Note to readers: This essay is an edited and abridged version, with content reformatted, of that originally posted here. It is updated with some new material and full references. A list of the most important references is at the end of the essay, before the notes. I deleted the small portion on P. W. Botha because I was unable to locate my primary reference which was text extracted from the Truth and Reconciliation hearings held in South Africa. The content was testimony by one of Botha’s underlings at a hearing that Botha refused to attend. Rather than leave questions about the validity of statements, I deleted that section. CIA Project MK-ULTRA The United States government funded and performed countless psychological
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Note to readers:
This essay is an edited and abridged version, with content reformatted, of that originally posted here. It is updated with some new material and full references. A list of the most important references is at the end of the essay, before the notes. I deleted the small portion on P. W. Botha because I was unable to locate my primary reference which was text extracted from the Truth and Reconciliation hearings held in South Africa. The content was testimony by one of Botha’s underlings at a hearing that Botha refused to attend. Rather than leave questions about the validity of statements, I deleted that section.
The United States government funded and performed countless psychological experiments on unwitting humans, especially during the Cold War era, perhaps partially to help develop more effective torture and interrogation techniques for the US military and the CIA, but the almost unbelievable extent, range and duration of these activities far surpassed possible interrogation applications and appear to have been performed from a fundamental monstrous inhumanity. To simply read summaries of these, even without the details, is almost traumatising in itself.
In studies that began in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the US Military began identifying and testing truth serums like mescaline and scopolamine on human subjects, which they claimed might be useful during interrogations of Soviet spies. These programs eventually expanded to a project of vast scope and enormous ambition, centralised under the CIA in what would come to be called Project MK-ULTRA, a major collection of interrogation and mind-control projects. Inspired initially by delusions of a brainwashing program, the CIA began thousands of experiments using both American and foreign subjects often without their knowledge or against their will, destroying countless tens of thousands of lives and causing many deaths and suicides. Funded in part by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations and jointly operated by the CIA, the FBI and the intelligence divisions of all military groups, this decades-long CIA research constituted an immense collection of some of the most cold-blooded and callous atrocities conceivable, in a determined effort to develop reliable techniques of controlling the human mind.
MK-ULTRA was an umbrella for a large number of clandestine activities that formed part of the CIA’s psychological warfare research and development, consisting of about 150 projects and sub-projects, many of them very large in their own right, with research and human experimentation occurring at more than 80 institutions that included about 50 of America’s best-known colleges and universities, 15 or 20 major research Foundations including Rockefeller, dozens of major hospitals, a great many prisons and mental institutions, and many chemical and pharmaceutical companies. At least 200 well-known private scientific researchers were part of this program, as were many thousands of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists and other similar. Many of these institutions and individuals received their funding through so-called “grants” from what were clearly CIA front companies. In 1994 a Congressional subcommittee revealed that up to 500,000 unwitting Americans were endangered, damaged or destroyed by secret CIA and military tests between 1940 and 1974. Given the deliberate destruction of all the records, the full truth of the MK-ULTRA victims will never be known, and certainly not the death toll. As the inspector general of the US Army later stated in a report to a Senate committee: “In universities, hospitals and research institutions, an unknown number of chemical tests and experiments … were carried out with healthy adults, with mentally ill and with prison inmates.” According to one government report, “In 149 separate mind-control experiments on thousands of people, CIA researchers used hypnosis, electroshock treatments, LSD, marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine, mescaline, seconal, atropine and other drugs.” Test subjects were usually people who could not easily object – prisoners, mental patients and members of minority groups – but the agency also performed many experiments on normal, healthy civilians without their knowledge or consent.
There were 149 subprojects listed under the umbrella of MKULTRA. Project MONARCH has not been officially identified by any government documentation as one of the corresponding subprojects, but is used rather, as a descriptive “catch phrase” by survivors, therapists, and possible “insiders”. MONARCH may in fact, have culminated from MKSEARCH subprojects such as operation SPELLBINDER, which was set up to create “sleeper” assassins (i.e. “Manchurian candidates”) who could be activated upon receiving a key word or phrase while in a post-hypnotic trance. Operation OFTEN, a study which attempted to harness the power of occult forces was possibly one of several cover programs to hide the insidious reality of Project MONARCH. There were also operations BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, MKNAOMI, and MKDELTA.
Another CIA Operation called Midnight Climax consisted of a network of CIA locations to which prostitutes on the CIA payroll would lure clients where they were surreptitiously plied with a wide range of substances including LSD, and monitored behind one-way glass.Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. In the 1970s, as another part of its mind control program, the CIA conspired with Eli Lilly and Company to produce one hundred million doses of the illegal drug LSD, enough to send almost everyone in the United States on a trip.No explanation was ever given as to what the CIA did with a hundred million doses of acid but, since much of this activity was exported, reviewing international political events during this period may bring interesting possibilities to mind.
