The only operationally realistic way to test drugs and the manipulation of behavior was to experiment on involuntary human research subjects, veteran CIA man and former director Richard Helms explained in 1963 (see Church Committee Reports, Book I, Testing and Use of Chemicals and Biological Agents by the Intelligence Community). Warning the subject in advance, it was decided by key personnel, provided false results, no matter how competently and otherwise realistically the research may have been conducted.
|Former Director of Central Intelligence |
The Inspector General objected, citing experiments which had resulted in physical and mental illness. “Attendant economic loss,” the Inspector General pointed out, “are inherent contingent effects of the testing.”
Helms remarkably countered that the Clandestine Services had been conducting a mission of “maintaining a capability for influencing human behavior.” The use of unwitting research subjects was a necessity, and, that being the case, Helms added, “there is only the question of how best to do it.”
Prior to Helms' comments on the record and in a move that would later prove to be among the most widely criticized of the entire MKULTRA scheme, the CIA employed a contact, George White of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to operate a brothel. In 1953 White set up shop in adjacent apartments located in New York's Greenwich Village. He employed members of the world's oldest profession to assist him and the CIA in executing MKULTRA Subproject 3, which also became known as Operation Midnight Climax.
Agency personnel, such as Helms and MKULTRA project director Sid Gottlieb, reasoned that the venture, which included paying prostitutes to lure unsuspecting clients to the apartments, provided a steady stream of unwitting research subjects. It was considered particularly advantageous that the subjects could not easily be linked to the CIA. Also considered beneficial was the lack of probability they would ever report anything they might recall took place, and they would be low in credibility even if they ever complained to anyone.
|MKULTRA project director |
Dr. Sidney Gottlieb
Helms and Gottlieb were indeed confident the subproject provided at least a partial solution to trying out their schemes on the truly unwitting, while simultaneously navigating challenges inherent to securing and later discarding involuntary research subjects. The operation went about testing drugs, methods of covertly administering those drugs, surveillance equipment, a variety of spy gadgets, behavior manipulation (including its relations to sexual activity), combinations thereof, and, in all likelihood, a whole lot of other things that were never disclosed.
It was interestingly neither the concept nor questionable project personnel in themselves that resulted in the eventual criticism, but the methodology. The subproject was destined to be highly criticized, at least in part, due to its lack of scientific merit.
There commonly were no professional medical staff present, leaving unqualified personnel – a narcotics agent with a drinking problem and hookers - to conduct experiments and make observations. Additionally, the research subjects were not medically screened beforehand, and follow up observations were typically either not conducted, not documented and/or done from guarded points of view.
CIA key personnel obtained virtually no research data other than what literally took place during the time the subjects were present. That not only further jeopardized the health and well being of the subjects, but rendered the experiments nearly useless from a scientific perspective. Perhaps, as Helms later suggested, the development of operational practicality was held in much higher regard than anything else.
Nonetheless and for whatever reasons, the minds behind the operation valued it to the extent of expanding upon it, including opening a location in San Francisco and another across the bay in Marin County. The experiments were conducted, albeit with occasional battles over ethics and practicality, for the duration of Project MKULTRA. Even after the official closing of MKULTRA in 1964, George White and his adventures continued to be funded under its successor, Project MKSEARCH, specifically Subproject 4.
For further information about White and the CIA safehouses located in New York and San Francisco, see MKULTRA Subprojects 14, 16, 42 and 149, as well as the 1977 Washington Post article, The Gang That Couldn't Spray Straight. Readers might also find the more recent SF Weekly article from May of 2012 of interest, Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens With LSD.
According to John Marks in The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, George White eventually wrote to Sid Gottlieb, "I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steak rape, and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?"
|Dr. Maitland Baldwin|
Given the prevailing mindsets among those in the American spy organization, it was only a matter of time until someone, in one subproject or another, would try to quantify just how far they would go with conducting research on the unwitting. The answer can be found in what is known of work conducted by such consultants as Dr. Ewen Cameron of McGill University and Dr. Maitland Baldwin of the US National Institutes of Health. Both men demonstrated a willingness to take their work to the limit in what were labeled “terminal type” experiments, or research resulting in the loss of human life.
Each man took an interest in sensory deprivation, including experiments in which research subjects were placed in a small room or large box. The subjects were deprived of sensory input, having their eyes covered and their ears were either muffed or exposed to monotonous sounds. Padding prevented touching and no odors were present.
Maitland Baldwin operated within MKULTRA Subproject 62. In 1955 he left an Army so-called volunteer in a box for over 40 hours, at which time the soldier hysterically kicked his way out. Baldwin later reported to CIA man Morse Allen that leaving someone in the box over six days would almost certainly cause irreparable damage. According to a report written by Allen, Baldwin nonetheless agreed he would conduct such experiments, including the terminal type, if the Agency would provide the cover and the subjects.
The work was reportedly axed by an Agency medical doctor, but perhaps it is worthy of mention that, as was the case with George White and his CIA-backed brothels, Maitland Baldwin later received funding within MKSEARCH, the successor to MKULTRA. The brain surgeon's continued research of behavior modification within MKSEARCH Subproject 1 reportedly included experiments involving sensory deprivation, radio frequency energy, an attempt to cut off a monkey's head and attach it to the decapitated body of another monkey, and work conducted at a CIA safehouse, the details of which were unspecified but involved $1450 worth of renovations.
|Allan Memorial Institute|
Dr. Ewen Cameron, unlike Baldwin and White, did not require either the Agency or prostitutes to provide him with research subjects, as he already had a supply of his own. As director of the Allan Memorial Institute, a hospital funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and located at McGill University, the prominent and respected psychiatrist eagerly conducted experiments upon those in need of mental health treatment.
