Wednesday, March 12, 2014

MK-ULTRA: The CIA and Mind Control

In the 1950's and early 1960's, the agency gave mind-altering drugs to hundreds of unsuspecting Americans in an effort to explore the possibilities of controlling human consciousness. Many of the human guinea pigs were mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes -- ''people who could not fight back,'' as one agency officer put it. In one case, a mental patient in Kentucky was dosed with LSD continuously for 174 days.” - New York Times1

MK-ULTRA is the codename given to a CIA research operation into biological behavioral engineering, also known as mind control. Many people are familiar with the operation but incorrectly assume that it was limited to LSD research. While there were plenty of resources devoted to LSD research, it was only one area of a vast field of mind control operations. MK-ULTRA researcher Ike Feldman said himself that:

The LSD... that was just the tip of the iceberg... Espionage. Assassinations. Dirty tricks. Drug experiments. Sexual encounters and the study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That is what I was doing when I worked for George White and the CIA.”2

MK-ULTRA had several precursors. There was Project Chatter in 1947, which tested drugs such as the infamous Scopalmine during interrogations.3 There was Project Bluebird in 1949, which began studies into hypnosis.4 The document describing the initiation of Project Bluebird outlines these special problems, among many others, that they were hoping to address:

  • Can we in a matter of an hour, two hours, one day, etc., induce an hypnotic condition in an unwilling subject to such an extent that he will perform an act for our benefit?
  • Can we create by post-hypnotic control an action contrary to an individual's basic moral principles?
  • Can we guarantee total amnesia under any and all conditions?
  • Can we "alter" a person's personality? How long will it hold?
  • Can we devise a system for making unwilling subjects into willing agents and then transfer that control to untrained agency agents in the field by use of codes or identifying signs or credentials?5

Project Artichoke began in 1951, with a scope of ... “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?”6 All of the above projects were shuttled into MK-ULTRA in 1953, under the Technical Services Division, combining over 150 sub-projects7, undertaken at over 80 institutions8 such as universities, hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies. Many of the projects were covertly ran through front organizations without the knowledge of the institution that hosted them. 

The experiments and operations under MK-ULTRA have been shrouded in extreme secrecy. When it was enacted, then-CIA Director Allen Dulles exempted the program from normal financial controls, allowed the Technical Services Staff to begin experiments without contracts or written agreements with leadership, and ordered the financial office to pay any cost blindly on the signature of Sidney Gottlieb.9 CIA Document 17748 states that:

There are just two individuals in TSD who have full substantial knowledge of the program and most of that knowledge is unrecorded. Both are highly skilled, highly motivated, professionally competent individuals. Part of their competence lies in their command of intelligence tradecraft. In protecting the sensitive nature of the American intelligence capability to manipulate human behavior, they apply “need to know” doctrine to their professional associates and their clerical assistants to a maximum degree...
TSD has pursued a policy of minimum documentation in keeping with the high sensitivity of some of the projects... The lack of consistent records precludes use of routine inspection procedures and raised a variety of questions regarding management and fiscal controls.”10

The two individuals the document refers to are likely Sidney Gottleib, the director of MK-ULTRA, and Richard Helms, the Deputy Director of the CIA. In 1973, when Richard Helms became the Director of the CIA, he ordered all of the available MK-ULTRA files to be destroyed.11 Thanks to a clerical error, about 20,000 files survived the destruction order. However, not only were most of the files destroyed, but many experiments were so sensitive that they were never recorded in the first place, so we must understand that as brutal and astonishing as the recorded experimentation is, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. 

Another file, MK-ULTRA document 87624, states:

6% of the projects are of such an ultra-sensitive nature that they cannot and should not be handled by means of contracts which would associate CIA or the Government with the work in question. This 6% of the current research effort now lies entirely within two well-defined fields of endeavor... As present this results in ridiculous contracts, often with cut-outs, which do not spell out the scope or intent of the work.”12

The first 'well-defined field of endeavor' described by the document is developing the capability of biological and chemical weapons for the purpose of mind control. The second field of endeavor is entirely redacted from the document.

