The government keeps secrets. We all know this. Edward Snowden revealed a ton of American secrets to the world about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying program. The government says they keep secrets from us in the name of national security. Some would argue that some things governments do to ensure the safety and security of its citizens probably should be kept in the dark and the records of those dealings sealed. However, others believe in full disclosure to prevent abuses of civil liberties and human rights violations.
Sometimes labeling something “Top Secret,” or “Classified,” is just a bureaucratic mechanism to prevent knowledge of a pending operation or policy change. The pressure is on the media to uncover the truth about the government’s dealing as soon as possible and bring this information to the public masses. However, after many years of being locked away, security threats diminish and concerned parties pass away, leaving once-secret documents to be declassified and revealed. Some contain information that was long rumored or might today seem unexciting or boring. Other secrets, had they been revealed years prior, have the potential to rock nations to their very foundations.
This is a compilation of declassified secrets, some shocking and hard to believe, others long rumored to be true, even before the documented evidence was released. As more and more extraordinary records are declassified and revealed we learn what our governments were capable of in the past. Imagine what they are capable of doing now and just how long will it be before those are revealed.
15 Julia Child, Secret Agent
She was a beloved American author, acclaimed chef, and a famous television star; Julia Child brought French cuisine into the American consciousness. In August 2008, upon the release of thousands of classified files, Child would also be remembered for being a secret agent. The U.S. National Archives released all the personnel files for those who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the wartime forerunner of the CIA. One of the files belonged to Julia McWiliams, the maiden name of Child. The declassified documents revealed the vast intelligence network run by the OSS, created by President Franklin Roosevelt, as the nation’s first intelligence agency. Previous estimates were that the OSS employed 13,000, the new documents shown the numbers was more like 24,000.
14 The Secret of Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station is a landmark in New York City. It remains the busiest train station in the United States. Every day it sees many thousands of people going in and out of the terminal, eating at the many restaurants, drinking in the fancy bars, having photos snapped incessantly by tourists. What these thousands of people every day don’t know is that there are actually two areas in the station that few people will ever see.
13 The Plame Affair
Valerie Plame, aka Valerie E. Wilson, had spent twenty years working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She had risen to top-level assignments all over the world and fulfilled her duties gathering intelligence, recruiting spies, and working many years undercover as a covert operative. By 2002, she had risen to chief of operations for the CIA’s Joint Task Force Iraq, trying to ascertain the truth about claims that Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s). It was decided that the U.S. would send Ambassador Joe Wilson, incidentally the husband of Valerie Plame, to Niger on a fact-finding mission. He concluded that any uranium sale from the region was “highly unlikely.” About a year later, during his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush announced that Hussein had sought significant amounts of uranium from Africa. Ambassador Wilson was livid and believed his intelligence had been twisted and exaggerated, publicly accusing the president and others of lying to justify an invasion.
12 Operation: Paperclip
Nearing the end of World War II, the British and American commands were jointly combing occupied Germany for any military or scientific research they could find. Certain units were tasked with confiscating any war-related documents and materials, as well as interrogating scientists. One lucky discovery was recovered from a toilet at Bonn University – the Osenberg List. It was a catalogue of engineers and scientists that been working for the Nazis. Convinced that these men could be invaluable to America’s Cold War efforts, President Harry Truman authorized Operation: Paperclip in September 1946. The goal was to bring approximately 1,600 German scientists, and their families, to America to work for the U.S. government. The project was run by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency (JIOA), and although officially Truman forbid the recruiting of any Nazi party members, many JIOA officials eliminated any evidence of possible war crimes from the scientists’ records, believing their research and expertise outweighed any Nazi involvement.
11 The Dunblane Massacre
The Dunblane Massacre was one of the deadliest mass murders in Great Britain’s history. On March 13, 1996, gunman Thomas Hamilton walked into Dunblane Primary school, in Scotland, and proceeded to slaughter sixteen children and one teacher before killing himself. Public outrage over the killings drew renewed interest on gun control laws. Two new laws were passed which strictly restricted private ownership of firearms in Great Britain. An inquiry was made under the authority of Lord William Cullen and he ordered the resulting report be sealed for 100 years. The media was incensed and began to wonder what information was being hidden. In October 2004, former conservative party chairman Lord Tebbit spoke out against the sealing of the report and within a year, half of the files were released.
