Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders once floated a conspiracy theory about the U.S. government orchestrating domestic bombings for political purposes.
Sanders launched his 1976 campaign for Vermont governor by suggesting that government agencies were behind a string of attempted bombings across the country.
Sanders ran on the Liberty Union ticket — a Vermont political party he co-founded — alongside lieutenant governor candidate John Franco, who also lent credence to the conspiracy theory.
Sanders and Franco “coupled the announcement with a disavowal of terrorist bombings and a charge that many such incidents may be instigated by government agencies to undermine legitimate efforts to bring about change,” the Bennington Banner, a Vermont newspaper, reported at the time.
Two days prior to Sanders’s announcement, eight letter bombs were sent to seven corporations and a business executive across four different cities. Authorities arrested two men, Leon Cordell Horton and Ardis Odell Reed, in 1981 for sending the bombs in what prosecutors said was an attempt to extort money from corporations. Both men were later found guilty.
The Banner’s story made clear the letter bombs and similar domestic attacks were the attacks to which Sanders and Franco reportedly referred as potentially orchestrated by the U.S. government. (Time Magazine noted in 2016 that “protest bombings in America were commonplace” during the 1970s.)
The Banner’s story stated both candidates denounced the “wave of letter bombings aimed at large corporations.”
“Both men said such terrorism is counterproductive to changing the ‘system,’ and charged that government agencies like the CIA may in fact be responsible,” read the Banner’s article, which The Daily Caller News Foundation reviewed in an online newspaper archive.
“Anybody that thinks change is going to come because of bombings or terrorist activity is either extremely stupid, crazy or an agent of the U.S. government,” the paper quoted Sanders saying.
“While [President] Donald Trump raves about a deep state coup and routinely invokes violence when discussing his political opponents, Senator Sanders is proud to have always supported peaceful political change,” a Sanders campaign spokeswoman told TheDCNF in an email.
A request for comment emailed to Franco received an automatic response saying he was out of office.
Attacking intelligence agencies has been a constant feature of Sanders’s political career.
At a 1974 Senate debate — two years prior to his promotion of the false flag conspiracy theory — Sanders said the CIA might be capable of overthrowing the U.S. government, the Banner reported in a contemporaneous article also reviewed by TheDCNF.
“Sanders called the CIA ‘a dangerous institution that has got to go,’ saying the CIA is ‘responsible to nobody except a handful of right-wing lunatics and the big multinational corporate interests,’” the paper reported.
“Sanders said that the CIA has overthrown many foreign governments unfriendly to the U.S. corporations and that they might even be able to overthrow the U.S. government if they chose to,” the Banner’s story added, noting that “Sanders was cheered at one point when he called for immediately disbanding of the CIA.”
When asked about his previous support for abolishing the CIA in 2016, Sanders said he no longer holds that position.
As recently as 2014, Sanders said that the intelligence agencies were “out of control.”
“As you have heard from me, for years now, in my view the intelligence agencies in this country, the [National Security Agency], CIA, are out of control,” he said in an interview.
“We certainly need to know about the torture practiced under the Bush administration and the CIA has got to understand that they work for the American people and the U.S. Congress, they are not an independent entity that can do whatever they want to do,” the Vermont senator added.
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