10 Deeply Unsettling Declassified Information Now Available to the Public

We live in a world full of beauty and hope. You can find people who help each other, smile at each other, inspire each other, and most importantly, they do this without expecting something in return. We wouldn’t know how the world would be if there were only beauty and goodness because we have never lived in such a time. Unfortunately, this world is also full of hideousness. People kill each other without batting an eye, steal from others, and harm other people in a variety of ways. While some crimes come to light immediately, some crimes remain hidden for a long time. In this article, we have gathered 10 unsettling, declassified information now available to the public.

1. From 1939 to 1989, a secret network of doctors, nurses, nuns, and priests in Spain stole about 300,000 newly born babies from their parents and sold them as adoptions. They told the parents that their babies died during or shortly after the birth.

Nurses carrying baby
Image credit: REX/BBC via dailymail.co.uk

After a bloody civil war, General Francisco Franco came to power in 1939. Until the death of Franco in 1975, Spain remained mostly closed to the world which impeded its industrial progress. However, a scandal that has been revealed recently overshadowed the other activities of the Franco dictatorship. According to the BBC documentary, up to 300,000 children were stolen from their parents between 1939 and 1989. This was done by a secret organization which included the Catholic church, doctors, nurses, nuns, and priests that conducted wholesale baby trafficking. The organization sold the babies to couples who wanted to adopt. The Spanish Catholic church had a lot of influence on the social services and hospitals thanks to Franco.

After the requests of couples who couldn’t have babies, this organization would kidnap newly born babies from the hospitals under their control and give them to the couples. Some of the mothers who gave birth left their babies voluntarily because they were either single or poor. But for the rest, it was a tragedy because the hospitals told them that their babies had died. Moreover, they couldn’t see them because the hospitals were taking care of the burial issues. According to the records, the corrupt organization mostly stole the babies of the communist and Republican families who were against the Franco regime. Although the families of 261 babies put in an effort to find and reunite with their children, except for just a few of them, they couldn’t be found.(1,2,3)

2. The CIA, the US Intelligence Agency, executed a program called the Phoenix Program between 1965 and 1972 during the Vietnam War. This program involved infiltration, capture, interrogation, assassination, and counter-terrorism activities causing the death of between 26,000 and 41,000 people.

Viet Cong Interrogation, Book The Phoenix Program by Douglas Valentine
Image credit: PFC David Epstein/Wikimedia, Image source: douglasvalentine.com

The CIA created the Phoenix Program in order to disrupt and neutralize the structure of Viet Cong, aka National Liberation Front, during the Vietnam War. As part of this program, the CIA conducted a series of illegal activities like torturing prisoners and hostages, assassinating certain targets, and the killing of innocent civilians. However, the CIA was not alone while doing all these operations. Among the CIA’s partners, there were the US special operations forces and special forces operatives from the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) and the Republic of Vietnam’s (South Vietnam).

According to the author Douglas Valentine who wrote a book about the Phoenix Program, some of the torture methods the CIA often used included rape, gang rape, rape using hard objects, murder, electric shock, beating until coma, use of dogs, and use of water. Also, a military official confirmed the stories of Douglas Valentine and admitted that he had witnessed such torture scenes during the war. All these activities of the CIA caused the death of between 26,000 and 41,000 people. In 1971, the program started receiving negative publicity, and after a while, the CIA officially shut down the Phoenix Program.(1,2)

3. Between 1956 and 1971, the FBI practiced a program called COINTELPRO during which they carried out a series of illegal and covert activities like surveilling, infiltrating, assassinating, and discrediting domestic political organizations like the Communists, Socialists, Black Nationalists, and Civil Rights Movements.

COINTELPRO - Counterintelligence Program letter
Image source: blackpast.org

COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) targeted domestic political groups, organizations, and members that were dissidents according to the FBI. Among those organizations, there were activists of the Civil Rights Movement, anti-Vietnam War activists, the Black Power movement, the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, feminist organizations, and various organizations and independence movements like the Puerto Rican independence groups and the Young Lords. However, then-director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, thought the Black nationalists as the most dangerous group of all. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were also targets of the FBI as part of the program.

