Tuesday, November 5, 2019

NARA Further Declassifies 1949 FBI Memo on 'Unconventional Warfare' Meetings

A 1949 FBI memo pertaining to biological warfare and referencing covert experiments involving human research subjects was further declassified this week by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The action followed a request submitted by this writer that the six-page document receive a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR).  

The memo is dated May 31, 1949, Subject: Biological Warfare, and is sent from Assistant Director D.M. Ladd to Director J. Edgar Hoover. It contains a summary of the minutes of what was the fifth in a series of meetings of an advisory committee made up of academics and representatives of intelligence agencies, including the CIA. The committee was described as expressing considerable interest in research of what historians now know as the Artichoke treatment, a term coined by CIA officers in reference to interrogation techniques which arose out of the Agency's behavior modification project of the same name. The operation produced the infamous Project MKULTRA.

The memo in its previously released form is located on pages 207-212 of an approximately 360-page file obtained by John Greenewald of The Black Vault. The 360 pages are part of a much larger FBI master file, number 100-HQ-93216, which NARA stated contains some 8500 pages. The file is believed to pertain to bacteriological warfare and related investigations conducted by the Bureau. Both the FBI and NARA recently indicated through correspondence that the large master file has not been previously released or processed pursuant to the FOIA.

Archivist James R. Mathis of the NARA Special Access and FOIA Staff explained about the six-page memo in a Nov. 4, 2019 email, "I have completed a line-by-line review of this document and released information to the greatest extent possible. The file has been redacted to protect the identities of confidential sources per 5 USC 552 (b)(7)(D); and information exempt from disclosure by statute per 5 USC 552 (b)(3).  The relevant statute in support of this (b)(3) withholding is 50 USC 3507, protecting CIA information. A summary of the results of this review is provided below:

"100-HQ-93216 Serial 200X: 6 total pages; 4 pages released in full; 2 pages released in redacted form."

The memo reiterates to Hoover that then-Lt. Col. Edwin F. Black set up an Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Defense to study various methods of unconventional warfare. Ladd then informs Hoover the May 14, 1949 meeting of the Committee was held in the New York apartment of Dr. Alfred L. Loomis. Representatives from the CIA, Johns Hopkins and Yale were in attendance:

Meeting minutes provided by Black reference information presented by "Dr. Willard Machle, Chief, Scientific Branch, CIA, and Mr. G. C. Backster, Jr., Scientific Branch, CIA". Security implications concerning a research subject were among topics considered. Also discussed were the potential of such techniques as isolating the subconscious mind and enhancing hypnosis through the use of drugs. Possibilities of instilling false information into the conscious mind were explained, along with what was termed "eradication of information from the conscious memory". The destruction of personality and character traits were discussed, among other techniques the CIA men apparently reported were attempting to be developed. 

According to the memo, Dr. Machle stated the Committee was the first group outside the CIA informed of the research. The CIA deferred seeking cooperation from other government agencies, such as the FBI or Army Counter Intelligence Corps, Machle further stated, until "positive control of the experimental subjects had been validated." The CIA Chief explained he "expected to obtain such validation in the near future," and expressed a desire to receive Committee support "for a program of vigorous exploration of these techniques":

More may be learned about the evolution of CIA behavior modification projects from such sources as The Search for the Manchurian Candidate by John Marks. Morse Allen, inaugural Artichoke director circa 1952, was credited with being the Agency's first behavioral research czar. Allen was also credited with creating the term, "terminal experiments". As implied, it referred to research that surpassed and disregarded ethical and legal limitations.

An "A" session might include administration of drugs, hypnosis, physical and psychological torture, and combinations thereof. Extreme isolation and sensory deprivation were in the toolbox, as well. Attempts were made to force captives to reveal certain information and/or facilitate indoctrination of various political allegiances. 

Dr. Jeffrey Kaye and the late writer/researcher Hank Albarelli, Jr. explored the issues in their 2010 article, Cries From the Past: Torture's Ugly Echoes. Readers may recognize Albarelli as author of A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments

In his 2010 article with Kaye, Albarelli expressed reasons for believing Artichoke was a substantially under-reported project with much wider reach and consequences than even typically assumed. The researchers cited documents released through the FOIA to report some 257 missions were carried out between 1954 and 1961, with locations including the U.S., Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines. 

"Nearly all of these assignments would fall under today's definition of 'enhanced interrogations'," they wrote.

Albarelli and Kaye wrote further:

A February 6, 1954 team report, delivered to CIA headquarters by "Diplomatic Courier," provides partial insight into one seemingly unique Artichoke field assignment in Europe. The report states: "These two subjects [foreign agents] are disposal problems, one because of his lack of ability to carry out a mission and the other because he cannot get along with the chief agent of the project. Both have extensive information concerning (other) assets and thus are security risks wherever they are disposed of. Anything that can be done in the Artichoke field to lessen the security risk will be helpful since the men must be disposed of even at maximum security risk. The urgency of consideration of this case is due to the fact that one of the men is already somewhat stir crazy and has tried to escape twice."
Another field report reads: "Subject was given a sedative suppository to increase his resistance to pain, this in order to intensify his ordeal midway through the planned session." Another reads in part: "This A [Artichoke] session involved four subjects all of whom present serious disposal problems after results are produced."

In his book A Terrible Mistake, Albarelli explored the 1951 case of mass madness seizing Pont-Saint Esprit, a village in France. Many feel the implications to covert behavior modification and weapons development projects are striking.

The researcher also explained how he was contacted several times over the course of his work by people, at least one of whom seemed to indeed know particulars of Fort Detrick, a site central to the topic. Interestingly, Albarelli described (A Terrible Mistake, p700) how the individuals would dangle the UFO topic, including the crashed saucer meme in particular, as a theory for a cause of the death of Frank Olson. 

Albarelli suggested he came to suspect the interactions may have been to divert his attention from covert and unethical experimentation involving powerful and dangerous substances related to Olson's death. The UFO topic may have also potentially served to minimize the amount of credible attention his book might receive from the professional research community and public at large if he suggested Olson's death was part of an orchestrated UFO cover-up.

The 360 pages obtained by John Greenewald provide an intriguing preview of what may await researchers in the rest of the unreleased 8500 pages of file 100-HQ-93216. FBI investigations and memos pertaining to the evolution of unconventional warfare, as well as how such information may have been of value to Hoover and his staff, should widely interest researchers of many varieties. 



Joseph Bryan III, the FBI and CIA

On the Trail of a $7k FBI File


  1. Just a fun little fact that came to mind when I read this post; in his book The Coming of the Saucers, Ken Arnold spoke of a rather curious Red Tide that was affecting the coast of the Pacific Northwest around the time of the UFO flap.

    Red tide is a known and somewhat common algae occurrence, but Arnold pointed out that this one had the locals exceedingly nervous as people were getting seriously ill (one even died) from eating the fish.

  2. from "Dr. Bruce Maccabee Research Website"
    Facts About the UFO / FBI Connection


    Fact 14
    In the spring of 1998 the FBI placed on the web the roughly 1600 pages of UFO files ... see www.foia.fbi.gov