/SIF collaboration. Winter was cautious about SIF however, as his BOSS handler had informed him that SIF was a British intelligence front run by two senior British intelligence operatives - Young and McWhirter. On Young, the information was certainly right.
As a journalist, Winter had attended all of the matchs during the Springboks' tour with the task of photographing the demonstrators for BOSS files. Winter then offered Howarth over one thousand mug-shots of the demonstrators as well as his 60-page report for BOSS on the tour and on Hain's anti-apartheid campaign. Winter also offered to stand as the main witness in SIF's private prosecution of Hain, but withdrew at the last moment on orders from BOSS, who wanted him to maintain his cover for a much more important task - the ultimately successful attempt to smear Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe (86). BOSS did not give up on Hain however, using a double in an attempt to frame him for a bank robbery in Putney in October 1975. A month before Hain's trial, he escaped a letter-bomb posted from Vienna; the bank robbery charge against him was ultimately dismissed (87)*.
Florimond Damman and the AESP
At the same time as the IRD and FWF were organising their new Institute under Brian Crozier, Jean Violet was working to provide a new logistical basis for the Cercle Pinay and for the political alliance of Pinay, Habsburg, Strauß and Sánchez Bella. The man entrusted with this crucial support role was a longstanding Belgian contact of Habsburg's - Florimond Damman. Damman was a key Belgian linkman, representing together with a few close friends the Belgian end of almost all the international right-wing networks - PEU, CEDI and WACL. Damman had been a close associate of Habsburg's since at least 1962, when Damman served as Secretary of the Belgian PEU section, Action pour l'Europe Nouvelle et l'Expansion Atlantique (AENA), before rising to become Chairman of the International Events Committee on the Central Council of the PEU in 1966 alongside PEU Vice-Presidents Habsburg and Biggs-Davison, Brussels-based PEU International Secretary and former Counsellor at the EEC Vittorio Pons and Pons's deputy and close associate of Damman, Belgian Baron Bernard de Marcken de Merken.
Damman's chairmanship of the PEU International Events Committee reflected his ceaseless energy in networking amongst the European Right – he would ultimately die of apoplexy at the height of his powers. One particular form this dynamism took early on was the organisation of banquets, Charlemagne Grand Dinners as Damman called them, to bring together representatives and personalities from the fragmented paneuropean movements. Starting in the early 1960s, these dinners were organised in Brussels or Aachen by Damman and the Belgian PEU section. Together with CEDI Belgium, the AENA hosted a March 1963 Charlemagne Grand Dinner to welcome Spanish Information Minister Manuel Fraga Iribarne, and Damman's renamed Conseil Belge pour l'Union Paneuropéenne (CBUP) would hold the IX Charlemagne Grand Dinner in Brussels in January 1966 in the presence of "His Imperial and Royal [KuK] Highness Archduke Otto von Habsburg". By 1969, the Belgian PEU group would again change name to become the Mouvement d'Action pour l'Union Européenne (MAUE), but would still be run by Damman who liaised with the Habsburg-Sánchez Bella group CEDI as a close personal friend of Sánchez Bella (88)*.
The Belgian section of CEDI was run by Damman's close associate Paul Vankerkhoven, who served on CEDI's International Council and also acted as Damman's Vice-President within the PEU section MAUE. The two men would develop a series of right-wing groups, the earliest being the Belgian section of the Ligue Internationale de la Liberté (LIL), founded by Vankerkhoven in 1966, soon to be the Belgian chapter of WACL. In April 1969, Vankerkhoven also set up a select right-wing club, the Cercle des Nations, which became a frequent meeting place for members of the PEU, CEDI and WACL (89). In April 1970, for example, Damman and Vankerkhoven would organise a Cercle des Nations reception in honour of the Greek colonels. Another collaborative venture for Damman and Vankerkhoven was the joint organisation of the 1970 Brussels Congress of the Anti-Bolshevik Block of Nations (ABN), an anti-communist group of mainly Ukrainian exiles financed by the CIA and BND, strongly supported by Strauß's CSU; its headquarters were in Munich (90)*.
Of greatest interest though for the Cercle complex was another club, set up by Florimond Damman in January 1969, the Académie Européenne des Sciences Politiques (AESP). Damman was Secretary-for-life of the AESP; Vankerkhoven served as a member of the AESP organising core, the Permanent Delegation. The AESP would continue the tradition of organising the Charlemagne Grand Dinners and act as a right-wing clearing house, as Damman described in his note 229:
- "Everywhere in Europe, there are people who share our ideology and who are unable to contribute to it because they are, and above all, they feel, isolated. The same applies to the small, restricted and regional groups which are jealous of their independence and their individuality, and we have to allow them that. We should not impose a line of conduct on them, we should suggest certain initiatives to them, but also find a way of bringing together their leaders on a individual basis, setting up permanent liaison between them without giving them the impression that they are linked, consult them for certain missions and make them believe that they have taken the initiative in giving us their approval" (91).
Besides bringing together the fragmented forces of national right-wing groups, another intention behind the fledgling Academy was to absorb the other transnational European right-wing movements, particularly CEDI and the PEU, the latter being based in Brussels since 1965. Whilst these two organisations would continue to exist, the AESP would act as a forum for a meeting of minds between fractions within both international groups. This goal of integrating the movements working for European union was in part due to a latent power struggle between political positions and personalities in European federalism.
Within the PEU-AESP complex, the struggle was one which opposed PEU founder and 'dove' Comte Coudenhove Kalergi with CEDI founder and 'hawk' Archduke Otto von Habsburg. The 1969 creation of the AESP may well have been initially intended as a means of stripping the PEU of its more influential members and sidelining Coudenhove Kalergi, a move rendered unnecessary by Coudenhove Kalergi's death on 27th July 1972, which cleared the way for Habsburg to become President of all three organisations - the PEU, CEDI and the AESP. In 1969, however, it seems that Coudenhove Kalergi could not be ousted immediately - his prestige could do much to gain acceptance for the new Academy, and so it was decided to at least start up the AESP with Coudenhove Kalergi as honorary President.
Before the latent power struggle between Coudenhove Kalergi and Otto von Habsburg within both the PEU and the AESP had been resolved, Damman had considered setting up another group to replace the AESP if Coudenhove Kalergi would not give way to Habsburg. Damman had already started the groundwork for a new group, CREC, to be run by Damman and a new ally, Ralf Guérin-Sérac, leader of Aginter Presse, the Lisbon-based revolutionary fascist group founded in 1966.
