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The Top 25 Crimes of the CIA

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The CIA works closely with the U.S. military and political establishment. Leon Panetta (right) was CIA Director prior to becoming Secretary of Defense.

The CIA works closely with the U.S. military and political establishment. Leon Panetta (right) was CIA Director prior to becoming Secretary of Defense.

The History of CIA Crimes

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was created by Harry Truman in 1947. Their mandate was to collect information about foreign threats that could be used to defend the United States of America.

However, within months of their inception, the CIA abandoned this policy of observation to begin a regimen of interference and intervention in the affairs of other nations.

The crimes that followed included assassinations and political coups that deposed democratically elected governments. Populations from at least 25 countries were denied the right to choose their own leaders, which may be why America is hated so much around the world.

The excuse given by CIA supporters is that Soviet influence over certain governments had to be curtailed. However, in many cases, no proof of Russian activity was ever found. The CIA had simply taken to dismantling any leftist or anti-U.S. government, regardless of foreign support.

The following list provides 25 examples of CIA crimes from around the world. It would be callous to rank these atrocities, which is why they are presented alphabetically (by country) to allow readers to find specific incidents.

Afghanistan (1979-1989)

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the CIA gave weapons to anyone willing to fight the Soviets. Three billion dollars were spent to equip, train, and fund Mujahideen soldiers. When the Soviets left, fanatical Muslims such as Sheik Abdel-Rahman and Osama bin Laden were left in possession of powerful weaponry.

Rahman was directly funded by the CIA and went on to co-plot the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Many of bin Laden's associates (including Rahman) were also supported by the CIA.

Underground damage to the WTC after the 1993 bombing, and one of the bombers, Ahmed Ajaj, who was trained in Afghanistan at a CIA-funded camp.

Underground damage to the WTC after the 1993 bombing, and one of the bombers, Ahmed Ajaj, who was trained in Afghanistan at a CIA-funded camp.

Angola (1975-2002)

Beginning in 1975, a CIA-backed civil war pointlessly killed more than 500,000 Angolans over 27 years. Gerald Ford had ordered the CIA to send covert aid to anti-communists involved in the war, despite Angola being a country of little strategic importance.

The act prompted the Soviet Union to become involved, escalating and prolonging the war. According to the CIA's station chief in Angola at the time, John Stockwell, the Soviets were not involved in the country before the CIA interference.

Australia (1975)

In 1975, the CIA helped to topple Edward Whitlam, the democratically elected prime minister of Australia. Whitlam was a leftist leader who had threatened to close U.S. military bases in Australia. The population was stunned by the use of an archaic law that allowed Governor-General John Kerr to dissolve the government.

Kerr was a member of the Association for Cultural Freedom, an organization that was receiving funding from the CIA. In 1977, U.S. politician Warren Christopher let slip in a discussion with Whitlam that "the U.S. would never again interfere with Australia's democratic process."

Bolivia (1968-1971)

In 1968, the CIA captured Che Guevara and he was executed by subservient Bolivian forces. In 1971, a CIA-backed military coup overthrew the Bolivian socialist president, Juan Torres. The new U.S.-approved dictator, Hugo Banzer, had over 2,000 political opponents tortured and executed without trial.

Brazil (1964)

In 1964, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected leader of Brazil, João Goulart, in a military coup. They installed military fascists such as General Branco in his place. Goulart's replacements sent death squads to eliminate all political opposition. It was later revealed that the CIA had trained these death squads in methods of torture, interrogation, and assassination.

João Goulart was overthrown in a CIA coup.

João Goulart was overthrown in a CIA coup.

Cambodia (1970)

In 1970, it is alleged that the CIA overthrew popular leader, Prince Sihanouk, for keeping Cambodia out of the Vietnam War. His right-wing replacement immediately entered the Vietnam War on the side of America, and demanded all communist forces leave Cambodia.

