The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
12. The Search for
|I'm a professional and I just don't talk about these things.
Lots of things are not fit for the public. This has nothing
to do with democracy. It has to do with common sense.
|GRATION H. YASETEVITCH, 1978|
why he did not want
to be interviewed for this book)
To hope that the power that is being made available by the behavioral
sciences will be exercised by the scientists, or by a benevolent
group, seems to me to be a hope little supported by either recent
or distant history. It seems far more likely that behavioral scientists,
holding their present attitudes, will be in the position of the
German rocket scientists specializing in guided missiles. First
they worked devotedly for Hitler to destroy the USSR and the United
States. Now, depending on who captured them they work devotedly
for the USSR in the interest of destroying the United States,
or devotedly for the United States in the interest of destroying
the USSR. If behavioral scientists are concerned solely with advancing
their science it seems most probable that they will serve the
purpose of whatever group has the power.
Sid Gottlieb was one of many CIA officials who tried to find a
way to assassinate Fidel Castro. Castro survived, of course, and
his victory over the Agency in April 1961 at the Bay of Pigs put
the Agency in the headlines for the first time, in a very unfavorable
light. Among the fiasco's many consequences was Gottlieb's loss
of the research part of the CIA's behavior-control programs. Still,
he and the others kept trying to kill Castro.
In the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy reportedly
vowed to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces. In the end,
he settled for firing Allen Dulles and his top deputies. To head
the Agency, which lost none of its power, Kennedy brought in John
McCone, a defense contractor and former head of the Atomic Energy
Commission. With no operational background, McCone had a different
notion than Dulles of how to manage the CIA, particularly in the
scientific area. "McCone never felt akin to the covert way
of doing things," recalls Ray Cline, whom the new Director
made his Deputy for Intelligence. McCone apparently believed that
science should be in the hands of the scientists, not the clandestine
operators, and he brought in a fellow Californian, an aerospace
"whiz kid" named Albert "Bud" Wheelon to head
a new Agency Directorate for Science and Technology.
Before then, the Technical Services Staff (TSS), although located
in the Clandestine Services, had been the Agency's largest scientific
component. McCone decided to strip TSS of its main research functionsincluding
the behavioral oneand let it concentrate solely on providing
operational support. In 1962 he approved a reorganization of TSS
that brought in Seymour Russell, a tough covert operator, as the
new chief. "The idea was to get a close interface with operations,"
recalls an ex-CIA man. Experienced TSS technicians remained as
deputies to the incoming field men, and the highest deputyship
in all TSS went to Sid Gottlieb, who became number-two man under
Russell. For Gottlieb, this was another significant promotion
helped along by his old friend Richard Helms, whom McCone had
elevated to be head of the Clandestine Services.
In his new job, Gottlieb kept control of MKULTRA. Yet, in order
to comply with McCone's command on research programs, Gottlieb
had to preside over the partial dismantling of his own program.
The loss was not as difficult as it might have been, because,
after 10 years of exploring the frontiers of the mind, Gottlieb
had a clear idea of what worked and what did not in the behavioral
field. Those areas that still were in the research stage tended
to be extremely esoteric and technical, and Gottlieb must have
known that if the Science Directorate scored any breakthroughs,
he would be brought back into the picture immediately to apply
the advances to covert operations.
"Sid was not the kind of bureaucrat who wanted to hold on
to everything at all costs," recalls an admiring colleague.
Gottlieb carefully pruned the MKULTRA lists, turning over to the
Science Directorate the exotic subjects that showed no short-term
operational promise and keeping for himself those psychological,
chemical, and biological programs that had already passed the
research stage. As previously stated, he moved John Gittinger
and the personality-assessment staff out of the Human Ecology
Society and kept them under TSS control in their own proprietary
While Gottlieb was effecting these changes, his programs were
coming under attack from another quarter. In 1963 the CIA Inspector
General did the study that led to the suspension of unwitting
drug testing in the San Francisco and New York safehouses. This
was a blow to Gottlieb, who clearly intended to hold on to this
kind of research. At the same time, the Inspector General also
recommended that Agency officials draft a new charter for the
whole MKULTRA program, which still was exempt from most internal
CIA controls. He found that many of the MKULTRA subprojects were
of "insufficient sensitivity" to justify bypassing the
Agency's normal procedures for approving and storing records of
highly classified programs. Richard Helms, still the protector
of unfettered behavioral research, responded by agreeing that
there should be a new charteron the condition that it be almost
the same as the old one. "The basic reasons for requesting
waiver of standardized administrative controls over these sensitive
activities are as valid today as they were in April, 1953,"
Helms wrote. Helms agreed to such changes as having the CIA Director
briefed on the programs twice a year, but he kept the approval
process within his control and made sure that all the files would
be retained inside TSS. And as government officials so often do
when they do not wish to alter anything of substance, he proposed
a new name for the activity. In June 1964 MKULTRA became MKSEARCH.
Gottlieb acknowledged that security did not require transferring
all the surviving MKULTRA subprojects over to MKSEARCH. He moved
18 subprojects back into regular Agency funding channels, including
ones dealing with the sneezing powders, stink bombs, and other
"harassment substances." TSS officials had encouraged
the development of these as a way to make a target physically
uncomfortable and hence to cause short-range changes in his behavior.
Other MKULTRA subprojects dealt with ways to maximize stress on
whole societies. Just as Gittinger's Personality Assessment System
provided a psychological road map for exploiting an individual's
weaknesses, CIA "destabilization" plans provided guidelines
for destroying the internal integrity of target countries like
Castro's Cuba or Allende's Chile. Control whether of individuals
or nationshas been the Agency's main business, and TSS officials
supplied tools for the "macro" as well as the "micro"
For example, under MKULTRA Subproject #143, the Agency gave Dr.
