Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Army Cold War Chemical Research Report

"I recommended, and my boss agreed, to destroy all of the individual records of the evaluations because things occurred during the interrogation situation, while they were under the drug, that could have been taken out of context later and used against them in an adverse manner, and so to protect the individuals who were involuntarily reacting to these situations, I destroyed the individual records involved."
- Testimony of Col. Lawrence W. Jackley 

A declassified 1976 Army Inspector General report, Use of Volunteers in Chemical Agent Research, was recently posted by governmentattic.org. The 264-page document chronicles some 25 years of Army chemical research, development, and testing on humans. Composed in the wake of 1970's Congressional inquiries and hearings, points of interest in the report include:

  • From 1950 to 1975 the Army studied approximately 34,500 chemical compounds, with 32 agents, including hallucinogens such as LSD, selected for clinical testing on volunteers. 
  • The scope of the operations included the Army Medical Research Laboratory, which in 1954 employed 32 college-educated officers, 130 enlisted scientific and professional personnel, and 117 civilian workers educated at Harvard, Stanford, Duke and other leading universities.
  • The Army supplied personnel for a secret Special Purpose Team which conducted field tests on global "nonvolunteers." Aspects of the operation took place on a strict needs to know basis and "was clear from the outset to the conclusion the project violated Department of Defense and Department of the Army policies and procedures for conduct of chemical/medical research." 
  • Although most American military test participants were termed "volunteers," the report concluded coercion occurred, with one psychiatrist at Fort McClellan, 1959-1961, stating servicemen who declined to submit to experiments were sent to him for evaluation as to why they chose not to take LSD.
  • While defending its integrity and competence, the Army nonetheless acknowledged records were lost or nonexistent in some cases, protocols were subject to wide interpretation, and the chain of command was not always sought to approve test conditions as required. Informed consent was clearly not obtained from all test subjects, and in some instances women and members of other demographics prohibited from screening were used anyway.
  • A soldier accused of removing classified documents was never charged after "prolonged interrogations" conducted by the Special Purpose Team included hypnosis and administration of LSD. A decision not to court martial was reached for reasons including the desire to uphold secrecy surrounding the activities of the team, "the soldier's recollections of the 'bizarre methods' employed" by the group, and the unanimous opinion of consulting psychiatrists the man had severe psychiatric disorders. He was issued a General Discharge in 1961. 
  • In 1958 tests conducted on members of the 7th Special Forces Group included monitoring the soldiers as they attempted to resist interrogation after having been clandestinely administered hallucinogens. The project officer, Col. Lawrence W. Jackley, testified in 1975 there was so much variance in reaction the exercise was useless. He and his boss made the decision to destroy all of the records, Jackley stated, because "things occurred" during interrogation and he wanted "to protect the individuals who were reacting involuntarily to these situations."

Historical Context

"An English calvaryman and his horse
ride through a gas attack wearing protective masks
and body cover, 1934," according to History in Pictures
A history of chemical testing is summarized in the report, touching on chemical warfare long predating the 1950-1975 era primarily explored. The Army offers explanations and justifications for its long term testing of chemical compounds for use on humans. Some of the dynamics and perspectives expressed will be recognized by those familiar with such Cold War operations. 

Particular emphasis is given to the importance of Russian advances in the field. Historians and researchers will correlate the reference with American justifications for behavior modification, or mind control, projects. Works such as The Search for the Manchurian Candidate by John Marks documented at length how U.S. officials blamed Russian research efforts for the need to conduct such operations as MKULTRA, justifiably or otherwise. Marks notably quoted a CIA officer, who wrote of the project in a memo to his boss, "If this is supposed to be covered up as a defensive feasibility study, it's pretty damn transparent."

Interestingly, the Army IG took the justification a bit further than simply blaming states hostile to U.S. interests, and suggested the Army was placed in a no-win situation by the American press: The media, the IG argued, covered and repeatedly emphasized the Russian threat of chemical warfare to such an extent the Army was criticized for not taking strong enough defensive action and later criticized for action it took. It's actually a rather well presented point - and would carry even greater weight - were it not for the things we now know can be read between the lines of the IG report, talented as its authors may have been. 


It should be emphasized, as was the case in the report, the material covered is not intended to address ventures by the CIA such as MKULTRA, Department of Defense operations such as Project 112, or other biological and chemical weapons testing involving humans outside the direct responsibility of the Army. The subject matter nonetheless overlaps. The report acknowledges it was a massive undertaking to attempt to effectively summarize the 25 years of circumstances, and clarifies it was simply not possible to obtain documentation where records were missing or admittedly destroyed. The IG stated license was taken at times to attempt to fill in the gaps. 

