- MK-ULTRA - The CIA's Mind Control Program
- Stephen Lendman
- MK-ULTRA was the code name for a secret CIA mind control program, begun
in 1953, under Director Allen Dulles. Its purpose was multifold, including to perfect a
truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War. It followed
earlier WW II hypnosis, primitive drugs research, and the US Navy's Project Chatter,
explained by its Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in response to a Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) request as follows:
- It began "in the fall of 1947 focusing on the identification and
testing of drugs (LSD and others) in interrogations and the recruitment of agents. The
research included laboratory experiments on both animal and human subjects. The program
ended shortly after the Korean War in 1953."
- It was run under the direction of Dr. Charles Savage of the Naval
Medical Research Institute, Bethesda, MD from 1947 - 1953, after which CIA's Office of
Scientific Intelligence continued it under the name Project Bluebird, its first mind
control program to:
- -- learn how to condition subjects to withstand information from being
extracted from them by known means;
- -- develop interrogation methods to exert control;
- -- develop memory enhancement techniques; and
- -- establish ways to prevent hostile control of Agency personnel.
- In 1951, it was renamed Project Artichoke, then MK-ULTRA under Deputy
CIA Director Richard Helms in 1953. It aimed to control human behavior through psychedelic
and hallucinogenic drugs, electroshock, radiation, graphology, paramilitary techniques,
and psychological/sociological/anthropological methods, among others - a vast open-field
of mind experimentation trying anything that might work, legal or otherwise on willing and
- Ongoing at different times were 149 sub-projects in 80 US and Canadian
universities, medical centers and three prisons, involving 185 researchers, 15 foundations
and numerous drug companies. Everything was top secret, and most records later destroyed,
yet FOIA suits salvaged thousands of pages with documented evidence of the horrific
experiments and their effects on human subjects.
- Most were unwitting guinea pigs, and those consenting were misinformed
of the dangers. James Stanley was a career soldier when given LSD in 1958 along with 1,000
other military "volunteers." They suffered hallucinations, memory loss,
incoherence, and severe personality changes. Stanley exhibited uncontrollable violence. It
destroyed his family, impeded his working ability, and he never knew why until the Army
asked him to participate in a follow-up study.
- He sued for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), his case
reaching the Supreme Court in United States v. Stanley. Argued and decided in 1987, the
Court dismissed his claim (5 - 4), ruling his injuries occurred during military service.
Justices Thurgood Marshall, William Brennan and Sandra Day O'Conner wrote dissenting
opinions, saying the Nuremberg Code applies to soldiers as well as civilians. In 1996,
Stanley got $400,000 in compensation, but no apology from the government.
- Perhaps MK-ULTRA's most publicized victim was Frank Olsen, a biochemist
working for the Army Chemical Corps' Special Operations Division at Ft. Detrick, MD. On
November 18, 1953, he was administered LSD. Immediately, he became agitated and severely
paranoid. Nine days later, he reportedly committed suicide by jumping 13 stories to his
death through a New York hotel's closed window. His family members didn't know he was
drugged until MK-ULTRA was exposed in 1975.
- President Gerald Ford apologized, granted a $750,000 settlement, but
Olson's son discovered documents suggesting his father was killed. In 1994, he exhumed the
body, had it forensically evaluated, and the conclusion was homicide based on a previously
undetected skull fracture suggesting a blow on the head and other disturbing evidence.
- Stanley Glickman was another MK-ULTRA tragedy, an unwitting victim of
hallucinogenic drugs and electroshock treatment. He became traumatized, couldn't work,
barely ate, suffered a psychological breakdown and never fully recovered. After learning
about the CIA's LSD experiments, he sued in 1983. The trial was delayed 16 years, he died,
but his sister Gloria Kronisch pursued the case.
- MK-ULTRA chief Stanley Gottleib was at issue, hired to run its Technical
Service Staff (TSS) to develop poisons to assassinate political opponents, truth serum
drugs for interrogating spies, and mind control techniques to create robot assassins or
unwitting double agents. He used Nazi scientists and their state of the art methods,
perfected on concentration camp victims. Some were known as programmers, skilled
professionals in the art of breaking down and controlling the human mind.
- Joseph Mengele did similar work, experimenting extensively with children
and adults using mescaline, electroshock therapy, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, torture,
rape, starvation, and trauma bonding. He was so successful with the latter technique that
survivors expressed strong affection for him.
