Operation Northwoods

Operation Northwoods was a proposed intelligence operation outlined in a document titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba,” composed and approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and provided to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962.

The Top Secret memorandum describes potential operations to covertly engineer various pretexts that would justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba. These proposals included staging the assassinations of Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,” including “sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated),” faking a Cuban airforce attack on a civilian jetliner, and blowing up a U.S. ship in Cuban waters and then blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage.

The proposal was rejected by President Kennedy as too much a risk following the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion.



  1. Wikipedia: Northwoods

  2. National Security Archive: Northwoods

  3. WhatReallyHappened: Northwoods


The Great Conspiracy

This is one of the most corrupt plans for covert action ever submitted for Presidential approval. [Many covert operations are outside of Presidential review in order to provide plausible deniability, or the protection provided by the ability to publicly deny knowledge of something. People with plausible deniability may know what they are technically able to deny. In this case, Kennedy would see a list of potential operations, but may never know which would be chosen.]

The heads of every branch of the military gave the president a list of potential operations meant to promote the invasion of Cuba. Most of the options involved civilian casualties, or the death of fictitious civilians. They considered it possible to simulate the death of civilian airline passengers, by creating the identities of false victims. All of the operations involved large-scale public deception only possible with foreknowledge of wide media complicity.