Edward Bennett of the University of Houston about $20,000 a year
to develop bacteria to sabotage petroleum products. Bennett found
a substance that, when added to oil, fouled or destroyed any engine
into which it was poured. CIA operators used exactly this kind
of product in 1967 when they sent a sabotage team made up of Cuban
exiles into France to pollute a shipment of lubricants bound for
Cuba. The idea was that the tainted oil would "grind out
motors and cause breakdowns," says an Agency man directly
involved. This operation, which succeeded, was part of a worldwide
CIA effort that lasted through the 1960s into the 1970s to destroy
the Cuban economy.
Agency officials reasoned, at least in the first years, that it
would be easier to overthrow Castro if Cubans could be made unhappy
with their standard of living. "We wanted to keep bread out
of the stores so people were hungry," says the CIA man who
was assigned to anti-Castro operations. "We wanted to keep
rationing in effect and keep leather out, so people got only one
pair of shoes every 18 months."
Leaving this broader sort of program out of the new structure,
Gottlieb regrouped the most sensitive behavioral activities under
the MKSEARCH umbrella. He chose to continue seven projects, and
the ones he picked give a good indication of those parts of MKULTRA
that Gottlieb considered important enough to save. These included
none of the sociological studies, nor the search for a truth drug.
Gottlieb put the emphasis on chemical and biological substancesnot
because he thought these could be used to turn men into robots,
but because he valued them for their predictable ability to disorient,
discredit, injure, or kill people. He kept active two private
labs to produce such substances, funded consultants who had secure
ways to test them and ready access to subjects, and maintained
a funding conduit to pass money on to these other contractors.
Here are the seven surviving MKSEARCH subprojects:
First on the TSS list was the safehouse program for drug testing
run by George White and others in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
Even in 1964, Gottlieb and Helms had not given up hope that unwitting
experiments could be resumed, and the Agency paid out $30,000
that year to keep the safehouses open. In the meantime, something
was going on at the "pad"or at least George White
kept on sending the CIA vouchers for unorthodox expenses$1,100
worth in February 1965 alone under the old euphemism for prostitutes,
"undercover agents for operations." What White was doing
with or to these agents cannot be said, but he kept the San Francisco
operation active right up until the time it finally closed in
June. Gottlieb did not give up on the New York safehouse until
the following year.
MKSEARCH Subproject #2 involved continuing a $150,000a-year
contract with a Baltimore biological laboratory This lab, run
by at least one former CIA germ expert, gave TSS "a quick-delivery
capability to meet anticipated future operational needs,"
according to an Agency document. Among other things, it provided
a private place for "large-scale production of microorganisms."
The Agency was paying the Army Biological Laboratory at Fort Detrick
about $100,000 a year for the same services. With its more complete
facilities, Fort Detrick could be used to create and package more
esoteric bacteria, but Gottlieb seems to have kept the Baltimore
facility going in order to have a way of producing biological
weapons without the Army's germ warriors knowing about it. This
secrecy-within-secrecy was not unusual when TSS men were dealing
with subjects as sensitive as infecting targets with diseases.
Except on the most general level, no written records were kept
on the subject. Whenever an operational unit in the Agency asked
TSS about obtaining a biological weapon, Gottlieb or his aides
automatically turned down the request unless the head of the Clandestine
Services had given his prior approval. Gottlieb handled these
operational needs personally, and during the early 1960s (when
CIA assassination attempts probably were at their peak) even Gottlieb's
boss, the TSS chief, was not told what was happening.
With his biological arsenal assured, Gottlieb also secured his
chemical flank in MKSEARCH. Another subproject continued a relationship
set up in 1959 with a prominent industrialist who headed a complex
of companies, including one that custom-manufactured rare chemicals
for pharmaceutical producers. This man, whom on several occasions
CIA officials gave $100 bills to pay for his products, was able
to perform specific lab jobs for the Agency without consulting
with his board of directors. In 1960 he supplied the Agency with
3 kilos (6.6 pounds) of a deadly carbamatethe same poison OSS's
Stanley Lovell tried to use against Hitler.
This company president also was useful to the Agency because he
was a ready source of information on what was going on in the
chemical world. The chemical services he offered, coupled with
his biological counterpart, gave the CIA the means to wage "instant"
chemical and biological attacksa capability that was frequently
used, judging by the large numbers of receipts and invoices that
the CIA released under the Freedom of Information Act.
With new chemicals and drugs constantly coming to their attention
through their continuing relations with the major pharmaceutical
companies, TSS officials needed places to test them, particularly
after the safehouses closed. Dr. James Hamilton, the San Francisco
psychiatrist who worked with George White in the original OSS
marijuana days, provided a way. He became MKSEARCH Subproject
Hamilton had joined MKULTRA in its earliest days and had been
used as a West Coast supervisor for Gottlieb and company. Hamilton
was one of the renaissance men of the program, working on everything
from psychochemicals to kinky sex to carbon-dioxide inhalation.
By the early 1960s, he had arranged to get access to prisoners
at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville.
Hamilton worked through a nonprofit research institute connected
to the Facility to carry out, as a document puts it, "clinical
testing of behavioral control materials" on inmates. Hamilton's
job was to provide "answers to specific questions and solutions
to specific problems of direct interest to the Agency." In
a six-month span in 1967 and 1968, the psychiatrist spent over
$10,000 in CIA funds simply to pay volunteers which at normal
rates meant he experimented on between 400 to 1,000 inmates in
that time period alone.
Another MKSEARCH subproject provided $20,000 to $25,000 a year
to Dr. Carl Pfeiffer. Pfeiflfer's Agency connection went back
to 1951, when he headed the Pharmacology Department at the University
of Illinois Medical School. He then moved to Emory University
and tested LSD and other drugs on inmates of the Federal penitentiary
in Atlanta. From there, he moved to New Jersey, where he continued
drug experiments on the prisoners at the Bordentown reformatory.