* * * *

Ewan Cameron

Dr. Ewan Cameron was a Scottish-born Psychiatrist who worked in the United States since World War II and subsequently accepted an invitation to contract for the CIA. He would commute to the McGill University system in Canada to conduct experiments on brainwashing, 'psychic driving' and other forms of psychological torture. Cameron had a theory that a person with a psychological illness such as schizophrenia would benefit from having their brain essentially wiped clean, presuming the patient would redevelop their cognitive functions without the disorder. The CIA felt that brainwashing had obvious intelligence applications.13

Dr. Cameron had a 'depattering' program he used to erase the minds of his patients that began with 15 – 30 days of 'sleep therapy' (sometimes lasting as long as 65 days), where the patient would sleep all day and night, with the exception of three brief periods where a sleep-inducing drug cocktail and electroshock therapy would be administered. Cameron's electroshock therapy has been documented to be between 20 – 40 times more intense than the professional standard at the time. Instead of 110 volts at a fraction of a second, Cameron used 150 volts for an initial shock lasting 1 full second, and then between 5 and 9 additional shocks during the convulsions of the patient, using a muscle relaxant to prevent permanent damage. The next step was to play taped messages to a patient 16 hours a day for multiple months in an attempt to program the desired behavior.14

Over half of his patients have suffered permanent amnesia of their lives before their 'depattering'. They were not told that they would be participating in experiments prior to their admittance. A large group of Cameron's victims brought a lawsuit against the CIA in 1988 which was settled out of court, so the agency would not have to admit any official wrongdoing. 

Why the interest in electroshock? CIA Document 190885 reveals that the CIA was interested in the “guaranteed amnesia” that electric shock often resulted in.15

* * * *

'Front' Organizations

"The C.I.A. used a front organization called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology to help pay for the work of Dr. Cameron, a psychiatrist who directed the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal. Dr. Cameron died in 1967.
The money was provided to Dr. Cameron as part of the C.I.A.'s effort in the 1950's and 60's to develop drugs or techniques that could control human behavior. 

Patients of Dr. Cameron were subjected to a regimen that included heavy doses of LSD and barbiturates, the application of powerful electric shocks two or three times a day, and prolonged periods of drug-induced sleep. According to Government records, the patients and their relatives were not told they were taking part in experiments.
Joseph Rauh, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said many of Dr. Cameron's patients 'were very greatly damaged by the experiments.'” - New York Times16

The use of 'fronts', meaning a private enterprise secretly owned by the CIA to conceal affiliations with the agency, is standard practice and widespread through MK-ULTRA. The Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology was nominally associated with Stanford and considered to be relatively prestigious in the field. It would often award 'cover grants' to conceal that the bulk of its research had military intelligence applications.17

* * * *

Unwitting Testing

The CIA had an official policy of 'terminal experiments', which essentially meant surreptitious administration of drugs to discover how subjects would react when they were not aware they were being experimented on. The justification was that it was the only way to truly discover the reactions of the mind under stress and exposed to various mind control chemicals. The policy was upheld even after it led to deaths. One high profile fatality was that of Dr. Frank Olson, a scientist from the Army Chemical Corps' Special Operations Division. During a joint Army-CIA gathering at Deep Creek Lodge in the woods of Northern Maryland, Sidney Gottlieb added LSD to the drinks of the few men in attendance, and did not inform them until the effects started to begin. 

Dr. Frank Olson was one of these men, and unlike his peers, he was not able to handle the effects of the psychedelic. His colleagues described his reaction as 'psychotic'. He survived the trip, but entered a deep depression and ended up jumping out a window of the window of a New York hotel a week later.

The death of Dr. Olsen prompted an internal review by the CIA of surreptitious testing, but the policy was resumed just a few months later. One CIA document, issued nearly a decade after Olsen's death, affirmed the internal consensus of unwitting administration of drugs: 

“(Officers) argued for the continuation of unwitting testing, using as the principal point that controlled testing cannot be depended upon for accurate results. General Carter, Mr. Kirkpatrick, and I do not disagree with this point.”18

Another aspect of unwitting testing involves experimentation of children. Although most of MK-ULTRA experiments on minors has been covered up, a New York Times article from 1995 reveals a disturbing glimpse, stating that:

About 9000 Americans, including children and newborns,were used in 154 radiation tests sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Energy Department's Cold War predecessor, Government officials said today... Some participated with little or no knowledge of risks they faced.”19

* * * *


One program uncovered during the internal CIA review by centered around George White, a CIA associate who formally worked for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The CIA considered White's position ideal, as it gave him unrestricted access to a variety of drugs without suspicion. Under CIA auspices, George White set up 'safehouses' in New York and later San Francisco, fully equipped with covert video and audio surveillance equipment. The goal was to study the use of prostitutes for covert intelligence.20

TSS officials wanted to find out everything they could about how to apply sex to spying, and the prostitute project became a general learning and then training ground for CIA carnal operations. After all, states one TSS official, "We did quite a study of prostitutes and their behavior.... At first nobody really knew how to use them. How do you train them? How do you work them? How do you take a woman who is willing to use her body to get money out of a guy to get things which are much more important, like state secrets. I don't care how beautiful she is—educating the ordinary prostitute up to that level is not a simple task.” - John Marks

In addition to studying the use of prostitutes for clandestine use, the safehouses were used to administer drugs to the unwitting solicitors, after which the various effects would be recorded. At least a couple CIA veterans were willing to discuss the use of these safehouses for a more sinister operation: entrapment. John Marks' research of the over 20,000 declassified documents into MK-ULTRA shortly after their release in the mid 70's revealed the following shocking information:

Gottlieb did not limit his interest to drugs. He and other TSS officials wanted to try out surveillance equipment. CIA technicians quickly installed see-through mirrors and microphones through which eavesdroppers could film, photograph, and record the action. "Things go wrong with listening devices and two-way mirrors, so you build these things to find out what works and what doesn't," says a TSS source. "If you are going to entrap, you've got to give the guy pictures [flagrante delicto] and voice recordings. Once you learn how to do it so that the whole thing looks comfortable, cozy, and safe, then you can transport the technology overseas and use it." This TSS man notes that the Agency put to work in the bedrooms of Europe some of the techniques developed in the George White safehouse operation.”21

James Keehner, a former CIA psychologist, recalled his involvement in one entrapment case, in which he analyzed a nurse who had 'offered her body' for her country:

"We wanted her to sleep with this Russian... Either the Russian would fall in love with her and defect, or we'd blackmail him. I had to see if she could sleep with him over a period of time and not get involved emotionally. Boy, was she tough!"22

Keehner noted that he became disillusioned with entrapment cases, but that other officers 'got their jollies' from this type of work. Regarding his typical assignment, Keehner stated:

"I was sent to deal with the most negative aspects of the human condition. It was planned destructiveness. First, you'd check to see if you could destroy a man's marriage. If you could, then that would be enough to put a lot of stress on the individual, to break him down. Then you might start a minor rumor campaign against him. Harass him constantly. Bump his car in traffic. A lot of it is ridiculous, but it may have a cumulative effect."

Knowing that some officers got their 'jollies' from entrapment operations, and that safehouses were installed in the United States, the question “Were entrapment techniques ever used against United States officials or other domestic people of importance?” is logically raised.

* * * *

Personality Assessment

Although MK-ULTRA was originally devoted to biological mind control, it quickly evolved into a program dedicated to understanding all aspects of the human psyche. George White's experiments tested how people reacted to entrapment, and other experiments tested how different types of people responded to alcohol. It is with this context that the CIA contacted Psychologist John Gittinger to become an instrumental part of MK-ULTRA.

Gittinger had developed the Personality Assessment System, a test which would be administered to give fascinating insights into a person's personality and had distinct variables that separated his work from other known personality tests at the time such as the famous Weschler exam. Like Ewan Cameron, Gittinger received funding through the Human Ecology Society to research what type of personality would be likely to defect from their country, both to target foreign agents and to weed out domestic ones. 

At one point, Gittinger traveled to work with George White to use his test on prostitutes and homosexuals to refine his assessment test to figure out what type of sexual orientation someone likely had, and to figure out who had sexually deviant tendencies. One of Gittinger's colleagues stated that he knew of cases where the Personality Assessment System was used to identify targets for entrapment, both heterosexual and homosexual.23

One particularly useful application of the Personality Assessment System was to identify people who would be easily hypnotized. It has likely been used extensively to hand-pick subjects and employees on sensitive projects within and beyond MK-ULTRA, assessing peoples personalities to discover who would retain secrecy and loyalty.