Chile (1973)

Under the order of President Nixon, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende, in 1973. Allende was a peaceful man who refused to use force against his political opponents. The CIA replaced him with the notorious General Pinochet, who went on to torture and murder thousands.

Salvador Allende was another elected leader deposed in a CIA coup.

Salvador Allende was another elected leader deposed in a CIA coup.

Congo (1961-1965)

Under the order of President Eisenhower, the CIA was ordered to assassinate the democratically elected leader of Congo, Patrice Lumumba. They funded his political opponents, and a coup ensued in 1961 in which Lumumba was assassinated.

Public support for Lumumba prevented the CIA from installing his opponents to power, leading to civil war. In 1965, a second CIA military coup installed Mobutu Seko as a U.S.-friendly dictator. Human rights violations followed for three decades until he was deposed in 1997.

Cuba (1961)

The CIA sent 1500 Cuban exiles to invade Castro’s Cuba in 1961. The mission failed when a promised U.S. airstrike did not occur, leading to the deaths of many of the exiles.

The CIA were also ordered to assassinate Fidel Castro on several occasions by numerous presidents, including Eisenhower and Kennedy. They worked with mafia bosses and political dissidents on as many as 638 assassination attempts.

Dominican Republic (1961-1965)

Since 1930, the U.S. had supported the murderous dictator Rafael Trujillo. However, the CIA had him assassinated in 1961 when his business interests became large enough to compete with U.S. hegemony in the region.

When democracy broke out in 1963, the CIA stepped in. They overthrew the new democratically elected leader, Juan Bosch, in a military coup and installed a fascist government. In 1965, a popular rebellion sought to reinstall Juan Bosch. U.S. Marines arrived to reinforce the fascists, crushing the rebellion.

Ecuador (1961-1963)

In 1961, CIA-backed military factions forced the resignation of the elected president, José Velasco. Then, in 1963, the CIA overthrew President Arosemena in a military coup after he offended the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, criticized the United States government, and defended Castro's revolution in Cuba. The CIA installed a military dictatorship in Ecuador. Human rights abuses inevitably followed.

El Salvador (1980-1992)

In 1980, the Archbishop of San Salvador pleaded with U.S. President Carter to stop aiding the military government slaughtering his people. Carter refused, and shortly afterwards, the Archbishop (Óscar Romero) was shot while giving mass. The CIA had previously worked with the assassins.

The country dissolved into civil war in which CIA-trained death squads slaughtered thousands of men, women and children. Some 63,000 Salvadorans were killed by 1992.

Óscar Romero was an archbishop assassinated in El Salvador.

Óscar Romero was an archbishop assassinated in El Salvador.

Greece (1947-1967)

In the CIA's first act of interference in another country, military aid was given to notorious Greek fascists in 1947. These fascists had deplorable human-rights records, but were supported in their fight against communists.

Later, in 1965, the anti-U.S. prime-minister, Georgios Papandreou, was removed from power. Two years later, a CIA-backed military coup overthrew the government two days before elections when it emerged that the likely winner would be Papandreou. The “Regime of the Colonels” began: a military dictatorship that destroyed freedoms, civil rights, and Greek democracy.

Guatemala (1954)

In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, Jacob Árbenz, in a military coup. No trace was found of Soviet influence over Árbenz's government, despite allegations manufactured by the Americans. The CIA installed right-wing military dictators that went on to murder more than 100,000 Guatemalans.

Haiti (1959-1990)

In 1959, “Papa Doc” Duvalier became dictator in Haiti. Despite his frequent human rights abuses, he earned the support of America for his anti-communist policies. His private police killed over 100,000 Haitians during his reign.

In 1971, “Baby Doc” Duvalier took over and continued to massacre the population. After the retirement of Duvalier in 1986, the CIA created the “National Intelligence Service,” which used torture and assassination to suppress popular revolt.