Another part of the CIA mind-control project was aimed at finding a “truth serum” to use on spies. Test subjects were given LSD and other drugs, often without their knowledge or consent, and some were tortured. Many people died – or were killed – as a result of these experiments, and an unknown number of government employees working on these projects were murdered for fear they would tell what they had seen, perhaps the best-known being Frank Olson whose death I have described below.The project was steadfastly denied by both the government and the CIA, but was finally exposed after investigations by the Rockefeller Commission. When this information became known, the US government paid many millions of dollars to settle the hundreds of claims and lawsuits that resulted. There exists much evidence that these programs had never been terminated.
As already noted, MK-ULTRA and its brethren grew out of Operation Paperclip in which more than 10,000 Japanese and some German scientists of all stripes were smuggled into the US after the Second World War, to provide the government with information on torture and interrogation techniques. It isn’t widely known but, as part of Operation Paperclip, the CIA recruited for MK-ULTRA Shiro Ishii, the head of Japan’s Unit 731 which conducted some of the most horrendous human atrocities in history, including the live vivisection of children. It also imported at the same time at least ten thousands of the staff from Unit 731, housed them on US military bases and gave them full immunity from prosecution for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is for this reason almost no Japanese faced trial for their crimes: they were all in America, contributing their skills to MK-ULTRA. The CIA also imported some Germans who had performed human experimentation. It also isn’t widely-known, but this entire project had its birth not in the US but at The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in the UK, an institute with an exceptionally cold-blooded past. I will return to Tavistock in later chapters.
The CIA leadership had concerns about discovery of their unethical and illegal behavior, as evidenced in a 1957 Inspector General Report, which stated:
“Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from exposure to enemy forces but also to conceal these activities from the American public in general. The knowledge that the agency is engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles”.
The CIA’s MK-ULTRA activities continued until well into the 1970s when CIA director Richard Helms, fearing that they would be exposed to the public, ordered the project terminated and all of the files destroyed. However, a clerical error had sent many documents to the wrong office, so when CIA workers were destroying the files, some of them remained and were later released under a Freedom of Information Act request by investigative journalist John Marks. Nevertheless, because the records have almost all been destroyed, the numbers and identities of the victims will never be known.
The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) describes its mission as “creating world-changing solutions to make people safer, healthier, and more productive.” Wikipedia tells us the trustees of Stanford University established SRI in 1946 as “a center of innovation to support economic development in the region”. I have no evidence that SRI has made anyone safer or more productive and, whatever the original purpose of this institution, supporting economic development of the region wouldn’t appear to have been very high on the list. From my research, there are few institutions in America that have had their histories more thoroughly sanitised than SRI. Certainly all references to participation in the CIA’s MK-ULTRA and other inhuman projects have evaporated from the narrative. In August of 1977, the Washington Post exposed some of these projects; there were likely many more.
One of SRI’s past activities involved contracts awarded by the CIA and the US Navy to research and develop long-distance mind control using radio waves. The CIA had already funded MK-ULTRA projects at Honeywell for “a method to penetrate inside a man’s mind and control his brain waves over long distance”. In the 1960s, then-Director of the CIA, Richard Helms, was excited about what was termed “biological radio communication”, and the Washington Post published concrete evidence that electronic mind control was a major object of study at SRI at the time. The theory was that extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves from the brain could be used to control individual subjects, sometimes called “empaths”, a great many of whom (inexplicably) were drawn from L. Ron Hubbard‘s Church of Scientology.
Experiments also under the SRI, in what was sometimes called “Stargate Research”, done entirely with a military biotechnology focus, the American Institutes of Research (AIR) in Washington was also involved in researching and evaluating what was called “remote viewing” or the potential use of psychic phenomena (ESP) in military and domestic applications. For all of this, declassified government files disclosed the vastness of several series of mind control and behavior modification experiments conducted in prisons, mental hospitals and campuses from 1950 through the early 1970s, with about 45 institutions and laboratories engaged in this secret and inhumane brain research, of which SRI was an integral part.
