The Consortium

The Mafia, The CIA, and George Bush

Like a non-descript intelligence operative in a LeCarre novel, the CIA is a quiet presence in the background of the Mafia corruption trial of former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. A fixture of post-war Italy, the 76-year-old Andreotti worked closely with the CIA in thwarting Communist influence in the important European nation.

Now, the seven-time prime minister says he might call as friendly character witnesses, retired Gen. Vernon Walters and former President George Bush. In 1976, Walters was deputy CIA director and Bush ran the spy agency. The work of other legendary CIA men, including the late counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, also have included important stints in Italy.

If the former CIA officials are called in Andreotti's defense, the move could give Italian prosecutors an opening to explore the close ties between Andreotti's Christian Democrats and the CIA, as well as the CIA's long-standing relations with the Mafia. Those ties even predate the CIA, when its World War II forerunner, the Office of Strategic Services, collaborated with Lucky Luciano and other Mafia dons to undercut Italy's Fascist government.

Those connections continued into the Cold War as the Mafia battled militant Communists in Italy and even handled dirty assignments, such as attacks on Fidel Castro, in the Western Hemisphere. In another strange twist, Andreotti even has speculated that the charges against him are somehow a fabrication of U.S. intelligence circles that have turned against him.

But for now, the Andreotti trial is focused on whether Andreotti granted political favors to the Mafia in exchange for them delivering votes to the Christian Democrats and eliminating political enemies such as anti-Mafia crusader Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa. The allegations have come primarily from Mafia informer Tommaso Buscetta. Andreotti has denied the allegations.

But the trial, which is expected to last more than a year, might eventually shed new light on the CIA's own unsavory alliances in the harsh early days of the Cold War.

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