Later, in 1990, a leftist priest competed against 10 wealthy candidates at the general election and won 68% of the vote. After eight months in power, the CIA-backed military deposed this elected leader, reinstating a brutal regime that caused thousands of Haitians to flee the island on rafts.

Honduras (1983)

In 1983, the CIA gave Honduran military officers the “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual” (a book of torture methods) and directed a campaign of assassination against leftist militias in the region. At least 184 people were tortured to death by the CIA-backed government.

Hungary (1956)

The CIA Cold War propaganda outlet, Radio Free Europe, incited Hungary to revolt in 1956 by broadcasting Khruschev’s "secret speech" in which he denounced Stalin. 30,000 Hungarians and 7,000 Soviets died in the uprising that followed.

A young boy looks on as Soviet tanks suppress the Hungarian uprising.

A young boy looks on as Soviet tanks suppress the Hungarian uprising.

Indonesia (1965)

In 1965, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected leader of Indonesia, Sukarno, in a military coup. His successor murdered up to one million civilians accused of being communists. The CIA supplied the names of countless suspects.

Iran (1953-1988)

In 1953, a CIA coup overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, after he made plans to nationalize the oil industry. Shah Pavlavi was installed as dictator. His rule was so oppressive and violent that in 1979 the Iranian revolution took place to depose him. The regime that took over still rules Iran today.

In 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran with America's support. When Saddam used chemical weapons against the Iranians, the United States maintained their support and vetoed every attempt to condemn Saddam’s WMD use at the United Nations.

U.S. President Harry Truman meeting Mossadegh in 1951, two years before the coup.

U.S. President Harry Truman meeting Mossadegh in 1951, two years before the coup.

Iraq (1980-2003)

The CIA had armed Saddam Hussein’s military during the Iran-Iraq war, which then allowed him to brutally crush internal opposition within his own country. Eventually Saddam turned against his masters and used his sophisticated military to invade Kuwait in 1991.

In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq to "remove weapons of mass destruction." Only 15 years earlier, America had supported Saddam's use of chemical weapons against the Iranians, and blocked countless U.N. resolutions that were intended to condemn their use.

An Iranian soldier wears a gas mask to protect against Iraqi chemical weapons.

An Iranian soldier wears a gas mask to protect against Iraqi chemical weapons.

Italy (1948)

In 1948, the CIA (by its own admission) interfered in Italian elections, threatening and beating up communist leaders. They bought votes and broadcast propaganda to win the election for right-wing groups.

Laos (1957)

The CIA had made numerous attempts to remove Pathet Lao from power in Laos for being leftist. When they failed, the United States began bombing Laos from 1957 to 1973. The number of bombs dropped on Laos was phenomenal, making it the most bombed country in history. At least a quarter of all Laotians became refugees.

Laos was prolifically bombed by the U.S. Air Force.

Laos was prolifically bombed by the U.S. Air Force.

Nicaragua (1979-1990)

In 1979, the CIA-backed dictator of Nicaragua was deposed in a Marxist rebellion. The Marxists transformed the country into a democratic state and fairly won the resultant election according to most international observers.

In response, the CIA recruited the remnants of the outgoing dictator's National Guard to form a widely hated private army called the "Contras." The CIA ordered a guerrilla war against the Marxists throughout the next decade.

When Marxists shot down a plane carrying military supplies in 1986, the survivor was revealed to be a CIA employee, embarrassing President Reagan who had denied any U.S. involvement.

Panama (1966-1989)

In 1989, the United States invaded Panama to overthrow a dictator it had previously supported. General Noriega had been on the CIA’s contractual payroll since 1967, and had been transporting drugs with the CIA’s knowledge since 1972. Noriega’s increased independence had angered Washington. After being overthrown, he was sentenced to prison for drug trafficking.

Uruguay (1969)

In 1969, CIA employee and torturer, Dan Mitrione, arrived in Uruguay to instill the resident death squads with the desire and means to torture their leftist opponents. He eventually became so feared by revolutionaries that he was murdered a year later.

