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This book has grown out of the 16,000 pages of documents that the CIA released to me under the Freedom of Information Act. Without these documents, the best investigative reporting in the world could not have produced a book, and the secrets of CIA mind-control work would have remained buried forever, as the men who knew them had always intended. From the documentary base, I was able to expand my knowledge through interviews and readings in the behavioral sciences. Nevertheless, the final result is not the whole story of the CIA’s attack on the mind. Only a few insiders could have written that, and they choose to remain silent. I have done the best I can to make the book as accurate as possible, but I have been hampered by the refusal of most of the principal characters to be interviewed and by the CIA’s destruction in 1973 of many of the key documents.
After the Society’s exit from Cornell, Wolff and Hinkle stayed on as president and vice-president,
respectively, of the Society’s board of directors. Dr. Joseph Hinsey, head of the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center also remained on the board. Allen Dulles continued his personal interest in the Society’s work and came to one of the first meetings of the new board, which, as was customary with CIA fronts, included some big outside names. These luminaries added worthiness to the enterprise while playing essentially figurehead roles. In 1957 the other board members were John Whitehorn, chairman of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University, Carl Rogers, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, and Adolf A. Berle, onetime Assistant Secretary of State and
chairman of the New York Liberal Party.  Berle had originally put his close friend Harold Wolff in touch with the CIA, and at Wolff’s request, he came on the Society board despite some reservations. “I am frightened about this one,” Berle wrote in his diary. “If the scientists do what they have laid out for themselves, men will become manageable ants. But I don’t think it will happen.”
There was a lot of old-fashioned back-scratching among the CIA people and the academics as they settled into the work of accommodating each other. Even Harold Wolff, the first and the most enthusiastic of the scholar-spies, had made it clear from the beginning that he expected some practical rewards for his service. According to colleague Hinkle, who appreciated Wolff as one the great grantsman of his time, Wolff expected that the Agency “would support our research and we would be their consultants.” Wolff bluntly informed the CIA that some of his work would have no direct use “except that it vastly enhances
our value . . . as consultants and advisers.” In other words, Wolff felt that his worth to the CIA increased in proportion to his professional accomplishments and importance—which in turn depended partly on the resources he commanded. The Agency men understood, and over the last half of the 1950s, they were happy to contribute almost $300,000 to Wolff’s own research on the brain and central nervous system. In turn, Wolff and his reputation helped them gain access to other leading lights in the academic world.
Another person who benefited from Human Ecology funds was Carl Rogers, whom Wolff had also asked to serve on the board. Rogers, who later would become famous for his nondirective, nonauthoritarian approach to psychotherapy, respected Wolff’s work, and he had no objection to helping the CIA. Although he says he would have nothing to do with secret Agency activities today, he asks for understanding in light of the climate of the 1950s. “We really did regard Russia as the enemy,” declares Rogers, “and we were trying to do various things to make sure the Russians did not get the upper hand.” Rogers received an important professional reward for joining the Society board. Executive Director James Monroe had let him know that, once he agreed to serve, he could expect to receive a Society grant. “That appealed to me because I was having trouble getting funded,” says Rogers. “Having gotten that grant [about $30,000 over three years], it made it possible to get other grants from Rockefeller and NIMH.” Rogers still feels grateful to the Society for helping him establish a funding “track record,” but he emphasizes that the Agency never had any effect on his research.
Although MKULTRA psychologist John Gittinger suspected that Rogers’ work on psychotherapy might
provide insight into interrogation methods, the Society did not give Rogers money because of the content of his work. The grant ensured his services as a consultant, if desired, and, according to a CIA document, “free access” to his project. But above all, the grant allowed the Agency to use Rogers’ name. His standing in the academic community contributed to the layer of cover around the Society that Agency officials felt was crucial to mask their involvement.
Professor Charles Osgood’s status in psychology also improved the Society’s cover, but his research was more directly useful to the Agency, and the MKULTRA men paid much more to get it. In 1959 Osgood, who four years later became president of the American Psychological Association, wanted to push forward his work on how people in different societies express the same feelings, even when using different words and concepts. Osgood wrote in “an abstract conceptual framework,” but Agency
officials saw his research as “directly relevant” to covert activities. They believed they could transfer
Osgood’s knowledge of “hidden values and cues” in the way people communicate into more effective overseas propaganda. Osgood’s work gave them a tool—called the “semantic differential”—to choose the right words in a foreign language to convey a particular meaning.