It is possible that Guérin-Sérac saw the new group CREC as an opportunity to provide Aginter Presse's international fascist contact network, Ordre et Tradition, with links to top conservative politicians, a bridge between the revolutionary fascist underground and 'respectable' public figures, whilst at the same time pursuing the strategy of tension that Aginter Presse had developed. After an initial contact in late 1968, Guérin-Sérac came to Brussels in January 1969 as Damman's guest to develop contacts amongst the elite conservative circles Damman frequented. Damman started by inviting Guérin-Sérac to the AESP's XII Charlemagne Grand Dinner on 27th January 1969, just four months before the Milan bomb blast that launched the Italian strategy of tension. Amongst the illustrious guests were Habsburg and serving Belgian Prime Minister Gaston Eyskens; one of Guérin-Sérac's dinner companions at table G was the Belgian neo-fascist Emile Lecerf, later to become notorious in connection with rumours of a planned coup in 1973 and a strategy of tension in Belgium in the 1980s.
Guérin-Sérac soon became involved in the internal power struggle within the AESP between Count Richard Coudenhove Kalergi and Archduke Otto von Habsburg. In a letter to Damman on Ordre et Tradition headed paper dated 26th March 1969, Guérin-Sérac gave the following description of the power struggle between Coudenhove Kalergi and Habsburg three months after the AESP’s creation:
- "Dear Mr. Damman,
- Thank you for your kind letters of the 19th and 20th March which bring me here at the extreme tip of the continent [Portugal] the reviving spirit of European aspirations from the very heart of Europe!
- If I may give my opinion, I also feel that the maximum effort should be given to the Academy and the College [of Young European Leaders, an AESP youth offshoot], because it is from here that the most active and dynamic elements will come. However, and you are right on this as well, so as to create the necessary climate, we must contact a wider and more diversified elite. Removing the Count and replacing him with the Archduke is a solution, but if it turns out to be impossible, I feel it is logical to think of setting up another organisation" (92).
By the summer of 1969, Guérin-Sérac and Damman had concluded an "agreement in principle" to found the new group, CREC, which would try and reconcile two conflicting positions: the traditional Right, anti-communist but not anti-parliamentarian, and the revolutionary extreme Right represented by Aginter Presse. Guérin-Sérac and Damman then met at least twice more, as detailed in a progress report written by Guérin-Sérac on 19th May 1969 and sent out by Aginter Presse to their correspondents:
- "We should take stock of the progress made in our effort to set up CREC. I must admit that little progress has been made since the beginning of the year, i.e. since the agreement in principle on the two syntheses [...] the major reasons for this delay are:
- - the difficulties suffered by the group of our Italian friends as a result of the chaotic and revolutionary situation in their country;
- - the centrifugal tendencies of the French group, whose reconversion has not yet been completed.
- [...] We should not however give up. In a Franco-Belgian preparatory meeting held in Brussels in March, we agreed on the following work programme:
- A - Definition of basic political positions with regard to European union.
- B - Definition of goals and strategy.
- C - Organisation of a structure for CREC: bases and statutes.
- D - Preparation of a political plan and a psychological plan to be implemented by CREC.
- E - Organisation of a financial committee.
- In the meeting in Vienna at the beginning of this month, it was suggested we drew up a questionnaire so as to facilitate the definition, classification and alignment of the political ideas held by the various groups active on the subject of European union. Please find annexed a questionnaire covering paragraphs A and B of the above plan.
- I would suggest you send me your answers and any points you would like to add. I will then prepare a summary and if necessary highlight the conflicts or major disagreements and try to find an acceptable compromise with those concerned before finally submitting the conclusions to you" (93).
In this report, Guérin-Sérac refers to the "chaotic and revolutionary situation" in Italy, a climate stoked by the Italian correspondents of Aginter Presse, centred around the Avanguardia Nazionale group under the leadership of Stefano Delle Chiaie. Almost exactly one month after Guérin-Sérac wrote to Damman about CREC in March 1969, the Italian neo-fascists working with Aginter Presse carried out the bomb attack that announced the beginning of the strategy of tension in Italy. The bomb that exploded in the Fiat Pavilion at the Milan Fair on the 25th April 1969 wounded twenty people; by the end of this first year of terror tactics, 149 bomb attacks would occur, as compared to fifty in the four years from 1964 to 1968.
Whether Damman knew of Guérin-Sérac's terrorist connections or not is uncertain, but it is clear that Aginter Presse's neo-fascist terrorists were in contact with conservatives throughout Europe, as Guérin-Sérac explained:
- "Our troop consists of two types of men:
- i) officers who joined us after the fighting in Indo-China or Algeria, and even some who signed on with us after the battle for Korea;
- ii) intellectuals who, during the same period, turned their attention to the study of the techniques of Marxist subversion [...] having created study groups, they shared their experience to try and expose the techniques of Marxist subversion and develop a counter-strategy. Throughout this period, we had systematically forged close ties with like-minded groups that were being set up in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Spain or in Portugal with the aim of forming the nucleus of a truly European league to resist Marxism" (94).
In an 1974 interview, Aginter Presse's key Italian representative, Guido Giannettini, alluded to the contacts between Ordre et Tradition and groups like the AESP and specifically mentioned one of the main contacts for the Academy and for Aginter Presse, Franz Josef Strauß's CSU party (95)*:
- "I passed my information on to some friends in certain milieux of the international Right. They passed me theirs [...] the practical form for this exchange was private bulletins which circulated amongst certain European groups of the Centre-Right [...] such as, for example, the Bavarian CSU party, the French 'geopolitical groups' [Cercle Pinay], and other groups in Belgium [LIL/MAUE/AESP], Switzerland [SOI/ISP], and almost every country in Europe" (96).
Despite Guérin-Sérac's interest in the new group, CREC never got beyond the planning stage. Nonetheless, journalist Serge Dumont who infiltrated the AESP at the time states that contacts between Damman and Guérin-Sérac continued until May 1974 when the Lisbon offices of Aginter Presse were occupied by left-wing soldiers during the Portuguese revolution, blowing the operation's press agency cover (97). There was however one person who would not forget Guérin-Sérac's insurrectionary message - his table companion at Damman's Charlemagne Grand Dinner in January 1969, Belgian neo-fascist Emile Lecerf. In 1973, the names of Lecerf and several eminent members of Damman's Academy would be included in a Gendarmerie report on plans for a coup d'état in Belgium, detailed in a later chapter.