The project was under the direct command of a Dr. Sidney Gottlieb and received undisclosed but almost unlimited millions of dollars for hundreds of experiments on human subjects at hundreds of locations across the United States, Canada and Europe, the eventual budget for this program apparently having exceeded $1 billion per year. The evil in some of these MK-ULTRA documents is almost palpable, one such document from 1955 stating openly of a search for “substances which will cause (temporary or) permanent brain damage as well as loss of memory”. Part of the intent was to develop “techniques that would crush the human psyche to the point that it would admit anything”. In a US government memo from 1952, a program director asked, “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?” It also listed the wide range of horrid abuses to which the victims would be subjected. These people were not bashful about their intent.
The mechanics included primordial sex programming for women in attempts to eliminate learned moral convictions and stimulate primitive sexual instinct devoid of inhibitions, to create a kind of sex machine – the ultimate prostitute for diplomatic espionage. Several researchers have claimed the sexual appetite of these women was developed in young girls their formative years through constant incest with a government employee who had been deliberately developed as a father figure to the girls. In part, these programs involved conditioning the human mind through torture, with one portion of this program intended to train special agents as fearless terrorists lacking self-preservation instincts and who would willingly commit suicide if caught. They even experimented with electronic implants, inaudible sounds, messages embedded in the subconscious mind, mind altering drugs and much more. One portion of this extensive operation involved an attempt to create an assassins program, to learn if it were possible to kidnap a national in another country, conduct hypnosis and other techniques, then return them home to assassinate their leaders.
There was also a Dr. John Gittinger who was Sidney Gottlieb’s protégé and who developed an astonishing complex of personality and psychological tests that were apparently quite accurate in guiding the CIA in determining the best approach toward manipulating and compromising individuals, including turning patriots into spies, as well as converting housewives, nurses, and high-priced fashion models into very effective espionage prostitutes, killers, and so much more. Gittinger was so successful the CIA built him a special party room walled with one-way mirrors where CIA psychologists could watch these compromised people at work. Gittinger was apparently a “specialist” at making his victims lose touch with external reality, no doubt in conjunction with Gottlieb’s LSD. He also was apparently quite expert at identifying those individuals who could be easily hypnotised, those who would quickly go into a trance compared to those who would not, and also those who would faithfully comply with any and all post-hypnotic suggestions and experience total amnesia afterward. Perfect assassins.
Gittinger applied his “personality” tests to at least 30,000 people, since he had files on at least that many, so this was not a trivial exercise for the CIA. And, since this was the CIA, he was especially interested in deviant personalities, or those that could be made deviant, those with vices or with weaknesses that could be further programmed, especially to become traitors, and those who would be most susceptible to the influence of psychedelic drugs. He worked closely with Harris Isbell, who ran the MKULTRA mind-control drug program at the Lexington, Kentucky detention hospital, who would send him hundreds of people who could be pushed to “uncontrollable urges”, especially of a sexual or a murderous nature. Or both. This was one main use of the party room with the one-way mirrors. Ironically, it was Gittinger who inadvertently put the wheels in motion for the impeachment and resignation of then-US President Richard Nixon. When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s personal assistant, arranged for the CIA to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to obtain a copy of Gittinger’s personality and emotional test on this man, meant to be used by the CIA “as a kind of psychological road map to compromise Ellsberg”, just as they did in exploiting the weaknesses of so many others. Unfortunately, the burglars bungled the job.
There was one documented story of an American nurse who, after completing her training by Gottlieb and Gittinger, “had volunteered her body for her country”, and who was being programmed as the personal Mata Hari of a particular Russian diplomat and either get him to defect to the US or to become so compromised they could blackmail him into becoming an American spy. And, when necessary, “terminate” him. A great many of these encounters with what were called “recruitment targets” occurred in the room with the one-way mirrors and all recorded on film, one part of the sexual technology developed in the CIA safe houses in San Francisco as part of Operation Midnight Climax. Gottlieb’s Technical Services staff apparently amassed quite a wealth of experience and an abundance of “volunteers” in these sexual entrapment operations, claiming, “We had women ready – call them a stable”, who were quite adept at not only seduction but all manner of sexual activity and murder for the national security of their country.
Another portion of this same program designed to control individuals totally, “I was sent to deal with the most negative aspects of the human condition. It was planned destructiveness. First, you’d check to see if you could destroy a man’s marriage. If you could, then that would be enough to put a lot of stress on the individual, to break him down. Then you might start a minor rumor campaign against him. Harass him constantly. Bump his car in traffic. A lot of it is ridiculous, but it may have a cumulative effect.” The theory, according to Gittinger’s personality tests, was that the creation of sufficient stress from destructive personal loss, combined with other programming including the application of psycho-chemical drugs, would either turn an enemy or render him totally neutralised.