…By April 1961 the head of TSS was able to report “we now have a ‘production capability’ ” in brain
stimulation and “we are close to having debugged a prototype system whereby dogs can be guided along
specific courses.” Six months later, a CIA document noted, “The feasibility of remote control of activities
in several species of animals has been demonstrated…. Special investigations and evaluations will be conducted toward the application of selected elements of these techniques to man.” Another six months later, TSS officials had found a use for electric stimulation: this time putting electrodes in the brains of cold-blooded animals—presumably reptiles. While much of the experimentation with dogs and cats was to find a way of wiring the animal and then directing it by remote control into, say, the office of the Soviet ambassador, this cold-blooded project was designed instead for the delivery of chemical and biological agents or for “executive action-type operations,” according to a document. “Executive action” was the CIA’s euphemism for assassination.
With the brain electrode technology at this level, Steve Aldrich and ORD took over the research function
from TSS. What the ORD men found cannot be said, but the open literature would indicate that the field progressed considerably during the 1960s. Can the human brain be wired and controlled by a big enough computer? Aldrich certainly tried to find out.
Creating amnesia remained a “big goal” for the ORD researcher, states an ex-CIA man. Advances in brain surgery, such as the development of three-dimensional, “stereotaxic” techniques, made psychosurgery a much simpler matter and created the possibility that a precisely placed electrode probe could be used to cut the link between past memory and present recall. As for subjects to be used in behavioral experiments of this sort, the ex-CIA man states that ORD had access to prisoners in at least one American penal institution. A former Army doctor stationed at the Edgewood chemical laboratory states that the lab worked with CIA men to develop a drug that could be used to help program in new memories into the mind of an amnesic subject. How far did the Agency take this research? I don’t know.
The men from ORD tried to create their own latter-day version of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. Located outside Boston, it was called the Scientific Engineering Institute, and Agency officials had set it up originally in 1956 as a proprietary company to do research on radar and other technical matters that had nothing to do with human behavior. Its president, who says he was a “figurehead,” was Dr. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid. In the early 1960s, ORD officials decided to bring it into the behavioral field and built a new wing to the Institute’s modernistic building for the “life sciences.” They hired a group of behavioral and medical scientists who were allowed to carry on their own independent research as long as it met Institute standards. These scientists were available to consult
with frequent visitors from Washington, and they were encouraged to take long lunches in the Institute’s dining room where they mixed with the physical scientists and brainstormed about virtually everything. One veteran recalls a colleague joking, “If you could find the natural radio frequency of a person’s sphincter, you could make him run out of the room real fast.” Turning serious, the veteran states the technique was “plausible,” and he notes that many of the crazy ideas bandied about at lunch developed into concrete projects.
Some of these projects may have been worked on at the Institute’s own several hundred-acre farm located in the Massachusetts countryside. But of the several dozen people contacted in an effort to find out what the Institute did, the most anyone would say about experiments at the farm was that one involved stimulating the pleasure centers of crows’ brains in order to control their behavior. Presumably, ORD men did other things at their isolated rural lab.
Just as the MKULTRA program had been years ahead of the scientific community, ORD activities were similarly advanced. “We looked at the manipulation of genes,” states one of the researchers. “We were interested in gene splintering. The rest of the world didn’t ask until 1976 the type of questions we were facing in 1965…. Everybody was afraid of building the supersoldier who would take orders without questioning, like the kamikaze pilot. Creating a subservient society was not out of sight.” Another Institute man describes the work of a colleague who bombarded bacteria with ultraviolet radiation in order to create deviant strains. ORD also sponsored work in parapsychology. Along with the military services, Agency officials wanted to know whether psychics could read minds or control them from afar (telepathy), if they could gain information about distant places or people (clairvoyance or remote viewing), if they could predict the future (precognition), or influence the movement of physical objects or even the human mind (photokinesis). The last could have incredibly destructive applications, if it worked. For instance, switches setting off nuclear bombs would have to be moved only a few inches to launch a holocaust. Or, enemy psychics, with minds honed to laser-beam sharpness, could launch attacks to burn out the brains of American nuclear scientists. Any or all of these techniques have numerous applications to the spy trade.
