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Famous declassified government secrets

  • Famous declassified government secrets

    Hidden and secretive government agencies have long captured the public's imagination. The TV series "The X-Files" imagines FBI agents whose job is to understand paranormal phenomena, though they uncover a government conspiracy to keep extraterrestrial life a secret in the process. In "Men In Black," agents work alongside aliens to protect the Earth from otherworldly threats. Closer to home, conspiracy theories about hidden life on Earth persist. As recently as June 2019, the FBI released a trove of files related to Bigfoot, further stoking speculation on whether the mystical Sasquatch could be successfully hiding from humanity. 

    There's a common idea that unites ghost-hunters and Bigfoot-truthers alike: The government must be hiding something. Somewhere in its vast archives, they reason, there must be evidence of events beyond explanation, or at least an honest historical record of some of the most shadowy points in America's history. Many would jump at the chance to review the unredacted files on the J.F.K. assassination, learn about the inner negotiations of the Cuban Missile Crisis, or find out if aliens really do exist. 

    Sometimes, the U.S. government declassifies files that it decides are safe to be released to the public. While this seems like a transparent act, oftentimes it does little more than tease conspiracy theorists who may never live to see the entire truth unearthed. However, there's some fascinating information in the files that have been released: Did you know the U.S. government once considered building a moon base? And contemplated training cats to be soldiers?

    We went into the files and pulled out the top 30 juiciest, most interesting government secrets. All of them have been declassified, meaning the governments in question have released documents confirming the truth. Everything we've learned is only a small subset of the secrets the government holds. What other information is out there? And could the truth be stranger than fiction? We may not have all the answers, but read on to find out what we do know about the government's most closely held secrets. 

    You may also like: States with the most UFO sightings

  • Operation Paperclip

    On the heels of World War II and as the Cold War began in earnest, both the United States and the Soviet Union recruited ex-Nazi scientists, like Wernher von Braun who had relied on slave labor from concentration camps, to design Germany's V-2 rockets. The United States alone secured 88 ex-Nazi scientists during what was termed "Operation Paperclip" in order to learn more about Nazi Germany's powerful weapons and technology. It's partly because of this secret operation that we now know about Hitler's extensive chemical warfare program.

  • Area 51

    A classic birthplace of conspiracies about fallen alien ships and little green men, Area 51 is shrouded in mystery. According to ex-government sources, this mysterious area of Nevada is mostly a test site for experimental military technology, like the super-fast SR-71 Blackbird airplane, and not a secret extraterrestrial testing facility. Which is still cool, given the plane can reach three times the speed of sound—even if aliens aren't involved. A declassified CIA report in 2013 mentioned Area 51 by name, and even marked it on a map.

  • Bigfoot in Oregon?

    Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, is a long-rumored bipedal mammal that dwells in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest. More simply, it's allegedly a hairy ape that walks around leaving behind footprints for people to find and appearing in blurry photographs. The FBI in 1976 officially investigated unidentifiable hairs from The Dalles, Ore., that people believed may have belonged to Bigfoot. The investigation—declassified in 2019— proved inconclusive, but that doesn't mean Bigfoot isn't still out there.

  • Project MK-ULTRA

    The designation of "Ultra" was given to the most secret projects and documents used by the government during World War II. In 1953, during the early years of the cold war, Project MK-ULTRA was sanctioned as an ultra-secret project to develop drugs and other practices for mind control of interrogated subjects. Many of its experiments happened on unwitting participants and were clearly illegal, leading to international controversy. This now-declassified government project has been tied to many conspiracy theories, but documents definitively point to experiments around animal mind control and hallucinogens.

  • Attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro

    During the Cold War, the U.S. intervened in many foreign countries to prevent the spread of Communism. Government bureaucrats worried about the Domino Effect, whereby if one country fell to Communism, all the other countries in the area would also be likely to revolt. Fidel Castro, who led Cuba into a Communist revolution despite having relatively few resources and men, was no ally to the CIA. But declassified documents reveal that the CIA even went so far as to negotiate with mobsters to put out a hit on the dictator, hoping to install a more U.S.-friendly leader of the nearby island. 

  • Julia Child's wartime activities

    Originally rejected from the military for being too tall (she was 6'2"), Julia McWilliams joined the Office of Strategic Services in 1942 and quickly worked her way up the ranks. Known today for her wit, television shows, and her introduction of French cuisine to Americans, Julia Child's work in espionage was revealed after her death in declassified documents. Among her accomplishments? Helping to formulate an effective shark repellant for divers.

  • Investigating John Lennon

    Thanks to the efforts of journalist Jon Weiner, records emerged around the FBI's extensive investigation of John Lennon in the early 1970s. The FBI suspected Lennon would disrupt proceedings in the 1972 presidential election, where Nixon hoped to be reelected, with a planned tour complete with voter registration efforts and antiwar protests. To help stop him, the Immigration and Nationalization Service, which would later be absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security, began deportation proceedings against Lennon. It appears that their preemptive efforts worked; Lennon never did the tour, and Nixon was reelected.

  • Secret spy tricks

    In today's era of end-to-end encryption, secure digital back-channels, and disappearing text messages, it's easy to forget the CIA's spy work that went far beyond wiretapping phone lines and bugging meeting places of persons of interest. The agency had apparently figured out a way to open sealed envelopes without detection, according to declassified documents about procedures for examining mail without leaving a trace. The CIA also detailed formulas for invisible ink.

  • Project Iceworm

    Desperate to gain an edge over the Soviets in any way possible, the United States built a state-of-the-art, underground, nuclear-powered research facility called Camp Century in the remote tundra of Greenland. The U.S. toured this facility to the press; what they didn't mention was Project Iceworm, the plan to build 2,500 miles of tunnels underneath the ice sheet that would be used to shuttle nuclear missiles back and forth, evading Soviet attempts to destroy them. Over time, the project was canceled and Camp Century itself was abandoned; now, with Greenland's ice melting due to climate change, scientists have raised concerns about the radioactive material that once powered Camp Century eventually returning to the surface.

  • The truth About Argentina's dictatorship

    Argentina's military dictatorship of the 1970s was marked by distrust, disappearances, and a murky relationship with the United States. But declassified CIA documents revealed that the regime was just as deadly as suspected——even employing assassination squads to eliminate enemies, many of whom disappeared without a trace. Now we know they were murdered by the Argentinian state and its assassins, who clocked in at 9:30 a.m. and even submitted expense reports. 

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