The program involved surveilling, infiltration, and discrediting the target organization via undercover agents. Those agents would commit crimes so that the organizations they infiltrated into could receive negative publicity. Also, the agents and the police in the program killed 28 members of the Black Panther Party and arrested another 750 members in order to destroy the group. There were similar acts towards other movements and organizations too. The FBI also carried out psychological warfare against these groups by distributing pamphlets containing false stories and information about them. The FBI officially shut down COINTELPRO in 1971, but some people claim that the Bureau is still using the same tactics.(1,2)

4. In 1962, the US military planned to organize terror attacks on US citizens and blame Cuba for those attacks in order to justify a war against Cuba. The name of the operation was Operation Northwoods.

NorthwoodsMemorandum Letter, Lyman L. Lemnitzer
Image source: Wikimedia, Wikimedia

In the early 1960s, the US government was looking for an excuse to start a war against Cuba. Because the communists led by Fidel Castro had recently come to power in Cuba, the US considered them as a threat. So, the US government needed an excuse that could justify a war against Cuba and receive public support. The officials in the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff came up with a proposal. According to their plan, the CIA agents and the other US operatives would organize terror attacks in American cities against innocent civilians and military bases. In this way, they could blame Cuba for those attacks and declare a war.

The official name of this plan or operation was Operation Northwoods. As well as massive terrorist attacks on the US cities, the operation also included blowing up US ships, hijacking US planes, assassinating Cuban immigrants, and sinking their refugee boats on the high seas. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the operation before presenting the plan to the president’s office. The details of the operation were presented to the Secretary of Defense of President Kennedy and were rejected. Thus, the whole operation remained as a plan.(1,2)

5. In 1970, US President Nixon ordered a secret bombing in Cambodia. The operations lasted until 1973 and resulted in the deaths of about 100,000 Cambodian people.

U.S. Air Force Boeing B 52D dropping bombs over Vietnam, Meeting at Camp David to discuss the Vietnam situation
Image credit: USAF/Wikimedia, Oliver F. Atkins/Wikimedia

During the Vietnam War, some troops of Viet Cong and North Vietnam were stationed in Cambodia. The US government started a massive bombing in Cambodia in order to eliminate those Viet Cong troops. However, the people who died in those bombings were not only Viet Cong soldiers but also Cambodian civilians. President Richard Nixon gave the bombing order to Henry Kissinger and told him to forward it to the military units. The president claimed they were protecting the South Vietnam government and the US troops stationed in Cambodia with those attacks.

These attacks lasted until 1973, and it is still not clear how many people died in the bombings. However, Kissinger mentions that the Historical Office of the Secretary of Defense stated that there had been 50,000 casualties. Furthermore, those casualties were not Viet Cong, they were Cambodian. On the other hand, the famous Cambodian Genocide professor, Ben Kiernan, claims that the number is more likely to be between 50,000 and 150,000 people.(1,2)

6. Between 1917 and 1926, female factory workers who were painting clocks and watches with luminous, radium paint were told the radium was harmless and they could point the brushes with their lips to give it a good shape. After some time, most workers contracted radiation poisoning, but it is unknown how many of them died as a result.

1921 magazine advertisement for Undark, Radium dial painter girl
Image source: Wikimedia, taringa.net

The first radium factory in the US was set up by the United States Radium Corporation in 1917. In this factory, female workers were painting the numbers on watches and clocks with radium paint. They did this so the numbers could be shiny and seen even in the dark which would reflect their brand name, “Undark.” Radium was a glowing element, and that’s the reason the numbers on the dials were painted with it. But, it was also a harmful element that could destroy human tissue. This was the reason why nobody but the workers touched the element in the factory. Although the corporation knew the hazardous effects of radium, they told the female workers that it was harmless. Furthermore, they told the workers they could point the brushes between their lips in order to give it a better shape.

The workers sometimes enjoyed playing with this radiant element by painting their clothes, teeth, noses, and some other parts of their body. After a while, the workers started having health issues. One worker lost her teeth and the gums couldn’t heal, while others gave birth to stillborn babies. Some workers had chronic exhaustion, while some others had skin deformation. All these problems were because of radium, and most of the workers had contracted radiation poisoning. During the funeral of one of the workers, Amelia Maggie, people could see the corpse was glowing in the coffin, and they then assumed they knew what caused her death. Even though there were many reports of sickness, it is still unknown how many of the workers died. The first legal case against the United States Radium Corporation was filed in 1925, but nothing happened to the USRC as they were very powerful then.(1,2)

7. Between 100,000 and 150,000 Native American women were sterilized in the 1970s. According to the records, 3,400 to 70,000 of those women had a forced sterilization.

