The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation by definition are forced to keep many secrets. Their job is to be stealthy, and live in the shadows while gathering as much information as possible on potential threats.
Most of the work they do stays in those shadows, but on the rare occasion they end up getting leaked to the public. It’s in these stories that we find out the full breadth of American intel and the vast scope to which they operate. This article highlights some of the covert operations the FBI and CIA wish you didn’t know about so keep this knowledge on the DL.
The CIA had Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba in their crosshairs for a while. It seemed that they weren’t going to stop at anything in order to neutralize him. The CIA’s Operation Mongoose had many failed attempts to assassinate the revolutionary leader.
Some of the tactics included exploding cigars, poisoned wetsuits and even having a former lover spike his drink. He once stated that if surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic sport, he’d win the gold medal.
Operation Acoustic Kitty
As much as you want to try to train cats, you can’t. They live by their own rules, so the fact that they botched a training program by the CIA shouldn’t be too surprising. It was called Operation Acoustic Kitty, and it set out to train cats to hang around the Soviet Union embassies with microphones and hearing devices implanted in their ears.
The operation cost $20 million and shut down after the first cat was killed by a taxi and the other cats were too easily distracted.
There Were Lost CIA Agents In North Korea
North Korea has been a mystery to the US intelligence agencies for decades now. In the 1950s, they set out to learn more about the country by parachuting CIA agents into the country. They hoped the agents could plant seeds of resistance and lead the North Korean people against the government.
The agents who dropped in were never heard from again. Apparently the CIA continued to send agents into the hermit country until 1970.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Madness
This probably isn’t the news that the Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted to hear in the early 2000s. But their music was used as a form of torture by the CIA. Yes, you’re reading this correctly.
According to a former interrogator, the Chili Peppers’ songs have a lot of bass in their guitar riffs and if played for a long period of time can make someone feel extremely uncomfortable. Tell that to a RHCP fan.
Pick A Drug, Any Drug
In the 1960s, the scope of what LSD could do was unknown. The CIA decided it needed to test the hallucinogenic substance more broadly. One of the ways they were going to do that was by testing on unsuspecting people. That was going to be a difficult task, but they were up for it.
Agents would secretly dose people’s drinks at local bars. The CIA also hired magician John Mulholland to train agents in the art of sleight of hand. The training documents were said to be destroyed, but they did eventually come out years later.
The Unabomber Was A CIA Creation
The infamous Unabomber, AKA Ted Kaczynski, was partially “created” by the CIA. Ted claimed that one of the experiments that turned him into an expert home-grown terrorist was funded by the CIA. It’s true, in the 1960s the CIA sponsored a Harvard study by a professor where undergraduate students would get humiliated for their beliefs.
Kaczynski said that it was brutal psychological experiments like that which ended up turning him into the monster that he would become.
A Black Under Cover KKK Member
In the 1970s, the Klu Klux Klan was still trying to have their voice be heard. They put up a posting in Colorado looking for people to start a chapter and the FBI saw it as an opportunity to jump. That’s where Ron Stallworth comes into the story. He’s an African-American cop who was told to lead the Colorado chapter. How? Well, all the conversations were over the phone.
If he was requested to be seen in person, they would send a white cop in his place. This sting was one of the biggest (of MANY) mistakes the KKK made that has lead to their downfall.
The Little Blue Pill
The CIA is not opposed to sending gifts to people they want to learn more about in an attempt to swoon them. If it’s a military officer from an enemy state, they’ll usually use money or weapons or other secret means in an attempt to bribe them into revealing information.
In one rare case, they would send an Afghan chieftain Viagra pills which worked seamlessly to get useful information about Afghan supply routes.
The Cuban Informant
The Gambino crime family is a Mafia legend. They were one of the “Five Families” that posed a major criminal presence the FBI had their eyes on for a long time. In 2002, the bureau was able to sneak in an undercover agent among the Gambinos.
He posed as Jack Falcone, a 390-pound jewel thief. Their target was Greg DePalma who was an aging family capo in the family. Falcone wasn’t even Italian, which should’ve been the first sign he was a fraud. He fooled the Gambinos for three years before the FBI decided to pull the plug on the operation after Falcone refused to beat up a cop. DePalma and many others were sent to jail.
William Queen Plays It Stupid
The FBI wanted to explore the inner workings of the Mongols biker gang. So, they sent an agent named William Queen to infiltrate the gang under an alias of Billy St. John. He had convinced the Mongols that he was a trusted member of the gang for two years, the police even staged him “killing” someone to make him look that dedicated.
