MKULTRA is a cryptonym assigned to a series of CIA behavior modification and mind control experiments.
Origin Of Mind ControlThose in power have always sought to manipulate and control the minds of their subjects as well as those of their enemies. Marco Polo popularized the legend of The Old Man of the Mountain who used a potion (hashish) and mind tricks to create and train assassins desperate to obey their master and return to “Paradise”.
Late medieval Inquisitors authored the Maleus Mafeficarum, or ‘The Hammer for Sorceresses’ in which they codified methods for the interrogation of witches. The book became a bestseller, second only to the Bible. It was the de facto manual for obtaining confessions during the infamous witch trials. As in modern times, the use of torture in interrogations was authorized at the highest level of the Church. Holy Inquisitors were given Absolution (forgiveness) for their acts.
German physician Franz Mesmer stumbled unto the power of suggestions in the late 18th century with his development of animal magnetism. Mesmer travelled throughout France curing aristocrats of their ailments, becoming a phenomenon and irritating the medical establishment. In 1784, King Louis XVI formed a commission made up of this same medical establishment to look into animal magnetism. Predictively, they concluded that there was no evidence for any of Mesmer’s claims. Disgraced, Mesmer left France and was soon (almost) forgotten. However, the commission also issued a second, secret ‘King’s Eyes Only’ report, warning Louis and his ministers of the dangers of hypnotic seduction.The powers of suggestion would be forgotten for a century until stage hypnotists of the Victorian Age took it up again, achieving fame and riches in the process. They would perform tricks similar to today’s stage hypnotists, such as the ‘human plank’. It wouldn’t be long before government agencies took an interest in these techniques for their own purposes.
US Government Interest in Mind Control
US interest in mind control can be traced back to the Second World War. The OSS, the wartime intelligence agency preceding the CIA, formed the Truth Serum Committee, under the Manhattan Project umbrella, to find a drug to aid in interrogations. George White, who would later become infamous for testing of LSD on unsuspecting citizens in New York and San Francisco enters the behavior control picture and begins testing different strains of marijuana on himself as well as test subjects.At the same time Nazi scientist Dr. Kurt Plötner experimented with mescaline on prisoners at Dachau to “eliminate the will of the person examined”, Dr. Winfred Overholser performed similar experiments on unwitting subject at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, DC. Plötner was eventually recruited by US intelligence as part of Operation Paperclip, a US intelligence program to protect Nazi war criminals from prosecution in return for aiding the United States against the Communists.
The US government played a major role at the Nuremberg Trials and in the formulation of the Nuremberg Code, a set of ethics and principles for conducting human experimentations. Meanwhile, its intelligence agencies ignored all ten points in its research. Medical doctors working for the CIA defied their oaths to do no harm. To avoid public scrutiny, anything dodgy was labeled TOP SECRET, an abuse of National Security that continues to this day.
The Army Chemical Corps also began research into mind control. They tested potential drugs, such as LSD on American troops and on unwitting US citizens, with tragic circumstances for pro tennis player, Harold Blauer. Blauer died soon after checking into the New York Psychiatric Institute seeking treatment for depression following a divorce. He was unaware that the institute had an agreement with the Army Chemical Corps to test drugs on patients as part of the Army’s mind control experiments. Blauer was given five heavy doses of a mescaline derivative (MDA), killing him. The incident led to a subsequent 22-year cover-up by the State of New York and the Army. In 1987, a Judge finally awarded $700k to Blauer’s estate.In 1947, Navy Intelligence launched Project CHATTER to study the efficiency of various drugs in interrogations. That same year, the CIA was created. The new agency took over the OSS’ responsibilities, including its truth serum research.
The CIA was intrigued by the testimony of Roman Catholic Cardinal József Mindszenty during his infamous show trial in Budapest where he confessed to having committed treason, despite not having done so. The Agency was convinced that the cardinal had been under hypnosis. Informants at the Secret Police Headquarters on Andrassy Street where Mindszenty was interrogated for 39 consecutive days confirmed that the Soviets had used hypnotism and drugs.
Project BLUEBIRDBy the end of the 1940s, US intelligence agencies as well as individual divisions within the CIA were all conducting their own independent mind control experiments. On April 20th, 1950, the CIA launched Project BLUEBIRD with former Naval Intelligence officer Morse Allen at its head in order to consolidate these programs and bring together the knowledge of interrogation techniques, truth serums, and hypnosis.
A January 1952 document outlined some of the questions facing BLUEBIRD researchers: (Note: H= Hypnosis; SI= Sleep Induction)
“1. Can we “condition” by post-H suggestion agency employees) or persons of interest to this agency) to prevent them from giving information to any unauthorized source or for committing any act on behalf of a foreign or domestic enemy?
2. Can we in a matter of an hour, two hours, one day, etc., induce an H condition in an unwilling subject to such an extent that he will perform an act for our benefit? (Long range).
3. Can we create by post-H control an action contrary to an individual’s basic moral principles?
4. Could we seize a subject and in the space of an hour or two by post-H control have him crash an airplane, wreck a train, etc.? (Short, immediate activity)
5. Can we by H and SI techniques force a subject (unwilling or otherwise) to travel long distances, commit specified acts and return to us or bring documents or materials? Can a person acting under post-H control successfully travel long distances?
6. Can we use SI and H to combat fatigue, produce extreme mental effort?
7. Can we guarantee total amnesia under any and all conditions?
8. Can we “alter” a person’s personality? How long will it hold?
9. Can we design tests to determine whether or not an enemy agent has been conditioned by SI and H or any other method?
10. Can we detect SI and H by use of SI and H (regression)?
11. Can we make a “conditioned” subject reveal by SI and H specifically how they were conditioned (drugs, torture, fatigue, hostage pressure, techniques)?
12. Can we devise a system for making unwilling subjects into willing agents and then transfer that control to untrained agency agents in the field by use of codes or identifying signs or credentials?
