5 Secret U.S. Government Operations, Revealed

Get a classified tour of what's happened behind the closed doors of power in Washington: hidden bunkers, fake attacks, body snatching, and more.

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Project Sunshine: Steal corpses


In the 1950s, in an effort to study the effects of nuclear weapons tests, the Federal Government established a worldwide network to secretly collect tissue samples from more than 900 human cadavers. The "body snatching" took place in secret, without notification or permission of the next of kin. In 1994, President Bill Clinton formed an advisory committee to investigate so that these government secrets didn't stay secret. The result was a 900-page report acknowledging the unethical and illegal actions taken during Project Sunshine. We bet you didn't know about these surprising legacies of well-known presidents.

Operation Northwoods: Plan fake terrorist attacks

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In response to Fidel Castro's burgeoning dictatorship and the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) circulated a memo on March 13, 1962, with the subject line "Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba." In the missive, the JCS outlined suggestions to provoke Cuba such as "Start rumors (many)," "Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims," and "...blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba." Days later, President John F. Kennedy rejected Operation Northwoods, and JCS chairman Lyman Lemnitzer was denied a second term of office. Did you know that these 12 "famous quotes" from presidents are actually totally misquoted?

Operation Paperclip: Hire Nazi scientists

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A bloody conflict like World War II is bound to result in some government secrets, but this one is especially cringe-worthy. In August 1945, with the smoke of World War II still clearing, President Harry Truman approved the hiring of more than 1,500 German scientists, technicians and engineers, including Wernher von Braun, the chief rocket engineer of the Third Reich and Walter Schreiber, the German Army's wartime chief of medical science who authorized dangerous experiments on humans. To assure security clearance in the U.S., the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency created false records for the scientists, many of whom were considered wartime criminals. Did you know that President Truman also tried to unveil a secret hidden in the White House?

Operation Mockingbird: Spy on reporters

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In a plot worthy of an Orwell novel, the CIA spied on two reporters between March and June 1963, who, according to the agency, disclosed sensitive national security information in national newspapers. The illegal activity, noted in documents declassified in 2007, included wiretaps on the reporters' home and office telephones. The CIA noted that the project was "particularly productive in identifying contacts of the newsmen...including senators, members of Congress, and other well-placed individuals." We're not sure what the CIA was thinking in the 1960s, as they also tried (and failed) to use cats as secret agents during this decade.

Project Greek Island: Build secret bunkers


The Greenbriar Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, may look like just another luxury resort. But the government secrets lying beneath the hotel's west wing remained secret for 30 years. Built in 1961, a 112,544-square-foot bunker, complete with enough dormitories to accommodate 1,100 people, functioned as a shelter for members of Congress in the event of a nuclear bomb. Revealed by a Washington Post reporter in 1992, the bunker was quickly decommissioned. Don't worry, the hotel still offers tours.

Ready for some less grim government secrets? Learn what the title of "Mr. President" was almost called (hint: it's a mouthful). Plus, George Washington may not have told a lie, but he was very bad at returning library books.

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