Cameron began receiving CIA funds in 1957 through the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, conducting research pertaining to brainwashing and mind control. His work within MKULTRA Subproject 68 included sensory deprivation, the induction of paralysis, administration of experimental drugs, electroshock and a procedure termed “psychic driving.”
Basically, the doctor believed he could wipe a subject's mind of prior conditioning and reprogram it as desired, somewhat like deleting the contents of a file on a word processor and rewriting it. Apparently unconcerned about consequences and in the pursuit of validating his hypotheses, Cameron once documented leaving a woman in the sensory deprivation box for 35 consecutive days. Some researchers feel it is potentially significant that Cameron conducted his work and was employed until 1964 at McGill University in Montreal, the city which was the destination of the Hills during their fateful journey of 1961.
BLUEBIRD project director Morse Allen is credited with being the Agency's first behavioral research czar. Well versed in the spy trade, the Navy intelligence man was known for looking beneath surface realities and having a fascination for hypnosis. He was also among those who supported the use of terminal type experiments.
Allen later became known among researchers of many interests for his role in a now declassified 1954 experiment involving hypnosis and a simulated murder. To summarize, a woman was hypnotized and ordered to shoot another woman with a pistol, which she demonstrated a willingness to do and while completely unaware the gun was not loaded. Perhaps equally of interest, the experimenters apparently successfully induced amnesia in the hypnotized 'shooter,' as it was documented that she later had no recall of the event.
It could be considered understandable why some researchers review such circumstances in the contexts of grand conspiracies, particularly if we consider another 1954 scheme reported by Marks and devised by Allen for ARTICHOKE. Allen wanted to capture an involuntary and unwitting subject from a social event, utilize the Agency's behavior modification methods and lead the subject to conduct an assassination attempt.
As intriguing as it was strange, successful completion of the proposed act, or assassination, was considered inconsequential to the overall project; operationally executing the chain of events was the objective. It should be noted that no more concern was expressed for what might become of the assassin - whom it was assumed would be arrested and “disposed of” - than was expressed for the potentially assassinated.
The operation reportedly never took place, but that did not weaken Allen's ambition. He tried to persuade the powers that be to support his desire for prolonged access to research subjects, as opposed to the shorter term opportunities of which he became accustomed. Allen warned that Manchurian Candidates were at risk of gradually becoming aware of otherwise unknown programming and activities, particularly during dream states, at which time information might leak from one persona to another. He therefore wanted to extensively work with subjects, putting them through rigorous conditioning and testing in attempts to remedy such challenges.
Morse Allen coined the phrase “terminal experiments” in 1954 while lobbying the CIA to approve a project that teetered between brilliance and insanity. The challenge, it was identified, involved confidently learning how well the Manchurian Candidate would hold up under hostile interrogation. Would they crack? Could they crack, even if they wanted? What would happen if they were interrogated by opposing skilled hypnotists?
To address such concerns, Allen proposed an operation in which a research subject would be hypnotically conditioned as a spy, unaware of his orders and dispatched to a friendly nation to conduct his mission. The CIA would then 'tip' intelligence officials in the allied nation that a spy was suspected to be in its midst, leading to the arrest of the subject. This, it was reasoned, would allow the Agency the benefit of full access to the subsequent interrogation conducted by unassuming, yet quite vested, third parties. CIA observers would then have the opportunity to watch the behavior of both the Manchurian Candidate and the interrogators, up to what was reasonably assumed might include the torture and death of the research subject.
It is unclear if the operation was ever conducted. Morse Allen's research within BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE, and under Director Allen Dulles, who thoroughly subscribed to developing a Manchurian Candidate, was later turned over to Sid Gottlieb. MKULTRA was born, including the induction of amnesia, administration of implants and testing of effects of electronic frequencies, along with several more circumstances which supplied researchers with a great deal to consider in the context of alleged alien abduction.
Operating on the edge of madness
It would seem obvious enough that if the Agency was never involved in the production or circulation of alien story lines, it would not have been due to shying away from extreme ideas. Suffice it to say that if the likes of Baldwin, Cameron, Allen and Gottlieb left no one in their paths thinking themselves abducted by aliens, it was due in no part whatsoever to any concerns about doing so.
From Aztec priests and a quest for God's flesh to American men and their quest for women, CIA directors and project managers admittedly checked under every rock while trying to develop mind control techniques. The boundaries of reasonable behavior were briefly contemplated, considered to be limitations observed only by the weak and surpassed amid rationalizations the Russians would get us if we didn't get them first. From about 1947 to at least 1972, the CIA conducted a no holds barred attempt to control the human mind.
We are simply left to wonder what circumstances occurred that remain unknown to the public. John Marks later wrote that he believed skeletons were hidden – literally. We may never fully know what effects the CIA initiative may have had on those in its wake, or if any self-described alien abductees resulted from attempts to create Manchurian Candidates.
I find the following Marks description of his interactions with self-described mind control victims to be very reminiscent of dynamics typically found among self-described alien abductees, bringing to mind the extent the two demographics often seem virtually interchangeable:
....................................................................................................................While I was doing the research for this book, many people approached me claiming to be victims of CIA drugging plots. Although I listened carefully to all and realized that some might be authentic victims, I had no way of distinguishing between someone acting strangely and someone made to act strangely. Perhaps the most insidious aspect of this whole technique is that anyone blaming his aberrant behavior on a drug or on the CIA gets labeled a hopeless paranoid and his case is thrown into the crank file. There is no better cover than operating on the edge of madness.
The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Part One of Two