13. How long can we sustain a post-H suggestion – unaided – with reinforcement?
14. What would be fastest way to induce SI and H conditions – with drugs – or without any mechanical aids?
15. Can we devise a standard, simple, relatively fast technique for inducing SI and H conditions that can be used by untrained agents (with or without drugs)?
16. Is it possible to find a gas that can be used to gain SI control from a gas pencil, odorless, colorless: one shot, etc.?
17. What are full details on “sleep-inducing machine”?
18. How can sodium A or P or any other sleep inducing agent be best concealed in a normal or commonplace item, such as candy, cigarettes, liqueur, wines, coffee, tea, beer, gum water, aspirin tablets, common medicines, coke, tooth paste?
19. How effective can the “carotid artery technique” be made? Can it be used while subject is unconscious? Is it faster than other techniques?
20. Can we, using SI and H extract complicated formula from scientists, engineers, etc., if unwilling? Can we extract details of gun emplacements, landing fields, factories, mines?
21. Can we, while a subject is under SI and H control, show them a map and have them point out specific items, locations, etc., on the map? Can we also have them make detailed drawings, sketches, plans?
Could any of the above be done under field conditions and in a very short space of time?”
― MORI ID: 140401
January 1, 1952 (estimated)
During the early years, Allen and his team replicated known hypnosis experiments. By 1951, Agents received courses in hypnosis for use in field operations. He also produced a now-lost film named The Black Art in which an American agent spikes the drink of an Asian target, causing him to fall asleep. The agent then programs the man using hypnosis. The film cuts to the next scene where the target is seen removing documents from a locked safe and delivering them to the awaiting agent.
The Agency formed elite teams to conduct interrogations and to protect against infiltration by enemies employing similar methods. Special BLUEBIRD interrogation teams traveled to Japan to apply and test their methods on Korean prisoners of wars held there.
On August 20, 1951, the CIA gave Project BLUEBIRD the new designation of Project ARTICHOKE.Researchers turned their attentions to American prisoners of war held in Korea admitting on television to using biochemical weapons (including Anthrax) against Korea. They had succeeded earlier in the interrogation of Russian agents using ARTICHOKE methods. Meanwhile, a CIA propagandist embedded as a journalist at the Miami Herald, Edward Hunter, began circulating rumors of advanced Soviet and Chinese “brainwashing” methods, culminating with the publication of Brain-washing in Red China: the calculated destruction of men’s minds. Hunter was a former OSS agent who had worked alongside Richard Helms and Howard Hunt in Asia during World War 2.
The Agency took note that prisoners of war who had escaped captivity v the northeastern via the Chinese region of Manchuria had exhibited signs of missing time. In 1959, Richard Condon wrote his bestselling ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, inspiring two movies, and an FBI investigation.
“Following this BLACKEDOUT commented on the very interesting angle that interrogations of the individuals who had come out of North Korea across the Soviet Union to freedom recently had apparently had a “blank” period or period of disorientation while passing through a special zone in Manchuria. BLACKEDOUT pointed out that this had occurred in all individuals in the party after they had had their first full meal and their first coffee on the way to freedom. BLACKEDOUT pointed out that BLACKEDOUT was attempting to secure further confirmatory facts in this matter since drugging was indicated.”
― MORI ID: 144996
July 15th, 1953
The CIA eventually determined that returning prisoners of war had not been subjected to the advanced brainwashing methods described by Hunter. Nevertheless, the rumors helped with funding and in disproved allegations of using biochemical weapons.
Early efforts in using drugs, sleep induction, and hypnosis to create a Manchurian candidate appears to be successful.
In simulated exercises conducted in 1951, two hypnotized subjects assembled, planted, and detonated bombs in response to specific codewords. Both subjects were unable to recall anything. They had no memories whatsoever of their actions. (H = Hypnosis; SI= Sleep Induction)
“ BLACKEDBLACKEDOUT was instructed that upon awakening, she would proceed to BLACKEDOUT room where she would wait at the desk for a telephone call. Upon receiving the call, a person known as “Jim” would engage her in normal conversation. During the course of the conversation, this individual would mention a code word to BLACKEDOUT . When she heard this code word, she would pass into a SI trance state, but would not close her eyes and remain perfectly normal and continue the telephone conversation. She was told that upon conclusion of the telephone conversation, she would carry out instructions:
…was shown an electric timing device. She was informed that this device was an incendiary bomb and was then instructed how to attach and set the device. After BLACKEDBLACKEDOUT learned how to set and attach the device, she was told to return to asleep state and further instructed that upon concluding the aforementioned conversation, she would take the timing device which was in a briefcase, and proceed to the ladies room. In the ladies room, she would be met by a girl whom she had never seen who would identify herself by the code word “New York.” After identifying herself, BLACKEDBLACKEDOUT then to show this individual how to attach and set the timing device and further instructions would be given that the timing device was to be carried in the briefcase to BLACKEDOUT room, placed in the nearest empty electric-light plug and concealed in the bottom, left-hand drawer of BLACKEDBLACKED desk, with the device set for 82 seconds and turned on.”
― SI and H experimentation (25 September 1951)
(MORI ID: 190527)
In 1952 ARTICHOKE researchers used delivered codes over a telephone or very subtle signals to induce a deep hypnotic trance. Two 20-year female test subjects in particular were deemed ideal to act as “unwilling couriers”.
“In all of these cases, these subjects have clearly demonstrated that they can pass from a fully awake state to a deep H controlled state via the telephone, via some very subtle signal that cannot be detected by other persons in the room and without the other individual being able to note the change. It has been clearly shown that physically individuals can be induced into H by telephone, by receiving written matter, or by the use of code, signal, or words and that control of those hypnotized can be passed from one individual to another without great difficulty. It has also been shown by experimentation with these girls that they can act as unwilling couriers for information purposes and that they can be conditioned to a point where they believe a change in identity on their part even on the polygraph.”