An internationally known pharmacologist, Pfeiffer provided the
MKSEARCH program with data on the preparation, use, and effect
of drugs. He was readily available if Gottlieb or a colleague
wanted a study made of the properties of a particular substance,
and like most of TSS's contractors, he also was an intelligence
source. Pfeiffer was useful in this last capacity during the latter
part of the 1960s because he sat on the Food and Drug Administration
committee that allocated LSD for scientific research in the United
States. By this time, LSD was so widely available on the black
market that the Federal Government had replaced the CIA's informal
controls of the 1950s with laws and procedures forbidding all
but the most strictly regulated research. With Pfeiffer on the
governing committee, the CIA could keep up its traditional role
of monitoring above-ground LSD experimentation around the United
To cover some of the more exotic behavioral fields, another
MKSEARCH program continued TSS's relationship with Dr. Maitland
Baldwin, the brain surgeon at the National Institutes of Health
who had been so willing in 1955 to perform "terminal experiments"
in sensory deprivation for Morse Allen and the ARTICHOKE program.
After Allen was pushed aside by the men from MKULTRA, the new
TSS team hired Baldwin as a consultant According to one of them,
he was full of bright ideas on how to control behavior, but they
were wary of him because he was such an "eager beaver"
with an obvious streak of "craziness." Under TSS auspices,
Baldwin performed lobotomies on apes and then put these simian
subjects into sensory deprivationpresumably in the same "box"
he had built himself at NIH and then had to repair after a desperate
soldier kicked his way out. There is no information available
on whether Baldwin extended this work to humans, although he did
discuss with an outside consultant how lobotomized patients reacted
to prolonged isolation. Like Hamilton, Baldwin was a jack-of-all
trades who in one experiment beamed radio frequency energy directly
at the brain of a chimpanzee and in another cut off one monkey's
head and tried to transplant it to the decapitated body of another
monkey. Baldwin used $250 in Agency money to buy his own electroshock
machine, and he did some kind of unspecified work at a TSS safehouse
that caused the CIA to shell out $1450 to renovate and repair
The last MKSEARCH subproject covered the work of Dr. Charles
Geschickter, who served TSS both as researcher and funding conduit.
CIA documents show that Geschickter tested powerful drugs on mental
defectives and terminal cancer patients, apparently at the Georgetown
University Hospital in Washington. In all, the Agency put $655,000
into Geschickter's research on knockout drugs, stress-producing
chemicals, and mind-altering substances. Nevertheless, the doctor's
principal service to TSS officials seems to have been putting
his family foundation at the disposal of the CIAboth to channel
funds and to serve as a source of cover to Agency operators. About
$2.1 million flowed through this tightly controlled foundation
to other researchers.
Under MKSEARCH, Geschickter continued to provide TSS with a means
to assess drugs rapidly, and he branched out into trying to knock
out monkeys with radar waves to the head (a technique which worked
but risked frying vital parts of the brain). The Geschickter Fund
for Medical Research remained available as a conduit until 1967.
As part of the effort to keep finding new substances to test within
MKSEARCH, Agency officials continued their search for magic mushrooms,
leaves, roots, and barks. In 1966, with considerable CIA backing,
J. C. King, the former head of the Agency's Western Hemisphere
Division who was eased out after the Bay of Pigs, formed an ostensibly
private firm called Amazon Natural Drug Company. King, who loved
to float down jungle rivers on the deck of his houseboat with
a glass of scotch in hand, searched the backwaters of South America
for plants of interest to the Agency and/or medical science. To
do the work, he hired Amazon men and women, plus at least two
CIA paramilitary operators who worked out of Amazon offices in
Iquitos, Peru. They shipped back to the United States finds that
included Chondodendron toxicoferum, a paralytic agent which
is "absolutely lethal in high doses," according to Dr.
Timothy Plowman, a Harvard botanist who like most of the staff
was unwitting of the CIA involvement. Another plant that was collected
and grown by Amazon employees was the hallucinogen known as yage,
which author William Burroughs has described as "the final
MKSEARCH went on through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, but
with a steadily decreasing budget. In 1964 it cost the Agency
about $250,000. In 1972 it was down to four subprojects and $110,000.
Gottlieb was a very busy man by then, having taken over all TSS
in 1967 when his patron, Richard Helms finally made it to the
top of the Agency. In June 1972 Gottlieb decided to end MKSEARCH,
thus bringing down the curtain on the quest he himself had started
two decades before. He wrote this epitaph for the program:
As a final commentary, I would like to point out that, by means
of Project MKSEARCH, the Clandestine Service has been able to
maintain contact with the leading edge of developments in the
field of biological and chemical control of human behavior. It
has become increasingly obvious over the last several years that
this general area had less and less relevance to current clandestine
operations. The reasons for this are many and complex, but two
of them are perhaps worth mentioning briefly. On the scientific
side, it has become very clear that these materials and techniques
are too unpredictable in their effect on individual human beings,
under specific circumstances, to be operationally useful. Our
operations officers, particularly the emerging group of new senior
operations officers, have shown a discerning and perhaps commendable
distaste for utilizing these materials and techniques. They seem
to realize that, in addition to moral and ethical considerations,
the extreme sensitivity and security constraints of such operations
effectively rule them out.
About the time Gottlieb wrote these words, the Watergate break-in
occurred, setting in train forces that would alter his life and
that of Richard Helms. A few months later, Richard Nixon was reselected.
