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Terrorism in Italy (From The Threat of Terrorism, P 89-118, 1988, Juliet Lodge, ed. -- See NCJ-120913)

NCJ Number
C Seton-Watson
Date Published
30 pages
After reviewing the history of terrorism of the right (black terrorism) and of the left (red terrorism) in Italy, this chapter critiques the development of the State response to terrorism and the subsequent decline of domestic terrorism.
Black terrorism was spawned by adherents' perceptions of the threat of communism and government permissiveness that invited anarchy. Red terrorism stemmed from the slow gains of the communist party within the Italian political system. Both black and red terrorism flourished in the atmosphere of disorder and violence that accompanied the two cycles of mass protest between 1968 and 1979. The first cycle (1968-71) was based mainly in the factories and universities. The second cycle, in 1977-79, occurred primarily in large, densely populated urban areas. Although Italian State authorities and political parties reacted more slowly to the terrorist threat than those in other West European countries, they acted promptly in the legislative sphere. Laws targeting terrorism increased police powers of search and arrest; rules on the tapping of phones were relaxed; the registration of lodgers by householders became compulsory; the time limit of preventive detention without trial was extended to 10 years; bail was restricted, mandatory sentences increased, and judicial discretion reduced. Implementation was hampered, however, by lack of police and court resources, competition among police forces, and lack of reform in intelligence services. Both State response and public opinion against terrorism increased, however, as terrorist violence became more bold and shocking, until terrorists were isolated and perceived by the public as dangerous criminals to be hunted down at all costs. The reduction in terrorism was also aided by government incentives for terrorists to inform on one another. 45 notes.