CIA Covert Ops in Italy Lasted Long After the 1948 Elections (National Security Archive)

“Despite rhetoric, Eisenhower was not prepared to intervene militarily to block Communists short of forcible seizure of power.”

Dr. Ronald D. Landa

State Department — Office of the Historian


Clare Boothe Luce, U.S. envoy to Italy from 1953-1956, was as famous for her glamour and blunt speaking as for the distinction of being the first woman to represent the U.S. in a major diplomatic post. (Undated photo from the Carl Van Vechten collection, Library of Congress)

Washington, D.C. February 7, 2017 – CIA covert aid to Italy continued well after the agency’s involvement in the 1948 elections – into the early 1960s – averaging around $5 million a year, according to a draft Defense Department historical study published for the first time by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.  Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

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The 1948 Elections

Fears that Italy’s Communist Party would win the 1948 elections bring about a propaganda campaign in the United States, as well as a campaign of covert operations from the newly formed CIA.

The 1948 general election was greatly influenced by the Cold War that was starting between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The CIA, by its own admission, gave $1 million to Italian “center parties” and was accused of publishing forged letters in order to discredit the leaders of the Italian Communist Party.

The National Security Act of 1947, that made foreign covert operations possible, had been signed into law about six months earlier by the American President Harry S. Truman.

“We had bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians, to defray their political expenses, their campaign expenses, for posters, for pamphlets.” [According to CIA operative F. Mark Wyatt, this operation will become a ‘model’ for many more to come. See documentary below.]

In order to influence the election, the US agencies undertook a campaign of writing ten million letters, made numerous short-wave radio broadcasts and funded the publishing of books and articles, all of which warned the Italians of what was believed to be the consequences of a communist victory. [WIKIPEDIA]

The 1950s

The study, declassified in 2016, focuses on the role of Clare Boothe Luce as ambassador to Italy, 1953-1957. [I wonder if she inspired Madeleine Albright’s lifelong passion for pins and brooches?]

In addition to overseeing a program of covert financial support to centrist Italian governments, she used the awarding of contracts under the Department of Defense Offshore Procurement Program to weaken the Italian Communist Party’s hold on labor unions.

Dr Ronald D. Landa concludes that the Eisenhower administration, faced with the possibility of civil war in Italy or the Communist Party coming to power legally, was “willing to intervene militarily only if the Communists seized power forcibly and then only in concert with other European nations.”

Cold War – Post-war France and Italy: Marshall, communism and the CIA

The Soviet Union urges its communist colleagues in Western Europe to take action against the Marshall Plan. In response, a series of strikes and demonstrations sweep through Italy and France. Threats by the United States to withdraw Marshall Plan aid have an impact, though, and the strikes eventually fail.


CIA Covert Aid to Italy Averaged $5 Million Annually from Late 1940s to Early 1960s, Study Finds — NSA GWU


CIA Covert Ops in Italy Lasted Long After the 1948 Elections (National Security Archive)

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