Strategy of tension

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Concept.png Strategy of tension 
(Social control)
At the bombing of the Bologna main station in 1980, 85 people died. Agents of the Italian intelligence services and the secret society Propaganda Due hindered the investigation by laying false tracks.
At the bombing of the Bologna main station in 1980, 85 people died. Agents of the Italian intelligence services and the secret society Propaganda Due hindered the investigation by laying false tracks.
Interest of Le Cercle
The strategy of tension (Italian: strategia della tensione) is an umbrella term used for covert operations by governments aimed at destabilising or unsettling target populations or states.
"You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public to turn to the State to ask for greater security."

Vincenzo Vinciguerra, Gladio operative, during his trial.

The strategy of tension is carried out with a high level of secrecy and consequent plausible deniability, using organizations infiltrated and/or controlled by but not directly affiliated with the state agencies. For this reason it is often hard to prove that a government has used a strategy of tension. Nevertheless, a number of undeniable instances have surfaced since WW2.


The methods used are most obviously illegal and violent i.e. assassinations, kidnapping, paramilitary operations but also include propaganda, economic sanctions, support of civil unrest, fake grassroots movements and the escalation of formerly peaceful protests involving agents provocateurs. These are typically carried out under a false flag and combined with disinformation to demonise an uninvolved third party. If state agencies engage in staging or promoting acts of terrorism the term "state terrorism" is used, i.e. by former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.[1]

The PsyOp component of a strategy of tension

The main target of a strategy of tension is the public opinion, to manipulate votes, generate the impression of a national threat to legitimate war, to call for a strong leader or tolerate surveillance and denounce peacemakers as 'unpatriotic'. False flag terrorist attacks are just the tip of the iceberg of possible measures to achieve these goals.

In "Interdoc and West European Psychological Warfare", Giles Scott-Smith[2] puts the strategy of tension in a broader context.

"Ultimately, Interdoc’s value comes from it being a remarkable example of the way European security services sought to engage with and manipulate the public sphere, initially out of serious concerns for the effects of peaceful coexistence on Western ideological solidity, and eventually as a means to secure a strategic advantage in the Cold War."

"Peaceful coexistence" refers to the Russian policy after Stalin, meaning the absence of a Soviet threat.

Based on official statements he shows that prolonged periods of peace are seen as a threat to Western power structures, the established order and political 'stability' by the establishment. The proposed 'solution' to this is - in the propagandists phrasing - to "raise awareness" of external threats or to "encourage a responsible citizenry as part of the process of maintaining a democratic society". The result may be called fine-tuning of democracy and included staged terror attacks under a false flag in the past.

The same rhetoric is put forward by the Joint Statement of European Ministers of the Interior after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack:

The given value was not understood.
“In order to tackle the root causes of radicalization[3] in particular of young people, the EU should consider strengthening targeted actions designed to raise awareness and promote the respect of fundamental rights and values"”
European Ministers of the Interior (2015)    —   [4]


Recognizable patterns include, but are not limited to:

  • An official narrative is quickly agreed upon and blames either "Lone nuts" or the enemy du jour
  • "Lone nuts" that die shortly after the event and/or have no chance to explain their side of the story
  • The number of reported perpetrators, decreases as the official narrative unfolds
  • Evidence which is quickly destroyed and/or made inaccessible to public or to journalists because of "national security"
  • Obviously pre-fabricated statements: responses are made which are far too quick - exploiting the targets' moment of psychological shock
  • Politicians and commercially-controlled media: blaming designated culprit before any investigation, hate speech, revenge, threating war or sanctions, fostering police state legislation
  • Name changes or misspelling of suspected lone nuts and/or intelligence links emerge
  • Imagery of low quality emerges, with mismatching details in different versions or viewing angels, time stamps and origin obscured
  • Presented evidence and history of Lone nuts contains bold archetypes, letters, testaments, even passports
  • Eye witness accounts are incompatible with press reports
  • Lost and Found ID leads a direct trail to allow the official narrative's perpetrators to be identified
  • Any ideas apart from this are termed "conspiracy theories" and dismissed by the establishment
  • The commercially-controlled media is resentful of any serious criticism of its own early reporting, citing mostly sources from government, so called experts, the police or news agencies, i.e. Reuters, AP.
  • Official investigation avoided, delayed or quick trial, may be flawed, i.e deaths, not answering questions, accepting bogus "proofs"
  • Media blackout regarding targets' and intelligence services' foreknowledge and/or facts that don't fit the official narrative and spurious statements by attendents
  • Intelligence services stick to the doctrine of plausible deniability even decades after the event

An incomplete list of implementations of the strategy of tension since WW2 may include

Wikipedia sources of interest



     Page name     Description
Bologna massacre
Operation Demagnetize
War on TerrorThe campaign, launched by the USA under the Presidency of George W. Bush with the support of the UK, and most NATO members (at least formally) and other Western-aligned countries. Nominally a response to the events of 11 September 2001, its stated objective is the elimination of so called 'terrorist organisations', it was in fact conceived long before by a group of terrorist experts, including his father and the groundwork laid at a 1979 conference in Jerusalem.

Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
1980 Massacre in Bolognaarticle6 July 2005Thierry Meyssan
Gladio - The Secret U.S. War To Subvert Italian Democracyessay23 February 1996Arthur E. Rowse
The Terror Attacks in France. The Broader Geopolitical Implicationsinterview10 January 2015Umberto PascaliInterview with Umberto Pascali – For Voice of the People, TV Sonce, Skipje, Macedonia
The use of terrorism to construct world orderpaper10 September 2004Ola Tunander


  1. Giovanni di Lorenzo, Interview with Helmut Schmidt, Die Zeit, Aug 30, 2007, accessed Nov 24, 2014,
  2. Giles Scott-Smith (2011) Interdoc and West European Psychological Warfare: The American Connection, Intelligence and National Security Vol. 26, Nos. 2–3, 355–376
  3. "Radicalization" refers to a value shift towards fovouring a more equal distribution of wealth.
  4. a b
  6. Both German journalist [1] Richard Gutjahr and his [2] daughter Thamina Stoll provided footage of European terror attacks. Gutjahr is married to Isreali Intelligence Officer [3] Einat Wilf. The youtube videos pointing out these facts are subject to copyright and privacy complaints, i.e [4].
  7. German Journalist Richard Gutjahr filmed the attack from the balcony of his hotel where he stayed for holiday.
  8. FOX NEWS: "It has been a tough week for Germany." A typical early report mentioning the contradicting accident story and the evacuation of 2000 unaffected people standing around rather annoyed. "Lot's of flash light". [5]
  9. Ex-cop analyzes staged photo in the Wall Street Journal about the Munich shooting.
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