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 unwitting subjects.
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 forcibly administered.
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 government."
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 patients;
-- 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 and died;
-- 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 experiments;
-- 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 effects;
-- in 1966, the New York subway system was used for a germ warfare experiment;
-- 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 populated areas;
-- 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 potential harm
-- 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 agents; and
-- in 2009, experimental vaccines were again used to inoculate people globally in response to another hyped Swine Flu scare; scattered reports of illnesses and deaths followed.
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) past."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.