This impeccable CIA officer once said:

"The precise pain, in the precise place, in the precise amount, for the desired effect."

He is reported to have practiced his methods on homeless people who were later executed.

Vietnam (1954-1969)

After many years of trying to overthrow a communist government in North Vietnam, the CIA’s level of interference in Vietnamese affairs escalated to the point of war. They eventually had their own puppet leader in South Vietnam, President Diem, executed. In 1967, the CIA identified alleged “Viet Cong” leaders in South Vietnam. About 20,000 people were subsequently killed by loyal Vietnamese.

Should the CIA Be Dissolved?

This list of 25 CIA crimes is based on information that is publicly available. There are undoubtedly far worse crimes that have not been declassified. A public inquiry should evaluate the history of the CIA and decide whether to disband the organization.

Knowledge of the history provided above is important for understanding current tensions around the world. The U.S. government relies on public ignorance of history when justifying its wars to the masses. In particular, the conflict with Iran can be understood to a greater degree when placed in its appropriate context. The more you know, the more you can be a force for good in the world.


  • Blum, W. (1995). Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Common Courage Press.
  • Chomsky, N. (2003). Hegemony or Survival. Metropolitan Books.


irishwarman on January 08, 2016:

The CIA is and has been out of control since its beginning. A sick, twisted, capitalistic, murdering bunch of ignorant thugs. The higher echelons, the decision makers, mostly from America's best school's, continue to believe that they represent the right ideals for our country's

future. They're actually the most closed minded, ignorant, and dangerous representatives of our national desires. Their only champion is power and money. I hope only one of them reads this and questions the status quo. People only want peace and their own determination. Giving them that, with American support, would give us many more friends. Its so simple.

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on June 21, 2015:

Uni polar world under US and global economic crisis are interconnected events. Developed and developing nations will suffer and third world nations under non democratic regimes will get looted. CIA and MNCs interfered local politics. In Chile , democratically elected presidents Mr. Allende was killed , CIA was directly involved.

US regime says democracy, prosperity inside America is their liability and for that we need to loot and plunder other nations and it is law ,might is right.

CIA will continue with their activities to topple unwanted governments and Anti-US regimes on the earth. Kissinger was culprit to redesign global political map .

Larry Wall on June 20, 2015:

It always amazes me how so many people know so much about the CIA and note that it is a secret organization keeping the truth from the American people. Do you detractors of the CIA have connections. Are you an operative or spy. Perhaps you just believe what people told you or you make up your own stories.

We killed Osama Bin Laden. There was no secret. There was no trial. It was treated as a military action, even no declaration of war was enacted. This country does a lot of things, that in some instances we would not tolerate. In others we just turn our heads and say "he had it coming." Was his assassination the only alternative. I do not know. The CIA does not brief me on such things. JFK did not ask my advice about the Bay of Pigs, I was only 11. Johnson and Nixon did not ask me about escalating the war in Vietnam. I was draft age then. I was in the lottery year and did not serve. Maybe you read a book that gave you these ideas. Well I will suggest you not believe everything you read and understand that you would say the same to me. Thus, we really have no way of determining what is right.

Our country does things that are wrong. Daniel Ellsberg proved that with the release of the Pentagon papers. He had proof, not hearsay. That is my ultimate issue with comments about the CIA ordering the assassination of John Kennedy, have never been proved and therefore cannot be accepted as factual.

Larry Wall on June 20, 2015:

Your statement has no basis in fact. The District Attorney of New Orleans at that time, came up with a theory, made the talk show circuit and when he got to court, could not sway one juror. He was not re-elected and was not heard from afterwards. I live in Louisiana and kept up with that investigation.