His work ended up putting away 53 members of the gang. He said that his strategy was to play the dumb member. His nickname in the Mongols was “Billy the Slow-Brained.” They didn’t think he would even have the intellect to be a cop.
Tina Isa Lost Her Life
Tina Isa was a rebellious teenager to her Palestinian parents. She held a job at Wendy’s and had an African-American boyfriend. Her dad, Zein Isa was a suspected member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization so their house was bugged by the FBI.
In 1989, Tina returned home and was murdered by her dad and mom and it was all caught on FBI audio. Both parents were sentenced to the death penalty.
Dalia’s Post-Marital Regrets
Shortly after Dalia Dippolito married her husband Michael, she knew she didn’t want to be with him. So, naturally, she tried to take him out the old fashioned way — with a hitman. After a few failed attempts at poisoning him, and even framing him as a drug dealer she figured it was the logical next step.
Dalia sought out a hitman, who if she didn’t learn from movies, is always an FBI officer. She paid the undercover cop to kill her husband. The police staged the death and hauled her away to jail after being confronted by her very alive ex-husband.
The Woman In Red
Ana Cumpanas, AKA The Woman in Red was a Romanian who moved to the United States in 1909. She took up prostitution as a way to make ends meet. One of her clients was a man named John Dillinger who was the most wanted man in America at the time.
She needed some money so she went to the FBI to turn him in. They came up with a plan to get her to bring John to a movie theater where they would nab him there. They ended up killing Dillinger and then only paid Ana half of what she thought she was getting and then deported her shortly after.
The Cold War Culture
When the second world war ended, the United States decided that it would ramp up its culture war against the Soviet Union by showcasing their art. They secretly funded artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
The U.S wanted to showcase how free they let their abstract artists design. In the Soviet Union, there were strict rules impressionists had to follow. The artists became extremely popular around the world, so, mission accomplished?
Area 51 Actually Exists
The existence of Area 51 has been speculated upon for decades. In 2013, the CIA finally decided to release documents that prove Area 51 is actually real. It’s about 125 miles west of Las Vegas, but it shouldn’t matter to you anyway because only intelligence agents are allowed into it.
Many people expected the documents released by the CIA to have alien secrets, but that wasn’t the case. Apparently Area 51 is just a testing site for the government’s top-secret aerial surveillance programs.
This isn’t an America story, but it’s pretty interesting. The Triads, or the Chinese Mafia, is such a problem in China that the police have their own division just to take them down. They look to recruit young members which means they’re at a lot of high schools.
They sent an undercover cop to pose as a 15-year-old high schooler. Like, he literally went back to high school. He pretended to be a student for months gathering information about the Mafia. He gathered enough information to arrest 117 people which is unbelievable.
The Big MOVE
The MOVE was a cult-like group of black liberationists who lived in a Philadelphia neighborhood and wreaked havoc. Their neighbors ended up calling the police, and on May 13th, 1985, city officials, firefighters, and police officers showed up to clear them out.
They weren’t going to go easy. The group refused to budge and the police knew they had stocked firearms in the house. They dropped a c4 bomb on the house which caused 61 houses to burn and 11 deaths. The bomb was linked back to an FBI special agent who “forgot” to report that he gave the police the bomb, which is illegal. He wasn’t fired for lack of evidence.
The FBI Knew Hitler Was Still Alive?
Interestingly enough, the FBI has a full list of Hitler sightings AFTER he was supposed to be dead. The theory is that he faked his suicide with Eva Braun and the Russians knew it. When President Harry Truman asked Joesph Stalin if Hitler was dead, he said that he could very well be alive.
Many people think that he traveled to South America which was notorious for sheltering other Nazis like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Stalin.
Ronald Reagan Informant
Ronald Reagan is best known for serving as the President of the United States during the bleakest portion of the Cold War. He had a bizarre run-in with the FBI in 1981 after he was shot by John Hinckley Jr. When he arrived at the hospital his suit was cut off and the FBI and military officials at the scene got into a tussle over Reagan’s belongings.
His wallet held the codes card needed to initiate a nuclear missile strike. The FBI won and confiscated the wallet. They did not return it for two days and to this day no one knows what happened to it.
The FBI’s Least-Favorite Actress
Jean Seberg was a promising young actress who was starting to dominate the big screen in the 1960s and 1970s. She became an enemy of the FBI as soon as she started to donate money to the Black Panthers.
The FBI initiated a smear campaign against her which started with her pregnancy. They started rumors about the father being from the Black Panthers when he wasn’t. The baby was born premature and died a few days after birth. She sued the tabloids for being the reason her baby was born premature due to stress. She ended up killing herself and her husband fully blames the FBI.