Although the CREC project came to nothing, Damman would soon overcome the internal struggle within the AESP and expand its activities. At a symposium organised by Habsburg in Vienna in May 1969, Damman met Jean Violet (98)*. By October, Violet was looking for a group that could provide an operational framework for the Cercle Pinay, and thought of Damman and his AESP. On 21st October 1969, Violet wrote to Damman saying that he would like to meet him, having been "mandated by President Pinay to carry out a study of European perspectives after the German elections" i.e. Willy Brandt's September election victory.
The meeting took place one week later on 28th October in Brussels, where Violet was accompanied by two of his contacts, the first of whom was Marcel Collet, who had just retired as a director of Euratom. Violet's second companion was certain to ensure a favourable reception from Damman - none other than the International Secretary-General of the Paneuropean Union Vittorio Pons. Over lunch, Violet, Damman, Collet and Pons agreed on a new role for the AESP to act as a forum linking the PEU and CEDI under Habsburg and Sánchez Bella to the Bilderberg Group and Cercle Pinay, represented by Pinay and Violet. The revamped Academy would be run by Damman directed from behind the scenes by Violet and his trio of associates Collet, Father Dubois and François Vallet, an industrialist in pharmaceuticals. Violet announced that he would go to Pöcking, Habsburg's seat just outside Munich, to confer with the Archduke and Strauß about the financing of the AESP.
Within eight months of the Academy's relaunch, the process of interlinking was already well underway, as a membership list dated 21st June 1970 testifies (99). The honorary figurehead of the AESP was PEU founder Coudenhove Kalergi, but the position was only symbolic: as on all future AESP documents, Archduke Otto von Habsburg's name is first on the list of names, whereas Coudenhove Kalergi's name appears only in third place under the letter C. The PEU/CEDI axis was represented by Habsburg, Sánchez Bella and Pons, the Cercle Pinay by Pinay, Violet, Father Dubois, Italian industrialist Carlo Pesenti and Collet.
The operational core of the AESP, the Permanent Delegation, brought together the Belgian sections of the PEU, CEDI and WACL - the duo of Damman and de Marcken represented the PEU Central Council and the Belgian PEU section MAUE, whereas Vankerkhoven was Secretary of both the Belgian LIL chapter within WACL and the Belgian section of CEDI. CEDI's Belgian section was also represented within the AESP by its President, the Chevalier Marcel de Roover, a veteran anticommunist who had played a major part in the early post-war creation of two private anti-communist intelligence services linked to the Belgian Gladio network, Milpol and the Delcourt network. From the late 1950s on, de Roover had represented Belgium in various anti-communist networks that would later become formalised within WACL. He was also one of the earliest Belgians to frequent CEDI: he was appointed CEDI International Treasurer in January 1960 and founded its Belgian section in 1961, serving as its President until his death in 1971. Following de Roover's death, Vankerkhoven would take over Belgian representation within WACL and CEDI, being appointed Secretary-General of CEDI and moving its Belgian office into his Cercle des Nations (100)*.
The most prominent Belgian members of the AESP however were Gaston Eyskens, the serving Belgian Prime Minister from 1968 to 1973, and his immediate predecessor as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1968, Paul Vanden Boeynants from the Parti Social Chrétien (PSC). Vanden Boeynants, or VdB as he is known, would become a national institution in Belgian politics - the Belgian Andreotti, going on to serve as Belgian Defence Minister from 1972 to 1979 and as Prime Minister in 1978-79. He first entered politics at the age of 29 in the ranks of Retinger's European Movement. Before being elected to Parliament, he was one of the five Belgian representatives at the second conference of the Union of European Federalists, the most powerful group within the European Movement, held in Rome in November 1948 shortly after massive intervention by the CIA to ward off an electoral victory by the Socialist-Communist Popular Democratic Front in the April 1948 elections. As we will see below, one key Italian politician in this anti-communist propaganda effort would also figure amongst the AESP's members in 1970.
Through the UEF, Vanden Boeynants made a valuable contact in the person of the UEF Treasurer, the Belgian banker Pierre Bonvoisin, who in 1952 would be one of the founding members of the Bilderberg Group with Antoine Pinay. When VdB was Belgian Defence Minister in the 1970s, he would show his gratitude to Pierre Bonvoisin by appointing Bonvoisin's son, Benoît, as his political advisor.
Baron Benoît de Bonvoisin – "the Black Baron" - was at the time the most notorious patron of Belgian fascism and a key international linkman for the far Right. Perhaps because of his controversial connections, de Bonvoisin would not figure on any formal AESP or MAUE membership lists until after Damman’s death in 1979, however attending CEDI and AESP events from 1976 on. He would join the MAUE Advisory Board in 1979 and sit on its Management Board after MAUE's relaunch in 1980; by 1982, he and several other MAUE Board members would be the core Belgian participants in Cercle meetings as detailed below.
The same lack of early formal membership of the AESP or MAUE applied to another of VdB's most trusted advisors, Nicolas de Kerchove d'Ousselghem, a close associate of Damman, Vankerkhoven and later de Bonvoisin. An early and particularly significant contact for de Kerchove came in March 1964 when the young lecturer at the Belgian School of Political and Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Louvain – not yet thirty years old - was invited to attend the 1964 Bilderberg conference in Williamsburg, Virginia devoted to discussions of the Atlantic Alliance. The name after his on the list of participants was that of Henry Kissinger; other luminaries with links to the Cercle attending the conference included Antoine Pinay himself, David Rockefeller, George W. Ball, Senator Henry M. Jackson, Joseph Luns, Sir Frederic Bennett and General Pierre Gallois. The Bilderberg Group was not the only elite grouping the young de Kerchove would frequent; as a protégé of de Roover, de Kerchove accompanied him to the 1966 XV CEDI Congress, where he was a speaker and was invited to join the International Council of CEDI for their private reception with Franco in the El Pardo palace during the Congress (101).
