Everyone knows about Richard Nixon’s Watergate mess. Most Americans have heard of the Iran-Contra Affair, even if they can’t quite give you the details of what happened. Some of the more astute students of history can even fill you in on the arcane details of the Teapot Dome Scandal, which was a lot less cute and innocent than the name might make it sound, FYI. But these and other such pieces of political dirty laundry that got aired out in public are just the tip of the iceberg.
By their very nature cover-ups tend to remain unknown, so it’s impossible to know just how many government cover-ups we don’t know about. But there are a plethora of scandalous messes that were uncovered yet never widely publicized. To be up front, you’re not going to learn about a time when the Feds hid an alien crash site or secretly toppled a foreign regime, because aliens don’t exist (at least any that will ever pay us a visit), and because all of our attempts to topple foreign regimes through any method other than warfare have since proved ineffective. But yes, to be clear, we have tried that latter part. Why, just take a look at the whole Exploding Cigar thing below.
15. CIA Mind Control Program
Over the course of a few decades in the middle of the 20th Century, the CIA spent millions of dollars looking into whether or not it could create a mind control program. They allegedly administered drugs such as LSD to subjects without their knowledge, experimented with forced hypnosis, and even looked into telekinesis. Which sounds crazy because it’s crazy. While we know that a lot of this occult research went on, we’ll likely never know all the details, because the agency destroyed all of the related files back in 1973. So much for staring at goats.
14. The My Lai Massacre in Vietnam
If you pay much attention to United States’ history, you have probably heard about the atrocities committed by a group of American soldiers on March 16th, 1968. On that day, between 350 and 500 Vietnamese civilians were slaughtered by GIs gone berserk. The massacre soon became public knowledge and the resulting outcry of anger was of course fitting. What you might not know is that initially the murder of unarmed civilians was reported as a regular battle and in fact held up as a laudable victory for the American soldiers during which approximately 120 enemy combatants were killed. That remained the official story for more than a year and a half until a formal investigation was finally opened up in late 1969.
13. Castro’s Exploding Cigar
This affair was like an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in subterfuge and so forth. Operation Mongoose, launched in the early 1960s, was a CIA plot to overthrow the communist government of Cuba; killing Fidel Castro was a major part of that plan. Of the dozens of ways agents contrived to kill the leftist leader, one of the strangest was to slip Castro a cigar packed with explosives. Here’s the catch: they CIA might well have intentionally leaked this plan then tried to dismiss it in an attempt to distract attention away from their more substantive plots. They uncovered one thing to cover another, if any of it can be believed. The Bay of Pigs Invasion, though? Yeah, that definitely happened. Didn’t go well.
12. Grand Central Station’s Track 61
If you have ever taken a train into or out of New York City’s Grand Central Station, you probably didn’t ride on Track 61. That’s because this secret track was reserved exclusively for top-level VIPs including diplomats, politicians, and especially for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The hidden track ran deep beneath the station and could be accessed by an equally clandestine freight elevator. To ensure FDR’s safety and to keep his inability to walk discreet (it was an open secret), the president would arrive in Manhattan via the secret Track 61, then be loaded directly into a limousine, which was lifted up the freight elevator and then drove right out into NYC.
11. The Poisoned Booze of Prohibition
America’s 13 year long experiment with the prohibition of alcohol didn’t go that well. It ushered in the era of the gangster and the bootlegger and did little to keep people from getting drunk; they just drank illegal stuff and skirted taxes in the process. In an even worse step than just banning the stuff, in the 1920s the government began mandating that companies producing alcohol for use in cleaners, solvents, and for other industrial applications add a veritable cocktail of poisons to their alcohol. This was in an effort to combat the common practice of industrial alcohol being stolen and redistilled into a drinkable form; the actual result was the poisoning of countless people, with as many as 10,000 deaths likely resulting from the initiative.
10. The Nayirah Testimony
There’s a general consensus that our first war with Iraq, back in the 1990s, was justified. (No need to talk about #2 here.) Iraq was the car aggressor against neighboring Kuwait, Kuwait wanted help, and in we went. But one of the specific reasons that was used as justification for our military operations was the heart-rending testimony of a young Kuwaiti girl who claimed she had worked in a hospital where she saw Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and leaving them to die. It later came out that she had not, in fact worked in a hospital nor seen any of the things she claimed and that she was not just some random Kuwait girl, but the daughter of that country’s ambassador to America. She is also rumored to have gotten acting lessons sponsored by the CIA.
