Monday, April 29, 2013

The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Part One of Two

"Instead of turning to tough cops, whose methods repelled American sensibilities, or the gurus of mass motivation, whose ideology Americans lacked, the Agency's brainwashing experts gravitated to people more in the mold of the brilliant - and sometimes mad - scientist, obsessed by the wonders of the brain."

John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
During the early 1950's, the Central Intelligence Agency allocated significant resources to furthering its understandings of chemical and biological weapons. Projects MKDELTA and MKNAOMI explored such applications, including the production of germ weapons. The projects culminated, along with such behavior modification operations as BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE, into MKULTRA in 1953.

Controversial alleged
contactee Howard Menger
Nick Redfern and the late Philip Coppens are among the researchers who explored the possibilities that so called alien contactees may have been related to such psychological operations. There is reasonable evidence suggesting at least some of the higher profile contactees were significantly involved with – if not acting directly on behalf of - the CIA while publicly narrating their elaborate tales of interplanetary diplomacy. Much has also been made of the case of Antonio Vila Boas and its possible origins in quite terrestrial chemical and behavioral covert research.

Whether or not such theories are entirely accurate, exploring what is known of intelligence operations of the era provides insight into the related possibilities. A review of CIA activities reveals that if the 'company' was not conducting experiments involving the manufacture of alien story lines, it would certainly not have been due to a lack of willingness to try such things on for size. The Agency was neck deep in seemingly every other unconventional weapons and intelligence concept its personnel could conceive.

The 20th century Central Intelligence Agency prioritized interests in hallucinogens, esoteric subject matter and mind control. One questionable idea and subsequent compromise at a time, it evolved to not only rationalize invasive experiments on involuntary human research subjects, but its leaders managed to conclude how and why it made sense for them to slip one another LSD without warning. Key personnel at the CIA were tripping, and when they weren't getting killed, as in the case of Frank Olson, they were developing the following brainchildren.

The quest for God's flesh

When American spies and their researchers first embarked upon using hallucinogens as a tool, the 'magical' properties of mushrooms were little more than myth, at least in the States. Committed to leaving no stone unturned, the Agency dispatched a scout to Mexico to learn more about such substances. The young CIA man returned with various materials and substances, as well as tales of extremely potent mushrooms which Aztec priests called teonanactl, or God's flesh.

In 1953 the Agency consulted with mushroom growers of Pennsylvania on its way to recruiting Dr. James Moore, a Detroit chemist entrusted with the classified operation. Moore would later tell John Marks, published in Marks' 1979 work, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, "If I had thought I was participating in a scheme run by a small band of mad individuals, I would have demurred."

Nonetheless, the quest for God's flesh, also known as MKULTRA Subproject 58, was financed through a grant provided by the Geshickter Fund, a nonprofit foundation acting as an undercover extension of the Agency, and Moore was soon on his way from Michigan to Mexico. He and some fellow travelers located and sampled the coveted mushrooms in a remote jungle, and before long Moore delivered a stash to his silent employer.

One of the roughly 190 types of
mushrooms containing psilocybin.
The active property of the fungus was eventually isolated, chemically reproduced and called psilocybin. Its fascinating qualities continue today to intellectually seduce and peak the interests of inquisitive professional researchers.

Within a few short years of its discovery by the CIA, psilocybin was being extensively tested, along with numerous other drugs, under the direction of Dr. Harris Isbell at the Addiction Research Center in Louisville, Kentucky (see MKULTRA document #151875, Comparison of the Reactions Induced by Psilocybin and LSD-25 in Man by Harris Isbell, which was also a 1959 published paper). Isbell was fascinated with the effects hallucinogens and various chemicals had on inmates, a literally captive group of subjects. A most eager and cooperative project manager, Isbell documented how at one point he kept seven inmates on LSD for a mind scorching 77 days straight.

Isbell administered psilocybin to exploited incarcerated subjects who reported experiencing anxiety and fear that something evil was about to happen. They also described perceptions of fantastic visions, including trips to the moon. Some subjects, Isbell wrote, reported thinking the experiences were caused by the experimenters controlling their minds.