The following year, de Kerchove joined VdB's cabinet during the latter's tenure as Prime Minister. By 1971, de Kerchove was already one of Damman's contacts, noted as being unable to attend an October 1971 AESP Study Group meeting. After VdB was appointed Defence Minister in 1972, de Kerchove became his chef de cabinet with particular responsibility for political liaison with NATO headquarters in Brussels. In 1972, as well as returning to Federal government, VdB reinforced his political influence within his party, the PSC, by the formation around him of a hardRight fraction under the title CEPIC, detailed below. De Kerchove sat on the CEPIC National Bureau and chaired the CEPIC Defence Committee, Vankerkhoven chaired the CEPIC International Relations Committee, de Bonvoisin was CEPIC Treasurer, and a fourth prominent member of the CEPIC National Bureau was de Marcken. Besides working together in CEPIC, de Kerchove and Vankerkhoven also ensured Belgian representation within CEDI after de Roover's death in 1971; by 1972, both men sat on the CEDI International Council and ran its Belgian section. As personal advisors to Vanden Boeynants, CEPIC members de Kerchove and de Bonvoisin would later be VdB's communications channel to PIO, a controversial Army counter-subversion unit founded in 1974 and ultimately controlled by de Bonvoisin, described in a later chapter.
After Damman's death in 1979, de Kerchove would join de Bonvoisin and Vankerkhoven on the MAUE Board in 1980; all three men would attend meetings of the Cercle in the early to mid-1980s. Both de Kerchove and de Bonvoisin would also figure prominently in the 1982-85 Belgian strategy of tension, de Kerchove as chef de cabinet of Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Jean Gol, and de Bonvoisin as backer of far-Right groups linked to the killings.
To return to the formal membership of the AESP in 1970, alongside the international leadership of the PEU and CEDI and their Belgian affiliates, the newly founded Academy also included three top members of Europa-Union Deutschland, the German PEU section, the most influential of the PEU national delegations. The first of this trio of German AESP members was a man we have already met, the conservative bag-man and German PEU Federal Secretary until 1975 - Karl Friedrich Grau, longstanding coordinator of the Frankfurt Study Group, the Hamburg SWG and the German support group for Sager's Swiss SOI. Grau would be one of Damman's major partners in the early 1970s; Damman's private diary reveals at least 25 meetings with Grau from 1969 to 1973, as well as joint plans to set up a certain 'Collège de Coordination' in Cologne with Grau as President (102).
Throughout the 1970s, Grau's Frankfurt Study Group would be a key source of German anti-communist propaganda via its private newsletter entitled interninformationen, an existing bulletin that the Study Group took over in 1971. Although the Frankfurt Study Group produced the bulletin, the legal publication address was that of a Swiss affiliate - putting Grau and the newsletter's contributors out of the reach of German law, and for good reason: the bulletin, which included contributions from BND officers, regularly published defamatory articles about Centre-Left politicians, focusing shortly after its creation on the SPD challenge from Brandt in the November 1972 elections (103)*. As one of the founding members put it in an interview with Swiss television, "the Swiss branch was set up to ensure that the left-wing German government [under Willy Brandt] can't touch us". Grau gave a similar explanation during a meeting with militants of the neo-fascist NPD party in December 1973: "We have compiled lists of Socialists, Reds and trades unionists. To be certain that only authorised people can get at them, we have deposited them in a vault in Switzerland" (104).
Grau's Swiss affiliate, the Internationale Studiengesellschaft für Politik [ISP, International Study Group for Politics] was founded in Interlaken in 1971 and was funded by a grant of 10% of the Frankfurt Study Group's income. From 1972 on, the ISP would act as a major German-language outlet for anti-Soviet and anti-Left propaganda, in many ways similar to the British Institute for the Study of Conflict. With participants and speakers coming from the military, the police and the intelligence and security services of Switzerland, Germany and other European countries, the ISP held conferences on Soviet subversion of Western society: typical titles of speeches included "Is the Bolchevisation of Europe inevitable?" and "The threat of German reunification - under the hammer and sickle!".
Considerable support for the ISP was given by Dr. Peter Sager and his SOI. For many years, Grau's smear sheet intern-informationen was produced by a printing company that belonged to Sager. Sager himself spoke frequently at ISP conferences in the 1970s, and the Secretary-General of the ISP from 1973 on was Sager's partner Heinz Luginbühl. Support for the ISP was also given by Habsburg and the AESP: the Austrian Archduke gave speeches and contributed articles to the Frankfurt Study Group from 1965 onwards, and several other German or Swiss members of the AESP would work as speakers for the ISP in the mid-1970s.
Alongside Grau, another German who joined the AESP in 1970 was Hans-Joachim von Merkatz, a senior CDU politician first elected to the Bundestag in 1949 as a member of the small Deutsche Partei [German Party]. Merkatz served in the Cabinet (alongside Strauß) as Minister for Senate Affairs from 1955 to 1961, and simultaneously as Justice Minister from 1956 to 1957; during his ministerial office, he would also represent Germany in the CoE Parliamentary Assembly from 1951 to 1957. He would switch party allegiance to the CDU in 1960 and served a second simultaneous mandate from 1960 to 1961 as Minister for Expellees, Refugees and War Victims – the approximately 12 million ethnic Germans expelled by 1950 from the Central and Eastern European countries behind the Iron Curtain were a notable factor in post-war German politics. Leaving national politics in 1962, Merkatz served as German representative on the Executive Council of UNESCO from 1964 to 1968 and in the CoE Parliamentary Assembly from 1964 to 1969.
More significant than Merkatz's political career was his role in paneuropean politics. In 1967, he had replaced Coudenhove Kalergi as President of the German PEU section, serving on the PEU Central Council as Vice-President. This succession was the first victory for the Habsburg fraction of the PEU to which Merkatz belonged; he had been a member of Habsburg's CEDI since at least 1959, and was President of the Europäisches Institut für politische, wirtschaftliche und soziale Fragen [European Institute for political, economic and social issues] which shared CEDI's Munich headquarters and served as its informal German section. One of the most senior figures in CEDI, Merkatz served as its International President in 1964 and later as a Vice-President, attending CEDI congresses until at least 1976. A Member of the Honorary Presidium of the Deutschland-Stiftung from 1966 on, he was also a speaker for Grau's SWG on several occasions and would serve on the Boards of several other organisations within the Cercle Pinay complex.
The third German member of the AESP in 1970 was Brussels-based EEC official Rudolf Dumont du Voitel, a Board member of the German PEU section. Dumont du Voitel would be involved in the running of the AESP as a member of the core group, the Permanent Delegation; he would also give the AESP access to the European Community and the media, thanks to his position as Director of Radio, Television and Film in the EEC's General Directorate for Press and Information from 1968 until his retirement in 1973.