Interestingly, Gittinger was familiar enough with his test that he was able to observe someones behavior and then retroactively apply the attributes to determine their personality type. By observing how a man held his cigarette, handled his alcohol, or interacted with women, Gittinger could profile that person and determine their weaknesses and propensity for exploitation through entrapment or other means. 

One logical application of the Personality Assessment System is the ability to assign certain people to a program that required secrecy, by determining how loyal an agent or asset would be to the Agency.

* * * *


In mainstream culture, hypnotism is viewed as a type of 'science fiction', confined to the realm of magic tricks and entertainment. The truth is that hypnotism is very real and used both in mainstream psychology and in military intelligence.

Hypnotism was used by the United States military before the creation of the CIA, during World War II. Psychologist Dr. George H. Estabrooks recalled his involvement in the clandestine program to Science Digest in 1971, in an article titled “Hypnotism Comes of Age”.

One of the most fascinating but dangerous applications of hypnosis is its use in military intelligence. This is a field with which I am familiar through formulating guidelines for the techniques used by the United States in two world wars.
Communication in war is always a headache. Codes can be broken. A professional spy may or may not stay bought. Your own man may have unquestionable loyalty but his judgment is always open to question.

The “hypnotic courier,” on the other hand, provides a unique solution. I was involved in preparing many subjects for this work during World War II. One successful case involved an Army Service Corps Captain whom we’ll call George Smith. Captain Smith had undergone months of training. He was an excellent subject but did not realize it. I had removed from him, by post hypnotic suggestion, all recollection of ever having been hypnotized.
First I had the Service Corps call the captain to Washington and tell him they needed a report on the mechanical equipment of Division X headquartered in Tokyo. Smith was ordered to leave by jet next morning, pick up the report and return at once. These orders were given him in the waking state. Consciously, that was all he knew, and it was the story he gave his wife and friends.

Then I put him under deep hypnosis, and gave him—orally—a vital message to be delivered directly on his arrival in Japan to a certain colonel—let’s say his name was Brown—of military intelligence. Outside of myself, Colonel Brown was the only person who could hypnotize Captain Smith. This is “locking.” I performed it by saying to the hypnotized Captain: “Until further orders from me, only Colonel Brown and I can hypnotize you. We will use the signal phrase ‘the moon is clear.’ Whenever you hear this phrase from Brown or myself you will pass instantly into deep hypnosis.” When Captain Smith re-awakened, he had no conscious memory of what happened in trance. All that he was aware of was that he must head for Tokyo to pick up the division report.

On arrival there, Smith reported to Brown, who hypnotized him with the signal phrase. Under hypnosis, Smith delivered my message and received one to bring back. Awakened, he was given the division report and returned home by jet. There I hypnotized him once more with the signal phrase, and he spieled off Brown’s answer that had been dutifully tucked away in his unconscious mind.

The system is virtually foolproof. As exemplified by the case, the information literally was “locked” in Smith’s unconscious for retrieval by the only two people who knew the combination. The subject had no conscious memory of what happened, so couldn’t spill the beans. No one else could hypnotize him even if they might know the signal phrase...”
The potential for military intelligence has been nightmarish. During World War II, I worked this technique with a vulnerable Marine lieutenant I’ll call Jones. Under the watchful eye of Marine intelligence I split his personality into Jones A and Jones B. Jones A, once a “normal” working Marine, became entirely different. He talked communist doctrine and meant it. He was welcomed enthusiastically by communist cells, and was deliberately given a dishonorable discharge by the Corps (which was in on the plot) and became a card-carrying party member.

The joker was Jones B, the second personality, formerly apparent in the conscious Marine. Under hypnosis, this Jones had been carefully coached by suggestion. Jones B was the deeper personality, knew all the thoughts of Jones A, was a loyal American and was “imprinted” to say nothing during conscious phases.