The report documents assembly of a Special Purpose Team, the existence and activities of which correlate with research published by Hank P. Albarelli, Jr. and Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, and considered in my book, The Greys Have Been Framed. The team conducted missions into the 1960's consisting of field experimentation later denounced by the IG, including plans to subject Vietnamese prisoners of war to chemical experiments. The report states no evidence was obtained to indicate the mission was carried out. Nonetheless, plenty of documentation is provided of related activities undertaken by the group and its questionable, yet unnamed, personnel and their international assignments. For several reasons I'm not entirely confident evidence of the Vietnamese mission would have surfaced even if it existed.

"The opinion of witnesses [which were Special Purpose Team members] as to why the project was aborted varied," the report states. "In fact, no two offered the same reason..."

Concerning another project executed by the Special Purpose Team, the report explained, "Arrangements were made with the intelligence staff members [redacted] to provide orientals of various nationalities for use in LSD experiments."

Research conducted on U.S. servicemen included a scheme to assemble, drug, and interrogate subjects at a cocktail party-like event. Those familiar with related declassified material will recognize the correlation to a plan hatched by CIA behavioral research czar Morse Allen, who envisioned snatching an unsuspecting individual from a social event and programming them via drugs and hypnosis to conduct an assassination. A few variations of the objective of Allen's proposal existed, including prioritizing the implementation itself, as compared to whether or not the kill was actually carried out (see The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, page 138).

Sid Gottlieb and attorney, circa 1977
Quickly coming to mind might also be MKULTRA Project Director Sidney Gottlieb's ill conceived act of covertly drugging members of the Army Chemical Corps Special Operations Division during a 1953 working retreat. Among the targeted were scientist Frank Olson, who died the next week following a now infamous fall from a Manhattan hotel room window. There was no mention of the circumstances in the IG report, although aspects of the chemical divisions were of course referenced repeatedly.

It is noteworthy The Black Vault obtained and posted an FBI file on Sidney Gottlieb. It indicates in 1975 the Bureau wanted to interview the CIA man concerning the destruction of records. It appears after exchanges between the FBI and Gottlieb's attorney the interview never took place. I find the FBI file of historical significance, including its copy of a 1975 WaPo article referencing such CIA records destruction.

Experiments on the 7th Special Forces Group covered in the Army IG file included dosing the soldiers with LSD while they were assigned guard duty and instructed to deny entry to an area by anyone not having a special pass. "Penetration of the guard post was accomplished easily," the report stated.

Research in question took place in some circumstances in direct violation of clear orders to refrain from conducting involuntary testing. The chain of command was persistently ignored, be it by design, due to drug-induced dysfunction or combinations thereof. We see templates of the same schemes arising again and again over the years and from one operation and declassified document to another. Sensory deprivation, interrogation techniques, airborne compounds rendering military units disoriented, and similar themes come up repeatedly. In my opinion, this suggests a majority of researchers were unaware of the classified activities of other departments, while better informed agency directors and key personnel attempted to tweak concepts now seen repeatedly surfacing in what were widely conducted, ongoing experiments. The circumstances also lend support to the long held criticism that similar "research" activities were conducted across blurring project lines in attempts to skirt accountability. And sometimes personnel were just stoned.  


Despite worthy efforts by the Army to frame its activities as professional, organized and systematic, the disarray is evident. While it is not denied in some instances, it's not directly addressed in others. Among them are the testimonies cited of Dr. Van Murray Sim.

Sim, as history now shows us, was a mess. He's one of the guys, readers will recall, who dropped acid and partook in other substance abuse while drugging and supposedly monitoring volunteers at Edgewood Arsenal. He was also appointed by the Secretary of the Army as physician responsible for volunteers in chemical warfare research. Twice. The Army IG report fails to detail Dr. Sim's less respectable activities.

Nonetheless, I found the report to be an important read. It's historical context is relevant. Dozens of institutions and thousands of volunteers are referenced as taking part in Army chemical testing, and the report contains a wealth of information for potential future FOIA requests. I find it intriguing to note ways certain circumstances are glossed over or omitted from mention of which researchers are now aware. 

While some chemical testing projects spiraled into dysfunction (one unit was cited in which LSD "demonstrations" became part of orientation exercises, later nixed by Army brass due to the fact the practice had nothing whatsoever to do with actual research protocols), we should not allow the semi-comical stories to overshadow the truly disturbing circumstances. A realistic analysis of research into chemical warfare and behavior modification conducted by the American intelligence community includes, in my opinion, acknowledging that ineptitude and competence were both involved. The combination of competence and circumstances of potentially relevant yet currently unpublished details may quite possibly be a primary reason so much of the material was intentionally destroyed and/or remains classified.