Franco's government in Spain was also well represented in the AESP in 1970. CEDI co-founder Alfredo Sánchez Bella was, of course, one of the AESP founding members; at this time, he had just taken over as Franco's Minister for Information and Tourism, a post he would fill until June 1973. Also on the 1970 membership list of the AESP was his immediate predecessor as Minister of Information and Tourism between 1962 and 1969, Manuel Fraga Iribarne, whom we have already met as an associate of Damman's since 1963 and a contact of Brian Crozier's from 1965 on (105)*.
If the Spanish members of the AESP are of interest, one French member is no less so: in the 1970 AESP membership list, André Voisin is credited as an advisor in the French Prime Minister's Private Office. Voisin however had other connections not mentioned by the AESP: he was one of the earliest collaborators of Dr. Joseph Retinger, founder of the European Movement and the Bilderberg Group. Voisin was Vice-President of the European Movement, and therefore provided the AESP with a channel for contacts between the PEU and the EM. Voisin was also one of the founding members of the Bilderberg Group alongside Antoine Pinay and Pierre Bonvoisin, having attended the meeting in September 1952 which decided to create the powerbrokers' forum.
On top of the Academy's early contacts in Belgium, Germany and France, an Italian member of the 1970 AESP is of particular note: Ivan Matteo Lombardo. Lombardo, a textile industrialist and director of several American companies in Italy, had been one of the most prominent Italian politicians in the immediate post-war period, serving first in 1945-46 as Under-Secretary for Industry and Commerce under Parri and de Gasperi's first coalition and then in 1947 as the Italian Ambassador Extraordinary who negotiated post-war reparations with the American government.
The same year, as Secretary-General of the Socialist Party, Lombardo worked with future Italian President Giuseppe Saragat to oppose a Socialist-Communist electoral alliance, leaving the Socialist Party to form the right-wing PSLI (later PSDI). He subsequently served in 1948-50 as Minister for Industry and Commerce in de Gasperi's fifth government elected in April 1948 after massive intervention by the CIA (106) before changing briefs in 1950-51 to become Minister for Foreign Trade in de Gasper’s sixth Cabinet. In 1951-52, he was the Italian representative at the Paris Conference which launched the European Defence Community in May 1952; Prime Minister Pinay signed for France, but the French National Assembly rejected ratification in August 1954.
Lombardo was a frequent participant at early conferences on the defence of Europe against Soviet subversion: in December 1960, he served with Pinay and Albertini on the Sponsors' Committee of the "First International Conference on Soviet Political Warfare" organised by the veteran anti-communist activist Suzanne Labin, future head of the French chapter of WACL. Labin and Lombardo would be amongst the earliest members of WACL following its foundation in 1966 and first conference in October 1967. The December 1967 first issue of Damoclès, the journal of the Belgian section of the Ligue Internationale de la Liberté, notes: "The International League For Freedom, directed by Mme Suzanne Labin and Mr Yvan [sic] Matteo Lombardo, is currently composed of a French section, an Italian section and a Belgian section", the latter run by its Secretary-General Paul Vankerkhoven; these three national LIL sections formed part of the official WACL Chapters in their respective countries (107)*.
Lombardo had previously attended the Seoul 1962 conference of the Asian Peoples' Anti-Communist League, forerunner of WACL; as President of the Italian section of WACL in the 1960s and 1970s, he attended the 1972 WACL conference in Mexico and the 1975 WACL conference in Brazil. In 1967, he was one of the founding Chairmen (and later President) of the European Freedom Council and led its Italian section, the Comitato per la Liberta d'Europa; Labin chaired the EFC Information Committee. The EFC shared its offices in Zeppelinstrasse 67 in Munich with the ABN, and the two organisations held joint international congresses (108)*.
Lombardo was also active internationally within the Atlantic Treaty Association, of which he was Vice-President and from 1959 on President; in 1955, he was the founding President of its Italian section, the Comitato Italiano Atlantico. In 1965, the Comitato called for the carabinieri and Italian police to be given powers to intervene in Italian domestic politics to protect the NATO Alliance. The same year, Lombardo would be one of the speakers at the Parco dei Principi conference of the Alberto Pollio Institute that gave birth to the strategy of tension. In his contribution, "Permanent Communist War against the West", he called for "universal counterguerrilla warfare". By this time, he evidently had considerable international outreach - the closing speaker at the Parco dei Principi meeting, Colonel Adriano Magi-Braschi, mentioned that he had "had pleasure in meeting Mr. Lombardo in the most diverse parts of the world". Lombardo spoke at the Alberto Pollio Institute’s follow-on conferences in 1966 and 1968 as well as a later conference on "Unconventional Warfare and Defence" held in June 1971. Lombardo would also attend conferences held by Interdoc in Noordwijk in March 1968 ("The armed forces in the psychopolitical East-West confrontation") and in Brighton in 1971. In 1974, according to the Italian Press, he would be implicated in the Sogno coup (109).
To sum up this overview of the Academy afforded by the June 1970 membership list, we can see that only eight months after its relaunch, the Academy had succeeded in bringing together the leadership of the PEU, CEDI, European Movement and the expanded Cercle Pinay, including all the key personalities involved in conservative campaigns for European Union. Internationally, it could call on friends in high places who belonged to the Bilderberg Group. On a European political level, the Academy's members included former or serving Ministers from France,Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain; at the same time, behind the scenes, the AESP shared common ground with the Portuguese Aginter Presse and its underground terrorist army.
The Sniffer Plane Project
At the same time as Damman and Violet were busy setting a new foundation for the AESP, they were also working on the trials and marketing of "an incredible technological breakthrough" - the ability to detect underground liquid deposits from the air. The procedure had been developed by the Italian Aldo Bonassoli working with the Belgian Alain Comte de Villegas. De Villegas was no stranger to Damman; his elder brother Diego de Villegas was married to Damman's sister, and Alain de Villegas himself was a member of the AESP Permanent Delegation, the inner circle that dealt with AESP business. At the end of 1969, the three AESP core members Damman, de Marcken and de Villegas met Violet at the Westbury hotel in Brussels to discuss how to proceed with the sniffer plane project. De Marcken attended the meeting as he had been involved in an earlier project of de Villegas and Bonassoli's, a water desalination plant which had been tested on a holiday campsite on Ibiza that belonged to de Marcken.
