“While the declared purposes of these programs were to protect the “national security” or prevent violence, Bureau witnesses admit that many of the targets were nonviolent and most had no connections with a foreign power. Indeed, nonviolent organizations and individuals were targeted because the Bureau believed they represented a “potential” for violence – and nonviolent citizens who were against the war in Vietnam were targeted because they gave "aid and comfort" to violent demonstrators by lending respectability to their cause.The imprecision of the targeting is demonstrated by the inability of the Bureau to define the subjects of the programs...The acts taken interfered with the First Amendment rights of citizens. They were explicitly intended to deter citizens from joining groups, “neutralize” those who were already members, and prevent or inhibit the expression of ideas...Nor was this the only First Amendment right violated by the Bureau. In addition to attempting to prevent people from joining or continuing to be members in target organizations, the Bureau tried to “deter or counteract” what it called “propaganda” the expression of ideas which it considered dangerous. Thus, the originating document for the “Black Nationalist” COINTELPRO noted that “consideration should be given to techniques to preclude” leaders of the target organizations “from spreading their philosophy publicly or through various mass communication media.” Instructions to “preclude” free speech were not limited to “black nationalists;” they occurred in every program. In the New Left program, for instance, approximately thirty-nine percent of all actions attempted to keep targets from speaking, teaching, writing, or publishing.”- Church Committee Final Report, Book II: Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans. (P. 213 – 215.)
While writing the last Dark Corners of the Earth Entry, I began planning to work on this one. One of the primary reasons for the writing of these entries is to provide a satisfactory background to various Cold War era covert operations and to introduce the individual who has never heard of most of what I am about to say to the history behind some of the intelligence programs that we see today. In the same way that COINTELPRO is the predecessor behind the emerging NSA/FBI/CIA/DHS intelligence apparatus and has been historically abused and returned today in the War on Terror... Our torture, indefinite detention, and other “counter-intelligence” programs have their roots in Cold War PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) programs. Some of them have been discussed on this blog before; others I have discovered a bit more recently, which filled in blanks that I had hoped I would never manage to fill-in.
Beginning in 1945, the Unites States began recruiting former Nazi scientists whose work was deemed of use to the United States in a secret intelligence program called Operation: Paperclip. Scientists, some of whom would have been deemed War Criminals by the Judges who oversaw the Nuremberg trials, systematically had their backgrounds white-washed and were put to work in secret Defense Department and intelligence projects across the United States.
Amongst these projects was one initially named Project: BLUEBIRD (1950s). It was later renamed Project: ARTICHOKE. The projects were designed to study mind control, interrogation, and behavior modification. Amongst these projects those with the prefix “MK,” like MK-ULTRA, represented 'Mind Control' projects.
These projects examined the effects of LSD-25 (then thought to be a psychosis inducing chemical; the CIA hoped to weaponize it and use it as a truth serum), electro-shock therapy, and psychological techniques to modify the behavior of individuals. In Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond one finds probably the best documentary evidence of what was occurring with MK-ULTRA. The book tells the tale of the rise of LSD-25 into the social consciousness, and how the shadow tendrils of the CIA is involved in the story from the very beginning.
The CIA, in their zeal to understand one of the best representatives of the 1950s “Wonder Drugs,” spread LSD-25 around a variety of psychological and psychiatric institutions and was thus responsible for creating the drug boom amongst the hippies... As well as a number of other, far more disturbing things. The key thing to understand in this is that the CIA was distributing LSD-25, as well as poaching Psychologists and Psychiatrists, in an effort to better understand the psychological processes of individuals. They were seeking, as several authors have put it, “the blue-prints of consciousness.”
As such they were ultimately responsible for Timothy Leary being introduced to the chemical, as well as John C. Lilly. While neither men appear to be directly involved in the defense projects during this time, both appear to have gotten their hands on LSD-25 by way of the CIA distributing the drug.
In future entries, I will return to psychological work that hangs on the findings of Mr. Lilly. For now, let us briefly address some of his work and findings... As well as a key moment that I hope you'll recall later when we return to it: Lilly used doses of LSD-25, while placing himself in a sensory deprivation tank (he would float, on his back, with no sensory input to either his eyes, nor his ears while completely fried on LSD-25). At a certain point, he began having encounters with things he felt were beings akin to Gods or spirits. The resulting experiences lead to two books, both of which are marvelous to read: Programming and Meta-programming in the Human Biocomputer (1967), in which he reported his first set of findings but held out on trying to analyze what they meant. The second book is Center of the Cyclone: Looking into Inner Space (1972), in which Lilly discusses the psychological impact that the “trips” had on his life and his continuing research into LSD-25 and Ketamine (the latter of which, ultimately, proved to be too much for the man). Prior to the publication of either, Lilly was asked to brief the Defense Department (and the intelligence community, one imagines) on his findings. He refused and left the National Institution of Health (NIH) over the matter. All in all, this turned out to be a good thing as it left the intelligence community in the dark about some of his research, and took some time for them to find other researchers with similar findings to fill in the blanks and further enhance their techniques for torture.