While no conclusive evidence has been presented to date that the Agency was responsible for any specific reports of alien abduction, nowhere do we find the cultures of the intelligence community and ufology to mirror one another more than in their explorations and uses of hypnosis. The resemblance is profound, actually, it has been for a long time now, and differentiating between the two communities at times becomes difficult, if even possible.

Hypnosis was extensively explored within MKULTRA Subproject 84, in which John Marks identified Boston psychologist and hypnosis expert Dr. Martin Orne as the lead researcher. A long time consultant for the Agency, the Austrian born Orne conducted research for the CIA at Harvard and his Institute for Experimental Psychiatry. The work was funded through grants provided by the Human Ecology Society and the Scientific Engineering Institute, both of which acted as fronts for the distribution of CIA funds.

MKULTRA document #17486_0001 stated Subproject 84 was designed “to study the nature of the hypnosis process as it may relate to induction of a changed motivational state,” while document #17486_0023 indicated that “an investigation of socially induced special states of consciousness” was prioritized and conducted. A May, 1960 memo (doc #17486_0040) qualified that hypnosis was “an area of direct use to the Sponsor,” or CIA, and was continually suggested “as the panacea to all the Sponsor's problems and needs to be examined exhaustively.”

Additional documents, such as a 1954 memo (doc #147025), explained manners a subject could be hypnotically led to carry out certain activities and have no recollection of doing so. The memo went on to describe (doc #147025_0004) what was termed the “quite practical” administration of split personality through hypnotism.

Orne's work and Subproject 84 were funded by the CIA during the first half of the 1960's. Alien abduction aficionados will easily recognize the time frame as that of the Hill era. A Subproject 84 report, viewable in doc #17486_0041, stated that the "essence of hypnosis" was believed to be "uniquely related to a variety of psychological experiences, such as mystical experiences, sensory deprivation effects, placebo effects, and, of course, hypnosis.”

The report went on to state (doc #17486_0042) that “a major investigation was undertaken on the suppression of pain by hypnosis.” Three major findings were said to have emerged, including circumstances in which “subjects showed far less signs of stress in this experimental situation than in other experiments at [redacted] using comparable amounts of electric shock.” It was declared that a very interesting point would be to determine “whether hypnosis as a process or state protects the individual experiencing intense anxiety or whether the hypnotic situation, regardless of the subjective experience, serves this function.”

Hypnosis and many drugs, including hallucinogens, were combined and the effects were studied at length. Pilot studies were undertaken that included the administration of direct suggestions to subjects.

The referenced report further stated “a rigorous study of the phenomenon” took place. Such rigorous study included a year-and-a-half long (and at the time continuing) investigation into what was labeled “the trance phenomena,” which the Agency identified as occurring among people attending Pentecostal churches. Considerable observational data was claimed to be in hand and in the process of being analyzed, which included comparisons between the personal experiences reported by Pentecostal church members and those described by what were termed “good hypnotic subjects.”

Former president of the American Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis Milton Kline acted as a consultant during such CIA studies. The New York psychologist agreed to speak with Marks.

Kline stated that he thought some research subjects could be directed by experienced hypnotists to execute specific Manchurian Candidate types of behavior and as described in referenced document #147025. He and other qualified consultants also stated that a lack of recollection of the related circumstances, or amnesia, could most certainly be hypnotically induced some of the time. Kline confidently claimed to Marks that he could create a patsy in three months and an assassin in six.

The much discussed Hill incident took place in 1961. According to Stanton Friedman in his book, Captured!: The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, US Air Force Captain Ben Swett gave a public lecture on hypnosis attended by the Hills on September 7, 1963. The venue was the Unitarian Church of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and afterward the captain referred the couple to Dr. Benjamin Simon, a Boston psychiatrist. Simon taught at Harvard, was a hypnotist and conducted the Hill's now famous hypnosis sessions of 1964.