The crucial question was to get an impressive first contract for field trials to help secure funding. After the failure, described below, of an attempt to obtain financing for the project from Crosby M. Kelly, an American industrialist in military aviation, de Villegas visited the Spanish Embassy on 6th April 1970 to lunch with Sánchez Bella's top civil servant as Director-General of Information and Tourism Ernesto Laorden Miracle, a former Spanish Ambassador, member of Opus Dei and fellow founding member of the AESP. Sánchez Bella's role as Minister for Tourism allowed him to promote de Villegas' scheme: de Villegas flew out to the Canaries in December 1970 with a contract to discover underground sources of drinking water on a site belonging to Entursa, the Spanish Tourism Agency.
The financing was also provided thanks to a longstanding client of Violet's whom we have already met as Delle Chiaie's backer - Carlo Pesenti, "that most Catholic of financiers" who from 1942 on ran one of Italy's largest industrial conglomerates, Italcementi, inherited from his uncles whose close contacts with Mussolini had given the firm privileged access to contracts for concrete in Italian-occupied Ethiopia. After the war, Pesenti would expand his business empire via his financial holding company Italmobiliare, active in banking, insurance and newspapers, and would also be owner of Lancia cars from 1956 to 1969 (110)*. Pesenti was the most senior of a trio of Vatican financial backers, the other two being P2 members Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi (111). Pesenti had a long history as a patron of far-Right groups; in the early 1960s, Pesenti gave a regular gift of 3.5 million lire to Delle Chiaie's group Avanguardia Nazionale, which had begun training its militants in revolutionary warfare in the spring of 1964 (112). Pesenti would be a major source of funds for the Cercle Pinay and for Damman's Academy throughout the early 1970s until Sindona's attempted take-over of his business empire would force Pesenti to cut their funding.
Whilst Pesenti provided the initial financial backing for the sniffer planes, Sánchez Bella used his contacts as advisor to the Union des Banques Suisses to arrange for UBS Director Philippe de Weck to come and witness the trials. De Weck was the main financier later implicated in the sniffer plane scandal; he would serve as Chairman of de Villegas' sniffer plane company, Fisalma (113). The invention would turn out to be a massive fraud; although de Weck would succeed in retrieving some £50 million of the funds provided by Elf, the French state oil company which had invested heavily in the project, another £50 million would never be recovered, spent, according to de Weck, on "religious charities and other good causes" (114).
Other developments simultaneous with the genesis of the sniffer plane project might well explain the exact nature of some of these 'good causes'. Whilst the launch of the AESP was progressing so well, the expanding Cercle network suffered three serious setbacks in 1969-70. The first was, as mentioned above, the decision by the British IRD to cut off contacts with Interdoc and the Albertini network, leaving Crozier's nascent ISC as the main British link with these Continental allies.
The second setback was the advent in September 1969 of a "hostile" government in Germany under Willy Brandt. In 1970, as part of his diplomatic opening to the East called Ostpolitik, Brandt signed the Treaty of Moscow normalising relations with the Soviet Union and the Treaty of Warsaw officially recognising the German-Polish border. Whilst Ostpolitik would win Brandt the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971, it was anathema to German conservatives, amongst whom the exile community was prominent, and both CDU/CSU politicians and their more covert operators such as Karl Friedrich Grau mobilised to combat Brandt's government, particularly via a sustained campaign of attack ads in the run-up to the November 1972 German federal elections, called after Brandt lost a working majority in Parliament.
The third setback in 1969-70 seemed at first sight to be promising – the June 1969 election victory in France of Georges Pompidou, which considerably strengthened the network run by his old schoolfriend, Georges Albertini. For Jean Violet however, Pompidou's victory would soon turn into disaster; his fifteen year relationship with the SDECE would be abruptly severed. In October 1970, Pompidou appointed a new head of the SDECE, Alexandre Comte de Marenches. De Marenches carried out a major purge within the SDECE, and together with many other staff, Violet found himself evicted from the cosy niche the SDECE had offered him since 1957. The SDECE under de Marenches was no longer prepared to pay the exorbitant cost of Violet's operations. In the secret intelligence reports he wrote on the Cercle Pinay in 1979-80, Hans Langemann, the top Bavarian civil servant in charge of security matters, reported that General Jacquier, head of SDECE from 1962 to 1966, had been giving Violet DM 72,000 a year and that Violet had been getting the same sum from the BND's General Gehlen.
In his testimony to the French parliamentary inquiry into the sniffer plane scandal, de Marenches stressed the financial burden of Violet's operations:
- "One figure [in agents' budgets] attracted my attention because it was followed by a lot of zeros. I asked who was this champion of intelligence. It was intimated that 'he was top of the range, an extraordinary person, he is an agent of the Vatican' [...] with considerable difficulty, after two or three days, I obtained his reports: a normally gifted person could have compiled them by reading Le Monde, Le Figaro, and three or four other magazines and adding a few personal touches. That was his entire production. I therefore decided to dispense with his services" (115).
It is also possible that Violet, the éminence grise par excellence, had accumulated too much power for comfort, as de Marenches hinted in his 1986 memoirs:
- "Before my arrival, the service included a picturesque personality (I won't say 'charming' because I have never met him myself) who was one of these more or less imaginary sources of intelligence for the service for many years. He became well-known later on in connection with the planes whose smelling powers were front-page news for a while. I dispensed with his services several weeks after I had taken over. On the basis of the reports I had been shown, I noticed that his services were very expensive. The results of the funds that had been given him in the past were not those one was entitled to expect from a good 'honourable correspondent' [intelligence source]. For a press review that anybody could have compiled, he had been paid the highest fees in the service. I was told he ran a pay-off system within the SDECE itself. I put an end to his exploits and had him dismissed within half an hour [...] some [of the SDECE staff dismissed] were quickly hired by a private parallel network that had nothing to do with the official services of the State [Elf's PSA, see below]. The sniffer plane affair is a skillful fraud whose outcome is unknown [...] in the
maze I had discovered in 1970, there were a certain number of parasites who were not serving the State or France but were involved in lobbies, organisations whose foreign ramifications at times gave rise to serious problems" (116).
One such lobby was the newly expanded Cercle Pinay network, and thanks to funding from Pesenti, Violet was able to overcome the withdrawal of SDECE support and extend the Cercle's international outreach. Even before de Marenches' blow fell in the winter of 1970, Violet and Pesenti had been active consolidating their links across the Atlantic in America.