― Outline of Special H Cases
(MORI ID: 190684)
A January 1954 ARTICHOKE dispatch asked:
“Can an individual of a BLACKEDOUT descent be made to perform an act of attempted assassination involuntarily under the influence of ARTICHOKE?”
Later, it specifies:
“As a “trigger mechanism” for an even bigger project, it was proposed that, an individual of a BLACKEDOUT descent, approximately 35 years old, well educated, proficient in English, and well established socially and politically in the BLACKEDOUT government be induced under ARTICHOKE to perform an act, involuntarily, of attempted assassination against a prominent BLACKEDOUT politician or if necessary, against an American official.”
― General Security specific ARTICHOKE report
Jan 22, 1954 (MORI ID 140399)
The Death Dr. Frank OlsonOn November 28th, 1953 Frank Olson, a chemists for the Army Chemical Corps, plunged to his death from the 10th floor window of his hotel, in an apparent “suicide”. This would remain the official story as far as the public and Olson’s family were concerned until the 1975 publication of the Rockefeller Commission Report.
The report did not mention Olson by name, but gave enough details for those familiar with his death to recognize him. Frank Olson’s son, Eric, instantly identified his father after reading a Washington Post front page article published the day following the report’s release.
The article also revealed that Olson had been given LSD days before his death, a fact never disclosed to the family.
The family eventually received an out-of-court settlement of $750k, as well as an apology from President Ford and CIA Director William Colby. However, after having the body exhumed for reburial, a second autopsy revealed that Olson could have been murdered.Frank Olson became involved with the CIA’s mind control program as part of MKNAOMI, a joint CIA-Army program in which Fort Detrick scientists designed and produced chemical and bio weapon delivery devices for the CIA’s operational use. Dr. Olson and other Detrick scientists signed in at Springrove, a Psychic Institute in Maryland connected to the CIA’s mind control experiments. Olson’s role in ARTICHOKE had made him privy to state secrets revealed in the course of interrogations, including the alleged use of biochemical weapons (Anthrax) by the US in the Korean War. This new information made the circumstances surrounding Olson’s death increasingly suspicious. Frank Olson received a dose of LSD on November 19th 1953, as he attended an ARTICHOKE conference at Deep Creek Lake, a CIA retreat situated in Maryland. At the meeting, Robert Lashbrook decided to spike the whiskey with LSD. Some speculate that higher ups at the CIA feared that Olson might have had loose lips and that he was subjected to ARTICHOKE interrogation to see if he had revealed secrets.
Following the incident, Olson grew depressed and travelled to New York accompanied by Lashbrook to seek help for his condition. He was prescribed bourbon whiskey and sedatives (an unusual prescription for depression, even by 1950s standards) by CIA-affiliated Dr.Harold Abramson. (Subprojects 7, 27, 33, 40). They checked into room 1018A at the Statler Hotel where CIA assassin Jean Lafitte not-so-coincidentally worked as a bellhop. The next night Olson crashed to his death through a closed window with the curtains and blind drawn while Lashbrook slept soundly in the same room.
Lashbrook immediately called a Long Island number and said “Well, he’s gone.” “That’s too bad.” the voice replied.
Despite the suspicious circumstances surrounding Olson’s death, the family was unable to file suit due to their previous settlement.
Le Pain Maudit ― The Cursed Bread
On the 15th of August, 1951, the southern French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit was suddenly struck with a strange case of widespread madness. A spontaneous outbreak of insanity rapidly spread through the village and soon affected more than 500 people. One resident jumped out of windows believing himself to be a sparrow or a dragonfly, another ceaselessly tried to remove non existing hair from her mouth to avoid choking. In the end, 7 people died, 50 were interned to psychiatric hospitals, and around 300 villagers experienced hallucinations. A local baker was accused of using inferior rye flour causing the mass poisoning.
The following month a group of experts arrived from Switzerland to investigate the source of the outbreak. The group included Dr. Albert Hofmann of Sandoz Chemical, the first man to synthesize LSD in his laboratory years earlier. They determined that a grain ergot (a fungus) present in the regionally-obtained flour had been the culprit for the outbreak. Little did anyone know at the time, the group of biochemists were closely tied to the CIA, who had been testing Sandoz-supplied LSD and other drugs on unwitting subjects as part of their behavior modification research. Sandoz knew that the bread it had been testing for weeks was contaminated, not with grain ergot, but with a “diethylamide-like compound”.
In 2009, researcher and author Hank Albarelli received a reply to a Freedom of Information request he had made a decade earlier. The file included a document labelled:
“Re: Pont-Saint-Esprit and F.Olson Files. SO Span/France Operation file, inclusive Olson. Intel files. Hand carry to Belin – tell him to see to it that these are buried.”
The document was most likely sent by mistake as the CIA soon requested its own document from Albarelli. He also uncovered another document sent to the members of the Rockefeller Commission in 1975 which also linked Frank Olson to the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident. (also notice Jean Lafitte’s name)
Albarelli believes that Fort Detrick biochemist Frank Olson had been involved in Operation SPAN, a joint CIA /Army project under MKNAOMI, to experiment with the delivery of a LSD-like compound on the population of Pont-Saint-Esprit. One “skeptic” over at Skeptoid.com dissmised Albarelli’s theory, as well as his FOIA documents because the incident “happened two years before MKULTRA was funded”, despite mentioning both BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE in the same article.
Project MKULTRAOn April 13, 1953, Allen Dulles authorized the creation of Project MKULTRA*, an umbrella project which would eventually grow to encompass 149 subprojects, and 6% of the CIA’s entire budget. He appoints Dr. Sidney Gottlieb to head up the the program and transfers all behavior modification research to Gottlieb’s Technical Service Staff (TSS), the CIA’s science division. (Also known as the Technical Service Division, TSD) Meanwhile ARTICHOKE interrogation units continued field operations for years in parallel with MKULTRA.