Betty and Barney Hill
Many are confident the most likely explanation for the Hill case, given the lack of conclusive evidence, is that the couple was simply confused, ultimately resulting in the epic – even if largely inaccurate – popular legend. If, however, we are willing to suspend judgment and entertain some less conventional possibilities, it is not difficult to understand why some researchers suspect that, rather than alien abduction, the Hills may have been the target of covert research. After all, we now know the CIA prioritized and funded exhaustive examination of hypnosis during the specific time the couple was encouraged to be hypnotized.

We also know the Hills were introduced to hypnosis by an Air Force captain while curiously lecturing on the topic at a church, just as described to be of interest to the Agency in the MKULTRA documents. Additionally, the couple was referred to a hypnotist who not only shared the same city, Boston, as MKULTRA Subproject 84 lead researcher Martin Orne, but also shared Orne's employer, Harvard, for a time, where CIA-sponsored drug, hypnosis and mind control research was taking place. It is understandable why some researchers would find such circumstances of interest, particularly as compared to otherworldly explanations.

Such circumstances might indeed deserve their fair share of attention, or at the least should not be completely omitted from discussion of the Hill saga as is typically the case. If nothing more, it would appear that, based on the actions of Captain Swett and Dr. Simon, the Agency significantly influenced the prevailing military interests and psychiatric practices of the era, whether or not the influence was intentional.

It is also reasonably clear that, during the early 1960's and in the circumstances of hypnosis and the Hills, the interests and experimental methods of interrogation practiced by the Agency became virtually indistinguishable from activities undertaken by individuals researching alleged UFO-related circumstances, for whatever reasons. While such blurring of roles and objectives may have initially been somewhat limited to Boston social circles traveled by Air Force captains, the dynamics spread and rather inexplicably continue today to be staples among numerous researchers of alleged alien abduction. This is of course in complete contradiction to well established fact that hypnosis is not a reliable memory retrieval tool.

Orne published segments of his work and went on to sit on the board of directors of the controversial False Memory Syndrome Foundation. He was featured in an article written by Dr. Patricia Greenfield, the sister of John Marks, appearing in the December 1977 edition of the American Psychological Association Monitor. Commenting on medical professionals acting as MKULTRA consultants and the search for the Manchurian Candidate, Orne told Greenfield, “We are sufficiently ineffective so that our findings can be published.”


The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate, Part Two of Two

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Posts on Disclosure

The Citizen Hearing on Disclosure is inching ever closer. Meanwhile, related tensions are running high in the UFO community, as may be viewed in the comments and articles over at Orlando Paranormal Examiner.

Readers might find of interest my general assessment of the disclosure concept in Why official UFO disclosure impractical. That was followed up with some articles containing remarks from Steve Bassett, the guy heading up the mock hearing to be made into a movie, including Bassett: Former members of Congress compensated and terms are 'private.'

It has since come to light that our former elected officials are each pocketing about 20 grand plus expenses for their appearances. My interview with Nick Pope indicated those appearing at the event as witnesses, which include such figures as Steven Greer and George Filer, are also receiving various forms of compensation, whatever they may be.

Rounding out the recent posts is Kevin Randle weighs in on UFO disclosure, in which we see that Mr. Randle clearly does not share either my or Mr. Pope's interpretations of some of the relevant issues. Readers might also choose to take a look at Barbara Lamb and MUFON: 'ET-human hybrids: They are real and they are here.'

Comments and discussion most welcomed.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

John Marks and 'The Search for the Manchurian Candidate'

There isn't one great division between mainstream and fringe science, but rather, degrees of variation that blur, and sometimes overlap with one another. But the starting point for all of this, and the gateway into the scientific underworld, is a certain willingness to believe the impossible, and to be sympathetic to those who try.”
Sharon WeinbergerImaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld
Those familiar with The UFO Trail and Orlando Paranormal Examiner are well aware of my interest in the intelligence community. Part of that interest was inspired by the extents I consistently find people within ufology to be largely uninformed of the histories of intelligence agencies. Such people are subsequently ill equipped to identify potential correlations between the intelligence community and ufology.

