- Operation Northwoods
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- Operation Northwoods memoranda (March 13, 1962).
- Operation Northwoods memoranda (March 13, 1962).
- Operation Northwoods, or Northwoods, was a 1962 plan
by the US Department of Defense to cause acts of terrorism and violence
on US soil or against US interests, blamed on Cuba, in order to generate
U.S. public support for military action against the Cuban government
of Fidel Castro. As part of the U.S. government's Operation Mongoose anti-Castro
initiative, the plan, which was not implemented, called for various false
flag actions, including simulated or real state-sponsored acts of terrorism
(such as hijacked planes) on U.S. and Cuban soil. The plan was proposed
by senior U.S. Department of Defense leaders, including the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Louis Lemnitzer.
- The main proposal was presented in a document entitled
"Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (TS)," a
collection of draft memoranda written by the Department of Defense (DoD)
and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) representative to the Caribbean Survey
Group. (The parenthetical "TS" in the title of the document
is an initialism for "Top Secret.") The document was presented
by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on
March 13 with one paragraph approved, as a preliminary submission for
- The previously secret document was originally made public
on November 18, 1997 by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review
Board, a U.S. federal agency overseeing the release of government records
related to John F. Kennedy's assassination.  A total of
about 1500 pages of once-secret military records covering 1962 to 1964
were concomitantly declassified by said Review Board.
- "Appendix to Enclosure A" and "Annex to
Appendix to Enclosure A" of the Northwoods document were first published
online by the National Security Archive on November 6, 1998 in a joint
venture with CNN as part of CNN's 1998 Cold War television documentary
series - specifically, as a documentation supplement to "Episode
10: Cuba," which aired on November 29, 1998. "Annex
to Appendix to Enclosure A" is the section of the document which
contains the proposals to stage terrorist attacks.
- The Northwoods document was published online in a more
complete form (i.e., including cover memoranda) by the National Security
Archive on April 30, 2001.
- In response to a request for pretexts for military intervention
by the Chief of Operations of the Cuba Project, Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale,
the document lists methods (with, in some cases, outlined plans) the authors
believed would garner public and international support for U.S. military
intervention in Cuba. These are staged attacks purporting to be of Cuban
origin, with a number of them having real casualties. Central to the plan
was the use of "friendly Cubans" - Cuban exiles seeking to oust
- 'The proposals included:
- * Starting rumors about Cuba by using clandestine
- * Staging mock attacks, sabotages and riots at Guantanamo
Bay and blaming it on Cuban forces.
- * Firebombing and sinking an American ship at the
Guantanamo Bay American military base - reminiscent of the USS Maine incident
at Havana in 1898, which started the Spanish-American War - or destroy
American aircraft and blame it on Cuban forces. (The document's first
suggestion regarding the sinking of a U.S. ship is to blow up a manned
ship and hence would result in U.S. Navy members being killed, with a
secondary suggestion of possibly using an unmanned ship and fake funerals
- * "Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface
shipping and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type [sic]
planes would be useful as complementary actions."
- * Destroying an unmanned drone masquerading as a commercial
aircraft supposedly full of "college students off on a holiday".
This proposal was the one supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
- * Staging a "terror campaign", including
the "real or simulated" sinking of Cuban refugees:
- We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign
in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The
terror campaign could be pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United
States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute [sic] to Florida (real
or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in
the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely
publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the
arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating
Cuban involvement, also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an
- * Burning crops by dropping incendiary devices in
Haiti, the Dominican Republic or elsewhere.
- Journalist James Bamford summarized Operation Northwoods
in his April 24, 2001 book Body of Secrets thusly:
- Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval
of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called
for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying
refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent
terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People
would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked.
Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving
Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international
backing, they needed to launch their war.
-  Related Operation Mongoose proposals
- In addition to Operation Northwoods, under the Operation
Mongoose program the Department of Defense had a number of similar proposals
to be taken against the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.
- Twelve of these proposals come from a February 2, 1962
memorandum entitled "Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass or Disrupt
Cuba," written by Brig. Gen. William H. Craig and submitted to Brig.
Gen. Edward Lansdale, the commander of the Operation Mongoose project.
- The memorandum outlines Operation Bingo, a plan to, in
its words, "create an incident which has the appearance of an attack
on U.S. facilities (GMO) in Cuba, thus providing an excuse for use of
U.S. military might to overthrow the current government of Cuba."
