9 Huge Government Conspiracies That Actually Happened

We all know the conspiracy theories — the government’s plan for 911, the  second gunman who shot JFK, the evolution of the elite from a race of  blood-drinking, shape-shifting lizards.

But the people who spread these ideas usually can’t prove them.

As the years pass, however, secrets surface. Government documents become  declassified. We now have evidence of certain elaborate government schemes right  here in the U.S. of A.

Prohibition Research Committee

AP Photo

The Prohibition Research Committee, pictured above, traveled  the country trying to find one “drunk” reformed by the legislation.


1. The U.S. Department of the Treasury poisoned alcohol during  Prohibition — and people died.

The 18th Amendment, which took effect in January 1920, banned the  manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol — but not consumption. Despite  the government’s efforts, alcoholism actually skyrocketed during the era.

To keep up with America’s thirst, bootleggers not only created their own  alcohol but also stole industrial versions, rendered undrinkable by  the inclusion of certain chemicals (namely methyl alcohol). Liquor syndicates  then employed chemists to “re-nature” the alcohol once again, making it safe for  consumption, according to Deborah Blum, author of “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic  Medicine in Jazz Age New York.”

By mid-1927, however, the U.S. government added much deadlier chemicals — kerosene, chloroform, and acetone among those most well known — which made  alcohol more difficult to render consumable again. Adding 10% more methyl  alcohol caused the worst efforts.

Although New York City’s chief medical examiner, Charles Norris, tried to  publicize the dangers, in 1926, poisonous alcohol killed 400 in the city.  The next year, 700 died.

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

Wikimedia Commons

A doctor administers an injection to one of the Tuskegee  patients.



2. The U.S. Public Health Service lied about treating black men with  syphilis for more than 40 years.

In 1932, the Public Health  Service collaborated with the Tuskegee Institute to record the history of  syphilis in the black male community, hoping to justify a treatment  program.

Called the Tuskegee Study  of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, the  study initially included 600 black men — 399 with  the disease and 201 without. While the men were told they would receive  treatment, however, the researchers never provided adequate treatment for the  disease. Even  when penicillin became the preferred and available treatment for syphilis,  researchers kept their subjects in the dark.

Although originally planned to last only six months, the experiment continued  for 40 years. Finally, in 1972, an Associated Press article prompted public  outrage and a subsequent investigation. A government advisory panel deemed the  study “ethically irresponsible” and research ended almost immediately.

As a result, the government settled a class-action lawsuit out of court in  1974 for $10 million and lifetime health benefits for all participants, the last  of whom died in 2004.

Jonas Salk Polio Vaccine

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Jonas Salk, who created the inactivated polio vaccine in  1955.


3. More than 100 million Americans received a polio vaccine  contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing virus.

From 1954 to 1961, simian virus 40 (SV40) somehow showed up  in polio  vaccines, according to the American  Journal of Cancer. Researchers estimate 98 million people in the U.S. and  even more worldwide received contaminated inoculations.

Jonas  Salk, known creator of the inactivated polio vaccine, used cells from rhesus  monkeys infected with SV40, according to president of the National Vaccine  Information Center Barbara Fisher, who testified before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness  in the U.S. House of Representatives on this matter in 2003, after  researching the situation for 10 years.

The federal government changed oral vaccine stipulations in 1961 — which  didn’t include Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine — specifically citing SV40. But  medical professionals continued to administer tainted vaccines until 1963,  according to Michael E. Horwin writing for the Albany Law  Journal of Science and Technology in 2003. And even after 1961, the  American Journal of Cancer found contaminated oral vaccines.

Although researchers know SV40 causes cancer in animals, opinions vary on a direct link  between the virus and cancer in humans. Independent studies, however, have identified  SV40 in brain and lung tumors of children and adults.

The Centers for Disease Control did post a fact sheet acknowledging the  presence of SV40 in polio vaccines but has since removed it, according to Medical Daily.

photo from Gulf of Tonkin

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A photo of three Vietnamese boats taken from the USS Maddox  (on Aug. 2).


4. Parts of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to U.S.  intervention in Vietnam, never happened.

After evading a torpedo attack, the USS Maddox  reportedly engaged three North Vietnamese boats in the Gulf of Tonkin on both  Aug. 2 and 4, 1964, according to the Pentagon  Papers. Although without U.S. casualties, the events prompted Congress to  pass a resolution allowing President Lyndon John to intervene in the  Southeast.

Talk of Tonkin’s status as a “false  flag” for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War has permeated public discourse  almost since the time of the attacks, especially after the government admitted  that the second incident may have involved false radar  images.

But after resisting  comment for decades, the National Security Agency finally declassified  documents in 2005,  admitting the incident on Aug. 4 never happened at all.

Those involved didn’t  necessarily intend to cover-up the incident to propagate a war. But the evidence  does suggest “an active effort to make SIGINT fit the claim of what  happened during the evening of 4 August in the Gulf of Tonkin,”according  to NSA historian Robert J. Hanyok.

Fidel Castro

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Fidel Castro speaking in Havana in 1978.