*The ‘MK’ in the MKULTRA cryptonym indicates that the program is managed by TSS. It’s difficult to find a single MKULTRA article that doesn’t repeat the factoid that MK stands for the German for Mind Kontrol. There is no basis for the claim.MKULTRA included experiments with a variety of drugs such as heroin, marijuana, morphine, MDA, MDMA, mescaline, magic mushrooms, sodium pentothal and alcohol on both voluntary and unwitting test subjects. CIA doctors researched non-violent methods such as hypnosis, but also used electroshocks, sleep deprivation and other forms of torture… ANYTHING to achieve their goals.
Aware of the stigma associated with working with clandestine agencies, the CIA used a variety of fronts to or cut out to keep itself insulated from researchers. The Agency used cut outs, intermediaries between researchers and the Agency to hide its role. The two major cut outs used by the CIA were the Geishecker Foundation for Medical Research and the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. (The latter created though subprojects 48 and 60)
Through these fronts, the CIA forged partnerships with prominent professors and researchers at American universities. Some had TOP SECRET clearance and the full knowledge of working for US intelligence, while other researchers were unwitting, unaware of the identity of their benefactors. Thus, the CIA developed relationships with over 80 institutions, including prestigious universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical manufacturers.
A great number of subprojects were dedicated to the procurement of drugs and chemicals. Others dealt with the development and testing of drugs and chemical, while another group concentrated on non-chemical mind control techniques such as hypnosis and sleep deprivation. Some subprojects dealt with the program’s logistics, such as renting or building testing facilities.
The majority of subprojects were of direct interest to the Agency and had a reasonable expectancy of having a use in field operations. Others were meant to forge relationships with a persons of interest to the CIA. They could be called upon at when needed at a later time. Others were simply financed to give the cutouts legitimacy as research institutions.
The CIA financed a wide range of experiments. Subproject 119 sought to remotely control the human mind. Researcher in Subproject 136 was a study of extrasensory perception (ESP) to evaluate its use in intelligence gathering. Subproject 121 funded research into African witch doctors. Subproject 143 financed the development of a bacteria for the sabotage of petroleum products. In 1967, the CIA successfully contaminated a Cuba-bound oil shipment causing widespread engine failures and breakdowns.Subprojects 4, 15, and 19 funded magician John Mulholland’s writing of a TOP SECRET magician’s manual for spycraft use. Mulholland’s Manual was declassified and published in 2009 as The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.
Subproject 35 funded the construction of the Gorman Building, an annex at the Georgetown University Hospital. In return Charles Geishecker offered the Agency cover for at least one agent and access to space and beds to conduct clandestine chemical and biological experiments.
José Delgado, a neurosurgeon and professor at Yale received funding from the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force, and the Public Health Service to research brain implants to remotely control animals. He is best known for implanting electrodes into a bull and being able to control its actions remotely. The CIA explored Delgado’s work in subproject 94 in which researchers implanted rats, donkeys, and dogs with electrodes to use them in surveillance or bugging operations. Later, subproject 142 researchers would implant electrodes in cold-blooded animal to use them as delivery systems for bioweapons or chemical weapons and for other “executive actions”, spyspeak for assassination.
Hypnotism ResearchOne of the early proponents of using hypnosis in field operations was the chairman of Psychology at Colgate College, George Eastabrooks. Eastabrooks wrote Hypnotism in 1943 in which he dedicated an entire chapter to the uses of hypnotism in warfare. Estabrooks claimed that he could use hypnosis to trigger multiple personalities, thus creating easily commanded spies with no memories of their actions – A Manchurian Candidate.
Following the Moscow Show Trials in which accused defendants testified to crimes they most certainly did not commit, Eastabrooks was called to Washington by the War Department. The professor soon ceased publishing indicating that his work had become classified. He contracted for Navy intelligences and advised the CIA. Additionally, the professor took the unusual precaution of burning his diaries from 1940 to 1945.
In 1952, the CIA showed interest in Estabrooks’ 1943 book and quoted portions in an internal document without mentioning the professor’s name. In March 1952, The CIA also took notice of Estabrooks’ book and cited some passages in a memo.
The following year, Eastabrooks* wrote The Military Application of Hypnotism in which he described hypnotically giving a clandestine message to a courier. The courier would then travel unaware that he was carrying secret information. Upon reaching his destination, the designated receiver would use a secret codeword to trigger the courrier into delivering his message. The courier would have no knowledge of the message or of having delivered the message.
“I can hypnotize a man — without his knowledge or consent — into committing treason against the United States. If I can do it, so could psychologists of other nations in the event of another war.”
― MEMO TO CHIEF, CONTACT DIVISION FROM (DELETED)
“In deep hypnosis the subject, military or civilian, can be given a message to be delivered to say Colonel X in Berlin. The subject may then be sent to Berlin on any perfectly routine assignment. The message will be perfectly safe because
a. the subject will have no memory whatsoever in the waking state as to the nature and contents of the message.
b. it can be arranged that the subject will have no knowledge of ever having been hypnotized.
c. It can be arranged that no one beside Colonel X in Berlin can hypnotize the subject and recover the message.”
― MORI ID 140402
*Estabrooks name is blacked out in FOIA documents, but it is not difficult to identify him as the author when comparing the document to his other writing and ideas.
He also describe how he could hypnotize an agent into believing to be a hard core communist supporter. The agent would then be able to infiltrate communist groups and using the correct codewords be triggered to reveal gathered information, The subject would have no memories of being hypnotized or of being a loyal American. He would actually think himself a communist – the perfect undercover agent.
“I will take a number of men and will establish in them through the use of hypnotism the condition of split personality. Consciously they will be ardent Communists, phanatical adherents to the party line ready and eager to submit to any discipline which the party may prescribe. Unconsciously they will be loyal Americans determined just as grimley determined to thwart the Communists at every turn in the road.