Soon after the election, Nixon, for reasons that have never been
explained, decided to purge Helms. Before leaving to become Ambassador
to Iran, Helms presided over a wholesale destruction of documents
and tapespresumably to minimize information that might later
be used against him. Sid Gottlieb decided to follow Helms into
retirement, and the two men mutually agreed to get rid of all
the documentary traces of MKULTRA. They had never kept files on
the safehouse testing or similarly sensitive operations in the
first place, but they were determined to erase the existing records
of their search to control human behavior. Gottlieb later told
a Senate committee that he wanted to get rid of the material because
of a "burgeoning paper problem" within the Agency, because
the files were of "no constructive use" and might be
"misunderstood," and because he wanted to protect the
reputations of the researchers with whom he had collaborated on
the assurance of secrecy. Gottlieb got in touch with the men who
had physical custody of the records, the Agency's archivists,
who proceeded to destroy what he and Helms thought were the only
traces of the program. They made a mistake, howeveror the archivists
did. Seven boxes of substantive records and reports were incinerated,
but seven more containing invoices and financial records survivedapparently
due to misfiling.
Nixon named James Schlesinger to be the new head of the Agency,
a post in which he stayed only a few months before the increasingly
beleaguered President moved him over to be Secretary of Defense
at the height of Watergate. During his short stop at CIA, Schlesinger
sent an order to all Agency employees asking them to let his office
know about any instances where Agency officials might have carried
out any improper or illegal actions. Somebody mentioned Frank
Olson's suicide, and it was duly included in the many hundreds
of pages of misdeeds reported which became known within the CIA
as the "family jewels."
Schlesinger, an outsider to the career CIA operators, had opened
a Pandora's box that the professionals never managed to shut again.
Samples of the "family jewels" were slipped out to New
York Times reporter Seymour Hersh, who created a national
furor in December 1974 when he wrote about the CIA's illegal spying
on domestic dissidents during the Johnson and Nixon years. President
Gerald Ford appointed a commission headed by Vice-President Nelson
Rockefeller to investigate the past CIA abusesand to limit
the damage. Included in the final Rockefeller report was a section
on how an unnamed Department of the Army employee had jumped out
of a New York hotel window after Agency men had slipped him LSD.
That revelation made headlines around the country. The press seized
upon the sensational details and virtually ignored two even more
revealing sentences buried in the Rockefeller text: "The
drug program was part of a much larger CIA program to study possible
means for controlling human behavior. Other studies explored the
effects of radiation, electric-shock, psychology, psychiatry,
sociology, and harassment substances."
At this point, I entered the story. I was intrigued by those two
sentences, and I filed a Freedom of Information request with the
CIA to obtain all the documents the Agency had furnished the Rockefeller
Commission on behavior control. Although the law requires a government
agency to respond within 10 days, it took the Agency more than
a year to send me the first 50 documents on the subject, which
turned out to be heavily censored.
In the meantime, the committee headed by Senator Frank Church
was looking into the CIA, and it called in Sid Gottlieb, who was
then spending his retirement working as a volunteer in a hospital
in India. Gottlieb secretly testified about CIA assassination
programs. (In describing his role in its final report, the Church
Committee used a false name, "Victor Scheider.") Asked
about the behavioral-control programs, Gottlieb apparently could
notor would notremember most of the details. The committee
had almost no documents to work with, since the main records had
been destroyed in 1973 and the financial files had not yet been
The issue lay dormant until 1977, when, about June 1, CIA officials
notified my lawyers that they had found the 7 boxes of MKULTRA
financial records and that they would send me the releasable portions
over the following months. As I waited, CIA Director Stansfield
Turner notified President Carter and then the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence that an Agency official had located the 7 boxes.
Admiral Turner publicly described MKULTRA as only a program of
drug experimentation and not one aimed at behavior control. On
July 20 I held a press conference at which I criticized Admiral
Turner for his several distortions in describing the MKULTRA program.
To prove my various points, I released to the reporters a score
of the CIA documents that had already come to me and that gave
the flavor of the behavioral efforts. Perhaps it was a slow news
day, or perhaps people simply were interested in government attempts
to tamper with the mind. In any event, the documents set off a
media bandwagon that had the story reported on all three network
television news shows and practically everywhere else.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senator Edward
Kennedy's Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research soon
announced they would hold public hearings on the subject. Both
panels had looked into the secret research in 1975 but had been
hampered by the lack of documents and forthcoming witnesses. At
first the two committees agreed to work together, and they held
one joint hearing. Then, Senator Barry Goldwater brought behind-the-scenes
pressure to get the Intelligence panel, of which he was vice-chairman,
to drop out of the proceedings. He claimed, among other things,
that the committee was just rehashing old programs and that the
time had come to stop dumping on the CIA. Senator Kennedy plowed
ahead anyway. He was limited, however, by the small size of the
staff he assigned to the investigation, and his people were literally
buried in paper by CIA officials, who released 8,000 pages of
documents in the weeks before the hearings. As the hearings started,
the staff still not had read everythinglet alone put it all
As Kennedy's staff prepared for the public sessions, the former
men from MKULTRA also got ready. According to one of them, they
agreed among themselves to "keep the inquiry within bounds
that would satisfy the committee." Specifically, he says
that meant volunteering no more information than the Kennedy panel
already had. Charles Siragusa, the narcotics agent who ran the
New York safehouse, reports he got a telephone call during this
period from Ray Treichler, the Stanford Ph.D. who specialized
in chemical warfare for the MKULTRA program. "He wanted me
to deny knowing about the safehouse," says Siragusa. "He
didn't want me to admit that he was the guy.... I said there was
no way I could do that." Whether any other ex-TSS men also
suborned perjury cannot be said, but several of them appear to
have committed perjury at the hearings.
As previously noted, Robert Lashbrook denied firsthand knowledge
of the safehouse operation when, in fact, he had supervised one
of the "pads" and been present, according to George
White's diary, at the time of an "LSD surprise" experiment.