Why Ruby shot Oswald, I really do not know. I think if the USA had planned to have someone kill Oswald they would had picked a better method and venue for the task. Kennedy was killed in 1963. That is almost 50 years ago--nobody is going to prove anything at this point in time.

alwazel8 on June 20, 2015:

I'd say their framing of Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate JFK and use of Ruby to shut him up ought to be at the top of any crimes of the CIA list.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on May 06, 2015:

Good point Larry, how much control does the Mossad and Zionist really have in America, think back on all the times they have been connected to terrorist incidents in the USA from Oklahoma City Bombing to 9/11 and the JFK assassination and you might wonder who really runs this country?

Larry Wall on May 05, 2015:

I am just wondering what foreign countries are doing over here to the U.S. I am not endorsing CIA actions, but do wonder if any are of the opinion that the CIA should be abolished and all intelligence and covert activities ended. Just a thought.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on December 11, 2014:

Interesting what was left out of this article, which of course would have required a much longer article but what comes to mind is the Iran/Contra scandal which could have been touched on for both countries.

The beginning of their drub empire from shipping heroin out of Veit Nam, to their clandestine control of the poppy fields in Afghanistan and the set up of heroin refineries in Pakistan.

After all the majority of their funding for the Criminals In Action (CIA) black operations comes from its the illegal drug trafficking empire they have set right under the nose of Congress and the American people.

However the most glaring omission from the piece is the country called America in which the majority of the crimes from, assassinations, drug trafficking, bribery, illegal use of tax payers dollars and even their involvement in the killing or JFK could be mentioned.

Are we in denial or does the CIA only target other countries?

Alan Ford on August 12, 2014:

Not easy to rein in an organization with a blank check and no clear congressional oversight.

Sami from Kansas on July 29, 2014:

It just goes to show you how much time that the U.S. has spent sticking their noses in other countries. Although some circumstances are for the better, sometimes the CIA does some shady shit.

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on July 18, 2014:

Latest situation, Ukraine situation is worsening escalating and fear of war looms large . , Obama will try to poke there and asking for who is real culprit in shooting down of Malaysian aircraft.

Putin is trying to divide Ukraine and it will isolate Russia form world.CIA will try to play here but no one knows whether it will yield success.this situation will hurt global economy because central Asia is major oil source for Europe and India and China.

Would CIA able to do spoilsport?


Scott Upham Jr. from New York on July 17, 2014:

Great info, thank you!

Lorraine Dauphinee from Ontario, Canada on June 07, 2014:

Really interesting and in-depth article. The CIA really does get its nose into places best left alone.

Elisa N on March 22, 2014:

I AM one of the crimes committed by the CIA, a direct result from what was done back in the 1960s when they practically invaded Brazil to overthrow the Democratic President Goulart , then after they took residency in Brazil with their criminals and the NAZI'S scientists that ended up created the most evil CRIME ever done in history of humanity...the Paperclip Project...then MKULTRA Mind Control Technology that used entire communities as guinea pigs for the their Mind Control Experiments...and NOW the order IS to use that technology to enslave the American people and the rest of humanity. The agenda of the NWO is exactly that.

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on March 20, 2014:

I do not think we will ever know what really went on. Think of the SA war in Angola

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on November 05, 2013:

Thanks for the information Matt. I referred to some of that in the comment above, but you've directed us to a useful resource there.

mattcsg71 on November 05, 2013:

US involvement in overthrowing Govts pre 1945 Google USMC officer Smedley


Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 15, 2013:

Thanks seanorjohn and jdw7979 for your comments. I can find very few examples of US interference before the second world war. The founding fathers often spoke about the merits of non-intervention ("no entangling alliances") and this philosophy prevailed up until the end of the 19th century. The US did appear to intervene in Cuba and the Philippines against the Spanish in 1898. The US incited Panama to revolt against Colombia to secure use of the Panama canal in 1904, and of course they eventually intervened in WW1.

seanorjohn on July 14, 2013:

Great hub. It's amazing how American foreign policy changed after the 2nd WW. Do you have any examples of US interference in foreign affairs before 1945? Voted up.

