Hollywood depicts the CIA as planning and executing insane assassination schemes of foreign leaders — everything from poisoning a doctor’s stethoscope in “Spy Game” to weaponizing human robots in the Bourne series.
But it turns out that those plotlines aren’t as crazy as you might think since the Agency has tried to poison toothpaste and SCUBA gear. Here are four of its crazier plots:
1. Fidel Castro’s SCUBA dive to hell
Cuban President Fidel Castro survived countless plots on his life, including approximately 600 CIA plans. Two of the most outlandish involved Castro’s love of SCUBA diving. The first was for someone to pack a shell with explosives, paint it with bright colors, and then put it in Castro’s path like the world’s most festive IED.
A separate attempt called for an American working with Castro to loan him a wetsuit and breathing mask filled with flesh-eating fungus. The CIA made the suit, but it was never given to Castro. Reports differ on whether the wetsuit even made it out of the CIA lab.
2. Ambushing a couple during sex
A group of rebels seeking to overthrow the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic got together with the CIA to request weapons to form a guerrilla group. The CIA was open to the idea, but the requests from the rebels made it clear that they were planning just an assassination, not a full overthrow.
When the CIA asked for the plan, the rebels mapped out how they would follow Trujillo to the house of his mistress and kill him there. The CIA sent few weapons — three revolvers and three carbines — but it’s not clear whether they were used in the 1961 assassination. Trujillo was killed on the road to his mistress, sparing her life.
3. Toxic toothpaste for a Congolese leader
Western governments, including the U.S., were dissatisfied with the first elected president of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, and worried that he would institute communism there. The CIA began plotting to poison his toothpaste or food.
The poison was supposed to cause symptoms and leave forensic evidence similar to that of tropical diseases that already existed in Congo. Luckily for America, local power struggles resulted in Lumumba’s arrest. He was killed by a firing squad after attempting to escape.
4. Repeated kidnapping attempts
CIA-backed rebels planning a military coup in Chile were frustrated by Chilean Gen. Rene Schneider, the Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean army. The rebels decided to kidnap him and made a failed attempt on Oct. 19, 1970. Another group — possibly backed by the CIA, but a 1975 Senate investigation wasn’t sure — attempted to kidnap Schneider on Oct. 20. It failed.
And so the CIA went back to the first group on Oct. 22 with a gift of machine guns and ammunition. The general was kidnapped by a third group of rebels — this one definitely not affiliated with the CIA — the same day.
Schneider later died of wounds sustained during the kidnapping.