The Central Intelligence Agency, in its bicentennial house-cleaning, recently released over 700 pages of formerly classified documents, heavily edited for the ubiquitous “national security.” (Please note that we are using the layman’s definition of “house-cleaning” in this sense…the CIA’s definition is decidedly more aggressive.)
When the CIA released the information, it brought to light much of the information about the agency’s activities in the past few decades. And by “brought to light” I mean “stuff that every single person on the face of the earth already knew.”
These are charmingly called the “family jewels,” a phrase no doubt coined by several agents over a good hearty laugh over the water cooler between funneling cocaine to Contras and deciding which Hungarian defector will have his testicles Zippoed first.
I’ve always been intrigued by the CIA. Not sure why. I don’t believe it’s the artificial romance that is falsely portrayed in the media. There isn’t any cool-looking gadgets that slice off limbs or Russian femme fatales who defect at simply the prospect of a guy finishing the job without vomiting potatoes and vodka on themselves. I think it’s the significance of doing something as your everyday job that you wouldn’t be allowed to do in real life. We all know full well that when I’m at work, I argue all day with the dim-witted redhead in activations about who gets to use the fax machine first, and they’re sitting around a table in Langley discussing the assassination of Salvodore Allende over a box of Kripsy Kremes. I bet they get full dental, too.
The CIA’s obsession with Fidel Castro seems strikingly off. I mean, sure, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs and the commies trying to take over everything including most breakfast cereals, but it seems like had they taken the amount of effort used to kill Castro into, say, overthrowing every other nation on the earth, including the Soviet Union itself, they still would have had enough time and resources to produce all three Mission: Impossible movies within budget and without having to resort to casting Tom Cruise.
It’s actually a kind of disturbing topic, but the imaginative ways that the CIA tried to assassinate Castro are almost magnificently comic. Here’s a list of the various methods in which the spooks tried to bring down the Cuban dictator:
An exploding conch shell, strategically placed in Castro’s favorite scuba diving spot. Had it worked, we not only would have rid the world of Castro but also had the world’s first spy mission inspired from a late-show Muppets throwaway skit.
A poison cigar. And not poison as in a liquid that kills you, but poison as in LSD. That’s right, they wanted Castro to trip on live national television and make him a laughingstock of the third world. Or, at the very least, only slightly less alarming than a televised interview Farrah Fawcett.
A beard-falling-out chemical. Don’t know what it is or what it’s called, but it apparently causes your hair to fall out when placed in your…boots. I guess. Rather than assassinating him, this tactic cooked up by the agency would embarrass him right before he went to speak at the UN. I can’t imagine how this would have worked. For one thing, I can’t think of anything more awkward than addressing the UN in the first place, except possibly addressing the UN while representing Israel.
Toxins. The closest the agency got to offing the Cuban leader was when they had a poison capsule full of botulinum toxins in a chocolate milkshake. In one of the tragic consequences of history, the capsule froze against the freezer it was in, and ripped open when the waiter/gambling addict who sold his soul to Allen Dulles went to drop it in. Had he succeeded, Castro would have died drinking a milkshake, a humiliating end to a glorious fighter for the communist cause. Still, it was safer and less humiliating than eating a Grand Slam at Denny’s.
The approximately eighty thousand attempts at offing Castro aren’t the only illegal items revealed in the documents. But most of these activities are almost quaint with a touch of modern-day reflection. Some of the apparently more egregious crimes include the following:
Surveillance of Brit Hume. That’s hardly a crime, I think; about two million people engage in surveillance of him every night, though admittedly I suspect most of that is, indeed, forced. The crime here, though, is—Brit Hume??! I mean, c’mon. Was Bill O’Reilly not antiestablishment enough for Nixon?
The opening of mail intended for delivery in the Soviet Union. This is a crime? Apparently the Soviet Union has never been married.
Funding “behavior modification” techniques on unsuspecting civilians. I know the quote marks are supposed to lead us to believe they’re talking about LSD, but I’m convinced they really mean the obvious government support of Martin and Rowan’s Laugh-In, which I wholly refuse to believe stayed on the air due to the market demand of Americans. If it truly was, well, then, I think Castro might have been on to something.