Q. Captain, you're always at the centre of the most unedifying polemics. How come? A few weeks ago the fugitive fascist Stefano Delle Chiaie said, in the course of an interview with Enzo Biagi, that La Bruna, which is to say, yourself, had something to do with the Piazza Fontana bombs.
A. The usual old refrain. It has even been reported that… let’s say … that mission is what earned me my captains stars. But I have a cast-iron alibi. For years I have said nothing. Now let me speak out. From September 1969 to early March 1970 I was involved in another, highly delicate mission. That, too, even now is shrouded in the confidentiality which must attend our work as special agents. I am fed up. I ask those in a position to do so (i.e., my superiors) to release me from my burden of silence.
Q. The man in the street knows nothing of your affairs. Let me ask you, to begin with, how on earth you, a servant of the State, ever came to hobnob with this Delle Chiaie character, an extreme right-wing fanatic who has been wanted for years.
A. I ran across him in Barcelona, on exactly 30 November to 2 December 1972. The meeting was the idea of a journalist introduced to me by General Gianadelio Maletti, my direct superior. I and the journalist were to co-operate in ascertaining certain facts regarding the son-in-law of the oil magnate Attilio Monti. But at the last moment it fell through. However, he did put me in touch with Delle Chiaie.
Q. What did you talk about?
A. He told me of the movement which he led. When he had finished, I told him that I would be reporting back to my superiors and, on the specific instructions of Maletti, spoke this phrase to him: “Rest assured that whatever may happen, the general will not lift a finger against you”. Now they accuse me of having invited him to co-operate with the SID, I do not see why, if it was true, I should conceal the fact since I was only carrying out orders received from above. Anyway I never did issue that invitation.
Q. How come you did not arrest him? He was and is one of the heads of the black international. He is wanted for nearly all of the fascist outrages which have swamped the streets of Italy in blood over the past 14 years.
A. Your question is badly framed. You ought to have asked me how come they never instructed me to arrest him. Anyway, I don't know the answer to that. If it was up to anyone to tip off the Spanish police as to where Delle Chiaie was hiding out it was them … the people in Rome. The fact remains that in his interview with Biagi, this gentleman stated that every so often he still goes home to Italy. Which means that he feels safe and well protected.
Q. A loyal executor of orders, then. Could it be, La Bruna, that like the Germans of the Nuremberg trial, you always hide behind the formula I was only carrying out orders.?
A. Yes, and I will demonstrate it. If you will permit, though, I should like to open with a premise. What was the SID? An agency which had at its head General Vito Micelli to begin with and Admiral Mario Casardi thereafter. They had the oversight of five departments … D office which handled internal security; R office dealing with intelligence from abroad; S office which gleaned from the official sources and the press … the USI office was given over to industrial security and then there was the Logistics Office. Yours truly was attached to D office under General Maletti. We in turn were subdivided into three sections counterespionage, military police and (once again) internal security. I was in command of the NOD, an operational squad comprising four men in all. It goes without saying that I could carry out only those actions determined by my superiors.
Q. NOD has been named as a sort of private gang, a SID within the SID, a cancer that had grown up inside the secret services, a deranged monster.
A. Balls. All complete balls. I have never worked off my own bat. It was Maletti who gave the orders on every occasion. Even later on when we wound up on trial. During the Piazza Fontana massacre proceedings I did no more than obey. And I have proof of what I say. I have scrupulously preserved the memoranda which the general wrote me indicating which answers I should give to the judges. I placed my trust in him because he was au fait with the whole episode in all of its complexity and did not know only the odd detail as I did.
Q. Answer this question please. Is it or is it not true that in the 1970s you helped smuggle out of Italy certain Palestinian terrorists held in prison for some very serious outrages?
A. Strictly speaking, it was not I who rescued them from prison. But it is true, I was assigned the task of escorting them abroad. Orders from above. The person who passed them to me had, in turn, received them from those involved in political activity, from parliamentarians and ministers.
Q. But is it normal practice of the secret services to set free those bandits which the police and carabinieri go to such trouble to apprehend?
A. In certain instances its the opportune thing to do. In the supreme interests of the nation. The same sort of thing goes on pretty well everywhere. There are those like me, who do the dirty work and handle things to do with foreign policy which cannot be done openly and which are off limits as far as ministers are concerned.
Q. Just one point. What did Italy get in return that time?
A. I don't know. But in those years nothing happened to us. There were no attacks and no other terrorist acts of an international nature.
Q. In short, the PLO kept quiet. Let’s turn now from red terrorism to the black kind you covered up for, and helped smuggle abroad Guido Giannettini and Marco Pozzan, neo-fascists involved in the inquiry into the poor people killed that tragic 12 December in 1969 in the Piazza Fontana.
A. I wasn't really able to help anybody. That was demonstrated at the Catanzaro trial. I shall never tire of reiterating it: I was an operative, a subordinate and it has never been the case that a subordinate is able to procure phoney documents and safe conducts for his pals. Giannettini left under his own steam, using his own passport and with a plane ticket acquired from some travel agency or other. Sure, Maletti knew all about it, but he didn't tell me to stop him. And let’s move on to Pozzan. Yes, my men escorted him to the frontier. But to leave the country he used a passport. He used one supplied by D office.