- It also includes Operation Dirty Trick, a plot to blame
Castro if the 1962 Mercury manned space flight carrying John Glenn crashed,
saying "The objective is to provide irrevocable proof that, should
the MERCURY manned orbit flight fail, the fault lies with the Communists
et al Cuba [sic]." It continues, "This to be accomplished by
manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic
interference on the part of the Cubans."
- Even after General Lyman Lemnitzer lost his job as the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff still
planned false-flag pretext operations at least into 1963. A different
Department of Defense policy paper created in 1963 discussed a plan to
make it appear that Cuba had attacked a member of the Organization of
American States (OAS) so that the United States could retaliate. The Pentagon
document says of one of the scenarios, "A contrived 'Cuban' attack
on an OAS member could be set up, and the attacked state could be urged
to take measures of self-defense and request assistance from the U.S.
and OAS." The plan expresses confidence that by this action "the
U.S. could almost certainly obtain the necessary two-thirds support among
OAS members for collective action against Cuba."
- Included in the nations the Joint Chiefs suggested as
targets for covert attacks were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Since both
were members of the British Commonwealth, the Joint Chiefs hoped that
by secretly attacking them and then falsely blaming Cuba, the United
States could incite the people of the United Kingdom into supporting a
war against Castro. As the Pentagon report noted,
- Any of the contrived situations described above are
inherently, extremely risky in our democratic system in which security
can be maintained, after the fact, with very great difficulty. If the
decision should be made to set up a contrived situation it should be
one in which participation by U.S. personnel is limited only to the most
highly trusted covert personnel. This suggests the infeasibility of the
use of military units for any aspect of the contrived situation.
- The Pentagon report even suggested covertly paying a
person in the Castro government to attack the United States: "The
only area remaining for consideration then would be to bribe one of Castro's
subordinate commanders to initiate an attack on [the U.S. Navy base at]
-  Reaction
- It has been reported that John F. Kennedy personally
rejected the Northwoods proposal, but no official record of this exists.
The proposal was sent for approval to the Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara, but was not implemented. President Kennedy removed General
Lyman Lemnitzer as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly afterward,
although he became Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in January 1963.
- The continuing push against the Cuban government by internal
elements of the U.S. military and intelligence community (the failed
Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Project, etc.) prompted President John
F. Kennedy to attempt to rein in burgeoning hardline anti-Communist sentiment
that was intent on proactive, aggressive action against communist movements
around the globe. After the Bay of Pigs, John F. Kennedy fired then CIA
director Allen W. Dulles, Deputy Director Charles P. Cabell, as well as
Deputy Director Richard Bissell, and turned his attention towards Vietnam.
- Kennedy also took steps to bring discipline to the CIA's
Cold War and paramilitary operations by drafting a National Security Action
Memorandum (NSAM) which called for the shift of Cold War operations to
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon as well as a major change in
the role of the CIA to exclusively deal in intelligence gathering.
- On August 3, 2001, the National Assembly of People's
Power of Cuba (the main legislative body of the Republic of Cuba) issued
a statement referring to Operation Northwoods and Operation Mongoose
wherein it condemned such U.S. government plans.
-  See also
- Cuba Portal
- * Bay of Pigs Invasion
- * Body of Secrets
- * The Cuban Project (Operation Mongoose)
- * Cuba-United States relations
- * Operation WASHTUB, a plan to plant a phony Soviet
arms cache in Nicaragua to demonstrate Guatemalan ties to Moscow.
- * Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG)
- * 9/11 conspiracy theories, which sometime invoke
-  Further reading
- * Jon Elliston, editor, Psywar on Cuba: The Declassified
History of U.S. Anti-Castro Propaganda (Melbourne, Australia and New York:
Ocean Press, 1999), ISBN 1-876175-09-5.
- * James Bamford, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret
National Security Agency From the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New
Century (New York: Doubleday, first edition, April 24, 2001), ISBN 0-385-49907-8.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4: "Fists" of this book.
-  References
- 1. ^ a b U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Justification
for US Military Intervention in Cuba (TS)," U.S. Department of Defense,
March 13, 1962. The Operation Northwoods document in PDF format on the
website of the independent, non-governmental research institute the National
Security Archive at the George Washington University Gelman Library, Washington,
D.C. Direct PDF links: here and here.
- 2. ^ "The Records of the Assassination Records
Review Board," National Archives and Records Administration.
- 3. ^ "Media Advisory: National Archives Releases
Additional Materials Reviewed by the Assassination Records Review Board,"
Assassination Records Review Board (a division of the U.S. National Archives
and Records Administration), November 17, 1997. A U.S. government press-release
announcing the declassification of some 1500 pages of U.S. government
documents from 1962-64 relating to U.S. policy towards Cuba, among which
declassified documents included the Operation Northwoods document.