Dr. Charles Geschickter testified he had not tested stress-producing
drugs on human subjects while both his own 1960 proposal to the
Agency and the CIA's documents indicate the opposite.
Despite the presence of a key aide who constantly cued him during
the hearings, Senator Kennedy was not prepared to deal with these
and other inconsistencies. He took no action to follow up obviously
perjured testimony, and he seemed content to win headlines with
reports of "The Gang That Couldn't Spray Straight."
Although that particular testimony had been set up in advance
by a Kennedy staffer, the Senator still managed to act surprised
when ex-MKULTRA official David Rhodes told of the ill-fated LSD
experiment at the Marin County safehouse.
The Kennedy hearings added little to the general state of knowledge
on the CIA's behavior-control programs. CIA officials, both past
and present, took the position that basically nothing of substance
was learned during the 25-odd years of research, the bulk of which
had ended in 1963, and they were not challenged. That proposition
is, on its face, ridiculous, but neither Senator Kennedy nor any
other investigator has yet put any real pressure on the Agency
to reveal the content of the researchwhat was actually learnedas
opposed to the experimental means of carrying it out. In this
book, I have tried to get at some of the substantive questions,
but I have had access to neither the scientific records, which
Gottlieb and Helms destroyed, nor the principal people involved.
Gottlieb, for instance, who moved from India to Santa Cruz, California
and then to parts unknown, turned down repeated requests to be
interviewed. "I am interested in very different matters than
the subject of your book these days," he wrote, "and
do not have either the time or the inclination to reprocess matters
that happened a long time ago."
Faced with these obstacles, I have tried to weave together a representative
sample of what went on, but having dealt with a group of people
who regularly incorporated lying into their daily work, I cannot
be sure. I cannot be positive that they never found a technique
to control people, despite my definite bias in favor of the idea
that the human spirit defeated the manipulators. Only a congressional
committee could compel truthful testimony from people who have
so far refused to be forthcoming, and even Congress' record has
not been good so far. A determined investigative committee at
least could make sure that the people being probed do not determine
the "bounds" of the inquiry.
A new investigation would probably not be worth the effort just
to take another stab at MKULTRA and ARTICHOKE. Despite my belief
that there are some skeletons hiddenliterally the public
probably now knows the basic parameters of these programs. Thefact is,
however, that CIA officials actively experimented with
behavior-control methods for another decade after Sid Gottlieb
and company lost the research action. The Directorate of Science
and Technologyspecifically its Office of Research and Development
(ORDfdid not remain idle after Director McCone transferred the
behavioral research function in 1962.
In ORD, Dr. Stephen Aldrich, a graduate of Amherst and Northwestern
Medical School, took over the role that Morse Allen and then Sid
Gottlieb had played before him. Aldrich had been the medical director
of the Office of Scientific Intelligence back in the days when
that office was jockeying with Morse Allen for control of ARTICHOKE,
so he was no stranger to the programs. Under his leadership, ORD
officials kept probing for ways to control human behavior, and
they were doing so with space-age technology that made the days
of MKULTRA look like the horse-and-buggy era. If man could get
to the moon by the end of the 1960s, certainly the well-financed
scientists of ORD could make a good shot at conquering inner space.
They brought their technology to bear on subjects like the electric
stimulation of the brain. John Lilly had done extensive work in
this field a decade earlier, before concluding that to maintain
his integrity he must find another field. CIA men had no such
qualms, however. They actively experimented with placing electrodes
in the brain of animals andprobably men. Then they used
electric and radio signals to move their subjects around. The
field went far beyond giving monkeys orgasms, as Lilly had done.
In the CIA itself, Sid Gottlieb and the MKULTRA crew had made
some preliminary studies of it. They started in 1960 by having
a contractor search all the available literature, and then they
had mapped out the parts of animals' brains that produced reactions
when stimulated. By April 1961 the head of TSS was able to report
"we now have a 'production capability' " in brain stimulation
and "we are close to having debugged a prototype system whereby
dogs can be guided along specific courses." Six months later,
a CIA document noted, "The feasibility of remote control
of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated....
Special investigations and evaluations will be conducted toward
the application of selected elements of these techniques to man."
Another six months later, TSS officials had found a use for electric
stimulation: this time putting electrodes in the brains of cold-blooded
animalspresumably reptiles. While much of the experimentation
with dogs and cats was to find a way of wiring the animal and
then directing it by remote control into, say, the office of the
Soviet ambassador, this cold-blooded project was designed instead
for the delivery of chemical and biological agents or for "executive
action-type operations," according to a document. "Executive
action" was the CIA's euphemism for assassination.
With the brain electrode technology at this level, Steve Aldrich
and ORD took over the research function from TSS. What the ORD
men found cannot be said, but the open literature would indicate
that the field progressed considerably during the 1960s. Can the
human brain be wired and controlled by a big enough computer?
Aldrich certainly tried to find out.
Creating amnesia remained a "big goal" for the ORD researcher,
states an ex-CIA man. Advances in brain surgery, such as the development
of three-dimensional, "stereotaxic" techniques, made
psychosurgery a much simpler matter and created the possibility
that a precisely placed electrode probe could be used to cut the
link between past memory and present recall. As for subjects to
be used in behavioral experiments of this sort, the ex-CIA man
states that ORD had access to prisoners in at least one American
penal institution. A former Army doctor stationed at the Edgewood
chemical laboratory states that the lab worked with CIA men todevelop
a drug that could be used to help program in new memories
into the mind of an amnesic subject. How far did the Agency take
this research? I don't know.