Lots Of Law Breaking
The FBI can be quite ruthless while they’re trying to achieve their goal. They’re willing to go to great lengths in order to pull off something because they have the resources and power to do it.
This includes authorizing their estimated 15,000 informants to commit thousands of crimes per year. According to a recent document released by the FBI, they allowed almost 6,000 crimes to be committed in 2011 alone.
The Grim Reaper
Gregory Scarpa was a savage in the Colombo crime family. He was known as “The Grim Reaper” and was high on the FBI’s most wanted list. He was arrested for armed robbery in 1962 but the FBI turned him into an informant which he accepted to keep himself out of jail.
He was sent by the FBI to uncover a bunch of secrets. He was once sent to Mississippi to intimidate three KKK members into telling him where three missing civil rights members were. They didn’t think he was serious until he shoved a gun into their mouth and they revealed the location of the graves.
They (Easily) Tricked The Neo-Nazi’s
The FBI sent an Australian “journalist” to interview a whole herd of Neo-Nazis in an attempt to gather more information on their motives. It was for a fake white supremacist publication called The Right Way which meant the Neo-Nazis could really share their true feelings.
The “journalist” was allowed in a bunch of high ranking meetings and was embraced by many members. Ron Furey, the “journalist” was actually of Jewish descent whose parents survived the Holocaust. The white supremacists could’ve found out that he wasn’t a real newsman by literally Googling the publication which didn’t exist.
The Cold War In The Bedroom
Let’s just face it, as powerful as the CIA is, they’re also extremely petty. During the Cold War, they had many plans and strategies to ensure the Russians thought they were bigger and better. Literally.
One plan included dropping oversized condoms into the Soviet Union. That seems innocent enough, but the CIA actually marked the condoms as “medium” so that the Russians would think less of themselves when they put the condom on.
John Steinbeck’s Taxes
Nobel Prize winning novelist John Steinbeck was connected to many leftists and labor unions. As a result, the FBI exhaustively researched the author but he never had any prosecutable skeletons. To make his life miserable, the FBI arranged the IRS to audit his taxes every year for the rest of his life.
Steinbeck was so irritated that he offered his services to the CIA while he went to Europe in order to get them off his back. The Director of the FBI and Steinbeck met, the arrangement still remains a mystery.
That Backfired Immensely
In 1977 at the height of the Cold War, the CIA found out that they had a mole in their midst. He was a simple technical agent named William Kampiles and he stole top-secret spy satellite manuals from their headquarters.
He ended up selling the manual to the Soviets from $3,000. He realized he made a mistake and told the CIA about what he had done hoping they would use him as a double agent. They didn’t, and Kampiles was sentenced to 40 years in jail.
They Rode Off George Orwell’s Success
When you think of the CIA, you’re probably not jumping to the label of “blockbuster hit makers,” and rightly so. But, they did keep up with a few movie deals that happened after George Orwell died in 1950. The CIA secretly bought the film rights to two of Orwell’s most controversial books — Animal Farm and 1984.
They took an opportunity to turn his books into films that could help with their anti-communist agenda. The movie Animal Farm portrayed all the communists as pigs which were different than what Orwell had in his book version.
Air America’s Covert Operations
Air America operated from 1950 to 1976. It was a commercial airliner that seemed “innocent” and apolitical. The airliner served passengers from Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles and basically went from coast to coast.
It also conducted some pretty insane covert military missions overseas. The airline was used by the CIA for their operations in East Asia. They would fly military personnel and transport military equipment through the airline without anyone knowing.
The FBI Framing Elmer Pratt
Elmer Pratt served two tours in Vietnam and racked up some impressive medals. When he came back he joined the Black Panthers and was quickly promoted to the Minister of Defense for the party. The affiliation and title put him in the crosshairs of the FBI.
The intelligence agency wanted to neutralize him as quickly as possible. They got their chance when two black men robbed, and killed a woman named Caroline Olsen. Pratt was charged with the crime but had a damning alibi that wasn’t shared at the trail. He was sentenced to life in prison and spent 27 years locked up before his conviction was overturned when it was revealed the FBI informant they had been using lied about the case.
The CIA Paper Trail
In 2003, the Italian police uncovered a covert CIA operation thanks to a trail of frequent flyer miles by the agents. They discovered that a man and woman were pretending to be American business executives traveling Europe but in reality, they were two CIA agents tasked with abducting a Norwegian resident.
The two swiped their frequent flyer cards at every hotel and restaurant they went to and the police tracked them from Brussels to Venice, London, Vienna and eventually Oslo.