All I had to do was hypnotize the whole man, get in touch with Jones B, the loyal American, and I had a pipeline straight into the Communist camp. It worked beautifully for months with this subject, but the technique backfired. While there was no way for an enemy to expose Jones’ dual personality, they suspected it and played the same trick on us later.” - Science Digest, April 197124

It is pretty shocking to see that Estabrooks was willing to completely destroy the life of a marine by relegating his primary personality to an 'alternate' that would only appear when accessed through hypnosis. It is more shocking that such an application of hypnotism is even possible. He noted that the potential for military intelligence was nightmarish but felt content that his knowledge was being used for the United States instead of the Nazis or the Russians. Unfortunately, corrupt elements in the United States, namely the CIA, would capitalize on this knowledge for illicit means in the near future.

There are a variety of CIA documents released through the Freedom of Information Act that shed light on their hypnotism activities. One particularly disturbing example is MK-ULTRA document 190691. It describes an experiment where an unnamed CIA official hypnotized two subjects, both 19 year old women. In an awakened state, they expressed deep disgust in the idea of holding a gun, yet when hypnotized, one was willing to grab it and fire at her peer (the gun was unloaded and no one was hurt.) It states:25

[Redacted] was then instructed (having previously expressed a fear of firearms in any fashion) that she would use every method at her disposal to awaken [redacted] (now in a deep hypnotic sleep) and failing in this, she would pick up a pistol nearby and fire it at [redacted]. She was instructed that her rage would be so great she would not hesitate to “kill” [redacted] for failing to awake. [Redacted] carried out these suggestions to the letter, including firing the (unloaded pneumatic) pistol at [redacted] and then proceeding to fall into a deep sleep. After proper suggestions were made, both were awakened and expressed complete amnesia for the entire sequence.”

Not only was the CIA officer able to coerce otherwise peaceful subjects into violence, he was able to remove any memories of the event after they 'woke up' from the hypnotism.

MK-ULTRA Document 190619

MK-ULTRA Document 190527 reveals that through hypnotic suggestion, one subject was coerced into setting up an incendiary bomb and leaving the device in a bathroom.26 The document states that even with unforeseen problems in location availability during the hypnotic state, the experiment was:

...carried off without any difficulty or hesitation on the part of either of the girls... Throughout, their movements were easy and natural, and (bystanders) were, to all intents and purposes, completely unaware of what was taking place although they could clearly observe the movements of [redacted] and [redacted].”

MK-ULTRA Document 190527

Dr. Estabrooks once noted that only 1 in 5 people were susceptible to hypnotism in this manner. True to form, the CIA researched ways to improve to hypnotic susceptibility in their subjects, and found some success by combining techniques with administering drugs. A document titled Continuation of Studies on Hypnosis and Suggestibility states:

Preliminary clinical research during 1955-56 has yielded promising leads in terms of knowledge of how hypnotizability can be influenced by pharmacological means. Several drugs have been identified that apparently are effective in speeding the induction of a hypnotic state...”27

The two cited CIA documents describe the unwitting hypnosis of two young women for the use of experimentation. What is the possibility that psychopaths would use this knowledge to exploit women sexually? Perhaps the most disturbing CIA document I have come across is numbered 140393 and details a CIA interview with a professional hypnotist who was asked to give an instructional course in hypnotism to CIA agents. It states:

On July 2 1951 approximately 1:00 pm the instruction began with [redacted] relating to the student some of his sexual experiences. [Redacted] stated that he constantly used hypnotism as a means of inducing young girls to engage in sexual intercourse with him. [Redacted], a performer in [redacted] orchestra was forced to engage in sexual intercourse with [redacted] while under the influence of hypnotism. [Redacted] stated that he first put her into a hypnotic trance and then suggested to her that he was her husband and she desired sexual intercourse with him. [Redacted] further stated that many times while going home he would use hypnotic suggestion to have a girl turn around and talk to him and suggest sexual intercourse to him and that as a result of these suggestions he spent approximately five nights a week away from his home engaging in sexual intercourse.”28

It is nothing short of terrifying to read how interested the CIA was in methods of rape. The fact that this was beyond any application to intelligence is an afterthought. The document finishes by describing how the student of the hypnotism instructor was able to successfully use his newly-learned techniques on new subjects, indicating that hypnotism was able to spread throughout the ranks of the CIA relatively effortlessly. 