10 The Thule Bomb
The Thule Air Base is the northernmost installation of the U.S. Air Force and lies on the northwest side of the island of Greenland, part of the Danish realm. It is home to a ballistic missile early-warning radar station. On January 21, 1968, a U.S. B-52G Statofortress from the 380th Strategic Bomber Wing was flying to the base from Plattsburgh Air Base in New York. The bomber, call sign Hobo 28, was flying a routine alert mission and was armed with four hydrogen bombs. Near the end of the mission, a fire broke out in the bomber’s cockpit. They were unable to make an emergency landing at Thule and ultimately crashed into sea ice in nearby North Star Bay. Most of the crew ejected safely and the hydrogen bombs did not detonate due to safety mechanisms. However, the bombs did fall into the sea.
9 The Tragedy of Iran Air 655
A year after the Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Iraq invaded the former United States ally. In the conflict, the United States chose to support Iraq and the war dragged on for eight long years, claiming millions of lives. On July 3, 1988, the U.S.S. Vincennes was in a sea skirmish against two smaller Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf. During the battle, Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian passenger plane, took off from nearby Bandar Abbas International Airport, bound for Dubai. The airport was known for housing military as well as civilian aircraft. During the heat of battle, the U.S.S. Vincennes claimed it mistook the large Airbus A300 airliner for a smaller F-14 fighter jet. They reported that the plane failed to identify itself when challenged and fired two surface-to-air missiles, killing all 290 passengers and crew of the fated plane.
8 My Lai Massacre
The My Lai Massacre was the mass murder of approximately 500 unarmed civilians of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) that occurred on March 16, 1968. The massacre was conducted by U.S. Army soldiers. A majority of those killed were women and children, with some being raped and beaten. My Lai was a small village in the Quang Ngai province, believed to be a stronghold of the Viet Cong (VC). Company C of the Americal Division’s 11th Infantry Brigade was sent on a search-and-destroy mission to root out VC guerrillas in My Lai. Lieutenant William Calley was in command. Not a single shot was reported fired against his soldiers. The slaughter only stopped when an army helicopter pilot, Hugh Thompson, landed between the soldiers and the escaping villagers and threatened to open fire on the soldiers if they didn’t stand down.
7 U.S.S. Liberty Affair
On June 8, 1967, during the Six Day War, Israeli jets fired upon the American intelligence ship, U.S.S. Liberty, causing extensive damage and killing 34 American sailors. Israel claimed the ship was mistaken for the Egyptian horse carrier, El Quseir. According to released NSA documents, Israel knew all along that the ship they fired upon was an American vessel. Senior American officials, including President Lyndon Johnson, failed to act in order to protect Israel from embarrassment. Johnson’s administration ordered the inquiry into the attack on the Liberty to conclude it was an accident despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Retired Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it “one of the classic All-American cover-ups.” Moorer had spent a year investigating the attack as part of an independent panel.
6 Lord Mountbatten’s Ice Carrier
In 1942, due to a lack of sufficient air cover, Nazi submarine attacks in the Atlantic Ocean were costing the Allies greatly in merchant shipping. The flight range of available aircraft was inadequate to cover the mid-Atlantic and there weren’t enough aircraft carriers available to support Atlantic shipping. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the British Chief of Combined Operations, was responsible for developing innovative tactics, technology, and equipment for Allied offensive operations. He tasked his team of engineers and scientists to come up with new and inventive ideas, most of which never got past the drawing boards, but others were completed and utilized in the war effort.
