Shortly before his death in 1999, the CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb wrote, “It was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill and cheat, steal, deceive, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the all highest.”
This week marks the 60th anniversary of the official start of the program that Gottlieb ran – Project MKUltra. This was the code name for mind control experiments undertaken by the CIA’s Scientific Intelligence Division.
As a precursor, in 1951 the United States sprayed LSD on Pont Saint-Esprit in France causing mass psychosis and at least seven deaths. Following this experiment, the United States started Project MKUltra.
One of the first experiments of MKUltra was to give LSD to the mentally ill, prisoners, prostitutes and others “who could not fight back,” as one CIA officer stated. One mentally ill person was given LSD every day for 174 days. The program then moved on to CIA personnel, the military, doctors and the public – all without consent. The objective was to wipe mind’s clean and create “robot agents”. One CIA doctor, Frank Olsen, was given LSD and eventually committed suicide (or was murdered). After tests on thousands of Americans, the CIA determined that LSD was too unstable and unpredictable to use. The CIA refocused on a new drug, BZ, a super-hallucinogen used on 149 Americans without their consent. They also experimented with the use of a mix of barbiturates and amphetamines at interrogations as well as heroin, morphine, mescaline, and more.
After experimenting with drugs, the CIA began focusing on hypnosis and the creation of anxieties and amnesia. The overall goal was to use psychological terror to get information from ‘resistant sources’. They also wanted to embarrass or discreetly assassinate political adversaries like Fidel Castro and 1960s domestic demonstrators. In 2006, it was disclosed that ‘toxic biological materials’ were slated to be used against the Prime Minister of the Congo in 1960.
In 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all files of MKUltra destroyed. When Congress began investigating MKUltra, the program’s head, Sidney Gottlieb (birth name Joseph Schneider), stated that he had ‘very little recollection’ of the activities of MKUltra.
In 1976, President Ford issued an executive order prohibiting the experimentation on humans without their written consent.
While it is the official position of the government that mind control programs have been discontinued, CIA veteran, Victor Marchetti has stated that not to be the case. Today, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) spends $2.8 billion a year on forward looking technologies that include psychological programs.
As one example, DARPA recently funded a program where scientists were able to transmit the thoughts of one rat in Brazil with one in the US so that the US rat mimicked the behaviors of the Brazilian rat. Previously, they had learned to operate the central nervous system of squids.
President Obama announced last week that government will begin mapping the human brain. While this may reap health benefits as it relates to Alzeimer’s, Parkinson’s and other brain illnesses, many are concerned by the participation of the Defense Department. As reported in Time Magazine, the Defense Department has DARPA working on ‘thought helmets’ that would harness brain waves for silent communications in the field. They also have Arizona State University working on transcranial pulsed ultrasound that would boost soldier alertness, relieve stress and block pain from injury while in combat. Many believe that past objectives which include controlling or confusing the minds of our adversaries continues to be an unstated goal of the Defense Department and CIA.
As we have seen, when those in power are left unchecked and unsupervised, the line between protection and the intrusion on personal freedoms sometimes blur.