Weird History

13 Times the CIA Was Caught Trying to Kill Someone

Does the CIA kill people? CIA assassinations range from the numerous and well-documented attempts to take out Fidel Castro to shadowy conspiracies to kill dissenting leaders. While much of what the CIA does isn't known about for years, or decades, sometimes the Agency fails in its mission - or succeeds and is caught anyway.

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

    The Attempted Killing of Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah
    Photo: Bayynat Website / Wikimedia Commons / Free Art License

    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

    MKULTRA and the Death of Frank Olson
    Video: YouTube

    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

    Fidel Castro and the Killer Face Cream
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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?!

    The CIA Tried to Kill Nixon?!
    Photo: Ollie Atkins / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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."