Q. In whose interests was it that these gentlemen should be smuggled out?
A. You shouldn't be asking me that.
Q. Fair enough, but we will ask you how come your name features on the list of P2 members.
A. I joined the P2 because I was invited to join by Colonel Antonio Viezzer, the head of Maletti’s secretariat. I consulted Maletti and he answered with a phrase that dispelled any doubts I had: The carabinieri must have eyes and ears everywhere. So I went to see Licio Gelli at the Excelsior Hotel in Rome. I was escorted by Viezzer, though he denies it.
Q. None of you secret agents were absent from the P2. When did you discover that the delightful company included so many, so very, very many of your superiors?
A. Whenever the membership lists were made public. Doubtless I had had the odd suspicion. I escorted Maletti and his wife too many times to Castiglion Fibocchi, to Gelli’s firm. They would buy clothes and replace their wardrobes, all at knock-down prices I suppose.
Q. And did the Worshipful Master ever do you any favours?
A. No, unfortunately not. I did ask a favour of him when I came out of prison and was suspended from the service. I wanted him to help me find a job and rebuild my life. But all he could offer me was a chance to go to South America. I turned this down because I definitely did not want anyone saying Captain La Bruna runs away.
Q. Let us change scene. And talk about petroleum. For Italians, that means Libya. Is it true that you kept a watchful eye out for Colonel Ghedaffi?
A. Not I, the State. The SID did do the odd service for Ghedaffi … for instance, the so-called Hilton Operation. The Italian secret services blew a coup attempt devised by mercenaries who were aiming to free opponents of the Libyan regime and seize Tripoli.
Q. How did you disentangle yourselves from your triple games? If it came to your attention that your Libyan or Palestinian friends were preparing for attacks on your Israeli allies (or vice versa) what was your next move?
A. In our trade one has to be really subtle. Strategic choices are a matter for the experts, thus, a matter for the politicians and not for military men. The last word always belongs to the entourage of some minister. It all depends on what suits the country at any given moment.
Q. Another twist, another story. Unlike Maletti, you and Micelli have been named as friends of the far right. Is it coincidence that today Micelli sits in Parliament on the benches of Giorgio Almirante’s MSI?
A. Whereas I sit on the accused bench. I've done my time and still I face another accusation, of misrepresentation in the matter of Pozzan’s passport and also in connection with the P2 episode. To tell the truth, the idea of Maletti’s passing himself off as a democrat is one I have always found risible. If he is, if he really is one how come he did not stay here to await the findings of the magistrature? How come he decamped to South Africa, leaving me in the shit?
Q. Odd. Maletti accuses La Bruna of all manner. of nefarious deeds and decamps, La Bruna stands his ground and defends himself by pointing the finger at Maletti. But hadn't you been such pals once upon a time?
A. There is no friendship between superior and subordinate. There are too many things which divide them-ambition, career, etc. The subordinate is dispatched into danger but by the time he realises he has been used it is too late. I was a pal of Maletti’s. Only many years later did I learn that he, instead, had dropped me in it time and again, drafting the worst sort of reports about me and about my work. Who can say? Maybe his aim was to offload on to me the blame for his guilty conscience.
Q. What else did Maletti do to you?
A. He accused me of having supplied to the journalist Mino Pecorelli the dossiers which he had built up at the end of 1975 on the petroleum scandal which later set the Italy of the powerful atrembling. The dossier contained virtually the whole story of the immense fraud favoured by high-ranking officers of the Guardia di Finanza. But I was not the one who passed them to Pecorelli. The file was in Maletti’s office safe for safekeeping. And he was the one to place it in the records shortly before he was removed from his post. I have no idea who it was who sold it to him. All I know is that after he made it public, Pecorelli was killed. And Maletti cut the cord.
Q. Weren't there a little too many deaths in all of these stories? Apart from the attentats and the Pecorelli business, I can think of generals killed in traffic accidents that were never accounted for, or who committed suicide without any motives.
A. You have said it. Let me tell you that, when I was in the service, my own car was interfered with on two occasions. It is a miracle that I am still alive.
Q. All things considered, La Bruna, would you be a secret agent if you had it to do all over again?
A. Yes. Despite the problems and the misadventures I would do it all again. Yes. Because its something that gets into the blood. The SID was not all that much worse than other agencies. Even todays reformed agencies have their problems.
La Bruna is right. Times change but the stories are much the same. Micelli and Maletti (P2 members) were succeeded by General Guiseppe Santovito (himself also a registered P2 member). Then he was wanted and today magistrates in Trento would like to question him regarding certain arms trafficking. The interview is over. The man with the pomaded hair puts some heaps of papers into order. From these papers he will one day construct a book on his Italy, the Italy of mysteries.
Stefano Jesurum and Gian Palo Rossetti (helped by Mario Biasciucci)
Oggi no. 20, 18 May 1983
In the lead-up to the interview, there is a quote from the Francoist spy Luis Manuel Gonzales Mata: “Agents, when they have no further information to report, invent some; when there are no more outrages to be prevented, they provoke some; when there is no longer any extremist organisation to infiltrate, they set some up. At the foot of a photo of La Bruna and Maletti in court in Catanzaro in 1981, La Bruna is quoted as saying: Even in the courtroom I always obeyed the orders from my immediate superior Maletti. I gave the testimony he wanted me to give.”