Project MKUltra | Declassified #6

The cat in your neighbourhood might be spying on you. No, it’s not science-fiction, sounds obnoxious but it did happen. Acoustic Kitty was a project of the CIA which in the 1960s intended to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet embassies. In an hour-long procedure a veterinary surgeon implanted a microphone in the cat’s ear canal, a small radio transmitter at the base of its skull and a thin wire into its fur. This would allow the cat to innocuously record and transmit sound from its surroundings. Due to problems with distraction, the cat’s sense of hunger had to be addressed in another operation. The project was cancelled in 1967. A closing memorandum said that the CIA researchers believed that they could train cats to move short distances, but that “the environmental and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that for our (intelligence) purposes, it would not be practical.” The project was disclosed in 2001, when some CIA documents were declassified. There were some success and some failures but the cost of running the project (according to former CIA officer, Victor Marchetti it was around $20 Million) with the little success that it was a loss in general.

That is not the only time the CIA has tried to control the mind of mammals; human mind control experiments, long thought to be science fiction and a conspiracy theory the project which lasted from 1953 to 1973 the details of which didn’t become public until a congressional investigation of illegal CIA activities in the US and around the world in 1975 reveals rather fascinating information. Its declassified, it’s public, but if someone told you this on the street you’d think of it as a conspiracy theory, it’s public but ironically the public doesn’t know. The project also included a sub-project by the name of Midnight Climax, and let me tell you, the name perfectly represents what it puts out.

LSD was the drug mostly used in the experiments. If you don’t know about it, well, in 1938 a Swiss scientist by the name of Albert Hofmann created LSD and tested on himself in 1943, the drug is known for it’s insane hallucinogenic properties, effects of this drug are distinct from anything mainstream such as cocaine, marijuana, meth etc. During the 50s the Korean War was coming to an end, and earlier that week, The New York Times had published a startling story asserting that American POWs returning from the country may have been “converted” by “Communist brain-washers.” Some GI’s (soldiers) were confessing to war crimes, like carrying out germ warfare against the Communists – a charge the U.S. categorically denied. Others were reportedly so brainwashed that they had refused to return to the United States at all. As if that weren’t enough, the U.S. was weeks away from secretly sponsoring the overthrow of a democratically elected leader in Iran.

During the time Allen W. Dulles had just become the first civilian director of the CIA (note “civilian”), he realized the power of the agency, in his speech he said, “In the past few years we have become accustomed to hearing much about the battle for men’s minds – the war of ideologies. I wonder, however, whether we clearly perceive the magnitude of the problem, whether we realize how sinister the battle for men’s minds has become in Soviet hands. We might call it, in its new form, ‘brain warfare.’” He expressed fears and uncertainty – were they using chemical agents? Hypnosis? Something else entirely? “We in the West,” the CIA Director conceded, “are somewhat handicapped in brain warfare.”

Allen W. Dulles
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Three days after his speech decrying Soviet tactics, Dulles approved the beginning of MK-Ultra, a top-secret CIA program for “covert use of biological and chemical materials.” “American values” made for good rhetoric, but Dulles had far grander plans for the agency’s Cold War agenda. MK-Ultra’s “mind control” experiments generally centered around behavior modification via electro-shock therapy, hypnosis, polygraphs, radiation, and a variety of drugs, toxins, and chemicals. These experiments relied on a range of test subjects: some who freely volunteered, some who volunteered under coercion, and some who had absolutely no idea they were involved in a sweeping defense research program. From mentally-impaired boys at a state school, to American soldiers, to “sexual psychopaths” at a state hospital, MK-Ultra’s programs often preyed on the most vulnerable members of society. The CIA considered prisoners especially good subjects, as they were willing to give consent in exchange for extra recreation time or commuted sentences.