Sterilization protest
Image credit: Southern Studies Institute/Wikimedia

In the 1970s, stereotypes and racial prejudices against the Native American people increased dramatically. The media were stirring up the community by portraying the Native American women as squaws who were all alcoholic, dirty, and ugly women enjoying torturing White men. This negative image in the media manipulated the public. Eventually, people started thinking that these women were unfit to raise children. Then, the government started to sterilize Native American women. When the sterilization process began, the Native women were thinking that it was obligatory to have the procedure. Moreover, they thought if they hadn’t undergone the procedure, the government would have withdrawn their welfare benefits.

According to the records, up to 150,000 Native American women had this sterilization process during the period. What’s worse is that between 3,400 and 70,000 of those women had been forced to have sterilization without their consent. Forced sterilizations continued even after the law about protecting women from forced sterilization had passed in 1974. This process had a considerable effect on the fertility rate of the Native American women. The average birth rate dropped to 1.8 children for a Native American woman in 1980s, while it had been 3.7 in 1970s.(1,2)

8. From 1956 to 1970, doctors at the Willowbrook State School in New York intentionally gave hepatitis to the mentally disabled children in order to track the development of the infection.

Willowbrook Mental Patients
Image credit: ©1979 by William Bronston, M.D. via mn.gov

The Willowbrook State School was set up in 1947 in order to care for mentally retarded children. But, the school is now mentioned mostly because of the experiments on children. In the first decade of the school, there were hepatitis outbreaks, mostly Hepatitis A. As a result, two professors from New York University and Yale University carried out some controversial experiments on mentally disabled children. They intentionally gave hepatitis to the children in order to track the phases of the disease and gauge the effects of gamma globulin, a kind of immunity booster.

In spite of the negative publicity, the experiments continued. As a result, the researchers found the difference between serum hepatitis and infectious hepatitis. While the first one was spread by blood, the latter was spread from person to person directly. However, this knowledge gain didn’t change the public’s opinion about the experiments. Also, these experiments were not the only scandals about the school. According to records, sexual and physical abuse by the school staff, the inadequacy of facilities, and overcrowding were also major problems. The government shut down the school in 1987.(1,2)

9. In 1968, the Mexican government placed snipers in buildings near the area where students were protesting. A sniper shot soldiers who were there for security and the other soldiers thought the students were shooting them. They started shooting unarmed and innocent students resulting in the death of more than 300.  

Tlatelolco massacre, The Guardian, 5 October 1968
Image credit: Marcel·lí Perelló/Wikimedia, Image source: theguardian.com

Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics, a massacre occurred in Mexico City when security forces shot into a crowd of unarmed people. About 10,000 high school and university students came together in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in order to protest the actions of the government and voice their demands. However, the government had no thought of hearing them. Military forces and police officers soon arrived in the area in order to arrest the leaders of the student organizations. However, just after their arrival, they were welcomed with a gunshot. The soldiers and the police then started shooting into the crowd as they thought the students had shot at them. This led to the death of between 300 and 400 students, although the government media claimed only 20 people died.

The truth about this massacre was revealed after 40 years. In the documents, first-person statements, historic recordings, and news reports of the time, people could see a clear picture of the day. The government placed snipers in the buildings around the plaza and ordered them to shoot into the security forces. Also, the government was responsible for kidnapping and torturing lots of students. Then-president of Mexico, Diaz Ordaz, was held accountable for this massacre.(1,2)

10. The Japanese Army established a covert unit, Unit 731, to research chemical and biological weapons between 1935 and 1945. Within this unit, the army conducted many human experiments. The researchers who worked during these experiments were granted immunity by the US after the WWII in exchange for the data they gathered during these experiments.

Unit 731, Gas Test
Image source: Wikimedia, taringa.net

The Imperial Japanese Army set up Unit 731 as a covert chemical and biological research and development facility in 1935. The primary purpose of this unit was to research the use of chemical and biological materials as weapons. In order to achieve this purpose, the Imperial Army conducted a series of lethal, human experiments. There were at least 3,000 people who were used as the test subjects. Although most of the subjects of the experiments were Chinese, there were also Mongolians, Soviet, Korean, and Allied prisoners of war (POWs).

After the war, the researchers who had conducted all these experiments received a secret immunity from the US instead of a trial. The US government did this in exchange for the data and findings gathered during the experiments. The purpose was to combine that data with the data of US Biological Warfare Program. On the other hand, Russia tried the researchers captured in a war crime trial.(1,2)

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