Operation Northwoods, or Northwoods, was a 1962 plan by the US Department of Defense to cause acts of simulated or real terrorism and violence on US soil or against US interests, blamed on Cuba, in order to generate U.S. public support for military action against the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. As part of the U.S. government's Operation Mongoose anti-Castro initiative, the plan, which was not implemented, called for various false flag actions, including simulated or real state-sponsored acts of terrorism (such as hijacked planes) on U.S. and Cuban soil. The plan was proposed by senior U.S. Department of Defense leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Louis Lemnitzer.
In response to a request for pretexts for military intervention by the Chief of Operations of the Cuba Project, Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale, the document lists methods (with, in some cases, outlined plans) the authors believed would garner public and international support for U.S. military intervention in Cuba. These are staged attacks purporting to be of Cuban origin, with a number of them having real casualties. Central to the plan was the use of "friendly Cubans"—Cuban exiles seeking to oust Fidel Castro.
The proposals included:
Starting rumors about Cuba by using clandestine radios.
Staging mock attacks, sabotages and riots at Guantanamo Bay and blaming them on Cuban forces.
Blowing up a U.S. ship in Guantánamo Bay and blaming it on Cuba—reminiscent of the destruction of the USS Maine at Havana in 1898, which helped to precipitate the Spanish-American War. (The document's first suggestion regarding the sinking of a U.S. ship is to blow up a ship at sea and hence would result in U.S. Navy members being killed, with a secondary suggestion of possibly using an unmanned ship and fake funerals instead.)
"Harassment of civil air, attacks on surface shipping and destruction of US military drone aircraft by MIG type [sic] planes would be useful as complementary actions."
Destroying an unmanned drone masquerading as a commercial aircraft supposedly full of "college students off on a holiday". This proposal was the one supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Staging a "terror campaign", including the "real or simulated" sinking of Cuban refugees:
"We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute [sic] to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement, also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government."
Burning crops by dropping incendiary devices in Haiti, the Dominican Republic or elsewhere.
Journalist James Bamford summarized Operation Northwoods in his April 24, 2001 book Body of Secrets:
Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.
 Related Operation Mongoose proposals
In addition to Operation Northwoods, under the Operation Mongoose program the Department of Defense had a number of similar proposals to be taken against the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.
Twelve of these proposals come from a February 2, 1962 memorandum entitled "Possible Actions to Provoke, Harass or Disrupt Cuba," written by Brig. Gen. William H. Craig and submitted to Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale, the commander of the Operation Mongoose project.
The memorandum outlines Operation Bingo, a plan to, in its words, "create an incident which has the appearance of an attack on U.S. facilities (GMO) in Cuba, thus providing an excuse for use of U.S. military might to overthrow the current government of Cuba."
It also includes Operation Dirty Trick, a plot to blame Castro if the 1962 Mercury manned space flight carrying John Glenn crashed, saying "The objective is to provide irrevocable proof that, should the MERCURY manned orbit flight fail, the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba [sic]." It continues, "This to be accomplished by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans."
Even after General Lyman Lemnitzer lost his job as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Chiefs of Staff still planned false-flag pretext operations at least into 1963. A different Department of Defense policy paper created in 1963 discussed a plan to make it appear that Cuba had attacked a member of the Organization of American States (OAS) so that the United States could retaliate. The Pentagon document says of one of the scenarios, "A contrived 'Cuban' attack on an OAS member could be set up, and the attacked state could be urged to take measures of self-defense and request assistance from the U.S. and OAS." The plan expresses confidence that by this action "the U.S. could almost certainly obtain the necessary two-thirds support among OAS members for collective action against Cuba."
Included in the nations the Joint Chiefs suggested as targets for covert attacks were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Since both were members of the British Commonwealth, the Joint Chiefs hoped that by secretly attacking them and then falsely blaming Cuba, the United States could incite the people of the United Kingdom into supporting a war against Castro. As the Pentagon report noted,
Any of the contrived situations described above are inherently, extremely risky in our democratic system in which security can be maintained, after the fact, with very great difficulty. If the decision should be made to set up a contrived situation it should be one in which participation by U.S. personnel is limited only to the most highly trusted covert personnel. This suggests the infeasibility of the use of military units for any aspect of the contrived situation.
The Pentagon report even suggested covertly paying a person in the Castro government to attack the United States: "The only area remaining for consideration then would be to bribe one of Castro's subordinate commanders to initiate an attack on [the U.S. Navy base at] Guantanamo."
It has been reported that John F. Kennedy personally rejected the Northwoods proposal, but no official record of this exists. The proposal was sent for approval to the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, but was not implemented. President Kennedy removed General Lyman Lemnitzer as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly afterward, although he became Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in January 1963.
The continuing push against the Cuban government by internal elements of the U.S. military and intelligence community (the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Project, etc.) prompted President John F. Kennedy to attempt to rein in burgeoning hardline anti-Communist sentiment that was intent on proactive, aggressive action against communist movements around the globe. After the Bay of Pigs, John F. Kennedy fired then CIA director Allen W. Dulles, Deputy Director Charles P. Cabell, as well as Deputy Director Richard Bissell, and turned his attention towards Vietnam.
Kennedy also took steps to bring discipline to the CIA's Cold War and paramilitary operations by drafting a National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) which called for the shift of Cold War operations to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon as well as a major change in the role of the CIA to exclusively deal in intelligence gathering.
On August 3, 2001, the National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba (the main legislative body of the Republic of Cuba) issued a statement