- The CIA and US military copied the Nazi methodology through numerous
programs, including MK-ULTRA, MK being an abbreviation for words "mind control"
in German. According to obtained documents, it works best when severe trauma (such as
rape) occurs by age three, the result often causing the personality to split or dissociate
(called dissociative identity disorder or DID) to repress painful memories.
- Therapists can cause multiple personality disorder (MPD) by mind
manipulation, but early in life trauma makes victims especially vulnerable. Gottlieb
focused on LSD for mind control and exotic poisons and drugs for political assassinations.
- Under Operation Paperclip, 9,000 Nazi scientists and technicians were
recruited to help undermine the Soviet Union.
- In 1952, Gottlieb met Glickman in a Paris cafe, bought him a drink and
laced it with LSD. After finally being held to account, he became ill. The trial was
postponed, and on the eve of its resumption he died unexpectedly. At the time, New York
Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries reported that his family refused to disclose the
cause. The online WorldNet Daily explained it was after a "month-long bout with
pneumonia," saying that after being admitted to the University of Virginia Medical
Center, he lapsed into a coma, never recovered, but foul play couldn't be determined.
- At trial against his estate, the judge died of a heart attack while
exercising. The question again arose. Was it natural or was he killed, especially since
his replacement was prejudicial to the plaintiff having thrown out his case two years
earlier. Perhaps so after the jury ruled against Glickman's family, denying them justice.
- On December 22, 1974, Seymour Hersh exposed MK-ULTRA in a New York Times
article. Headlined, "Huge CIA Operation Reported in US Against Antiwar Forces, Other
Dissidents in Nixon Years," it documented illegal activities, including secret
experiments on US citizens during the 1960s and earlier. Church Committee Congressional
investigations followed, headed by Senator Frank Church, on abusive intelligence
practices, replaced by the Pike Committee five months later. The Rockefeller Commission,
under vice president Nelson Rockefeller, also examined the domestic activities of the CIA,
FBI, and military intelligence agencies.
- By summer 1975, it was learned that CIA and Department of Defense had
conducted illegal experiments on willing and unwitting subjects as part of an exhaustive
program to influence human behavior through psychoactive drugs (including LSD and
mescaline) and other chemical, biological, psychological, and other methods.
- Origins of CIA Mind Manipulation Practices
- CIA became interested in Montreal Dr. Ewen Cameron's work at McGill
University's Allan Memorial Institute. With full knowledge of the Canadian government, he
was funded to perform bizarre experiments on his psychiatric patients, including keeping
them asleep and isolated for weeks, then administering large doses of electroshock and
experimental drug cocktails, LSD and PCP angel dust among them.
- Though clearly unethical, Cameron believed by blasting the human brain
with an array of shocks, he could unmake impaired minds, rebuilding them with new
personalities cleansed of their previous state. It was voodoo science and failed, but CIA
gained a wealth of knowledge it's used to this day.
- In 1951, the Agency engaged McGill's director of psychology, Dr. Donald
Hebb, and others to conduct sensory-deprivation experiments on volunteer students. They
showed intense isolation disrupts clear thinking enough to make subjects receptive to
suggestion. They were also formidable interrogation techniques amounting to torture when
- These early experiments laid the foundation for CIA's two-stage torture
process - sensory deprivation followed by overload. University of Wisconsin historian
Alfred McCoy documented them in his book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation,
from the Cold War to the War on Terror," calling them "the first real revolution
in the cruel science of pain in more than three centuries."
- CIA developed and codified them in manuals, used extensively in
Southeast Asia, Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and at secret black sites
globally. McCoy referred to an offshore information extraction mini-gulag during the Cold
War and War on Terror. Out of sight, nothing is banned, including physical harshness and
psychologically crippling mind control methods that turn human beings into mush.
- MK-ULTRA was one of them, even though Gerald Ford's 1976 Executive Order
(EO 11905) "establish(ed) policies to improve the quality of intelligence needed for
national security (and) establish(ed) effective oversight to assure compliance with law in
the management and direction of intelligence agencies and departments of the national
- The EO prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human subjects,
except with their informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of
each such human subject," according to guidelines issued by the National Commission.
Subsequent Carter and Reagan directives banned all human experimentation. Nonetheless,
they continue, in violation of the Nuremberg Code that prohibits:
- -- medical experiments without the voluntary consent of human subjects -
"without coercion, fraud, deceit, and the full disclosure of known risks;"
- -- those "where there is an a priori reason to believe that death
or disabling injury will occur;" and
- -- only ones expected "to yield fruitful results for the good of
society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study...."