The CIA did all of these not only in America, but around the world, using Gittinger’s personality profiles to identify those military and other leaders in nations the US wanted to control. The psychological testing, combined with all the other dirty tricks of the trade, and certainly including the nurses, housewives and models who could be persuaded to develop “uncontrollable urges” to “volunteer her body for her country”, greatly assisted the US government in placing into power those who could be counted on to obey their colonial master. South Korea and Japan are two good examples of this, as are many countries in Latin America. The CIA, with the immense assistance of Gottlieb and Gittinger, could always spot those “who were most likely to succumb”.
Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West, M.D. (1924-1999) was a well-known Los Angles psychiatrist who served as the chair of UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and as director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute from 1969 to 1989. He was an expert on cults, coercive persuasion (“brainwashing”), alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and terrorism, not in preventing these but in causing them. His “Violence Project” is famous.
From the reports, the CIA was so excited about the possibilities in these experiments at SRI that a great many millions of dollars were diverted to these projects, augmented by parapsychology experiments simultaneously undertaken at Fort Meade by the NSA. Medical oversight for this enormous range of experiments was under the control of yet another CIA pervert, Dr. Louis Jolyon West, then a professor of psychiatry at UCLA, one of the most notorious CIA mind-control specialists in the country. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that these people were all crazy, since the CIA, NSA and even INSCOM and military intelligence (and of course the Church of Scientology) all cooperated with SRI in research that included Tarot cards, the channeling of spirits, communing with demons, and more.
But according to SRI itself, Dr. West’s work included not only radio waves and parapsychology, but the creation of dissociative personalities “that enabled the subjects of mind-control conditioning to adapt to trauma”. West referred to these people as “changelings” who produced alternate but actually schizophrenic insane mental states (multiple induced personalities) to permit them to deal with what was termed “prolonged environmental stress”, i.e. forced drug injections, physical, mental and sexual abuse, and psychic programming, all usually utilising large dosages of LSD, Gottlieb’s chemical of choice. There is adequate documentation that many individuals who were subjected to this CIA-sponsored “research”, developed multiple personalities, many of which were forcibly induced at a young age. There are documented stories by a few survivors who tell of enormous abuse of every kind being inflicted upon them from four or five years of age, and of having to deal with the terror of what appeared to be many different people living inside their minds. Dr. Jolyon West became a kind of research expert in these dissociative states and much of his work for the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program centered on their creation. The records reveal success in creating amnesia, false memories, altered personas, pseudo-identities, and much more, all horrifying and tragic to the individuals involved, all from West’s research in methods to “disrupt the normally integrative functions of personality”, and render people totally subject to remote control.
In Sid Gottlieb’s group there were also scientists who implanted electrodes into human and other brains in yet more mind-control experiments, even done on children as young as four or five years of age, all with the intention of creating a perfect ‘Manchurian Candidate’, as well as erasing memories and creating artificial ones and, of course, total control of the individual. This research into electrode implants was funded by the CIA and MKULTRA in conjunction with the Office of US Naval Research, and mostly supervised by our famous Dr. West. In fact, West began what was called the “UCLA Violence Project” at the Vacaville Prison where Donald Defreeze was apparently programmed. The projects received a great deal of funding, as I recall, much of it including West.
Many early interrogation studies were conducted by the Cornell University Medical School under the direction of a Dr. Harold Wolff who requested from the CIA any information regarding “threats, coercion, imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, torture, ‘brainwashing’, ‘black psychiatry’, and hypnosis, or any combination of these, with or without chemical agents”. According to Wolff, the research team would then: “…assemble, collate, analyze and assimilate this information and will then undertake experimental investigations designed to develop new techniques of offensive/defensive intelligence use … Potentially useful secret drugs [and various brain damaging procedures] will be similarly tested in order to ascertain the fundamental effect upon human brain function and upon the subject’s mood …”. He further, and rather chillingly, wrote, “Where any of the studies involve potential harm of the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of the necessary experiments.”
Among the many other prominent universities and institutions participating in this travesty was Tulane University where both the CIA and the US military had funded what appeared to be very large-scale programs of trauma-based mind control experiments on children. In 1955, the US Army reported on studies in which their researchers had implanted electrodes into the brains of mental patients to assess the effects of LSD and a host of other untested drugs. It was at Tulane that some of the earliest sensory-deprivation experiments were conducted, isolating individuals in these chambers where they would be helplessly hallucinating for as long as one week at a time while being injected with drugs and bombarded them with taped messages, to see if individuals could be “converted to new beliefs”. These were all helpless victims who had no idea of what was happening to them. There is a long list of other famous American universities and hospitals that participated in similar human destruction, all of which have carefully santised their histories.