5. Military leaders reportedly planned terrorist attacks in the  U.S. to drum up support for a war against Cuba.

In 1962, the joint chiefs-of-staff approved Operation  Northwoods, a covert plan to create support for a war in Cuba that  would oust communist leader Fidel Castro.

Declassified government documents show considerations included: host funerals  for “mock-victims,” “start rumors (many),” and “blow up a U.S. ship in  Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.” They even suggested somehow pinning John Glenn’s  potential death, should his rocket explode, on communists in Cuba.

The advisors presented the plan to President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense  Robert McNamara, according to investigative journalist James Bamford’s  book, “Body of Secrets.” We don’t know whether McNamara  immediately refused, but a few days later, Kennedy told Army Gen. Lyman L.  Lemnitzer, the plan’s poo-bah, that the U.S. would never use overt force to take  Cuba.

A few months later, Lemnitzer lost his position.

“There really was a worry at the time about the military going off  crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn’t for lack of trying,”  Bamford told ABC  News.

Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,”  voluntarily participated in Project MKUltra.


6. The government tested the effects of LSD on unwitting U.S. and  Canadian citizens.

Under the code name “MKUltra,” the U.S. government ran a human-research  operation within the CIA’s Scientific Research Division. Researchers tested the  effects of hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, torture, and most  memorably, LSD, on U.S. and Canadian citizens. Most had no idea.

To conduct these experiments, the CIA paid prisons, hospitals, and other  institutions to keep quiet. The department even enticed heroin addicts to  participate by offering them heroin, according to documents from a joint hearing to subcommittees  of Congress, where President Kennedy spoke.

That day, he regaled Congress with “chilling testimony.” Over 30  universities became involved in various studies. Notably,  many  lacked oversight by medical or scientific professionals. At least one  participant, Frank  Olsen,  died, reportedly from suicide after unknowingly ingesting LSD.

In January 1973, then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of  all documents pertaining to MKUltra. When Congress looked into the matter, no  one, not even Helms, could “remember” details. Through a Freedom of Information  Act (FOIA) request, more documents were located, but the full timeline remains  incomplete.

The events inspired investigative journalist Jon Ronson’s best-selling book, “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” now a movie of the same title  starring George Clooney.

Glomar Explorer Project Azorian

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The Hughes Glomar Explorer, the recovery ship designed for  Project Azorian.


7. In 1974, the CIA secretly resurfaced a sunken Soviet submarine  with three nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

The CIA’s secret “Project Azorian” aimed to raise a sunken  Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean to retrieve three  nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, each carrying a one megaton nuclear  warhead.

With President Nixon’s approval, CIA director Richard Helms placed all the  plans in a secret file called “Jennifer,” thus keeping the information from  everyone but a select number of government officials.

After a FOIA, the NSA finally published an article from the CIA’s in-house  journal, Studies in Intelligence, revealing that the department  succeeded in resurfacing portions of the sub, named K-129.

The CIA redacted text in these documents that prevent determining the  operation’s exact level of success, but the crew of the Glomar Explorer, the  recovery ship, did haul contents to Hawaii for unloading.

Reagan Iran Contra Scandal

Wikimedia Commons


8. The U.S. government sold weapons to Iran, violating an embargo, and used  the money to support Nicaraguan militants.

In 1985, senior officials in the Reagan administration facilitated the sale  of arms to Iran, then under embargo. The government, with the National Security  Council’s Oliver North acting as a key player, later used the profits  to fund the Contras, anti-communist rebels, in Nicaragua.

The whole situation began with seven American hostages taken by a hostile group in Lebanon with ties to Iran. Through an elaborate exchange involving Israel, the U.S. planned to sell weapons to Iran in exchange for the hostages’ freedom. The situation quickly derailed, although the Lebanese did release all but two hostages.

After a leak from an Iranian, the situation finally came to light in  1986. After repeatedly denying any involvement, the Reagan administration  underwent 41 days of congressional hearings, according to Brown University’s research project on the  scandal. They subpoenaed government documents as early as 1981 and forced  declassification of others.

Reagan’s involvement in  and even knowledge of the situation remains unclear. The hearings never labeled  the sale of weapons to Iran a criminal offense, but some officials faced charges  for supporting the Contras. The administration, however, refused to declassify  certain documents, forcing Congress to drop them.

Nayirah C-SPAN




9. A public relations firm organized congressional testimony that  propelled U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War.

In 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” testified  before Congress that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling infants from their  incubators at a hospital and tossing them to the ground to die.

A later investigation revealed that PR giant Hill & Knowlton arranged her  testimony for a client, Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, and  furthermore that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the U.S.,  according to The New York Times.

Tom Lantos, a representative from California who co-founded the committee  that heard Nayirah, coordinated the whole thing. Perhaps not coincidentally, his  committee rented space in the PR firm’s headquarters at a reduced  rate. Citizens for a Free Kuwait would go on to donate money to  foundations with ties to said committee sometime after Iraq’s invasion of  Kuwait.

At first, Amnesty International affirmed the girl’s testimony. But  after reinvestigation, the group and other human rights organizations switched  positions. They didn’t necessarily question the accuracy, just her withheld  bias.

Nayirah’s testimony helped build support for the Persian Gulf War,  though Congress would have likely pursued involvement without her  words.

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