In 1971, Estabrooks admitted in a Science Digest article that he had successfully programmed and used mind-controlled couriers during World War 2.
Estabrooks ideas were nothing new to the Agency. TSS and MKULTRA researchers wondered if hypnosis could be used in field operations and continued to fund research into hypnosis begun by BLUEBIRD/ARTICHOKE researchers.
Eight subprojects (5, 25, 29, 39, 43, 49, 73, and 128 ) involved hypnosis research, with some combining hypnosis with drugs (Narco-Hypnosis). A paper attached to a 1954 memo asked, “Can a Subject be Hypnotised Against His Will?”, and concluded that it could only be done with the use of drugs.
MKULTRA researchers successfully used hypnosis in simulations. In early 1954, an unknown CIA employee was given a false identity while under hypnosis. When subsequently confronted with her real ID cards, she vehemently defended and rationalized her conviction of being someone else. Minutes later, she could not remember the entire episode.On February 10th, 1954, CIA doctors successfully created a Manchurian Candidate assassin. A hypnotised subject fired a pistol at another subject before collapsing into a deep sleep. Of course, the pistol had not been loaded and again, the subject was totally amnesic of her actions.
“Miss BLACKEDOUT was instructed (having previously expressed a fear of firearms in any fashion) that she would use every method at her disposal to awaken Miss BLACKEDOUT(now in a deep hypnotic sleep) and failing this, she would pick up a pistol nearby and fire it at Miss BLACKEDOUT. She was instructed that her rage would be so great that she would not hesitate to “kill” BLACKEDOUT for failing to awaken. Miss BLACKEDOUTBLACKEDOUT carried out these suggestions to the letter including firing the (unloaded pneumatic pistol) gun at BLACKEDOUT and then proceeding to fall into a deep sleep.
…both were awakened and expressed complete amnesia for the entire sequence.”
― Hypnotic Experimentation and Research
10 February 1954 (MORI ID: 190691)
The CIA and LSDThe CIA soon heard of a discovery by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. They determined that Hofmann’s lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) might just be the elusive drug the Agency had been looking for. Gottlieb tested LSD on Army soldiers stationed at Edgewood Arsenal in 1953 under Operation MKNAOMI.
The CIA panicked after hearing that Sandoz was in the process of synthesizing millions of LSD doses. They feared that the Soviets might gain possession of the drug and were determined to buy the entire lot. Unfortunately, the US military attache in Switzerland providing the information was unfamiliar with the metric system and mistook milligrams for kilograms, a difference between 100 million doses, and 100.By 1954 the CIA had established a domestic source for LSD. MKULTRA Subproject 6 and 18 provided funds to pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to crack the LSD formula. The company was soon able to provide the Agency with LSD in “tonnage quantity”, allowing for wider testing. A memorandum entitled Potential New Agent for Unconventional Warfare described how to use a syringe to spike a cigarette with a dose of LSD. They also developed a field guide, LSD, Some Unpsychedelic Application, but all copies lost or destroyed.
Researchers were eager to experiment with the new drug. Psychotherapists believed it could hold the key to curing alcoholism or, in keeping with the times, homosexuality. The CIA gladly funded research grants and as a result LSD was made widely available throughout the United States. The forerunners of LSD research were Harold Abramson at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Columbia University, Bob Hyde at Boston Psychopathic, Harold Hodge at University of Rochester, Carl Pfeiffer at the University of Illinois Medical School, Louis J. West at the University of Oklahoma, and Harris Isbell at the Center for Addiction Research in Lexington, Kentucky. The latter once administered LSD to seven black Heroin addicts for 77 straight days with double, triple, and even quadruple doses.
Louis J, West, who had TOP SECRET, achieved some fame after killing Tusko, Oklahoma City Zoo’s beloved elephant with an overdose of LSD. West headed MKULTRA Subproject 43 and found promising leads on how to influence a subject’s suggestibility to hypnosis by using drugs and sensory deprivation to induce a dissociative state. Interestingly, he was called upon in his role as a psychiatrist to examine and evaluate Jack Ruby, Timothy McVeigh and Patty Hearst. He was also one of many questionable board members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation with ties to the CIA and MKULTRA, leading many to doubt the organisation’s credibility.
Harvard psychology professor Timothy Leary and others soon started experimenting with the drug themselves giving rise to the counterculture. John Lennon said “We must always remember to thank the CIA and the Army for LSD, by the way.” and felt that “the Man’s plan had backfired”. “They brought out LSD to control people, and what they did was give us freedom.” Some theorize that the CIA deliberately flooded the US with LSD in order to discredit the New Left. Turning on, tuning in, and most importantly for the Establishment, dropping out, as in dropping out of the political process.But the CIA needed more. They required a realistic environment to test new drugs and the efficiency of delivery methods…
Operation Midnight Climax
The operation (Subprojects 3, 14, 16, 42, 149) involved CIA-administered safe houses fitted with with microphones and cameras to which prostitutes lured unsuspecting johns. There, the hapless men were drugged with LSD or other drugs without their knowledge and observed through a two-way mirror. These observations helped develop sexual blackmail and surveillance techniques that were soon used in CIA field operations.
Gottlieb appointed George White of the Narcotics Bureau to head up the operation working undercover as a “seaman” by the name of Morgan Hall. The Agency first set up a safe house in New York’s’ Greenwich Village and later opened similar safehouses in San Francisco. The prostitutes known as “George’s Girls” were protected from arrest.
CIA Inspector General John Earman strongly recommended closing the safe houses after discovering of their existence in 1963.
Famous Participants in MKULTRA LSD EXPERIMENTS
Ewen CameronDr. Ewen Cameron was highly esteemed in the field of psychiatry. He was the President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the World Psychiatric Association, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in Canada and director of the Allan Memorial Institute, a mental asylum affiliated to McGill. Cameron had travelled to Nuremberg to evaluate Rudolph Hess for his trial.