While ORD officials apparently left much of the drug work to Gottlieb, they could not keep their hands totally out of this field. In 1968 they set up a joint program, called Project OFTEN, with the Army Chemical Corps at Edgewood, Maryland to study the effects of various drugs on animals and humans. The Army helped the Agency put together a computerized data base for drug testing and supplied military volunteers for some of the experiments. In one case, with a particularly effective incapacitiating agent, the Army arranged for inmate volunteers at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia. Project OFTEN had both offensive and defensive sides, according to an ORD man who described it in a memorandum. He cited as an example of what he and his coworkers hoped to find “a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke in the targeted individual.” In January 1973, just as Richard Helms was leaving the Agency and James Schlesinger was coming in, Project OFTEN was abruptly canceled.
What—if any—success the ORD men had in creating heart attacks or in any of their other behavioral experiments simply cannot be said. Like Sid Gottlieb, Steve Aldrich is not saying, and his colleagues seem even more closemouthed than Gottlieb’s. In December 1977, having gotten wind of the ORD programs, I filed a Freedom of Information request for access to ORD files “on behavioral research, including but not limited to any research or operational activities related to bioelectrics, electric or radio stimulation of the brain, electronic destruction of memory, stereotaxic surgery, psychosurgery, hypnotism, parapsychology, radiation, microwaves, and ultrasonics.” I also asked for documentation on behavioral testing in U.S. penal institutions, and I later added a request for all available files on amnesia. The Agency wrote back six months later that ORD had “identified 130 boxes (approximately 130 cubic feet) of material that are reasonably expected to contain behavioral research documents.”
Considering that Admiral Turner and other CIA officials had tried to leave the impression with Congress and the public that behavioral research had almost all ended in 1963 with the phase-out of MKULTRA, this was an amazing admission. The sheer volume of material was staggering. This book is based on the 7 boxes of heavily censored MKULTRA financial records plus another 3 or so of ARTICHOKE documents, supplemented by interviews. It has taken me over a year, with significant research help, to digest this much smaller bulk. Clearly, greater resources than an individual writer can bring to bear will be needed to get to the bottom of the ORD programs.
A free society’s best defense against unethical behavior modification is public disclosure and awareness.
The more people understand consciousness-altering technology, the more likely they are to recognize its
application, and the less likely it will be used. When behavioral research is carried out in secret, it can be
turned against the government’s enemies, both foreign and domestic. No matter how pure or defense-oriented the motives of the researchers, once the technology exists, the decision to use it is out of their hands. Who can doubt that if the Nixon administration or J. Edgar Hoover had had some foolproof way to control people, they would not have used the technique against their political foes, just as the CIA for years tried to use similar tactics overseas?
As with the Agency’s secrets, it is now too late to put behavioral technology back in the box. Researchers are bound to keep making advances. The technology has already spread to our schools, prisons, and mental hospitals, not to mention the advertising community, and it has also been picked up by police forces around the world. Placing hoods over the heads of political prisoners—a modified form of sensory deprivation—has become a standard tactic around the world, from Northern Ireland to Chile. The Soviet Union has consistently used psychiatric treatment as an instrument of repression. Such methods violate basic human rights just as much as physical abuse, even if they leave no marks on the body.
Totalitarian regimes will probably continue, as they have in the past, to search secretly for ways to
manipulate the mind, no matter what the United States does. The prospect of being able to control people seems too enticing for most tyrants to give up. Yet, we as a country can defend ourselves without sending our own scientists—mad or otherwise—into a hidden war that violates our basic ethical and constitutional principles. After all, we created the Nuremberg Code to show there were limits on scientific research and its application. Admittedly, American intelligence officials have violated our own standard, but the U.S. Government has now officially declared violations will no longer be permitted. The time has come for the United States to lead by example in voluntarily renouncing secret government behavioral research. Other countries might even follow suit, particularly if we were to propose an international agreement which provides them with a framework to do so.