9. Area 51 is 100% Real
Area 51 is a real place, and it’s located in Nevada. The government more often calls the place Groom Lake than Area 51, but they’re not trying too deny the existence of the place. Not anymore, that is. Back when it was being used to test the most advanced aircraft of the mid-1900s, the government and military did try to keep information about this place covered up, but it was indeed to keep these planes a secret. There was never anything going on out there that related to extraterrestrials or the paranormal.
8. What Happened at Waco?
The very short story of what happened at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas back in 1993 is that more than 80 people, including cult leader David Koresh, died following a heated standoff with federal officers. Their deaths were caused by a fire that was quite likely started by the people holed up in the compound, but we’ll likely never know for sure, because many of the files dealing with the investigation into the catastrophe have been sealed or tampered with. The strangest thing about the aftermath of Waco is arguably the fact that no cover up or redaction was likely necessary; by all accounts, the ATF and FBI on the scene performed their duties well.
7. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
You can file this one under truly repugnant, but from the 1930s into the early 1970s, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted experiments on unwitting subjects with the intention of studying the effects and progression of the untreated STD syphilis. The men who were engaged in the study were poor black farmers from rural Alabama. They were told they would receive free medical care but instead were misinformed about their condition and received no proper treatment, and instead were monitored as their health deteriorated despite the known existence of effective medications.
6. Cigarettes Are Only Kind of Addictive?
As late as 1996, major political figures including the Republican candidate for President, Senator Bob Dole, were at best equivocal about the addictive nature of smoking, while for many years many in government flatly denied the danger cigarettes posed. Through successful lobbying and PR initiatives, tobacco companies managed to keep most people and even most doctors doubting the danger of cigarettes well into the 1960s, and the United States government didn’t even regulate tobacco through the FDA until the 1990s. The dangers of smoking were known for decades before lawmakers finally decided to place public health before financial gain.
5. CIA Hid Enhanced Interrogation from the President
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it wasn’t immediately clear who was the enemy and how best to fight them, and it sure as hell wasn’t clear what to do with the combatants that were captured in Afghanistan and later in Iraq (and probably in some other places, too). Those issues aside, the CIA figured many of the militants it captured could share information that would prove valuable to fighting the jihadi cause. Thus they started a program of so-called enhanced interrogation, which upon observing most people would just call torture. And while that program is pretty much common knowledge now, what you probably don’t know is that, amazingly, the agency did not provide President Bush with details about what they were doing for more than four years. (Apparently later review demonstrated the entire enhanced interrogation program was woefully ineffective, by the way.)
4. HAARP – Weather as Weapon?
According to the United States government, the facility built up in the wilderness near Gakona, Alaska, was intended for research into ways to enhance communication and surveillance operations using transmissions sent through the earth’s ionosphere. According to conspiracy theorists, the government was trying to weaponize the weather, using the equipment of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (that’s HAARP) as way to trigger earthquakes, to beam mind control waves, or to create a death ray focusing the sun’s energy down onto the earth. While none of those are accurate, the true extent of the program was kept obscure, and it was shut down a few years back.
3. The Sinking of the Maine
On the 15th of February, 1898, the battleship USS Maine sank in harbor of Havana, Cuba, after being ripped apart by a massive explosion. While an investigation concluded that the likely cause of the sinking had been an accidental detonation of ammunition aboard the ship, the military allowed the perpetuation of the popular sentiment that the ship was struck by a hostile mine. Why? Because this could be used to help stir up the fervor for war with Spain, of which Cuba was a part at that time, and against whom the US was vying for primacy in the region.
2. Gulk of Tonkin Incident
Time and again America has proved itself adept at using deception or misinformation to get itself involved in military action, but with the possible exception of the Spanish-American War, the resulting wars never seem to go that well. Such was the case with Vietnam, certainly. Our involvement in that country’s strife was largely predicated on a pair of attacks the North Vietnamese launched against the USS Maddox, a destroyer that was in the Gulf of Tonkin at the time. During the first engagement, on August 2nd, 1964, torpedo boats fired on the Maddox but caused no damage. The second attack was said to have come two days later. But later scrutiny revealed that the second attack was almost surely a total fabrication, and that reports of the first contact might have been quite overblown.
1. They Might Not Be Watching YOU, But They Watch Plenty of People
Sorry to let you know that most of us are not of interest to the United States government beyond our duties as taxpayers and law abiding citizens. The government is probably not watching you, in other words. But they sure have put a lot of people under highly questionable surveillance over the years. The FBI doggedly monitored Martin Luther King, Jr. for many years. They also watched John Lennon for part of the 1960s and early 70s. And they kept tabs on Frank Sinatra. And Albert Einstein. And Malcom X. And then there was that whole Edward Snowden meta data thing. So wait, they are kind of watching you. And me. Kinda.
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