- Conducting human mind control experiments are clearly illegal and
unethical. They're more sophisticated than ever today, and claims that MK-ULTRA
experiments were halted in the 1970s were false. Renamed they continue and much more.
- America's Long History of Human Experimentation
- Prior examples include:
- -- In 1931, Dr. Cornelius Rhoads infected human subjects with cancer
cells under the auspices of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Investigations; Rhoads
later conducted radiation exposure experiments on American soldiers and civilian hospital
- -- In 1932, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study began on 200 black men; they're
weren't told of their illness, were denied treatment, and were used as human guinea pigs
to follow their disease symptoms and progression; they all subsequently died;
- -- in 1940, 400 Chicago prisoners were infected with malaria to study
the effects of new and experimental drugs;
- -- from 1942 - 1945, the US Navy used human subjects (locked in
chambers) to test gas masks and clothing;
- -- since the 1940s, human radiation experiments were conducted to test
its effects and determine how much can kill; unwitting subjects were used in prisons,
hospitals, orphanages, and mental institutions, including men, women, children, and the
unborn of all races, mostly people from lower socio-economic brackets; in addition, more
than 200,000 US soldiers were exposed to above ground nuclear tests; many later became ill
- -- in 1945, the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) implemented
"Program F," the most exhaustive American study of fluoride's health effects - a
key component in atomic bomb production and one of the most toxic chemicals known; it
causes marked adverse central nervous system effects; in the interest of national
security, the information was suppressed;
- -- in 1945, VA hospital patients became guinea pigs for medical
- -- in 1947, the AEC's Colonel EE Kirkpatrich issued secret document
#07075001, stating that the agency will begin administering intravenous doses of
radioactive substances to human subjects;
- -- in 1949, the US Army released biological agents in US cities to study
the effects of a real germ warfare attack; tests continued secretly through at least the
1960s in San Francisco, New York, Washington, DC, Panama City and Key West, FL, Minnesota,
other midwest locations, along the Pennsylvania turnpike and elsewhere;
- -- in 1950, the Defense Department (DOD) began open-air testing of
nuclear weapons in desert areas, then monitored downwind residents for medical problems
and mortality rates;
- -- in 1951, African-Americans were exposed to potentially fatal
stimulants as part of a race-specific fungal weapons test in Virginia;
- -- in 1953, DOD released zinc cadmium sulfide gas over Winnipeg, Canada,
St. Louis, Minneapolis, Fort Wayne, the Monocacy River Valley, MD, and Leesburg, VA - to
determine how efficiently chemical agents can be dispersed;
- -- in 1953, joint Army-Navy-CIA experiments were conducted in New York
and San Francisco, exposing tens of thousands of people to the airborne agents Serratia
marcescens and Bacillus glogigii;
- -- in 1955, the CIA released bacteria from the Army's Tampa, FL
biological warfare arsenal to test its ability to infect human populations;
- -- in 1956, the US military released mosquitoes infected with Yellow
Fever over Savannah, GA and Avon Park, FL to test the health effects on humans;
- -- in 1965, Homesburg State Prison, Philadelphia prisoners were
subjected to dioxin, the highly toxic Agent Orange agent, to study their carcinogenic
- -- in 1966, the New York subway system was used for a germ warfare
- -- in 1969, an apparent nerve agent killed thousands of sheep in Utah;
- -- in 1970, the Military Review reported that "ethnic weapons"
development was intensified to be able to target specific ethnic groups thought
susceptible to genetic differences and DNA variations;
- -- in 1976, Americans were warned about an earlier Swine Flu scare,
urging everyone to be vaccinated; millions complied, many of whom were harmed; 500
Guillan-Barre Syndrome (GBS - the deadly nerve disorder) resulted; people died from
respiratory failure after severe paralysis, and experts said the vaccine increased the GBS
risk level eight-fold;
- -- in 1985 and 1986, open-air biological agents testing was done in
- -- in 1990, over 1,500 six-month old Los Angeles black and hispanic
babies were given an experimental measles vaccine, never informing parents of the
- -- in 1990 and 1991 before deploying to the Persian Gulf, all US troops
were inoculated with experimental anthrax and botulinum toxoid vaccines, even though
concerns were raised about their adverse long-term effects; over 12,000 died and over 30%
became ill from non-combat-related factors in what subsequently was called Gulf War
Syndrome, the result of exposure to a variety of toxins;
- -- in 1994, Senator Jay Rockefeller issued a report revealing that for
the past 50 or more years, DOD used hundreds of thousands of US military personnel,
exposing them to dangerous substances experimentally; materials included mustard and nerve
gas, ionizing radiation, psychochemicals, hallucinogens, and other drugs;
- -- in 1995, Dr. Garth Nicolson discovered that toxic agents used during
the Gulf War were pre-tested on Texas Department of Corrections prisoners;
- -- in 1996, DOD admitted that Gulf War troops were exposed to chemical
- -- in 2009, experimental vaccines were again used to inoculate people
globally in response to another hyped Swine Flu scare; scattered reports of illnesses and
- MK-ULTRA Victim Maryam Ruhullah
- This writer will interview Ruhullah and Dr. James Randall Noblitt, a
licensed psychologist, on The Progressive Radio News Hour (on The Progressive Radio
Network), February 18 at 10AM US Central time to discuss MK-ULTRA, Ruhullah's experience
and Noblitt's work with survivors of extreme abuse and individuals afflicted with identity
dissociation. Noblitt is a Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology
and Chair of the International Society of Trauma and Dissociation Ritual Abuse/Mind
Control Interest Group.
