CIA conspiracies range from run of the mill car bombs, to outlandish attempts to kill and embarrass the enemies of freedom. Whether you need a fake porno to make a communist-leaning ruler look bad, some killer toothpaste or cigars, or pushing a guy out of a window and making it look like a suicide, the CIA is who you call - and sometimes they'll actually get it done.
Here are some times the CIA was actually caught, foiled, or named in an operation that was supposed to be a secret.
The Attempted Killing of Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah
In 1983 and 1984, three devastating suicide bombings in Lebanon killed over 250 Americans, and were believed to be the work of Shia militants. The CIA determined that leading Shia cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah was likely behind the planning and coordination of the attacks. Looking for payback, they vowed to take action.
On March 8, 1985, a car bomb packed with over 400 pounds of explosives blew up outside Fadlallah’s house in the Beirut suburbs. The blast killed over 80 people and injured 200 more - but not Fadlallah himself, who escaped uninjured. The CIA initially blamed the attack on Christian Lebanese army officers, but the Washington Post later revealed that CIA Director William Casey himself had bypassed presidential executive orders forbidding political assassination to funnel money to the hit squad that planted the bomb. The CIA has never formally taken responsibility for the bombing.
MKULTRA and the Death of Frank Olson
History and conspiracy theory collide with the mysterious suicide of biological warfare specialist Frank Olson in 1953. The agency had been experimenting with the use of psychedelic drugs in military and intelligence context. Olson was part of the infamous MKULTRA program, and as such, was unwittingly dosed with LSD at a retreat in Maryland.
Olson had what could be called a bad trip, and vowed to quit working on the program. Suffering from severe paranoia and possibly in the midst of a nervous breakdown, the CIA sent Olson to New York to see an Agency-affiliated doctor. That night, Olson threw himself out of a 13th floor window to his death. It wasn't until 1975 that Olson's role with the CIA became known, and his family won a large settlement from the government. Even now, conspiracy theorists believe Olson was thrown out of the window to ensure his silence, and an autopsy committed long after his death revealed that Olson might have been unconscious when he died.
Fidel Castro and the Killer Face Cream
One of dozens, or possibly even hundreds, of attempts to kill the Cuban dictator involved getting one of his mistresses to do the job for the CIA. Castro mistress Marita Lorenz allegedly accepted a deal from the CIA in which she would feed him capsules filled with poison during a tryst.
She managed to smuggle the pills into his bedroom in her jar of cold cream, but the pills dissolved in the cream. Unwilling to attempt to shove cold cream down the leader of Cuba's throat, she tried to flush the cream, but Castro caught her and figured out what she was doing. According to Lorenz, Castro then offered her his gun to do the job herself. “I can’t do it, Fidel,” she told him, and flung herself into his arms.
The CIA Tried to Kill Nixon?!
According to Roger Stone - former Richard Nixon staffer turned conservative pundit, opposition researcher, and author - high-ranking members of the US government were displeased with Nixon's attempt at drawing down the war in Vietnam. So they decided to take matters into their own hands. In a book about Nixon, Stone wrote that the Agency tried twice to kill the President in Miami in 1972, but couldn't pull it off and had to settle for ginning up the Watergate burglary that eventually brought him down. It should be noted that Stone's allegations are purely in the realm of speculation.
Additionally, former CIA operative Gerry Hemming alleged a conspiracy that involved "a group of anti-Castro Cubans in Florida, which worked in close harmony with the CIA, making plans in 1970 to fire a missile at Richard Nixon's Key Biscayne presidential compound and make it appear to [b]e an attack made by Castro."
Smoking Kills - But Doesn't Kill Castro
The CIA made at least two different attempts to knock off Castro using his ubiquitous cigar. One was alleged by the Saturday Evening Post, and claimed that New York City police inspector Michael Murphy had been hired to give Castro a cigar packed with explosives during his United Nations visit in September 1960. Accounts differ as to whether the plot was real or a hoax designed to deflect attention away from actual assassination attempts.
A year later, the Agency recruited a double agent who would slip Castro a cigar filled with botulin toxin that would kill the leader slowly over the course of a day. The double agent was allegedly given the cigars in February 1961, but he apparently backed out and the plot didn't go anywhere.
Poisoned Toothpaste in the Congo
Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected prime minister of the Republic of the Congo. The CIA saw him as a communist and a threat to their interests in Africa, and is alleged to have tried to assassinate him. Legend has it that none other than President Eisenhower himself ordered the killing, and the CIA delegated the job to a chemist who concocted a poison that could be slipped to Lumumba in the form of toothpaste.
The local station chief scuttled the plan, but was clearly in on some kind of assassination attempt. In 1960, Lumumba was deposed by rivals in the government, and executed by a firing squad. Decades later, declassified documents confirmed the CIA's involvement in plots to kill him, but exactly what role they Agency had in his actual death has never been confirmed.
Castro's Killer Milkshake
CIA scholars believe the closest the agency ever came to killing Castro was a deadly dessert drink in 1963. Castro was a well-known devotee of milk products in general, and ice cream in particular. He was known to have a chocolate milkshake at the same time every day, so the CIA smuggled a poison pill to an assassin who would slip it in the drink.
The attempt went south when the pill stuck to the freezer at the Havana Hilton, and as the hired gun was tried unstick it, the capsule ripped open.
The Hezbollah Pizza Hut Ring Gets Busted
In 2011, as many as 30 CIA and Mossad informants were reportedly captured by Hezbollah and Iran, due to the Agency’s sloppy work. Hezbollah’s intelligence service figured out from sophisticated technology that the codeword the CIA used to set meetings was "PIZZA." Then it took simple observation to figure out that American spies were meeting their recruits at a Pizza Hut in Beirut.
Once the CIA’s shockingly inept code was cracked, double agents were sent in and the informants vanished, likely going to their deaths. US intelligence was left operating in the dark against the terrorist organization, which put multiple operations at risk. One anonymous case officer summed the debacle up to ABC News saying simply, "We were lazy.”