The Cercle and Sint Unum in 1970
Whilst the tête-à-tête discussions of European heads of state in the first decade of the Cercle's existence remain almost entirely undocumented, a clearer picture emerges in the period 1969-1970. At some time in the 1960s, the Cercle had expanded to include business leaders, most notably Carlo Pesenti, Violet's close partner and major source of funding.
Several primary documents - two memoirs by prominent public figures, declassified transcripts of telephone calls by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and a secret memorandum from Kissinger to President Nixon including a CIA report on Pesenti and Violet - make it clear that, besides launching the AESP and the sniffer plane project in Belgium, the pair were also active in America and within other hitherto unknown organisations. The documents also underscore the significance of Pesenti in providing the Cercle with access to two Americans from the highest levels of business and government – Chairman of the Board of the Chase Manhattan Bank and later founder of the Trilateral Commission David Rockefeller and, through him, Henry Kissinger, appointed as National Security Advisor to President Nixon on 20th January 1969 (117)*. David Rockefeller and Kissinger were close friends and fellow Bilderbergers, coordination of their attendance often figuring in their telephone conversations. Rockefeller describes his involvement in the Cercle – or the "Pesenti Group", as he tellingly calls it – in the chapter "Consorting with Reactionaries" in his 2002 Memoirs, an account which is worth quoting in full:
- "Bilderberg overlapped for a time with my membership in a relatively obscure but potentially even more controversial body known as the Pesenti Group. I had first learned about it in October 1967 when Carlo Pesenti, the owner of a number of important Italian corporations, took me aside at a Chase investment forum in Paris and invited me to join his group, which discussed contemporary trends in European and world politics. It was a select group, he told me, mostly Europeans. Since Pesenti was an important Chase customer and he assured me the other members were interesting and congenial, I accepted his invitation.
- Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer were founding members of the group, but by the time I joined, they had been replaced [sic] by an equally prominent roster that included Antoine Pinay, a former French President [of the Council, i.e. Prime Minister]; Giulio Andreotti, several times Prime Minister of Italy; and Franz-Josef Strauss, the head of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria and a perennial contender for the Chancellorship of the Federal Republic of Germany. The discussions were conducted in French, and usually I was the sole American present, although on a few occasions when the group assembled in Washington, Henry Kissinger, at the time President Nixon's national security advisor, joined us for dinner.
- Members of the Pesenti Group were all committed to European political and economic integration, but a few - Archduke Otto of Austria, the head of the house of Habsburg and claimant to all the lands of the Austro-Hungarian empire; Monsignor Alberto Giovannetti of the Vatican [Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN] and a prominent member of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic organization; and Jean-Paul Léon Violet, a conservative French intellectuel - were preoccupied by the Soviet threat and the inexorable rise to power of the Communist parties of France and Italy.
- Pesenti set the agenda for our thrice-yearly meetings, and Maître Violet, who had close connections with the Deuxième Bureau of the Services des Renseignements (the French CIA), provided lengthy background briefings. Using an overhead projector, Violet displayed transparency after transparency filled with data documenting Soviet infiltration of governments around the world and supporting his belief that the threat of global Communist victory was quite real. While all of us knew the Soviets were behind the "wars of national liberation" in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, I was not personally convinced the Red Menace was quite as menacing as Maître Violet portrayed it to be, but my view was a minority one in that group. Even though I found the discussions fascinating, the ultraconservative politics of some participants were more than a bit unnerving. My Chase associates, who feared my membership could be construed as "consorting with reactionaries", eventually prevailed upon me to withdraw" (118).
A second source of information about Rockefeller's attendance at Cercle meetings in 1969-70 are secret transcripts which Kissinger ordered prepared of his telephone calls, 'telcons' which have now been mostly declassified. Several telcons between Kissinger and Rockefeller show that Kissinger accompanied Rockefeller to least two Cercle meetings in 1969-70, the first on 2nd July 1969 and the second on 2nd December 1970, the latter meeting being recorded in a twelve-page memorandum produced by Kissinger's staff and detailed below.
Besides Kissinger's participation at these private dinners with the Cercle, two telephone calls between Rockefeller and Kissinger from December 1969 and January 1970 refer to a letter from Violet to Crosby M. Kelly, a business partner of Rockefeller. The context of the calls makes it clear that the letter from Violet to Kelly, which Rockefeller forwarded to Kissinger, was related to French and American Middle East policy, and the timing is interesting - just when Violet was canvassing Kelly as a potential source of funding for the sniffer plane project. Kissinger's scepticism about Violet's overblown claims of access to newly-elected French President Pompidou combined with a damning leak of information about a meeting between Kissinger, Rockefeller and other oil industry figures in an unidentified newspaper article ultimately killed off any idea of closer American involvement with the sniffer plane project. As we will see later, initial support for the venture would be finally provided by Sánchez Bella and Pesenti in the spring of 1970 before Elf got taken in by the massive swindle (119)*.
As Rockefeller indicates, another Cercle participant in the early 1970s was Giulio Andreotti who referred to the meetings in a chapter of his memoirs describing a vacation in America in August 1971:
- "Relations with America during my interval in government service (1968-72) did not rotate around official commitments but were nonetheless marked by moments of no lesser interest.
- The French stateman Antoine Pinay invited me to join a small and entirely informal group of Europeans and Americans set up to discuss current world affairs. We used to meet once or twice a year, ordinarily in Washington at the home of Nelson Rockefeller, but at times also in Europe (I recall one session in Bavaria as the guests of Franz Josef Strauss). Some of the participants
varied according to the subject for discussion (highly regarded was Henry Kissinger), while the others, according to their respective schedules, were always the same.
- A scholarly Dominican, Fr. Dubois, who was on the Holy See's Permanent Mission to the United Nations, gave a religious touch to the sessions by celebrating Mass for those who wished to attend and offering brief meditations for all. Another participant from Italy was Pinay's good friend, the engineer Carlo Pesenti. Assiduous amongst the Americans was David Rockefeller. With his travels and personal contacts at the highest possible level in almost all nations he was always a source of the latest inside information.
- Pinay also travelled extensively and was always up-to-date on everything. What I most admired in him were his pragmatic outlook and refusal to espouse the pessimism which was quite widespread at that time and not without a certain justification. His prestige at home and abroad was not linked so much to his length of service in government (Minister of Finance and for a long time Prime Minister) as it was to the successful campaign to strengthen the French currency and to the fact he was consulted during difficult economic situations and his advice was much appreciated. His many commitments did not prevent him from holding the office of Mayor in his small hometown of Saint Chamon [sic; Pinay was Mayor of Saint-Chamond from 1929 to 1944 and 1947 to 1977] until not long ago; this conforms to a traditional French practice for important politicians.