Tampering with the mind is much too dangerous to be left to the spies. Nor should it be the exclusive province of the behavioral scientists, who have given us cause for suspicion. Take this statement by their most famous member, B. F. Skinner: “My image in some places is of a monster of some kind who wants to pull a string and manipulate people. Nothing could be further from the truth. People are manipulated; I just want them to be manipulated more effectively.” Such notions are much more acceptable in prestigious circles than people tend to think: D. Ewen Cameron read papers about “depatterning” with electroshock before meetings of his fellow psychiatrists, and they elected him their president. Human behavior is so important that it must concern us all. The more vigilant we and our representatives are, the less chance we will be unwitting victims.
The reorganization of TSS was described in document #59, 26 July 1963, Report of the Inspection of MKULTRA and in interviews with Ray Cline, Herbert Scoville, and several other former CIA officials.
Richard Helms’ recommendations for a new MKULTRA charter were described in document #450, 9 June, 1964, Sensitive Research Programs (MKULTRA).
Admiral Stansfield Turner’s statement on the MKULTRA program was made before a joint session of the Kennedy subcommittee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, August 3, 1977, pp. 4-8.
MKSEARCH programs and their origins in MKULTRA are described in documents #449, 8 April 1964, Revision of Project MKULTRA and #S-1-7, untitled, undated.
Dr. Edward Bennett’s work is the subject of MKULTRA subprojects 104 and 143. See especially 143-23, 11
December 1962, Subject: MKULTRA Subproject 143. Other information on the CIA’s economic sabotage program against Cuba came from interviews with Major General Edward Lansdale, Ray Cline, William Colby, Lincoln Gordon, Covey Oliver, Charles Meyer, Richard Goodwin, Roger Morris, several former CIA and State Department officials, and Cuban government officials.
The continued safehouse operation is MKSEARCH subproject 4. See especially S-12-1, bank statements and receipts of safehouse. The CIA’s dealings with the Treasury Department over the Long committee’s
investigations of wiretaps are detailed in documents #451, 30 January 1967, A Report on a Series of Meetings with Department of the Treasury officials and #452, undated, Meeting with Department of Treasury Official.
The biological laboratory is the subject of MKULTRA subprojects 78 and 110 and MKSEARCH 2. See especially Documents 78-28, September 28, 1962, Subject: PM Support and Biological [deleted] and S-5-6, 8 September 1965, Subject: Hiring by Chief TSD/BB of [deleted], Former Staff Employee in a Consultant Capacity on an Agency Contract. The costs of the Fort Detrick operations came from p. 18 and p. 204 of the Church committee hearings on Unauthorized Storage of Toxic Agents September 16,17, and
18,1975. The description of TSS’s procedures for dealing with biological weapons came from Document 78-28 (cited above) and document #509, undated (but clearly June 1975), Subject: Discussions of MKNAOMI with [deleted] The chemical company subproiect is MKULTRA subproject 116 and MKSEARCH 5. See especially 116-57,30 January 1961, Subject: MKULTRA, Subproject 116; 116-62, October 28, 1960, shipping invoice- and 116-61,4 November 1960, Subject: MKULTRA Subproject 116. Also see James Moore’s subproject, MKULTRA 52; especially 52-53, invoice # 3, 1125-009-1902, April 27, 1960.
The MKULTRA subprojects on electric stimulation of the brain are 106 and 142. See especially 106-1, undated, Subject: Proposal; 142-14, 22 May 1962, Subject: Project MKULTRA, Subproject No. 142; and document #76 (MKDELTA release), 21 April 1961, Subject: “Guided Animal” Studies.
The list of parapsychology goals was taken from an excellent article by John Wilhelm in the August 2, 1977 Washington Post: “Psychic Spying?”
Project OFTEN information was taken from document #455,6 May 1974, Subject: Project OFTEN and Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from Deanne P. Siemer, September 20, 1977, Subject: Experimentation Programs Conducted by the Department of Defense That Had CIA Sponsorship or Participation and That Involved the Administration to Human Subjects of Drugs Intended for Mind-control or Behavior-modification Purposes.