John David from Middle America on June 22, 2013:

Great Hub on the most secretive organization our Big Federal Government utilizes. Thumbs up!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 16, 2013:

Cheers Educateurself!

Educateurself on May 16, 2013:

Great thomas a very interesting hub based on true to show the mirror to CIA.

Voted up.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 03, 2013:

Thanks bisnar! I know what you mean. Even if you weren't joking it would be futile, and they'd twist the event in the media to create support for the organization.

John from Irvine, California on May 03, 2013:

Wow. That's quite a timeline!

I kind of want to grab a pitchfork and storm headquarters!

Humor aside, good hub. Voted up!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on May 01, 2013:

Thanks for your knowledge of Indian history pramodgokhale. I admit, I have not studied Indian history much, so I'm grateful to learn from you. I'm glad you mentioned Hugo Chavez too. The way he was portrayed in the Western media was shocking.

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on April 30, 2013:

Thomas Swan

Sir thanks you agree with me otherwise many Britons used filthy language against us.

In India 1985 Union carbide( US MNC) had an accident and poisonous gas leaked and killed thousands of people, Paul Anderson CEO was in India and our Prime Minister helped him to flee. India is not able to prosecute him, US government denied any lawsuit against him.

Being a large country India till date could not do anything. Just imagine the fate of small countries who succumbs to super power;s pressures.

Yes cold war is still on and name has changed.

Hugo Chavez president of Venezuela was shown in western media as a demon because he nationalized oil industry told MNC to pack up that is why he was shown as a villain.

Thank you once again

pramod gokhale

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 30, 2013:

Thanks for the comment pramodgokhale. The English hold Churchill up as a hero, but I agree with you that he did many unsavory things in his time.

America, Britain and Russia interfered in far too many countries. You say they are still dominant and I agree. Today they use bribes and trade deals via ambassadors at the UN. In Syria we have Russia and the US taking sides and arming their respective factions... it's like the Cold War all over again. And yes, it all comes down to resources: oil, minerals, and opium.

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on April 29, 2013:


you have done a great job and 25 crimes briefing is really skilled work .

We Indians want to know CIA's activities in India since our independence.British left India divided into two pieces that is India and Pakistan.Nehru had friendly relations with Kennedy, Eisenhower .

Nehru was socialist and nobody was able to topple him.

Churchill came to power again and he decided to conquer India by arms and missiles and to eliminate Nehru. He was worst imperialist and villain in India's freedom struggle.

In 1965 and 1971 war against Pakistan USA was arming Pakistan and Nixon-Kissinger duo were trying to save Pakistan but finally Bangladesh was formed. Nixon threatened India by sending 7 th fleet.

Super power is still dominant in the global affairs.

Small poor nations and their fate is still vulnerable to CIA's activities and will get looted their resources.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 29, 2013:

Yes, the US has acknowledged some of their actions, and apologized for an even smaller number. Being part of Europe, I guess it was easy to apologize to Greece. Thanks for commenting Elias.

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on April 29, 2013:

Looking at your list, it starts to resemble a timeline of U.S. (unofficial) foreign policy :) About the Greek case, the U.S. apologized during Clinton's presidency for their role and the support they offered to the military junta back in 1967. Interesting hub.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 28, 2013:

Thanks for commenting Deomar. Yea, I was shocked, and still am, at how many countries they've messed around with.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 28, 2013:

Australia is certainly a surprise. I think the level of proof is a bit less than for other countries, although the quote from Warren Christopher to Whitlam seems to prove they had interfered. The funding of Kerr's organization by the CIA, and Kerr's subsequent removal of Whitlam (an anti-US leader) links the two events and strongly suggests CIA involvement. Until the specifics of some of these events are declassified by the American government, cases have to be made with the evidence available. Though for some events, the evidence is enough to make a conclusion without America's help. Thanks for the comment Ann.

anndango on April 27, 2013:

Very interesting hub. I knew about many of the countries, but am floored to see Australia on the list. My goodness! Voted up and interesting.