These programs were both wide-ranging in scope, and horrifying in practice. Unknowing citizens of the United States were given LSD-25, both without their knowledge or their consent, in both New York and San Francisco. In S.F., specifically, a brothel was set up by the CIA which was monitored by a fellow named George H. White. Both unsuspecting Johns, and Prostitutes*, were dosed with LSD-25 and the spooks then watched, behind one-way mirrors, as the individuals engaged in sexual acts... Plenty of which became kinky. This was hardly a surprise, since some of the these locations were decorated with BDSM art.
This is, however, just the tip of the ice-berg.
Something Slumbers in Ravenscrag
In Canada, Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron – who has been mentioned on this blog as one of the monsters bred by the Psychiatric institution during this time period – was a prominent Psychiatrist in his day. He was the first Chairman of the World Psychiatric Association (1961). He conducted experiments across the United States, but some of his worst abuses of patients occurred in Ravenscrag, an aptly-named facility. It was there that he operated the Sleep Rooms: patients would be given massive doses of LSD-25 and other drugs, concurrent electro-shock therapy treatments, and be sedated for days on end while tape-recorders played looped programs that were fed into their ears with audio equipment and headphones. Cameron called the technique “Psychic Driving,” and supposedly the goal was to be able to produce a state that is best described as Brain-Washing. These words are today charged with conspiratorial discourses, but the literal meaning of the term seems to have been Cameron's goal. He literally wanted to wash out all memories and experiences from the brain of patients and replace it with a new, more malleable persona.
Those used to reading conspiracy magazines will likely note the resemblance between the goal and conspiracy folklore in the term Manchurian Candidate. The idea has spawned a number of fictional movies, normally involving covert assassins who are unaware of what they are (“Sleeper Agents,”) but once triggered by a codeword swing into their duty to an intelligence agency. The reality is both less romantic, and far more brutal: Cameron was able to wipe out the memories of those involved in the Sleep Room experiments, but unable to give them any semblance of a new identity. All he managed to produce, in terms of “Psychic Driving,” was individuals with permanent brain damage and the ability to repeat certain phrases that had been played on the tape-loops they had been subjected to.
However, for the spooks, Cameron's research – along with that of Donald O. Hebb – did manage to produce something. Not necessarily the perfect assassin – embodied in conspiracy circles by the strange, and most likely fictitious, tale of Candy Jones – but something just as terrifying. Cameron managed to produce elements that would become part of the CIA's techniques for torturing, securing information, and producing results from “dissidents.” In A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, Professor Alfred McCoy links Cameron's experiments explicitly with the KUBARK training manual that was disseminated at the School of the Americas (now called WHINSEC due to all the bad publicity it got in the 1990s). If one wishes, they can google the word “KUBARK” and take a look at the torture techniques discussed and taught at the School of the Americas (WHINSEC), and compare them with Cameron's psychic driving techniques and other experiments.
When I return for the next entry in this series, in the next few days, I will discuss the School of the Americas, the “Dirty War” in South America, and how our own military trained individuals who later came to commit absolutely massive scale human rights violations in the 1970s and well into the 1990s. In a large part, it shows that we not only were teaching the methods derived from Hebb and Cameron to other military forces, but promoting killing “non-violent” resistance in countries which were feared to be falling to the force of Communism. It also sets up precisely the elements we saw come to play following 9/11, when the Defense Department and the Spooks implemented those same techniques to be used in the War on Terror... and promptly fell prey to the dark side of the intelligence industry: once you start torturing people for information, everything spirals out of control. Just as it did in America and abroad in the early 2000s, it had done so before in South America as the “Dirty Wars” picked up their pace.
Be seeing you,
EDIT: Exchanged the image of the Question for the illustration from Bluebird.
EDIT: Exchanged the image of the Question for the illustration from Bluebird.
* Although, they typically gave the Johns the drinks that were spiked with the drug.