Operation Northwoods: The Pentagon’s Secret Plot to Murder US Citizens to Provoke a War
September 13, 2002

General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. Credit: NATO.
On May 1, 2001, ABC News broadcast a chilling revelation: “In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in US cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.”

The Pentagon’s secret “Operation Northwoods” proposed that the US assassinate Cuban émigrés, hijack planes, sink ships, and stage an incident of violent terrorism in US cities. The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer.

The Pentagon’s top brass were even willing to murder US troops, if that’s what it took to stampede the country into a war. "We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," they wrote, noting with cold logic that, "casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

The Joint Chiefs even saw the potential death of astronaut John Glenn as an opportunity to falsely provoke a war with Cuba. If Glenn’s rocket failed to make it safely into orbit, the Pentagon was prepared to falsely accuse Cuba of shooting down Glenn’s space capsule.

An analysis of Operation Northwood is contained in James Bamford’s new book, Body of Secrets (Doubleday) discloses that the plans were approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and presented to President Kennedy's Defense Secretary Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962. Lemnitzer argued that Operation Northwoods should be run by the military but McNamara apparently had second thoughts. The civilians in the White House overruled the soldiers in the Pentagon and the plan was rejected. All copies of the memorandum were ordered destroyed. The existence of the plot remained undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," Bamford writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge." Bamford characterized the Joint Chiefs’ plot as, perhaps “the most corrupt plan ever created by the US government." But even after Lemnitzer retired, Bamford charges, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan similar "pretext" operations at least through 1963.

The documents only saw the light of day after the popular success of Oliver Stone’s 1992 blockbuster film JFK about the Kennedy assassination. Congress passed a law to increase public access to government records related to the assassination. In the process of combing through reams of declassified papers, a single surviving copy of the 15-page memo on Operation Northwoods was discovered.

Particularly disturbing — especially in the aftermath of the many unanswered questions surrounding the September 11 terrorist attack — is the Pentagon’s elaborate plan to falsely trigger a war by staging the fake destruction of a civilian commercial jetliner.

The document is reprinted below in its entirety. A PDF version of the actual 15-page document is available at the website of George Washington University’s National Security Archive project: [www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430]

The first page of the 15-page Operation Northwoods terror plot. Credit: The National Security Archives/George Washington University [http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/].
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Washington DC Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense

SUBJECT: Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba (TS)

JCS to Secretary of War Robert McNamara March 13, 1962 [Declassified 2000 under court order in Freedom of Information Act lawsuit]

  1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have considered the attatched memorandum for the chief of Operations, Cuba Project, which responds to a request by that office for brief but precise description of pretexts which would provide justification for US military intervention in Cuba.

  2. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that the proposed memorandum be forwarded as a preliminary submission suitable for planning purproses. It is assumed that there will be similar submissions from other agencies and that these inputs will be used as a basis for developing a time-phased plan. Individual projects can then be considered on a case-by-case basis.

  3. Further, it is assumed that a single agency will be given the primary responsibility for developing military and para-military [terrorist] aspects of the basic plan. It is recommended that this responsibility for both overt and covert military operations be assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed: L.L. Limnitzer Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Note by the Secretaries to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Northwoods

Footnoted memorandums:
    "Operation Mongoose"
    "Instances to Provoke Military Actions in Cuba"
  • This paper NOT be forwarded to commanders of specified or unified commands.
  • This paper NOT be forwarded to US officers assigned to NATO activities.
  • This paper NOT be forwarded to the Chairman, US Delegation, United Nations Military Staff Committee.
  • Such a plan would enable a logical buildup of incidents to be combined with other seemingly unrelated events to camoflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and irresponsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries in addition to the United States. The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances.
1. A series of well-coordinated incidents will be planned to take place to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.

2. Incidents to establish a credible attack:
    1. Start rumors (many). Use clandestine radio. 2. Land friendly Cubans in uniform "over-the-fence" to stage attack on the base. 3. Capture Cuban (friendly) sabateurs [sic] inside the base. 4. Start riots near the entrance to the base (friendly Cubans). 5. Blow up ammunition inside the base; start fires. 6. Burn aircraft on airbase (sabatage) [sic]. 7. Lob morter [sic] shells from outsidethe [sic] base to inside the base. Some damage to installation. 8. Capture assault teams. 9. Capture militia group which storms the base. 10. Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires -- napthalene [napalm]. 11. Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims.