The men from ORD tried to create their own latter-day version
of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. Located
outside Boston, it was called the Scientific Engineering Institute,
and Agency officials had set it up originally in 1956 as a proprietary
company to do research on radar and other technical matters that
had nothing to do with human behavior. Its president, who says
he was a "figurehead," was Dr. Edwin Land, the founder
of Polaroid. In the early 1960s, ORD officials decided to bring
it into the behavioral field and built a new wing to the Institute's
modernistic building for the "life sciences." They hired
a group of behavioral and medical scientists who were allowed
to carry on their own independent research as long as it met Institute
standards. These scientists were available to consult with frequent
visitors from Washington, and they were encouraged to take long
lunches in the Institute's dining room where they mixed with the
physical scientists and brainstormed about virtually everything.
One veteran recalls a colleague joking, "If you could find
the natural radio frequency of a person's sphincter, you could
make him run out of the room real fast." Turning serious,
the veteran states the technique was "plausible," and
he notes that many of the crazy ideas bandied about at lunch developed
into concrete projects.
Some of these projects may have been worked on at the Institute's
own several hundred-acre farm located in the Massachusetts countryside.
But of the several dozen people contacted in an effort to find
out what the Institute did, the most anyone would say about experiments
at the farm was that one involved stimulating the pleasure centers
of crows' brains in order to control their behavior. Presumably,
ORD men did other things at their isolated rural lab.
Just as the MKULTRA program had been years ahead of the scientific
community, ORD activities were similarly advanced. "We looked
at the manipulation of genes," states one of the researchers.
"We were interested in gene splintering. The rest of the
world didn't ask until 1976 the type of questions we were facing
in 1965.... Everybody was afraid of building the supersoldier
who would take orders without questioning, like the kamikaze pilot.
Creating a subservient society was not out of sight." Another
Institute man describes the work of a colleague who bombarded
bacteria with ultraviolet radiation in order to create deviant
strains. ORD also sponsored work in parapsychology. Along with
the military services, Agency officials wanted to know whether
psychics could read minds or control them from afar (telepathy),
if they could gain information about distant places or people
(clairvoyance or remote viewing), if they could predict the future
(precognition), or influence the movement of physical objects
or even the human mind (photokinesis). The last could have incredibly
destructive applications, if it worked. For instance, switches
setting off nuclear bombs would have to be moved only a few inches
to launch a holocaust. Or, enemy psychics, with minds honed to
laser-beam sharpness, could launch attacks to burn out the brains
of American nuclear scientists. Any or all of these techniques
have numerous applications to the spy trade.
While ORD officials apparently left much of the drug work to Gottlieb,
they could not keep their hands totally out of this field. In
1968 they set up a joint program, called Project OFTEN, with the
Army Chemical Corps at Edgewood, Maryland to study the effects
of various drugs on animals and humans. The Army helped the Agency
put together a computerized data base for drug testing and supplied
military volunteers for some of the experiments. In one case,
with a particularly effective incapacitiating agent, the Army
arranged for inmate volunteers at the Holmesburg State Prison
in Philadelphia. Project OFTEN had both offensive and defensive
sides, according to an ORD man who described it in a memorandum.
He cited as an example of what he and his coworkers hoped to find
"a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke
in the targeted individual." In January 1973, just as Richard
Helms was leaving the Agency and James Schlesinger was coming
in, Project OFTEN was abruptly canceled.
Whatif anysuccess the ORD men had in creating heart attacks
or in any of their other behavioral experiments simply cannot
be said. Like Sid Gottlieb, Steve Aldrich is not saying, and his
colleagues seem even more closemouthed than Gottlieb's. In December
1977, having gotten wind of the ORD programs, I filed a Freedom
of Information request for access to ORD files "on behavioral
research, including but not limited to any research or operational
activities related to bio-electrics, electric or radio stimulation
of the brain, electronic destruction of memory, stereotaxic surgery,
psychosurgery, hypnotism, parapsychology, radiation, microwaves,
and ultrasonics." I also asked for documentation on behavioral
testing in U.S. penal institutions, and I later added a request
for all available files on amnesia. The Agency wrote back six
months later that ORD had "identified 130 boxes (approximately
130 cubic feet) of material that are reasonably expected to contain
behavioral research documents."
Considering that Admiral Turner and other CIA officials had tried
to leave the impression with Congress and the public that behavioral
research had almost all ended in 1963 with the phaseout of MKULTRA,
this was an amazing admission. The sheer volume of material was
staggering. This book is based on the 7 boxes of heavily censored
MKULTRA financial records plus another 3 or so of ARTICHOKE documents,
supplemented by interviews. It has taken me over a year, with
significant research help, to digest this much smaller bulk. Clearly,
greater resources than an individual writer can bring to bear
will be needed to get to the bottom of the ORD programs.
A free society's best defense against unethical behavior modification
is public disclosure and awareness. The more people understand
consciousness-altering technology, the more likely they are to
recognize its application, and the less likely it will be used.
When behavioral research is carried out in secret, it can be turned
against the government's enemies, both foreign and domestic. No
matter how pure or defense-oriented the motives of the researchers,
once the technology exists, the decision to use it is out of their
hands. Who can doubt that if the Nixon administration or J. Edgar
Hoover had had some foolproof way to control people, they would
not have used the technique against their political foes, just
as the CIA for years tried to use similar tactics overseas?
As with the Agency's secrets, it is now too late to put behavioral
technology back in the box. Researchers are bound to keep making
advances. The technology has already spread to our schools, prisons,
and mental hospitals, not to mention the advertising community,
and it has also been picked up by police forces around the world.
Placing hoods over the heads of political prisonersa modified
form of sensory deprivationhas become a standard tactic around
the world, from Northern Ireland to Chile. The Soviet Union has
consistently used psychiatric treatment as an instrument of repression.
Such methods violate basic human rights just as much as physical
abuse, even if they leave no marks on the body.