- 4. ^ Jim Wolf, "Pentagon Planned 1960s Cuban 'Terror
Campaign'," Reuters, November 18, 1997.
- 5. ^ a b Mike Feinsilber, "At a tense time, plots
abounded to humiliate Castro," Associated Press (AP), November 18,
1997; also available here.
- 6. ^ a b Tim Weiner, "Documents Show Pentagon's
Anti-Castro Plots During Kennedy Years," New York Times, November
19, 1997; appeared on the same date and by the same author in the New
York Times itself as "Declassified Papers Show Anti-Castro Ideas
Proposed to Kennedy," late edition - final, section A, pg. 25, column
- 7. ^ a b Jon Elliston, "Operation Mongoose: The
PSYOP Papers," ParaScope, Inc., 1998.
- 8. ^ "National Security Archive: COLD WAR: Documents,"
National Security Archive, September 27, 1998-January 24, 1999.
- 9. ^ U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, "Appendix to
Enclosure A: Memorandum for Chief of Operations, Cuba Project" and
"Annex to Appendix to Enclosure A: Pretexts to Justify US Military
Intervention in Cuba," U.S. Department of Defense, circa March 1962.
First published online by the National Security Archive on November 6,
1998 as part of CNN's Cold War documentary series. "Annex to Appendix
to Enclosure A" is the section of the Operation Northwoods document
which contains the proposals to stage terrorist attacks.
- 10. ^ "Episode 10: Cuba; Cuba: 1959-1968,"
CNN (Cable News Network LP, LLLP).
- 11. ^ "Cold War Teacher Materials: Episodes,"
and "Educator Guide to CNN's COLD WAR Episode 10: Cuba," Turner
Learning (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.).
- 12. ^ "Pentagon Proposed Pretexts for Cuba Invasion
in 1962," National Security Archive, April 30, 2001.
- 13. ^ a b c d e James Bamford, Chapter 4: "Fists"
of Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
From the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century (New York: Doubleday,
first edition, April 24, 2001), ISBN 0-385-49907-8. Here is an excerpt
from Chapter 4: "Fists" of this book.
- 14. ^ Memo from Brig. Gen. William Craig to Brig. Gen.
Edward Lansdale, "Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass, or Disrupt
Cuba," U.S. Department of Defense, February 2, 1962. The following
are photoscans of this document in JPEG format: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3,
Page 4. (Note: the foregoing links to Brig. Gen. Craig's memo are at
this time offline. The following are backup links: text in HTML; JPEG
photoscans: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4.)
- 15. ^ Mike Feinsilber, "Records Show Plan To Provoke
Castro," Associated Press (AP), January 29, 1998.
- 16. ^ "Statement by the National Assembly of People's
Power of the Republic of Cuba," National Assembly of People's Power
of Cuba, August 3, 2001; also available here.
- 17. ^ Matthew Ward, COHA Research Fellow, "Appendix
A: Timeline of Events" from "Washington Unmakes Guatemala, 1954,"
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 2004. Accessed February 2006.
-  External links
- See the above "References" section for documents
cited in the body of this article.
- * Full text of the Operation Northwoods document in
searchable HTML format.
- * The Operation Northwoods document in JPEG format.
- * Scott Shane and Tom Bowman with contribution from
Laura Sullivan, "New book on NSA sheds light on secrets: U.S. terror
plan was Cuba invasion pretext," Baltimore Sun, April 24, 2001.
- * Ron Kampeas, "Memo: U.S. Mulled Fake Cuba Pretext,"
Associated Press (AP), April 25, 2001.
- * Bruce Schneier, "'Body of Secrets' by James
Bamford: The author of a pioneering work on the NSA delivers a new book
of revelations about the mysterious agency's coverups, eavesdropping
and secret missions," Salon.com, April 25, 2001.
- * David Ruppe, "U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke
War With Cuba; Book: U.S. Military Drafted Plans to Terrorize U.S. Cities
to Provoke War With Cuba," ABC News, May 1, 2001.
- * "The Truth Is Out There-1962 memo from National
Security Agency," Harper's Magazine, July 2001.
- * Chris Floyd, "Head Cases," Moscow Times,
December 21, 2001, pg. VIII; also appeared in St. Petersburg Times, Issue
733 (100), December 25, 2001.
- * "Operation Northwoods," SourceWatch.
- * Thierry Meyssan, "Operation Northwoods: The
Terrorist Attacks Planned by the American Joint Chief of Staff against
its Population," Voltaire Network, November 5, 2001.
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