Whitey Bulger, a former organized crime boss, wrote of his experience as an inmate test subject in MK-Ultra. “Eight convicts in a panic and paranoid state,” Bulger said of the 1957 tests at the Atlanta penitentiary where he was serving time. “Total loss of appetite. Hallucinating. The room would change shape. Hours of paranoia and feeling violent. We experienced horrible periods of living nightmares and even blood coming out of the walls. Guys turning to skeletons in front of me. I saw a camera change into the head of a dog. I felt like I was going insane.” Bulger claimed he had been injected with LSD.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or acid, had become one of the CIA’s key interests for its “brain warfare” program, as the agency theorised it could be useful in interrogations. One CIA officer described the agency as “literally terrified” of the Soviets’ LSD program, largely because of the lack of knowledge about the drug in the United States. “[This] was the one material that we had ever been able to locate that really had potential fantastic possibilities if used wrongly,” the officer testified.

Doctors Harry Williams and Carl Pfeiffer conducting an LSD Experiment.
Image source: Getty images

In the late 50s, Donald Ewen Cameron of the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal, Canada began MKUltra Subproject 68, this project was on a whole new level. The experiments were designed to first “depattern” the individual, erasing their minds and memories – reducing them to the mental level of an infant – and then to “rebuild” their personality in whatever they wanted. To achieve it, Cameron put the subjects into drug-induced comas for up to 88 days, and applied numerous high voltage shocks to them over the course of weeks or months. Then he would perform “psychic driving” experiments on the subjects, where he would repeatedly play recorded statements, such as “you’re good wife, mother, people love you”, through speakers he had implanted into blacked-out helmets, that was bound to head for sensory deprivation purposes. Several of the children who were the subjects were sexually abused, in at least one case by several men, one of the children was filmed numerous times performing sexual acts with high-ranking federal officials, this was a scheme put in place (by Cameron) to blackmail the officials to ensure further funding for the experiments.

With the advent of MK-Ultra, the government’s interest in LSD shifted from a defensive to an offensive orientation. Agency officials noted that LSD could be potentially useful in “[gaining] control of bodies whether they were willing or not.” The CIA envisioned applications that ranged from removing people from Europe in the case of a Soviet attack to enabling assassinations of enemy leaders. I hope you realize the intent of the operation, if not, let me reiterate for you; the operation now seeked to gain such control on the human mind that they could – to assassinate someone – use the target’s own circle of people. This isn’t where they stopped, now we get to the experiments during midnight, say hello to Operation Midnight Climax.

The CIA’s initial experiments with LSD were fairly simple, if shockingly unethical. The agency generally dosed single targets, finding volunteers when they could, sometimes slipping the drug into the drinks of fellow CIA employees. Over time these LSD experiments grew increasingly elaborate. After recruitment efforts became increasingly difficult to find volunteers of these programs the CIA sought out other means of conducting their “studies”. Operation Midnight Climax was an illegal operation initially established by Dr. George Hunter White under the alias of Morgan Hall for the CIA. The direction of this operation employed the use of prostitutes from the San Francisco area to lure men and then serve them alcohol containing large doses of LSD. These women would then fulfil their financial obligations to the drugged men under observation of CIA personnel through a one-way mirror and taped for later observation. The selection of the men focused on candidates that would be too embarrassed to present the circumstances to the public for fear of exposure themselves. Anything in the name of science folks!

In 1964 Project MKUltra was renamed MKTRUTH and continued to operate well into the 1970s. In 1972 all documentation related to MKUltra was ordered to be destroyed by CIA director Richard Helms, no doubt seeing public pressure weighing on the situation. This action hid the details of more than 150 individually funded programs. In 1974 the New York Times blew the lid off of things and soon after the Church Committee and Rockafeller Commission was created to explore and put an end to these programs. In the summer of 1975, congressional hearings and the Rockefeller Commission report revealed to the public for the first time that the CIA and the DOD had conducted experiments on both cognisant and unwitting human subjects as part of an extensive program to influence and control human behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and other chemical, biological, and psychological means. They also revealed that at least one subject had died after administration of LSD. Hope you did not enjoy this information, because it wasn’t meant to be enjoyable and you shouldn’t. This isn’t the only time US agencies have tried psychological warfare, although this one ended, there’s one that still continues, to read the blog on that, Click Here.



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