Despite his impeccable credentials and his familiarity with the Nuremberg Code, including the notion of consent, Cameron was in actually a demented monster with a love for electroshocks and a penchant for lobotomies, conducting experiments on his patients without their informed consent.
Cameron received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and then through a CIA cutout, the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, under MKULTRA Subproject 68. The CIA was interested in Cameron’s work because he claimed he could erase memories and implant new ones. Cameron pursued research into what he called “depatterning”. His “treatment” involved electroshocks and drug-induced comas, which, he hoped, would allow him to erase memories, reprogram human brains, and cure schizophrenia.
Patients slept in a small room nicknamed the “Sleep Room” for periods of 2 to 3 months while listening to recorded messages played on a loop, a process he called “psychic driving”. One patient remembers one of these messages: “You killed your mother.” (He hadn’t.) The patients were periodically awakened with a massive doses of amphetamine and a series of electroshocks, up to 40 times stronger than what is considered safe for humans.
Linda McDonald was one of Cameron’s unfortunate patient. Diagnosed as an acute schizophrenic, she was taken to the Sleep Room where she slept for 86 consecutive days while enduring 109 shock treatments and megadoses of amphetamines. Cameron considered her cured and a great success! However McDonald was unable to complete basic tasks on her own and had to be toilet trained. She had no memory of her husband and children.
She and a group of former Cameron patients sued the US government. The CIA settled the suit out of court with 9 of the plaintiffs for a total of $750K. (The events were dramatized in a 1998 2-part mini-series, The Sleep Room.) McDonald herself was ineligible for the settlement since the CIA had ceased payment to Cameron at the time of her treatment. In a twist, the suit uncovered that the Canadian government had funded Cameron’s research. McDonald and approximately 80 other victims were offered a settlement of $80k each by the government of Canada.
Without a single patient “cured”, Dr. Ewen Cameron’s treatments soon became part of the KUBARK Torture Manuel.
Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John F. Kennedy fired Allen Dulles and appointed John McCone as Director of the CIA. McCone’s created a new directorate dedicated to scientific research. He transferred most of MKULTRA’s subprojects under the new directorate’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). Thanks to his mentor, Richard Helms, Gottlieb’s is promoted to the number 2 position of the entire Technical Service Division which is expected to continue the operational aspects of MKULTRA.
Gottlieb carefully cherry picks from the 149 MKULTRA subprojects and on June 7th, 1964, moves some of them into 7 individual subprojects under the new cryptonym of MKSEARCH. MKULTRA itself is phased out from 1964 to 1967.
MKSEARCH Subproject 1 (MKULTRA 62)
TESTING – Dr. Maitland Baldwin at the National Institutes of Health was a brain surgeon who had worked with the Agency since its ARTICHOKE days. The CIA was aware that Baldwin was completely nuts but admired his zeal and ideas. He performed lobotomies on apes before placing them in his DIY isolation chamber. (which the CIA flipped the bill for after a freaked out soldier damaged it escaping) He’d remove heads from moneys and place it on another…that kind of nuttiness.
MKSEARCH Subproject 2 (MKULTRA 78, 110)
PROCUREMENT – Continuance of a $150k a year contract with Bacteriological and Pharmaceutical Consults, a private laboratory ran by an ex-CIA scientist. The lab could deliver microorganisms quickly and served as backchannel for the procurement of bioweapons without the knowledge of their usual source, the Army’s laboratories at Fort Detrick.
MKSEARCH Subproject 3 (MKULTRA 124, 140)
TESTING – This source of testing became especially important to Gottlieb following the closure of the safehouse program. Dr. James Hamilton provided payed guinea pigs interned at Vacaville State Prison in California. Between 1967 and 1968, Hamilton experimented on an estimated 400 to 1000 prisoners.
MKSEARCH Subproject 4 (MKULTRA 3, 14, 16, 43)
TESTING – Gottlieb wished to continue the safehouse program despite the CIA’s Inspector General recommendation to shut it down. The testing of drugs on unwitting johns continued unembedded for a few years with the Agency paying out $30k in 1964 to keep the safehouses running. In February 1965, George White spent $1,100 on prostitutes alone. Under pressure, Gottlieb was forced to end the program and the San Francisco safehouses closed later that year, with the New York safehouse ceasing operations the next year.
MKSEARCH Subproject 5 (MKULTRA 116, 146)
PROCUREMENT – This project provided Gottlieb with a backchannel for chemical which were difficult to acquire. The source was an unnamed industrialist with his fingers in multiple concerns, including a chemical company. He was a great source of information and able to manufacture and provide the CIA with chemical weapons without alerting anyone outside TSS.
MKSEARCH Subproject 6 (MKULTRA 23, 25, 26)
TESTING & COVER – Dr. Charles Geschickter continued to provide his Geschickter Fund for the Medical Research as a cover for CIA-sponsored research. Through this conduit, the Agency continued to fund expeditions into South America for new potential drugs. Geschickter himself gathered data on and experimented on terminally-ill Cancer patients at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington.
MKSEARCH Subproject 7 (MKULTRA 9, 26, 28, 47)
TESTING – Dr. Pfeiffer provided another source of testing and provided the Agency with the properties of drugs it was interested in. Carl Pfeiffer tested drugs for the CIA at the University of Illinois, Emory University and the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, as well as the Neuropsychiatric Institute and the Bordentown Reformatory in New Jersey.
PROJECT MKSEARCH continues until June 1972 when Gottlieb becomes increasingly occupied with his duties after being appointed as new head of TSD by his mentor and newly-appointed Director of the CIA, Richard Helms.