More than one well educated contact in the UFO community has told me that the vast majority of what they knew about Project MKULTRA they learned as a result of our interactions. Other contacts, well versed in matters of alleged aliens and their methods of operation, have often demonstrated comparatively very little knowledge of the intelligence community. Obviously, an accurate and comprehensive history of American intelligence matters is not included in either typical US college curriculum or popular UFO lore. It is for such reasons that I offer a bit of history on how the public gained access to what is known of Central Intelligence Agency ventures into behavior modification projects such as MKULTRA.

The family jewels

James Schlesinger was appointed director of the CIA in 1973. He abruptly ordered all personnel to advise his office of any circumstances in which Agency employees conducted illegal or improper activities. Just a few months and several hundred pages of reported misdeeds later, Schlesinger was transferred while the reports became known within the Agency as the “family jewels.”

Some of the jewels were leaked to journalist Seymour Hersh of The New York Times, resulting in a 1974 article about CIA illegal spying on domestic dissidents. A Presidential committee was formed and led by then-Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to investigate misconduct.

The subsequent Rockefeller Report referenced an unnamed man who fell to his death from a New York hotel window after the CIA slipped him LSD. The press jumped on the story with both feet.

The family of the unnamed man, who was actually Frank Olson, read one of the resulting newspaper articles and recognized it to be about their deceased loved one. While the family was aware of some of the circumstances of the mysterious death, they had not been previously informed Olson was drugged or the subject of experiments.

Enter writer/researcher John Marks. He took interest in the Rockefeller Report and would later explain that he found the following two lines, otherwise virtually unnoticed and buried within the text, particularly intriguing, "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."

Frank Church and Senate committees

Marks submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all documents presented by the CIA to the Rockefeller Commission. It took more than a year for the Agency to disingenuously produce just 50 pages Marks described as “heavily censored.”

Meanwhile, Senator Frank Church conducted a probe into CIA activities. Key CIA personnel were interviewed but information was not easily obtained.

In 1975, hearings into CIA misconduct continued and were held by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research. Similarly to the probe conducted by the Church Committee, progress was again hampered by a combination of Agency personnel with supposedly poor memories and the lack of available documents. However, it had come to light by that point that Olson's death was part of some very questionable project activities conducted under Schlesinger's predecessors.

MKULTRA project director Sidney Gottlieb stated during inquiries that he ordered the destruction of all project files in 1973 with the agreement of then-Director Helms. Gottlieb further stated that he could not recall most of the project details.

Explaining why the documents were destroyed - in direct contradiction to standard policy guidelines - Gottlieb said there was a “burgeoning paper problem” within the CIA and that the files might be “misunderstood.” He added that he wanted to protect the reputations of collaborating researchers who had been assured secrecy.

The Search for the Manchurian Candidate

Unsatisfied with previous responses from the Agency, Marks obtained legal counsel to assist with his FOIA requests for relevant documents. His persistence paid off in 1977 when his attorneys were notified that seven boxes of MKULTRA files had been located. The CIA was then under the direction of Admiral Stansfield Turner, four years and three directors removed from James Schlesinger and his 1973 initial inquiry. The located documents were apparently originally misfiled and subsequently overlooked when all others were destroyed under the direction of Gottlieb and Helms.

The CIA informed attorneys for Marks that select documents would be available after proper protocol was followed, which included advising the office of then-President Jimmy Carter and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The files released eventually became known as the MKULTRA collection. They may be viewed on certain websites such as The Black Vault and may be obtained on disk directly from the CIA.

Marks soon conducted a press conference. He presented documents establishing the reality of behavior modification research conducted on involuntary human subjects. The conference gained wide media attention and the news resulted in another Senate hearing.

The covert experiments were again explored by the Select Committee on Intelligence, which was chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy and included Claiborne Pell. Also involved again was the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, which featured notables Gary Hart and eventual Vice President Joseph Biden. The hearing transcript is available on a variety of websites.

Some 16,000 pages of formerly classified material was initially released to Marks. He studied the documents and wrote about them in his 1979 book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, which remains a valuable resource.

The title was selected due to Richard Condon's 1959 best-selling book, The Manchurian Candidate, which was made into a popular film. The plot revolved around an American soldier captured in Korea and brainwashed into an unassuming assassin while held at an installation located in Manchuria.

