From poisoning drinkers during Prohibition to deliberately allowing syphilis to ravage the minds and bodies of black men for 40 years, the U.S. government has targeted the citizens it’s meant to govern and protect on more than one occasion.
MINNEAPOLIS — While it can be easy to dismiss some of the more outlandish conspiracy theories floating around on the Internet, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the U.S. government has conspired against its own citizens on more than one occasion.
It’s well known that the U.S. government has targeted its own citizens for assassination with drones in recent years, yet it’s far from the only time Americans have suffered at the hands of their leaders, elected or otherwise. From proposed false flag attacks to drum up support for war to deadly human experimentation, here are five actual, documented conspiracies created by the government or its agencies:
- Alcohol poisoning — Prohibition turned out to be a remarkably ineffective policy. Far from ending the consumption of alcohol, it drove the practice underground and undermined safety and quality control. Before ultimately admitting defeat, the U.S. government hoped to scare people away from drinking by deliberately poisoning industrial alcohol supplies, which were frequently stolen and resold by bootleggers. At least 10,000 people are estimated to have died from the poisoned alcohol by the time Prohibition ended in 1933.
- Mass surveillance — When Edward Snowden revealed the United States’ mass surveillance programs to the media in 2013, he confirmed what many had long suspected — that millions of Americans and others around the world are under U.S. government monitoring despite the lack of a warrant or even evidence that they’ve committed any crime. Journalists like Duncan Campbell spent decades working to expose international surveillance programs such as ECHELON, but were rarely taken seriously before Snowden’s leaks.
- MK Ultra — Beginning in the 1950s, the CIA experimented with various drugs and other mind-altering techniques to determine whether they could be used as truth serums or to prompt the defection of Russian agents. Sidney Gottlieb first introduced LSD to the agency, and it was used in at least 149 separate mind-control experiments over several decades. During Operation Midnight Climax, agents dosed sex workers and their clients with LSD to observe their reactions, but government agents also frequently dosed each other. While the agents were certainly able to effectively disturb a target — an Army doctor named Dr. Frank Olson committed suicide a week after he was served a drink laced with the potent psychedelic — useful intelligence was another matter, and the program was canceled in the 1970s.
- Operation Northwoods — Hoping to generate public support for war with Cuba in the early 1960s, top U.S. military officials created detailed plans to engineer false flag attacks, ranging from orchestrating attacks on U.S. cities, to hijacking airplanes and even blowing up a U.S. ship. The details were revealed when Congress opened the files relating to the John F. Kennedy assassination in the wake of Oliver Stone’s 1992 film, “JFK.” Unlike other plots in this list, Operation Northwoods was never carried out — it was too extreme for Kennedy — but it remains a chilling example of how far some government officials were willing to go to bring the country to war.
- “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” — For 40 years, the U.S. Public Health Service allowed hundreds of poor black men from rural Alabama to suffer from untreated syphilis, simply to observe whether the disease affects blacks differently than whites. Doctors told the men they were being given free health care and that they suffered from “bad blood,” a non-specific, incurable condition. Of the 399 men with syphilis who entered the study between 1932 and 1972, 128 died of syphilis or related complications. In addition, 40 of their wives contracted the disease, and 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.
Watch “5 ‘conspiracy theories’ that turned out to be true” from Abby Martin: