"Secret Government Programs"
Sidney Gottlieb approved of an MKUltra sub-project on LSD in this June 9, 1953, letter.
The project's intentionally obscure CIA cryptonym is made up of the digraph MK, meaning that the project was sponsored by the agency's Technical Services Staff, followed by the word Ultra which had previously been used to designate the most secret classification of World War II intelligence. Other related cryptonyms include Project MKNAOMI and Project MKDELTA.
The project was headed by Sidney Gottlieb but began on the order of CIA director Allen Welsh Dulles on April 13, 1953. Its aim was to develop mind-controlling drugs for use against the Soviet bloc in response to alleged Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean use of mind control techniques on U.S. prisoners of war during the Korean War. The CIA wanted to use similar methods on their own captives, and was interested in manipulating foreign leaders with such techniques, devising several schemes to drug Fidel Castro. It often conducted experiments without the subjects' knowledge or consent. In some cases, academic researchers were funded through grants from CIA front organizations but were unaware that the CIA was using their work for these purposes.
The project attempted to produce a perfect truth drug for interrogating suspected Soviet spies during the Cold War, and to explore other possibilities of mind control. Subproject 54 was the Navy's top-secret "Perfect Concussion" program, which was supposed to use sub-aural frequency blasts to erase memory; the program was never carried out.
Most MKUltra records were destroyed in 1973 by order of CIA director Richard Helms, so it has been difficult for investigators to gain a complete understanding of the more than 150 funded research subprojects sponsored by MKUltra and related CIA programs.
The project began during a period of what Rupert Cornwell described as "paranoia" at the CIA, when the U.S. had lost its nuclear monopoly and fear of Communism was at its height. CIA counter-intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton believed that a mole had penetrated the organization at the highest levels. The agency poured millions of dollars into studies examining ways to influence and control the mind and to enhance its ability to extract information from resistant subjects during interrogation. Some historians assert that one goal of MKUltra and related CIA projects was to create a "Manchurian Candidate"-style subject. Alfred McCoy has claimed that the CIA attempted to focus media attention on these sorts of "ridiculous" programs so that the public would not look at the research's primary goal, which was effective methods of interrogation.
One 1955 MKUltra document gives an indication of the size and range of the effort. It refers to the study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:
1.Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
2.Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
3.Materials which will cause the victim to age faster/slower in maturity.
4.Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
5.Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so they may be used for malingering, etc.
6.Materials which will cause temporary/permanent brain damage and loss of memory.
7.Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture, and coercion during interrogation and so-called "brain-washing".
8.Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
9.Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
10.Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
11.Substances which will produce a chemical that can cause blisters.
12.Substances which alter personality structure in such a way the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
13.A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
14.Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
15.Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
16.A knockout pill which can be surreptitiously administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
17.A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a person to perform physical activity.
The 1976 Church Committee report found that, in the MKDELTA program, "Drugs were used primarily as an aid to interrogations, but MKULTRA/MKDELTA materials were also used for harassment, discrediting, or disabling purposes."
Other related projects
In 1964, MKSEARCH was the name given to the continuation of the MKULTRA program. The MKSEARCH program was divided into two projects dubbed MKOFTEN/CHICKWIT. Funding for MKSEARCH commenced in 1965, and ended in 1971. The project was a joint project between The U.S. Army Chemical Corps and the CIA's Office of Research and Development to find new offensive-use agents, with a focus on incapacitating agents. Its purpose was to develop, test, and evaluate capabilities in the covert use of biological, chemical, and radioactive material systems and techniques of producing predictable human behavioral and/or physiological changes in support of highly sensitive operational requirements.
By March 1971 over 26,000 potential agents had been acquired for future screening. The CIA was interested in bird migration patterns for CBW research; subproject 139 designated "Bird Disease Studies" at Penn State.
MKOFTEN was to deal with testing and toxicological transmissivity and behavioral effects of drugs in animals and, ultimately, humans.
MKCHICKWIT was concerned with acquiring information on new drug developments in Europe and Asia, and with acquiring samples.
Experiments on Americans
CIA documents suggest that they investigated "chemical, biological, and radiological" methods of mind control as part of MKUltra. They spent an estimated $10 million or more, roughly $87.5 million adjusted for inflation.
Early CIA efforts focused on LSD-25, which later came to dominate many of MKUltra's programs. The CIA wanted to know if they could make Soviet spies defect against their will and whether the Soviets could do the same to the CIA's own operatives.
Once Project MKUltra got underway in April 1953, experiments included administering LSD to mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts, and sex workers—"people who could not fight back," as one agency officer put it. In one case, they administered LSD to a mental patient in Kentucky for 174 days. They also administered LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, and members of the general public to study their reactions. LSD and other drugs were often administered without the subject's knowledge or informed consent, a violation of the Nuremberg Code the U.S. had agreed to follow after World War II. The aim of this was to find drugs which would bring out deep confessions or wipe a subject's mind clean and program him or her as "a robot agent."
In Operation Midnight Climax, the CIA set up several brothels within agency safehouses in San Francisco, California, to obtain a selection of men who would be too embarrassed to talk about the events. The men were dosed with LSD, the brothels were equipped with one-way mirrors, and the sessions were filmed for later viewing and study. In other experiments where people were given LSD without their knowledge, they were interrogated under bright lights with doctors in the background taking notes. They told subjects they would extend their "trips" if they refused to reveal their secrets. The people under this interrogation were CIA employees, ...