Marks specifically selected the title due to his discovery via the released docs of a CIA meeting conducted in 1953, curiously predating Condon's novel by some six years, in which just such a Manchurian scenario was discussed. Manchuria was even specifically named. Officials were apparently concerned about multiple reports received from released American prisoners of war who experienced blank periods of disorientation they associated with a particular section of Manchuria.

Such circumstances added to concerns held by CIA researchers in both the Office of Security and the Office of Scientific Intelligence that the US might have been lagging behind Communist achievements in mind control techniques. It was reasoned, sincerely or otherwise, that an effective defense against mind control would be gained by first accurately understanding offensive capabilities. The eventual result was a long and intensive effort to perfect mind control methods, including attempts to manipulate behavior while inducing amnesia that would prevent the subject from recalling their programming.

Nearly every Agency document,” Marks wrote, “stressed goals like 'controlling an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature as self preservation.' On reading one such memo, an Agency officer wrote to his boss: 'If this is supposed to be covered up as a defensive feasibility study, it's pretty damn transparent.'"

The search was on

Marks learned that the CIA exploration into mind control began in the late 1940's, was officially named BLUEBIRD in 1950 and was renamed ARTICHOKE in 1952. In 1953 Project MKULTRA was approved by CIA Director Allen Dulles.

MKULTRA consisted of some 149 known subprojects, contracting out work to over 80 locations. Such locations included 44 colleges or universities, 15 research facilities or private companies, 12 hospitals or clinics, three penal institutions and a number of 'safehouses,' in which operations ranged from interrogations to experiments involving prostitution. Military installations were also used.

MKULTRA was discontinued in June of 1964. Some MKULTRA subprojects were eliminated, while some were transferred into regular Agency funding channels. Yet others of particular interest were continued under Project MKSEARCH until at least 1972.

The known CIA mind control initiative included many operations and projects in addition to MKULTRA, such as QKHILLTOP, OFTEN and THIRD CHANCE. The search for the Manchurian Candidate admittedly spanned some 25 years, winding all the way from McGill University in Montreal to villages in the jungles of Mexico; from safehouses in Europe to the Army's Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland; from prison camps in Southeast Asia to prisons in the Southeast United States; from a pharmaceutical company in Switzerland to American nonprofit foundations, from Harvard to UCLA and from a New York City brothel to another in San Francisco.

What did the search find? It depends on who you ask.

Some CIA officials contended nothing of substance was learned in the decades of research. “That proposition,” Marks wrote, “is, on its face, ridiculous.”

Milton Kline, a New York psychologist who provided free consultation services to the Agency on such topics as hypnosis, agreed to speak with Marks about the possibility of achieving a Manchurian Candidate. It cannot be done by everyone or consistently, he told Marks, but it can be done.

Would researchers of alleged alien abduction be wise to consider the toll the search might have taken on those in its wake? Some think so, suggesting correlations might be worth considering, comparing certain dates, locations and circumstances contained in accounts of abduction to those of known operations involving involuntary human research subjects.

John Marks

The man who navigated the intelligence community and gained release of the MKULTRA collection is a 1965 graduate of Cornell University. Majoring in government, John Marks analyzed and reported on the Vietnam War while a member of the Foreign Service.

After returning stateside from Southeast Asia, Marks took a position in his home state of New Jersey as executive assistant for foreign policy to Senator Clifford Chase, an anti-war Republican. Marks subsequently played a key role in the drafting of an amendment that brought an end to direct US military involvement in Vietnam.

In 1974 he co-wrote the controversial book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, with Victor Marchetti, a former assistant to the deputy director of the CIA. Marks was published in such magazines as Rolling Stone prior to the 1979 release of The Search for the Manchurian Candidate.

In 1982 Marks founded Search for Common Ground, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming the way the world deals with conflict. “I didn’t want to throw monkey wrenches into the old system my whole life,” he told Cornell Alumni Magazine in 2012. “I wanted to build a new system.”

Search for Common Ground began with just two employees and a handful of supporters, Marks recently wrote. The corporation now has a staff of over 400, directly serving thousands of program participants in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States. It is the largest non-governmental conflict transformation organization in the world.