The Central Intelligence Agency made a huge public relations blunder recently when it decided to mark the fifth anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden -- by live-tweeting the operation as if in real time. The decision was ... not well-received.
As you may be aware, it's not the first mistake the CIA has made. Sapna Parikh digs into the archives in today's Seeker Daily dispatch.
In terms of history and public perception, the agency's most infamous blunder is surely the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. In 1959, Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro ousted the U.S.-backed regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. The CIA developed a plan to secretly back a counter-revolutionary force made up of 1,400 exiled Cuban fighters, trained and funded by the U.S.
The invasion failed spectacularly, U.S. involvement was revealed, and president John F. Kennedy called off the operation. It was a defining moment of the Cold War, worsening tensions between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
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Then there's the CIA's notorious MK Ultra program, the details of which read like a dystopian science fiction novel. In an ill-conceived initiative to experiment with behavioral modification and mind-control techniques, the CIA drugged U.S. and Canadian citizens with LSD and other psychoactive chemicals -- without their knowledge or consent.
Highly illegal, medically unethical and insanely dangerous, the MK Ultra program ran from 1953 to 1964 and predictably unraveled into madness and death. We may never know the full extent of the damage done, however, since the CIA later destroyed all related files.
In recent years, the CIA has been caught making still more mistakes, if that's the term, in regard to the war on terror. In 2003, the agency kidnapped and tortured a German citizen who happened to share the same name as a suspected terrorist. The U.S. never really owned up to anything and eventually it fell to the European Court of Human Rights to issue a ruling on the debacle and compensated the victim.
Of course, these are only the mistakes we know about. Considering that the CIA is in the secret-keeping business, it's safe to assume there are more compelling passages in the agency's 60-plus year history.
-- Glenn McDonald
Democracy Now: CIA Sparks Criticism by Live-Tweeting bin Laden Raid 5 Years Later
History: Bay of Pigs Invasion
SF Weekly: Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD
New Yorker: Torturing the Wrong Man