- The program will be archived for later listening.
- As an MK-ULTRA victim, Ruhullah's memory was impaired and somewhat still
is because of what she experienced. She explained it as follows.
- In the early 1970s, she lived in Boston, MA, was married with a six-year
old son, and as a lawyer worked for a prestigious firm, its name she can't remember.
"One day, two federal agents came to (her) home unannounced," asking her to be a
federal witness against an alleged organized crime figure. For her safety, they explained,
she'd be placed in protective custody for a period not exceeding six months. She was asked
to leave her family and job immediately, and say nothing to her husband and employer.
- She "was forced to leave (her) home with the agents that day."
She got no choice, and "was treated more like a prisoner than a witness." She
couldn't use the phone or communicate with anyone, was transfered frequently, and held in
"very low budget places," during which time her life "became a succession
of abuses and exploitations."
- "To this day," she says, she doesn't know precisely "when
or why the government decided to use" her for MK-ULTRA experimentation, "but one
day (she) was a mother, wife, and attorney, then, (later) had no memory of (her)
- Having partly recovered it, she recalls "being given non-medically
necessary electro-shock treatments. This was done to create amnesia (to block her) core
personality and replac(e) it with" only need-to-know information.
- She remembers "that the shock treatment given (her) was so severe
and often that one day something happened and" she wasn't returned to her room. She
now speaks of "an unbelievable long list of horrid exploitations and inhumane
abuses" done to her.
- In the late 1980s, fragments of her memory returned. She sought
information on her case through an FOIA request, but was told no records were found. From
1992 - 1996, no one helped her until a member of B'nai Brith, Stephanie Suleiman, offered
to do so but needed a few weeks to complete other work.
- When Ruhullah recontacted her, she learned that "this thirty-two
year old mother of two died of a heart attack," very suspicious given her age.
- Ruhullah also explains that federal agents stopped communicating with
her. Her experiences were "totally removed from the public record," and she went
from "being a missing person to becoming a person erased." She's now divorced
and unable to contact her children and former friends. "The US government does not
want (her) story told."
- She adds that the "only way (she) can measure (her) length of time
held (is) by her son's age. (He) was six when (agents) entered (her) home, and he is (now)
in his late thirties." She considers herself to have been continuously separated from
her children, grandchildren, family, friends, assets, memories, and educated skills.
- She calls each day "an experience of being held against (her) will
while living in a vat of bureaucratic arrogance which refuses to acknowledge what was done
(made worse by stopping (her) from getting (her) life back." Each day she's
"being more injured and having more of (her) life robbed from" her.
- She says she "was not released from custody." After being used
for medical experiments, she was "given an implanted false identity, then left
penniless and without proof of (her) true identity or lineage." She still considers
herself a prisoner, a body with no persona, with little knowledge of her former self,
stripped of everything important in her life.
- MK-ULTRA and Ruhullah's story will be featured on the Progressive Radio
News Hour on February 18 at 10AM US Central time on The Progressive Radio Network. Listen
live or later through archives.
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on
Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the
Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday - Friday and The Progressive Radio
News Hour Thursdays and weekends for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on
world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. (2.16.2010)