5 Churchill’s Plan for Hitler
Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman, prime minister, the man who rallied his people to victory in World War II. He’s considered an iconic figure by many, and yet his plans for a deposed dictator after the war were less dignified. In 2006, declassified documents came to light that depicted Churchill’s plans for Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler should he be captured after the war. Reportedly he was opposed to Allied plans for war crimes trials and was in favor of summarily executing ranking Nazi leaders, including Hitler, who he referred to as “the mainspring of evil.” The documents also reflect that Churchill was perfectly willing to utterly destroy defenceless German villages in retaliation for Nazi carnage in Czechoslovakia, even if it meant going against the advice of his cabinet.
4 Operation: Gladio
In the 1970s, declassified U.S. documents revealed that, in November 1956, General Giovanni de Lorenzo, chief of Italian Military Intelligence, conspired with the United States via the CIA in preparing a plan to halt any Communist attempt to takeover Italy. However, the Italian government was not informed. Then plan was called Gladio (Italian for “Sword”) and involved forming a skilled force of 1000 men trained in guerrilla warfare and espionage. A training base was established in Sardinia and numerous weapons caches were hidden throughout Northern Italy. Gladio was run by NATO’s Clandestine Planning Committee overseen by the CIA, along with British MI6 and SAS operators. The plan was implemented and instrumental in many covert actions, including a silent coup d’état when General de Lorenzo quietly forced Italian Socialist Ministers to leave the government. Gladio was also implicated in the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, due to his role in attempting to reconcile Communist involvement in Italian government.
3 Operation: Northwoods
During the 1960s, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a project called Operation: Northwoods, with a goal of striking terror in the hearts of the U.S. public by launching faux terrorist attacks against their own citizens. Why would the U.S. government do such a thing? The overall objective was to be able to assign blame on Cuban Communists giving U.S. military forces the reason they needed to invade the island nation. In 1998, long-secret documents were released by the National Security Agency (NSA) that showed just how serious General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and his staff were set on taking out Fidel Castro and ridding Cuba of Communism.
2 Sabotage of Vietnam Peace Talks
In 1968, Richard Nixon was running a tough race for the presidency of the United States. His entire campaign revolved around the Vietnam War. When President Lyndon Johnson announced, just days prior to the election, that he had ordered a cessation to the bombing of North Vietnam to help progress ongoing peace negotiations, the Republicans believed their election hopes were crushed. In classified documents brought to light in 2008, Tom C. Huston, a former aide to Nixon, revealed that other campaign aides contacted South Vietnam and promised them a better deal if they hindered the peace negotiations and helped get Nixon elected into office.
1 The Spy Who Almost Destroyed The World
Oleg Penkovsky was a KGB double agent for the CIA and MI6. He became an intelligence legend during the Cuban Missile Crisis and earned the moniker, “the spy who saved the world.” A U-2 spy mission over Cuba took photographs of unusually long missiles. Nothing like them had been seen before in Cuba. Analysts pulled out their secretive “black books” of missile intelligence and field manuals given to the CIA by Penkovsky. It was in these manuals that the analysts found a match for Soviet R-12MRBM missiles. It was clear Cuba possessed these missiles giving them strike capabilities of targets deep within the United States. Thanks to Penkovsky, the U.S. acted early and war was averted.
1992 declassified documents reveal a darker end to Penkovsky. The CIA and MI6 had setup a system by which Penkovsky could use telephone signals to give emergency warnings when there was no time for a coordinated dead drop. In case he received credible intelligence of an impending Soviet nuclear strike against the West, he was to call both handlers and blow three times into the receiver before hanging up. On November 2, 1962, both the CIA and MI6 received these calls. Both agencies were sceptical of the signal. The British believed it was a false alarm and did not react. The CIA, however, knowing missiles remained in Cuba, quickly sent an agent to check the dead drop for more information. The agent was promptly arrested by the waiting KGB. It seems unlikely the Soviets would risk war to simply catch a spy. Apparently Penkovsky had been arrested by the KGB and, knowing he would be executed for treason, decided on a last ditch effort to take the Soviet Union down with him. He attempted to get the West to launch a nuclear strike against his captors. The last act of the spy who saved the world was to try and destroy it.
Sources: telegraph.co.uk, nsarchive.gwu.edu, globalresearch.ca, history.com, cbsnews.com
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