    (b) United States would respond by executing offensive operations.
3. A "Remember the Maine" incident could be arranged in several forms:
  • We could blow up a US ship and blame Cuba.
  • We could blow up a drone (unmannded) vessel anywhere in the Cuban waters. The presense [sic] of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of the vessel could be fairly compelling evidence that the ship was taken under attack. The US could follow with an air/sea rescue operation covered by US fighters to "evacuate" remaining members of the non-existant [sic] crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.
4. We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Flordia cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cubans in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few bombs in carefully chosen spots. The arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating cuban involvement.

5. A "Cuban-based, Castro-supported" filibuster could be simulated against a neighboring Caribbean nation. These efforts can be magnified with additional ones contrived for exposure. "Cuban" B-26 or C-46 type aircraft could make cane-burning raids at night. Soviet Bloc incidiaries [sic] could be found. This could be coupled with "Cuban" messages to the Communist underground and "Cuban" shipments of arms which would be found, or intercepted, on the beach.

6. Use of MIG-type aircraft by US pilots could provide additional provocation. Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface shipping, and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type palnes would be useful. An F-86 properly painted would convince air passengers that they saw a Cuban MIG, especially if the pilot of the transport were to announce that fact.

7. Hijacking attampts against US civil air and surface craft should be encouraged.

8. It is possible to create an incident which would demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civilian airliner from the United States.
  • An aircraft at Eglin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization in the Miami area. At a designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and the passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases. The actual registered aircraft would be converted to a drone.
  • Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rondevous[sic]. From the rondevous [sic] point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly to an auxiliary airfield at Eglin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. Meanwhile the drone aircraft will continue to fly the filed flight plan. The drone will be transmitting on the international distress frequency "MAY DAY" message stating it is under attack by Cuban MIG aircraft. The transmission will be interrupted by the destruction of aircraft which will be triggered by radio signal. This will allow IACO radio stations to tell the US what has happened to the aircraft instead of the US trying to "sell" the incident.
9. It is possible to create an incident that will make it appear that Communist Cuban MIGs have destroyed a USAF aircraft over international waters in an unprovoked attack.
  • On one such flight, a pre-briefed pilot would fly Tail-end Charlie. While near the Cuban island this pilot would broadcast that he had been jumped by MIGs and was going down. This pilot would then fly at extremely low altitude and land at a secure base, an Eglin auxiliary. The aircraft would be met by the proper people, quickly stored and given a new tail number. The pilot who performed the mission under an alias would resume his proper identity. The pilot and aircraft would then have disappeared.
  • A submarine or small craft would distribute F-101 parts, parachute, etc. The pilots retuning to Homestead would have a true story as far as they knew. Search ships and aircraft could be dispatched and parts of aircraft found.
  • It is understood that the Department of State is also preparing suggested courses of action to develope [sic?] justification for US military intervention in Cuba.
[End of document]

FBI Anthrax Investigator Fingers the CIA
By the Eco-Mole

Not everyone in the FBI is clueless. Don Foster is an FBI forensic linguistics specialist who used his ability to analyze written messages to convict Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and unmasked reporter Joe Klein as the unnamed author of the satirical political novel Primary Colors.

Professor Foster has been on the trail of the anthrax attacker who placed weapons-grade spores in the US mail, killing five, injuring 18 and compelling 35,000 others to take antibiotic countermeasures.

Foster was interviewed by the BBC as part of its August 18 report, The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer. Foster told the BBC that he had only been given four letters to examine and found the task “very frustrating. Ordinarily, with the FBI, if there’s some documents needed – known writings — boom, they’re on my desk the next day.” Foster told the BBC he feels that the FBI is not getting “full and complete co-operation from the US military, CIA and witnesses who might have information about this case.”

It is unlikely that Foster will be getting any such cooperation soon for, as he told the BBC, “My two suspects both appear to have CIA connections.” Both suspects worked for the CIA, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and other top-secret military projects.

“As I worked through these documents, it became apparent that USAMRID was ultimately the best place for the FBI to begin looking for a suspect,” Foster stated. He told the BBC that the use of the date “September 11” and the phrase “Death to America” was intended to confuse investigators. “When an offender gives you some piece of information that’s just completely unnecessary and that, in this case, is inaccurate, it becomes immediately suspect. It becomes a statement of ‘Here’s what I want to you to believe about this document’.”

The letter-writer suggested that people exposed to anthrax spores should take penicillin. Penicillin is useless against anthrax and the word was “misspelled in such an unconvincing way, it looks like an attempt on the offender to say ‘Hey, don’t think I’m a scientist; don’t think I know anything about antibiotics’.”

The killer dropped the envelopes in mailboxes near the homes of two former USAMRIID scientists. Only someone with insider information would have known that these researchers would be likely targets for FBI investigators, Foster observed. That suggested the perpetrator was “someone who’s a little bit higher up the food chain, who would have access to personnel information.”

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