James Bamford's Body of Secrets Is Fact, Not Fiction

by Fred Cederholm

The scenario that follows may sound eerily familiar. Be sure to read it to the end.
I've been thinking about a scenario described in James Bamford's book Body of Secrets (published by Doubleday in 2001, p. 81+). The story has nothing to do with forests, but rather deals with how we frequently can't see the forest because of the trees.

Deep within the bowels of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Department and the US intelligence community a plan was devised. There was an evil dictator who was oppressing his people. His regime and his nation were seen as threats to the whole region. The instability had worldwide implications; there was a "clear and present danger" to the security of the United States of America. What was the remedy?

Attempts at political assassination of this dictator had already failed several times. By law that option was no longer available to American operatives--shades of "Operation Mongoose." American sentiment would not sanction a preemptive invasion of the nation and the seizure of the dictator. The US had never attacked so pre-emptily in its entire history. World opinion would be clearly against a unilateral action by the US. Behind the scenes American support for a native ex-patriate uprising had already been shown to fail. (Think back to the example of the April 1961 disaster of the Bay of Pigs.)

Both American public and world opinion needed a rallying point to war and/or invasion, much like what had occurred after the explosion of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor and the attack on Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hawaii. The Joint Chiefs drafted a memorandum for submission to the President. "The suggested courses of action? are based on the premise that US military intervention will result from a period of heightened ? tensions which place the United States in a position of suffering justifiable grievances. World opinion, and the United Nations forum, should be favorably affected by developing the international image of the ? government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace." It continues, "This plan? should be developed to focus all efforts ? which would provide adequate justification for US military intervention."

A series of coordinated incidents would use/accuse foreign nationals of the attack and destruction of US-based homeland targets. American casualties could be heavy, but the end would justify the means. The follow-up media coverage of these catastrophic events would turn both US and worldwide opinion to favor the ultimate objectives of invasion and coup d'état.

Each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on this plan. The Secretary of Defense submitted the memorandum scenario for the approval of, and authorization by, the President shortly after March 13th. The President, however, wisely chose to reject the entire plan. He fired the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he subsequently replaced the head of the NSA.

You see this described scenario is not a work of fiction, but a story of fact. Author James Bamford was an investigative journalist for ABC News. John Kennedy was the President, Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense, Fidel Castro was the dictator and Cuba was the site of the regional instability. It took over 40 years for the relevant Top Secret documents of "Operation Northwoods" to be declassified and made public. (See NSA Archive of George Washington University.)

We can only hope and pray that in 40 more years the American public doesn't learn of a so-called "Operation Free Oasis" from 2001.

I'm Fred Cederholm and I've been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

©2004 Fred W. Cederholm. All rights reserved. Fred Cederholm is a CPA/CFE, a forensic accountant, and writer who contributes the column "TH*NK*NG" to The Weekly Observer in Creston, (Ogle County) Illinois. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.A., M.A. and M.A.S.) He can be reached at

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This story was published on June 21, 2004.