- Over the past few years Pinay has been active but has had to heed the precautionary measures dictated by age. Other friends of the group have departed from this world and so those annual appointments no longer take place [sic]. We occasionally meet, one on one, when someone happens to come through Italy or when I visit their respective nations" (120).
Besides his involvement in the Cercle, Andreotti would also figure as an eminent guest of Damman's AESP from its foundation on. One of the earliest AESP events was a Charlemagne Grand Dinner held in Aachen on the 6th May 1970 and timed to coincide with the annual award ceremony of the Charlemagne Prize which that year was being given to a colleague of Violet, François Seydoux de Clausonne, the senior French diplomat involved in the drafting of the 1963 Elysée Treaty between Adenauer and de Gaulle which had been secretly brokered by Violet. The AESP dinner brought together Pinay, Violet, Dubois, Sánchez Bella, Pesenti, Damman, de Villegas and Andreotti, the first of at least two occasions in 1970 that members of this group would meet (121).
The second occasion would come on the 2nd December 1970 when the Cercle gathered in the Rockefeller family mansion in Washington. A now declassified SECRET/EYES ONLY memorandum prepared by Kissinger's staff details attendance at the meeting. The American group was composed of David Rockefeller accompanied by his deputy at the Chase Manhattan Bank Joseph Verner Reed, Henry Kissinger accompanied by his closest advisor Winston Lord, author of the memorandum and later a key figure in the restoration of US-China relations, and a Mr. Kelly, no doubt Crosby M. Kelly whose son-in-law worked as Appointments Secretary for Kissinger. Governor Nelson Rockefeller joined the group towards the end of the dinner meeting. The European core of the Cercle was represented by Pinay, Violet, Pesenti, Andreotti, Otto von Habsburg and Strauß. In the wide-ranging discussions which also focused on Allende's new government in Chile, the Latin American view was given by two of the most powerful figures in banking and insurance, the Argentinian financier Luis María Otero Monsegur and the Brazilian magnate Antonio Larragoiti (122)*.
As the full document is reproduced in the CIOC-CIDCC-Sint Unum annex below, a detailed description of the discussion at the December 1970 meeting may be dispensed with, save to note the critical point in time at which it occurred. The election of Georges Pompidou eighteen months earlier had led to the appointment of Alexandre de Marenches as new SDECE chief in October 1970; 'within weeks', Violet's privileged connection to the French secret service was severed, and so Violet turned to Damman and his Belgian friends as his new operational arm. Meanwhile in Germany, having dominated the federal government since the end of the war, the Cercle's conservative allies in the CDU/CSU had suffered a reversal of fortune in September 1969 when the election victory of Willy Brandt ended the 1966-69 Grand Coalition in which Strauß had served as Finance Minister - the CDU/CSU would not return to power on the federal level until October 1982 when the FDP left Helmut Schmidt's coalition to support Helmut Kohl as CDU Chancellor. Italy had also experienced political turbulence in 1969, although of an entirely different kind – on the 25th April 1969, Avanguardia Nazionale under Stefano Delle Chiaie had launched the decade-long strategy of tension with their two bomb attacks in Milan; only five days after this Cercle meeting, Delle Chiaie and other fascist militants led by Prince Borghese would implement Operation Tora Tora, seizing the Interior Ministry before withdrawing on orders from above.
Besides these December 1970 Cercle minutes prepared for Kissinger, Kissinger was also the source of another secret memorandum which reveals that Pesenti and Violet were not just collaborating at the time within the Cercle and on the sniffer plane project but also within Sint Unum, described as a "clandestine Catholic international organization whose aims are to oppose Communism and further the principles of Christianity" and which had been founded in the immediate post-war period.
The document revealing the existence of this previously unknown group is an undated personal memorandum sent in late January or early February 1970 by Kissinger to President Nixon with an accompanying CIA report on Sint Unum, both of which are included in the research paper by Alice Arduini reproduced in the CIOCCIDCC-Sint Unum annex below. The backdrop to Kissinger's Sint Unum memorandum was President Nixon's wish to re-establish official diplomatic relations with the Vatican by appointing a Special Representative to the Holy See. Diplomatic ties had lapsed exactly a century before in 1870, and a previous attempt by President Truman in 1950-51 to re-establish formal ties had had to be abandoned after strong objections from various quarters about a violation of the constitutional separation of Church and State. Nixon would fare no better and in April 1970 gave up his plan to formally appoint an Ambassador to the Vatican, instead strengthening links unofficially. The venture would finally succeed under President Reagan; the American Ambassador to the Holy See chosen would also be Reagan's confidential channel to the Cercle and the 6I, on which see below.
The memorandum and CIA report reveal that Sint Unum was funded and chaired by Carlo Pesenti; its executive Secretary-General for life was Violet. The group had contacts with Generals Grossin and Gehlen of the SDECE and BND respectively, and Violet also had important connections to both American labour unions and to the US military in the persons of George Meany and General Gruenther. From 1952 to 1955, Meany was the strongly anti-communist President of the whites-only American Federation of Labor who oversaw its fractious 1955 merger with the racially-integrated Congress of Industrial Organizations; he would then serve as AFL-CIO President until 1979. Meany's status as an anti-communist figurehead was such that in 1966, during the process that would lead to the creation of WACL the following year, Meany was spoken of as a suitable leader for a future WACL American coordinating body (123)*. Major-General Alfred B. Gruenther was the first Chief of Staff of SHAPE in 1951 under the first two Supreme Allied Commanders Europe (SACEUR), Generals Eisenhower and Ridgway, before serving as SACEUR himself from July 1953 until his retirement in November 1956, during which time Germany joined NATO with Gruenther's strong support.
In early 1970, Sint Unum gave David Rockefeller a funding proposal for the creation of three publications in Rome, Paris and Montreal as well as "ten editorial and document centers throughout the world". Rockefeller passed the proposal on to Kissinger, who then immediately transmitted the document and a memorandum giving his views to President Nixon, recommending that "it is too risky for the US to become involved in financing a counter-movement within the Church". Apart from the Kissinger memorandum and its annexed CIA report, no other primary source on Sint Unum has yet emerged, and nothing else is known of its history or any action it may have undertaken (124)*.