Totalitarian regimes will probably continue, as they have in the
past, to search secretly for ways to manipulate the mind, no matter
what the United States does. The prospect of being able to control
people seems too enticing for most tyrants to give up. Yet, we
as a country can defend ourselves without sending our own scientistsmad
or otherwiseinto a hidden war that violates our basic ethical
and constitutional principles. After all, we created the Nuremberg
Code to show there were limits on scientific research and its
application. Admittedly, American intelligence officials have
violated our own standard, but the U.S. Government has now officially
declared violations will no longer be permitted. The time has
come for the United States to lead by example in voluntarily renouncing
secret government behavioral research. Other countries might even
follow suit, particularly if we were to propose an international
agreement which provides them with a framework to do so.
Tampering with the mind is much too dangerous to be left to the
spies. Nor should it be the exclusive province of the behavioral
scientists, who have given us cause for suspicion. Take this statement
by their most famous member, B. F. Skinner: "My image in
some places is of a monster of some kind who wants to pull a string
and manipulate people. Nothing could be further from the truth.
People are manipulated; I just want them to be manipulated more
effectively." Such notions are much more acceptable in prestigious
circles than people tend to think: D. Ewen Cameron read papers
about "depatterning" with electroshock before meetings
of his fellow psychiatrists, and they elected him their president.
Human behavior is so important that it must concern us all. The
more vigilant we and our representatives are, the less chance
we will be unwitting victims.
The reorganization of TSS was described in document #59, 26 July
1963, Report of the Inspection of MKULTRA and in interviews with
Ray Cline, Herbert Scoville, and several other former CIA officials.
Richard Helms' recommendations for a new MKULTRA charter were
described in document #450, 9 June, 1964, Sensitive Research Programs
Admiral Stansfield Turner's statement on the MKULTRA program was
made before a joint session of the Kennedy subcommittee and the
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, August 3, 1977, pp. 4-8.
MKSEARCH programs and their origins in MKULTRA are described in
documents #449, 8 April 1964, Revision of Project MKULTRA and
#S-1-7, untitled, undated.
Dr. Edward Bennett's work is the subject of MKULTRA subprojects
104 and 143. See especially 143-23, 11 December 1962, Subject:
MKULTRA Subproject 143. Other information on the CIA's economic
sabotage program against Cuba came from interviews with Major
General Edward Lansdale, Ray Cline, William Colby, Lincoln Gordon,
Covey Oliver, Charles Meyer, Richard Goodwin, Roger Morris, several
former CIA and State Department officials, and Cuban government
The continued safehouse operation is MKSEARCH subproject 4. See
especially S-12-1, bank statements and receipts of safehouse.
The CIA's dealings with the Treasury Department over the Long
committee's investigations of wiretaps are detailed in documents
#451, 30 January 1967, A Report on a Series of Meetings with Department
of the Treasury officials and #452, undated, Meeting with Department
of Treasury Official.
The biological laboratory is the subject of MKULTRA subprojects
78 and 110 and MKSEARCH 2. See especially Documents 78-28, September
28, 1962, Subject: PM Support and Biological [deleted] and S-5-6,
8 September 1965, Subject: Hiring by Chief TSD/BB of [deleted],
Former Staff Employee in a Consultant Capacity on an Agency Contract.
The costs of the Fort Detrick operations came from p. 18 and p.
204 of the Church committee hearings on Unauthorized Storage of
Toxic Agents September 16,17, and 18,1975. The description of
TSS's procedures for dealing with biological weapons came from
Document 78-28 (cited above) and document #509, undated (but clearly
June 1975), Subject: Discussions of MKNAOMI with [deleted]
The chemical company subproiect is MKULTRA subproject 116 and
MKSEARCH 5. See especially 116-57,30 January 1961, Subject: MKULTRA,
Subproject 116; 116-62, October 28, 1960, shipping invoice- and
116-61,4 November 1960, Subject: MKULTRA Subproject 116. Also
see James Moore's subproject, MKULTRA 52; especially 52-53, invoice
# 3, 1125-009-1902, April 27, 1960.
James Hamilton's work is the subject of MKULTRA subprojects 124
and 140 and MKSEARCH Subproject 3. See especially 140-57, 6 May
1965, Subject: Behavioral Control and 140-83, 29 May 1963, Subject:
MKULTRA Subproject 140.
Carl Pfeiffer's subprojects are MKULTRA 9, 26, 28, and 47 and
MKSEARCH 7. See especially S-7-4, undated, Subject: Approval of
Maitland Baldwin's Subprojects are MKULTRA 62 and MKSEARCH 1.
See especially 62-2, undated [deleted] Special Budget and 62-3,
undated, 1956, Subject: Re: Trip to [deleted], October 10-14,
Charles Geschickter's subprojects are MKULTRA 23, 35, and 45 and
MKSEARCH 6. See especially 35-10, May 16, 1955, Subject- To provide
for Agency-Sponsored Research Involving Covert Biological and
Chemical Warfare; 45-78, undated, Research Proposal: 1960, 45-104
undated, Subject: Research Proposal: 1958-1959; 45-95, 26 January
1959, Continuation of MKULTRA, Subproject No.45; 45-104,21 January
1958, Continuation of MKULTRA, Subproject No.45; 45-52,8 February
1962, Continuation of MKULTRA, Subproject No. 45; S-13-7,13 August
Subject, Approval of [deleted]; and S-13-9, 13 September 1967,
Subject: Approval of [deleted]. See also Geschickter's testimony
before the Kennedy subcommittee, September 20, 1977, pp. 44-49.
The lack of congressional or executive branch knowledge of CIA
behavioral activities was mentioned on p. 386, Church Committee
Report, Book I.
Amazon Natural Drug's CIA connection was described by an ex-ClA
official and confirmed by the mother of another former Agency
man. Several former employees described its activities in interviews.