1. At 1977 Senate hearings, CIA Director Stansfield Turner summed up some of MKULTRA’s accomplishments over its 11-year existence: The program contracted out work to 80 institutions, which included 44 colleges or universities, 15 research facilities or private companies, 12 hospitals or clinics, and 3 penal institutions. I estimate that MKULTRA cost the taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million.
2. This economic sabotage program started in 1961, and the chain of command “ran up to the President,”
according to Kennedy adviser Richard Goodwin. On the CIA side, Agency Director John McCone “was very strong on it,” says his former deputy Ray Cline. Cline notes that McCone had the standing orders to all CIA stations abroad rewritten to include “a sentence or two” authorizing a continuing program to disrupt the Cuban economy. Cuba’s trade thus became a standing target for Agency operators, and with the authority on the books, CIA officials apparently never went back to the White House for renewed approval after Kennedy died, in Cline’s opinion. Three former Assistant Secretaries of State in the Johnson and Nixon administrations say the sabotage, which included everything from driving down the price of Cuban sugar to tampering with cane-cutting equipment, was not brought to their attention. Former CIA Director William Colby states that the Agency finally stopped the economic sabotage program in the early 1970s. Cuban government officials counter that CIA agents were still working to create epidemics among Cuban cattle in 1973 and that as of spring 1978, Agency men were committing acts of sabotage against cargo destined for Cuba.
3. In 1967 a Senate committee chaired by Senator Edward Long was inquiring into wiretapping by government agencies, including the Narcotics Bureau. The Commissioner of Narcotics, then Harry Giordano told a senior TSS man— almost certainly Gottlieb—that if CIA officials were “concerned” about its dealings with the Bureau involving the safehouses coming out during the hearings, the most “helpful thing” they could do would be to “turn the Long committee off.” How the CIA men reacted
to this not very subtle blackmail attempt is unclear from the documents, but what does come out is that the TSS man and another top-level CIA officer misled and lied to the top echelon of the Treasury Department (the Narcotics Bureau’s parent organization) about the safehouses and how they were used.
4. James Moore of the University of Delaware, who also produced carbamates when he was not seeking the magic mushroom, served at times as an intermediary between the industrialist and the CIA.
5. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, it seemed that every radical on the West Coast was saying that the CIA was up to strange things in behavior modification at Vacaville. Like many of yesterday’s conspiracy theories, this one turned out to be true.
6. Geschickter was an extremely important TSS asset with connections in high places. In 1955 he convinced Agency officials to contribute $375,000 in secret funds toward the construction of a new research building at Georgetown University Hospital. (Since this money seemed to be coming from private sources, unwitting Federal bureaucrats doubled it under the matching grant program for hospital construction.) The Agency men had a clear understanding with Geschickter that in return for their contribution, he would make sure they received use of one-sixth of the beds and total space in the facility for their own “hospital safehouse.” They then would have a ready source of “human patients and volunteers for experimental use,” according to a CIA document, and the research program in the building would provide cover for up to three TSS staff members. Allen Dulles personally approved the contribution and then, to make sure, he took it to President Eisenhower’s special committee to review
covert operations. The committee also gave its assent, with the understanding that Geschickter could provide “a reasonable expectation” that the Agency would indeed have use of the space he promised. He obviously did, because the CIA money was forthcoming. (This, incidentally, was the only time in a whole quarter-century of Agency behavior-control activities when the documents show that CIA officials went to the White House for approval of anything. The Church committee found no evidence that either the executive branch or Congress was informed of the programs.)
7. In 1967, after Ramparts magazine exposed secret CIA funding of the National Student Association and numerous nonprofit organizations, President Johnson forbade CIA support of foundations or educational institutions. Inside the Agency there was no notion that this order meant ending relationships, such as the one with Geschickter. In his case, the agile CIA men simply transferred the funding from the foundation to a private company, of which his son was the secretary-treasurer.
8. Lying to Congress followed the pattern of lying to the press that some MKULTRA veterans adopted after the first revelations came out. For example, former Human Ecology Society director James Monroe told The New York Times on August 2, 1977 that “only about 25 to 30 percent” of the Society’s budget came from the CIA—a statement he knew to be false since the actual figure was well over 90 percent. His untruth allowed some other grantees to claim that their particular project was funded out of the non-Agency part of the Society.