The End of MKULTRAOn the heels of Watergate and in his last days as CIA director, Richard Helm gave the order to destroy all documents and tapes relating to MKULTRA. This was unusual, even by Agency standards, as internal regulations prohibited wholesale destructions of records. On January 31, 1973, Gottlieb dutifully passed on Helm’s instructions to destroy all records pertaining to MKULTRA and experiments in human behavior modifications. As justification, Gottlieb testified it was due to a “burgeoning paper problem” while Helms claimed it was to protect professional reputations (Their own, no doubt.) if the public was to hear of the program.
Helm’s instincts were correct. On May 9th, 1973, his replacement as director of the CIA James Schlesinger issues a memorandum to all CIA employees to submit records of all operations they believed to be outside the Agency’s charter. The collected reports become known as the Family Jewels, a ticking time bomb containing many of the CIA’s dirtiest secrets. The file includes a memo to CIA director William Colby suggesting he deny having any knowledge the existence of MKULTRA. It also makes references to Yuli Nosenko, a Soviet defector who was subjected to ARTICHOKE interrogation techniques for 16 months while being kept in cramped 10’x 10′ cell.Sure enough, contents of the dossier leaked to the press and Seymour Hersh at the New York Times promptly blows the lid on Operation CHAOS, a huge domestic spying program to keep tabs on hundreds of thousands of US citizens from 1967 to 1974. In response to the public outcry, President Gerald Ford appointed the Rockefeller Commission while Congress formed the Church Committee to investigate illegal activities of the CIA.
Fearful of what such an investigation into MKULTRA might uncover, the CIA waste no time as General Counsel Lawrence Houston immediately travels to Washington to brief Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, then part of the Ford administration, on Operation Dormouse.
Operation Dormouse, as Houston explained, was the Agency’s plan to give the investigators and the media a tasty morsel to chew on in the form of MKULTRA in order to keep revelations of Project ARTICHOKE from reaching the light of day, which in Houston’s opinion, would undo the Central Intelligence Agency.
They agreed to throw Dr. Sidney Gottlieb to the wolves (Gottlieb was appalled that his name had not been blacked out in FOIA releases) as well as to reveal ties to Harvard, Yale, Cornell and other prestigious universities and hospitals. This would insure that the universities and the media themselves would act as gatekeepers and justify the CIA excesses and experiments on US citizens.
The plan worked.
The Pandora’s box that was ARTICHOKE remained closed. The public remained focus on MKULTRA LSD experiments and prostitutes, despite ARTICHOKE operation continuing in parallel with mind control experiments for 17 years.
Due to the wholesale destruction of MKULTRA files the Rockefeller Commission and the Church Committee were forced to rely on a surviving copy of the 1963 Inspector General’s report and the not-so-reliable testimonies of former CIA officers and participant in the MKULTRA program.
Gottlieb testified to the Church Committee under the name Victor Scheider but couldn’t recall much information and appeared unfamiliar with the projects he was supervising. Interviews of career officers by the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission proved largely unhelpful until two years later, when a cache of 7 boxes containing invoices and other MKULTRA financial records were uncovered at a Retired Records Center outside of Washington.
Gottlieb was called back to Washington to testify in 1977. This time he testified under his own name but under condition of immunity. Despite this, the former spook’s testimony was not useful due to what Senator Kennedy described as Gottlieb’s “fuzzy memory about this whole area”.Gottlieb’s number two man, Richard Lashbrook was equally unhelpful going so far as to commit perjury. He testified to having no firsthand knowledge of the safe house program (subproject 3) despite being listed as the operation’s supervisor. Furthermore, George White’s diaries revealed that Lashbrook had personally visited the 81 Bedford Street safehouse in Greenwich Village on June 8th and September 16th, 1953.
Lashbrook also revealed that the documents obtained by the committee might be “boilerplate” and not necessarily indicative of the projects’ true purpose. He explained that the CIA used a cover file system, with one set of files containing actual information and another containing boilerplate content only.
In addition to the destruction of evidence and the perjured testimony of witnesses, the investigators themselves were also intent on keeping some parts of the project hidden from the public. Nelson Rockefeller, chairman of the Presidential commission worked behind the scenes to sabotage his own investigation into illegal CIA activities. Rockefeller was compromised having himself signed off on MKULTRA experiments in federal hospitals while Under Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in the early 50s.
The CIA and their media pundits continue to circulate claims that projects ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA were failure that resulted in nothing of any use to the US intelligence. Gottlieb himself concluded shortly before his death that “The experiments were useless…”.This is inconsistent with the Agency’s own records, some of which I’ve quoted and linked above that demonstrate that aspects of the program were successful and applied in interrogations and other field operations. It is unlikely that the CIA would have dedicated so many resources for over two decades conducting useless experiments. Additionally, Gottlieb receives the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, given for “outstanding services or for achievement of a distinctly exceptional nature in a duty or responsibility”. Again, not the sort of thing given out for 20+ years of consistent failures.
CIA Director Admiral Stansfield Turner’s statement that the Agency was no longer involved in behavior modification research is also contradicted by the sheer amount of research accumulated on the subject. The CIA’s Office of Research and Development did not stay idle following taking over the duties of MKULTRA. Author John Marks whose earlier FOIA request uncovered the 7 missing boxes in 1977 refiled a similar request for the Office of Research and Development and received a response that 130 boxes of document were available.
To this day, the CIA and other intelligence agencies continue to experiment with drugs and methods that will give them an edge in interrogations. Whistleblower Victor Marchetti confirmed in 1977 that the programs were continuing.
What is Project MONARCH?
Distrust for the CIA and the desire to fill the gaps left behind by Agency lies and cover-ups have giving rise to a questionable theories surrounding its mind control projects.
Researchers into MKULTRA and other government mind control programs are bound to run into claims of “Monarch” mind control programming. MONARCH involved the kidnapping and torture of children to turn them into sex slaves and spies for operational use.