When Operation Bluebird first began, marking the beginnings of research into hypnosis, one early document revealed a surprising goal:

Can we "condition" by post-hypnotic suggestion agency employees (or persons of interest to this agency) to prevent them from giving information to any unauthorized source or for committing any act on behalf of a foreign or domestic enemy?”29

This raises the distinct and disturbing possibility that the act of hypnotizing agency members for the purpose of altering their behavior became a common practice at the CIA under MK-ULTRA, with the power of what suggestions to induce at the hands of only two psychopathic men.

* * * *


Upon MK-ULTRA becoming public knowledge in 1971, the CIA was quick to claim that the program was halted due to a lack of production. The available evidence clearly shows that this is a lie. From the documents that survived Director Helm's destruction order, we can already see the potential for a 'Manchurian candidate': a mind controlled assassin. 

So what happened to MK-ULTRA? 14 year CIA veteran Victor Marchetti has stated in numerous interviews that the claim MK-ULTRA was halted was merely a cover-story, and that the operation went completely black, in other words, research continued at the highest level of secrecy.30 

Is it possible that academic research into hypnosis and other organic forms of mind control have been deliberately marginalized from mainstream entertainment, media and academics in order to keep its potential use within a military-industrial complex a secret? After all, MK-ULTRA researcher Dr. Ewan Cameron became the president of the World Psychiatric Association in 1961 and also served as presidents of the Canadian and American Psychiatric Associations.31

It is important to reiterate that not only does the available evidence of MK-ULTRA comprise a portion of the documents that were created, but many of the experiments were never recorded in the first place. The operation was presided over by only two individuals who had a complete knowledge of the operations. Not even the Director of the CIA had full access. When John F. Kennedy appointed John McCone as the new director in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Richard Helms declined to inform him about the more sensitive MK-ULTRA operations, such as George White's safehouses.32 

Ultimately, the goal of MK-ULTRA was not to find the 'holy grail' of mind control but to map out a complete knowledge of human nature and the human mind, and then find ways to exploit it. This was done on both individual and group levels. We have no idea how much was accomplished towards this goal, or how much more developed the mind control research has gotten in the 50 years that have passed since the available documents were last issued. After all, if this is what the CIA was able to accomplish in the 1950's, what are they capable of today?

Food for Thought:

  1. What kind of experiments were detailed in the documents that were destroyed after Director Helm's orders?

  2. What kind of experiments were never recorded and why did they require such a high level of secrecy?

  3. Do any recent instances of terrorism or assassinations sound similar to the documented instances of hypnotically induced susceptibility to carry out acts of violence?

  4. What kind of power does mind control represent in the hands of a psychopath?

  5. How widespread was the entrapment program and is it possible that it ended up targeting U.S. Politicians? Military leaders? Businessmen?

  6. What is responsible for the complete lack of knowledge of MK-ULTRA among the public?

  7. What was the purpose of associating trauma through electro-shock and other means with mind control?

  8. What new means of mind control have emerged with new technology?

Note: This information is also a part of my free eBook, 'Lifting the Veil: An Investigative History of the United States Pathocracy'. If you enjoy this post, please download the book by clicking this link.

1New York Times, Sidney Gottlieb, 80, Dies; Took LSD to C.I.A.,” March 10, 1999
2Interview excerpt provided by Historian Dick Russell, available here.
5Document available here.
6Document available here.
71977 Congressional Hearings, available here.
8New York Times, 80 Institutions Used in Mind Control Studies”, August 4, 1977
9John Marks, “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control” 1979. Despite the sensationalist title, John Marks' book is a model of academic integrity and a treasure trove of information. The book is derived from information taken from 16,000 CIA files received through the Freedom of Information Act, and interviews with the few officials who would agree to talk. PDF available here.
10Document available here.
13John Marks
17Document available here.
18Document text available at here.
19New York Times, Officials Cite More U.S. Tests With Radiation,” February 10, 1995. (PDF Warning)
21John Marks
22John Marks
23John Marks
24Science Digest, Hypnotism Comes of Age,” April 1971
25Document available here.
26Document available here.
27Document available here.
29Document available here.
31Research from Historian John Simpkin, available here.
32Church Committee's Assassination report, pp. 102-3