For instance, Dr. Kaye recently explained how his 2016 FOIA request was denied for the 1957 CIA Inspector General report on operations of the Technical Services Division, which included Project MKULTRA, behavioral research and related activities. That's 60 years now that docs are still withheld. Kaye indicated the CIA responded the request was denied for reasons including the report contained information about "the identity of a confidential human source or a human intelligence source; or... key design concepts of weapons of mass destruction."

I think it's more than evident from the declassified material that a much different scenario emerges of the intelligence community than is contained in the popular narrative. We simply have no way of knowing what else would be revealed by the docs that remain classified. I have my doubts we'll ever fully know, or that we can completely trust the integrity of the declassification process, but I hold out hope we'll continue to obtain increasingly clear pictures.


  1. I am shocked that the 17 Intelligence agencies could not come up with anything better than this
    considering their collective credibility is on the line and what we know from the Aviary and Jtrig and that they are about to be re shuffled and some of the stuff described here exposed. I am sure they have shredded any evidence as they disappeared several gigabytes of data on the Torture program. What would be truly frightening that they did all this knowing results and did it because there really are socio paths in these positions that actually enjoy doing this under the thin veneer of science exploration. I wonder what they got from Sadams program..which was systemic and who wrote a book with the best procedures for torture.
    I know you have been watching the last airport incident..penny for your thoughts :)

  2. By now you are prob buried in this stuff their latest release

    Truth be told..I'm give out

    1. Like you, manuel, I'm having trouble getting fired up about the latest publication. If I understand correctly, it's not declassification but accessibility: already declassified docs were made available online. I'm finding a few things of interest, but I'd much rather the PTB simply address my still-pending FOIA requests. I've got a couple more in mind, as well, and initial searches through the CREST don't offer any related info.

  3. “Particular emphasis is given to the importance of Russian advances in the field. Historians and researchers will correlate the reference with American justifications for behavior modification, or mind control, projects.”

    “Interestingly, the Army IG took the justification a bit further than simply blaming states hostile to U.S. interests, and suggested the Army was placed in a no-win situation by the American press: The media, the IG argued, covered and repeatedly emphasized the Russian threat of chemical warfare to such an extent the Army was criticized for not taking strong enough defensive action and later criticized for action it took.”

    Russia initially beat the US in the space by launching Sputnik. Brainwashing was painted in popular magazines like the New Yorker as a “psychological Sputnik” that could create Manchurian candidates out of otherwise loyal Americans. It was a putative technology that conveniently explained false confessions given by American POWs in the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

    The US Army assigned several researchers to study American POWs and nationals in various prison camps. Robert Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism and Edgar Schein’s Coercive Persuasion are two important published products of this early research effort. Lifton and Schein found that social psychological, social structural and ideological manipulation strategies were crucial parts of the “brainwashing” process popularly attributed to some new, secret Russian technology. Whereas brainwashing was generally the sudden result of some chemical or medical means, thought reform was slower and required more than captivity as a social structure to be successful.

    Albert Biderman, another military researcher, went into more detail about what American soldiers actually underwent compared to how their experience was portrayed by journalists like Eugene Kinkead, who wrote the New Yorker piece about weak-willed American POWs. If memory serves, Biderman considered ‘brainwashing’ to be a simplistic notion put forward by Kinkead, an OSS operative, for the political comfort of the effete New Yorker readership or possibly under other direction.

    But brainwashing definitely took hold as an explanation separate from and vitiating against more complex, nuanced social and psychological models of situations of extreme coercion. From its get-go in the 1950s, the notion of brainwashing as some advanced Russian/communist/alien technology was supposed to be the real danger for those who didn’t face real danger. Meanwhile, American POWs and nationals in prison camps in China, Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere were undergoing politically expedient human rights atrocities that went unrecognized because they didn’t have a politically hip label. Even today in the US we think of mind control as being aimed at the individual and involving technology, discounting the role of social affiliations and psychological dynamics.

    1. Hey, Sue, and thanks for the references! Much appreciated.

      You wrote, "Even today in the US we think of mind control as being aimed at the individual and involving technology, discounting the role of social affiliations and psychological dynamics."

      Where to begin, huh?! It takes all of about two minutes trying to discuss varying perspectives with an overly opinionated individual in order to observe the unflinching power of peer pressure and conditioned behavior.

      Roger Tolces, an LA-based private detective and electronics countermeasures expert, once said something to the effect the greatest mind control device ever invented was the television. I think the pen will always be mightier than the sword because it's so much less feared and less understood.

      That's a salient point you made, Sue. Cheers.