Main Sources and Further Information:
The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control
by John Marks
Tables from Search for the Manchurian Candidate
The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists (previously published as BLUEBIRD: Deliberate Creation of Multiple Personality by Psychiatrists)
by Colin A. Ross
Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press
by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War
By H. P. Albarelli Jr.
Operation Mind Control – Researchers Edition
by Walter Bowart
The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (Ch. 8 Only)
By Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks
Brain-washing in Red China
By Edward Hunter, 1951
Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond or buy on Amazon here.
by Bruce Shlain and Martin A. Lee
CIA – GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
MKULTRA FOIA Collection
The Black Vault
Report of Inspection General of MKULTRA
NOTES: CIA acting against charter p4;Lack of document (even before burning) p7; Safehouse testing stop recommendation p17; Subproject categories p24
Rockefeller Commission (Chaired by Nelson Rockefeller)
Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States
Olson (unnamed p.227)
The Church Committee (Chaired by Senator Frank Church)
Final report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, United States Senate: together with additional, supplemental, and separate views ~ Books 1-6
~ Pertinent to MKULTRA (Book I – p.385-422)
Project MKULTRA, The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification or from NYT here.
Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence
Human Drug Testing by The CIA
Hearings before the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources (Chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy)
List of 149 MKULTRA subprojects with brief descriptions
Linked FOIA Documents
MORI – Management of Officially Released Information is an electronic imaging system developed by the CIA.
MORI ID 144900 ― Creation of Bluebird
April 20, 1950
MORI ID: 140401 ― Purpose of Bluebird
January 1, 1952 (estimated)
MORI ID: 140393 ― Hypnosis Courses
June 1, 1951
MORI ID: 147390 (dated 4 February, 1953) ― Defence Against Soviet Medical Interrogation and Espionage Techniques
February 4, 1953
MORI ID: 149489 ― BLUEBIRD renamed ARTICHOKE
August 8, 1951
MORI ID: 144996 ― Reference to Manchuria (p.4 #19) Artichoke Conference, 18 June 1953
July 15, 1953
MORI ID: 146093 ― American Korean War POWs not mind controlled
15 June, 1953
MORI ID: 144729 ― Successful interrogation of Russian agents
July 14, 1952
MORI ID: 140399 ― Manchurian of Specific descent – General Security specific ARTICHOKE report
January 22, 1954
MORI ID: 190527 ― Hypno-Bomber SI and H experimentation
September 25, 1951
MORI ID: 17441 ― MKULTRA Subproject 43
June 1955 – June 1956
MORI ID: 190684 ― Remote Trigger via telephone
January 7, 1953
MORI ID: 145019 ― Last meeting of Frank Olson
November 19, 1953
MORI ID: 17748 ― Authorization of MKULTRA 6% budget
April 13, 1953,
MORI ID: 1108329 ― CIA interested in the book in Eastabrooks’ book
MArch 4, 1953
MORI ID: 140402 ― Eastabrooks 1954 THE MILITARY APPLICATION OF HYPNTISM
June 22, 1954
MORI ID: 140391 ― CIA comments on THE MILITARY APPLICATION OF HYPNTISM
July 15, 1954
MORI ID: 190713 ― Hypnosis and Field Operations
May 10, 1954
MORI ID: 190691 ― Manchurian Candidate Assassin
February 10, 1954
MORI ID: 17459 ― Subproject 6 – Elly Lilly
October 11, 1955
MORI ID: 148381 ― Potential New Agent for Unconventional Warfare
August 5, 1954
MORI ID: 151524 ― Dr. Isabell in Lexington Kentucky
July 14, 1954
MORI ID: 5444836 ― MKULTRA phased out from 1964 to 1967
January 6, 1975
MORI ID: 196947 ― Vacaville State Prison MKSEARCH
October 3, 1977
MORI ID: 5444812― Gottlieb destruction of MKULTRA files
31 January 1973
Cries From the Past: Torture’s Ugly Echoes
By Jeffrey Kaye and HP Albarelli Jr, 23 May 2010
The CIA’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
By Tad Szulc, Psychology Today, November 1977
Origins of the US Biological Warfare Program
Barton J. Bernstein
An Interview with Richard Helms
Secret Agent Man Interview with Miles Copeland
By Robert Eringer
January 16, 1986
Chapter 80 of: The Eighty Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History’s Biggest Mysteries, Coverups, and Cabals
By Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen
Chronology: The Death of Frank Olson in Historical Context
Altered States of America
By Richard Stratton, Spin Magazine, March 1994
Why Rockefeller Tried to Cover up the CIA Probe
By Tad Szulc, New York Magazine, September 5, 1977.
Mind Control and the Secret State
by Daniel Brand
Suicide Revealed: CIA Infiltrated 17 Area Groups, Gave Out LSD
By Thomas O’Tooole, Washington Post Staff Writer, Washington Post, Page 1, June 11, 1975
US Official Poisoner Dies – Gottlieb Obituary
by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn
JUNE 15, 1999
C.I.A.; What Did the C.I.A. Do to His Father?
By Michael Ignatieff, New York Times, April 1, 2001
Hypnosis Comes of Age
by G. H. Estabrooks, Science Digest April, 1971, pp. 44 – 50
John K. Vance; Uncovered LSD Project at CIA (obituary)
By Joe Holley, Washington Post , June 16, 2005
Huge CIA Operation Reported in US Against Antiwar Forces, Other Dissidents in Nixon Years
Seymour M. Hersh, New York Times, December 22, 1974
CBS coverage of movie (January 6, 1998)
Colin Ross at Conspiracy Culture (November 10th 2012) – GREAT LECTURE ~
Mind Control Murder (Documentary A&E) – Story of Frank Olson
History of Mind Control
Frank Olson, biowar, CIA, murder, MKULTRA
H. P. Albarelli Jr; SOT radio 5/13/11
Hank Albarelli Interview: CIA Mind Control, Frank Olson and JFK
SOTT Talk Radio show #26 (transcript)