Special Report

The CIA's 16 Most Outrageous Covert Operations

From its roots in the World War II-era Office of Strategic Services, which was tasked with gathering foreign intelligence and coordinating activities behind enemy lines, the Central Intelligence Agency’s aim has been to manage and implement clandestine activities abroad in the name of national security. (Did you know that the U.S. government is involved in secret wars in 15 countries?)

Although the agency claims to be bound by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including treaty agreements and international obligations, the CIA has been involved in many controversial and downright illegal activities, including torture and other human rights violations, assassination attempts on foreign leaders, covert paramilitary activities, and keeping secrets from Congress.

To find scandals involving the CIA and contentious operations of the spy agency, 24/7 Wall St. poured over historical and media sources as well as declassified Senate, CIA, and other government agencies’ documents. The list is far from being comprehensive, but rather attempts to reveal a variety of contentious operations, many of which ended up being thoroughly investigated by Congress.

From the agency’s inception in 1947, it has had a hand in the toppling of foreign governments and regimes that the United States deemed dangerous due to their communist or nationalist leanings. Some of the leaders it has helped depose, however, have been democratically elected leaders, while the CIA has also helped instate numerous dictators. 

Despite the initial fears of many Americans, including military leaders and politicians, that the CIA’s lack of transparency countered the ideals of democracy, the organization’s conjunction with the beginning of the Cold War may have swayed public opinion toward the need for such an agency.

Aside from meddling in foreign governments, the CIA’s other offenses have involved the illegal imprisonment of foreign nationals, mind control experiments conducted on unwitting test subjects, and domestic spying, including mass surveillance on American citizens and illegal data gathering. These are the most famous spies in history.

Click here to see 16 of the most outrageous operations in CIA history.

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