September 22, 2016
By William Medici
“You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch.” “You’re a foul one, Mr. Grinch.” “Your soul is full of gunk Mr. Grinch.” You might recognize these lyrics as the ‘Grinch Theme’ written by Albert Hauge & Theodor Geisel from the 1966 television special ‘Dr. Seuss’ Mr. Grinch.’ The song is catchy, so much so that today, you could easily replace Mr. Grinch with, say, your least favorite presidential candidate. “You nauseate me M ______. ” I digress. The Grinch of course, has become a metaphor for someone who nobody wants around for fear of ruining their Christmas holiday. In this case, Italy is replacing Mr. Grinch with ISIS: “You’re a monster, Islamic State.”
The chatter about a possible attack on Italy during the upcoming Christmas holiday has barely registered inside the country; as if the Italians are just shrugging their shoulders. According to one of my sources inside Italian intelligence, “apathy is setting-in most likely because ISIS never carried out their threat to attack during our busy summer tourist season.”
Still, there seems to be parallels to my experience which I write about in my upcoming book when we learned of a possible al-Qaeda plan to hit St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican during a Christmas Evening Mass using, among other things, RPG’s and chemical or biological munitions.
Terrorism is nothing new to Italy. One can go back to Paul the apostle in the first century when he told his fellow Christians: “For there is no authority except from God…..Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.” What was ‘good’ for the Christians, according to Paul, was an insurgency against the Roman Empire. Many Christians used very crude methods to commit terrorist acts across the empire and in Rome where Paul was eventually martyred.
The period in Italy between the 1960’s and the 1980’s was known as the Anni Piombo or The Lead Years, when terrorism was rampant, marked by bombings, kidnapping and assassinations. Terrorism as a political means, was used by both the leftwing Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) and rightwing Ordine Nuovo (New Order) to help destabilize the state. On December 12, 1969 a bomb exploded at the Bank of Agriculture in Milan, in Piazza Fontana killing 16 and wounding another 80 while another three bombs exploded on the same day in Rome. A fourth, unexploded bomb was found at another bank in Milan. On May 28, 1974 a bomb exploded in Brescia in Piazza della Loggia. Another bomb went off in 1974 on the Roma-Brennero express train, and on August 2, 1980 a bomb exploded at the Bologna train station killing 85 and injuring another 200.
In 1978, the Red Brigades kidnapped former prime minster, Aldo Moro and detained him for 55 days before his body was found in a trunk of a car in Rome. There were others that were pulling the strings of power during this time, one group was the ‘P2′, a sort-of masonic lodge of the rich and powerful elite that wanted to operate a parallel state. In fact, when the state decided to drop the support of Ordine Nuovo, their leader, Vincenzo Vinciguerra retaliated by shooting and killing three Carabinieri. The power that operated in the shadows helped steer the investigation away from Vinciguerra and the rightwing group for fear that might bring light to their own involvement in the movement and instead, led the police toward six young delinquents who had nothing to do with the murders.
As with the United States, radical Islamists will pose a threat to Italy and her allies for a long time to come. The jihadis have already made their intentions known and the Italian leadership and intelligence services are doing everything they can to address it. Or are they? The Vatican and more specifically, St. Peter’s remains one of the prime targets as it was when I worked in Italy as an intelligence operative. There are too many unsecured locations around the perimeter of the basilica that can be used to mount an attack. This includes a hotel, an office building, several residential buildings and an underground tunnel among others that have gone unnoticed by the Italian security services. I sang this song once before and will leave it to the counterterrorism and security experts to detail what still needs to be done.
One major component to successfully combating ISIS and other terrorist groups is the need for better coordination and intelligence sharing between our close allies. Although we have come a long way from the days prior to 9/11, or even from our mission in Iraq, there is much more that we can do. However, when it comes to threats on the homeland, there is a lag in sharing. In the recent case with Mohammad Rahami who was captured just 56 hours after his device exploded in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City, we can look at the incredible work between the NYPD, FBI, NYPD’s Anti-Terrorism Unit, the NYC Mayor’s office, the NY State Governor’s office, NJ State Troopers, NJ Police, NJ’s local and state-level governments and the Linden, NJ Police as an example of inter-agency cooperation. Yes, the cooperation was mainly between U.S. law enforcement agencies and well after the fact that Rahami had detonated two of his explosives, however, the intelligence community as a whole can learn much from this.
There are many out there that will not agree with my opinion as it pertains to the closely guarded intel turf-war in which we sometimes foolishly engage-in. Yes, we need to protect our secrets, our interests and national security, but how can we do this if we do not find a way to cooperate? If apathy wins out over taking proactive measures to combat this, then Christmas will not be the only thing ruined.
William Medici is a writer, producer and an author. Mr. Medici is a frequent contributor to media outlets leveraging his experience working the military and intelligence community. Visit: www.WilliamMedici.com