Gottlieb's termination of MKSEARCH came from Document S-14-3 10
July 1972, Termination of MKSEARCH.
The destruction of MKULTRA documents was described in Document
#419, 3 October, 1975, Subject: Destruction of Drug and Toxin
Related Files and 460, 31 January, 1973, Subject: Project Files:
The MKULTRA subprojects on electric stimulation of the brain are
106 and 142. See especially 106-1, undated, Subject: Proposal;
142-14, 22 May 1962, Subject: Project MKULTRA, Subproject No.
142; and document #76 (MKDELTA release), 21 April 1961, Subject:
"Guided Animal" Studies.
The list of parapsychology goals was taken from an excellent article
by John Wilhelm in the August 2, 1977 Washington Post:
Project OFTEN information was taken from document #455,6 May 1974,
Subject: Project OFTEN and Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense
from Deanne P. Siemer, September 20, 1977, Subject: Experimentation
Programs Conducted by the Department of Defense That Had CIA Sponsorship
or Participation and That Involved the Administration to Human
Subjects of Drugs Intended for Mind-control or Behavior-modification
The quote from B. F. Skinner was taken from Peter Schrag's book,
Mind Control (New York: Pantheon, 1978) p. 10.
1. At 1977 Senate hearings, CIA Director Stansfield
Turner summed up some of MKULTRA's accomplishments over its 11-year
existence: The program contracted out work to 80 institutions,
which included 44 colleges or universities, 15 research facilities
or private companies, 12 hospitals or clinics, and 3 penal institutions.
I estimate that MKULTRA cost the taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood
of $10 million. (back)
2. This economic sabotage program started
in 1961, and the chain of command "ran up to the President,"
according to Kennedy adviser Richard Goodwin. On the CIA side,
Agency Director John McCone "was very strong on it,"
says his former deputy Ray Cline. Cline notes that McCone had
the standing orders to all CIA stations abroad rewritten to include
"a sentence or two" authorizing a continuing program
to disrupt the Cuban economy. Cuba's trade thus became a standing
target for Agency operators, and with the authority on the books,
CIA officials apparently never went back to the White House for
renewed approval after Kennedy died, in Cline's opinion. Three
former Assistant Secretaries of State in the Johnson and Nixon
administrations say the sabotage, which included everything from
driving down the price of Cuban sugar to tampering with cane-cutting
equipment, was not brought to their attention. Former CIA Director
William Colby states that the Agency finally stopped the economic
sabotage program in the early 1970s. Cuban government officials
counter that CIA agents were still working to create epidemics
among Cuban cattle in 1973 and that as of spring 1978, Agency
men were committing acts of sabotage against cargo destined for
3. In 1967 a Senate committee chaired by Senator
Edward Long was inquiring into wiretapping by government agencies,
including the Narcotics Bureau. The Commissioner of Narcotics,
then Harry Giordano told a senior TSS man almost certainly
Gottliebthat if CIA officials were "concerned" about
its dealings with the Bureau involving the safehouses coming out
during the hearings, the most "helpful thing" they could
do would be to "turn the Long committee off." How the
CIA men reacted to this not very subtle blackmail attempt is unclear
from the documents, but what does come out is that the TSS man
and another top-level CIA officer misled and lied to the top echelon
of the Treasury Department (the Narcotics Bureau's parent organization)
about the safehouses and how they were used. (back)
4. James Moore of the University of Delaware,
who also produced carbamates when he was not seeking the magic
mushroom, served at times as an intermediary between the industrialist
and the CIA. (back)
5. During the late 1960s and early 1970s,
it seemed that every radical on the West Coast was saying that
the CIA was up to strange things in behavior modification at Vacaville.
Like many of yesterday's conspiracy theories, this one turned
out to be true. (back)
6. Geschickter was an extremely important
TSS asset with connections in high places. In 1955 he convinced
Agency officials to contribute $375,000 in secret funds toward
the construction of a new research building at Georgetown University
Hospital. (Since this money seemed to be coming from private sources,
unwitting Federal bureaucrats doubled it under the matching grant
program for hospital construction.) The Agency men had a clear
understanding with Geschickter that in return for their contribution,
he would make sure they received use of one-sixth of the beds
and total space in the facility for their own "hospital safehouse."
They then would have a ready source of "human patients and
volunteers for experimental use," according to a CIA document,
and the research program in the building would provide cover for
up to three TSS staff members. Allen Dulles personally approved
the contribution and then, to make sure, he took it to President
Eisenhower's special committee to review covert operations. The
committee also gave its assent, with the understanding that Geschickter
could provide "a reasonable expectation" that the Agency
would indeed have use of the space he promised. He obviously did,
because the CIA money was forthcoming. (This, incidentally, was
the only time in a whole quarter-century of Agency behavior-control
activities when the documents show that CIA officials went to
the White House for approval of anything. The Church committee
found no evidence that either the executive branch or Congress
was informed of the programs.) (back)
7. In 1967, after Ramparts
magazine exposed secret CIA funding of the National Student Association
and numerous nonprofit organizations, President Johnson forbade
CIA support of foundations or educational institutions. Inside
the Agency there was no notion that this order meant ending relationships,
such as the one with Geschickter. In his case, the agile CIA men
simply transferred the funding from the foundation to a private
company, of which his son was the secretary-treasurer. (back)
8. Lying to Congress followed the pattern
of lying to the press that some MKULTRA veterans adopted after
the first revelations came out. For example, former Human Ecology
Society director James Monroe told The New York Times on
August 2, 1977 that "only about 25 to 30 percent" of
the Society's budget came from the CIAa statement he knew to
be false since the actual figure was well over 90 percent. His
untruth allowed some other grantees to claim that their particular
project was funded out of the non-Agency part of the Society.
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