bottom line on this whole business has not yet been written."
CIA Technical Services Staff director for the MK-ULTRA program
German philosopher Georg Friedrich Hegel long ago developed, among
other things, what he called the principle of “thesis, antithesis,
synthesis” to explain the process of deliberately enacted social
disorder and change as a road to power. To achieve a desired result,
one deliberately creates a situation (“thesis,”) devises a “solution,”
to solve the “problems” created by that situation (“antithesis,”)
with the final result being the ultimate goal of more power and
control (“synthesis.”) It is unsurprising Karl Marx and his disciples
like Lenin and Trotsky, as well as the US government in its so-called
War On Drugs, made this process a keystone of their drive for total
control of all individual actions that, in their views, were not,
in Mussolini s terms, “inside the state” and thus controllable by
September 1942, OSS director and Army Maj. Gen. William "Wild
Bill" Donovan began his search for an effective "truth
serum" to be used on POWs and captured spies. Beginning with
a budget of $5,000 and the blessing of President Franklin Roosevelt,
he enlisted the aid of a few prominent physicians and psychiatrists
like George Estabrooks and Harry Murray as well as former Prohibition
agent and notorious Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) director Harry
OSS/FBN team first tested a potent marijuana extract, tetrahydrocannabinol
acetate (THCA), a colorless, odorless substance, lacing cigarettes
or food items with it, and administering them to volunteer US Army
and OSS personnel, all who eventually acquired the nickname "Donovan's
Dreamers." Testing was also conducted under the guise of treatment
for shell shock.
team found that THCA, which they termed "TD," for "truth
drug," induced "a great loquacity and hilarity,"
and even, in cases where the subject didn't feel physically threatened,
some useable "reefer madness." Peyote, morphine and scopolamine
were judged too powerful to be used in effective interrogation.
In light of all this, Donovan concluded, "The drug defies all
but the most expert and search analysis, and for all practical purposes
can be considered beyond analysis." The OSS did not, however,
end the program. By that time, faced with the terrifying ship losses
the USA was suffering from German U-boats, Donovan pressed on, hoping
to find some effective chemical means to help interrogate captured
May 1943, George Hunter White, an Army captain, OSS officer and
former FBN agent, gave standard cigarettes laced with THCA to an
unwitting August "Augie Dallas" Del Grazio, an influential
New York City gangster. Del Grazio, who had by then had done prison
stretches for assault and murder, had been one of the Mafia's most
notorious enforcers and narcotics smugglers. He operated an opium
alkaloid factory in Turkey and was a key participant in the long-running
Istanbul/Marsellies/NYC heroin pipeline commonly known as the "French
Connection." Influenced by the THC, Del Grazio (who was also
helping to smuggle spies and Mafiosi into German-occupied Italy)
revealed volumes of vital information about underworld operations,
including the names of several high ranking city and state officials
who took bribes from the Mob. Donovan was encouraged by the results
of White's tests when he wrote, "Cigarette experiments indicated
that we had a mechanism offering promise in relaxing prisoners to
the extensive wartime German experiments with various hallucinogenic
drugs at the Dachau concentration camp, directed by one Dr. Hubertus
Strughold, later honored as "the father of aviation medicine,"
aroused great interest in the USA especially after an October 1945
Navy technical mission to Dachau reported in detail on Strughold's
work. So great, in fact, that when the OSS and its successor, the
CIA, imported 800 German scientists of various specialties under
the auspices of the infamous "Project Paperclip" during
1945-55, it made sure to include Dr. Strughold.
Strughold's barbaric “medical experiments,” for which his subordinates
were tried and convicted as war criminals at Nuremburg, were nothing
more than a series of bizarre and unspeakably brutal tortures. Even
so, he learned a lot about human behavior and mescaline, a natural
alkaloid present in the peyote cactus. Mescaline, long central to
many Native American religious rituals and first chemically isolated
in 1896, is a phenethylamine whose ergoline skeleton is also contained
in lysergic acid (a tryptamine.)
Labs chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann also discovered a lysergic acid
derivative called ergonovine, a medication used to retard excessive
postpartum uterine bleeding. Based on his work with ergonovine,
Dr. Hofmann first derived d-lysergic acid diethylamide tartrate-25
(LSD, a refined alkaloidal liquid byproduct of a rye fungus, ergot)
in a series of experiments in Zurich in 1938. He used the naturally
occurring lysergic acid radical, the common item in all ergot alkaloids,
as the major component of the substance. Further experiments in
this vein yielded psilocybin, derived from the Mexican Psilocybe
cubensis mushroom, hydergine, essential today in the improvement
of cerebral circulation in geriatric patients, and dihydroergotamine,
an important ingredient in blood pressure medication.
well-read and broadly educated Dr. Hofmann knew ergot had a long
natural and cultural history as both medicine and poison. Ancient
Greek midwives used to give an ergot-based, gruel-like drink, called
kykeon, to their patients about to give birth. Kykeon was also consumed
during the autumn Eleusinia, the ancient Greek agricultural festival
celebrated in honor of the goddess of agriculture, Demeter. Across
the Atlantic, sacramental Maya morning glories, beautifully depicted
at the ancient Mayan temple-palace complex at Teotihuacán,
Mexico, dating to about 1450, also contain ergot-based alkaloids.
the mindset the CIA had in its drug research work was far different
from that of Dr. Hofmann's. To our Cold War spymasters, ex-Nazis
like Dr. Strughold were definitely evil, but they were definitely
useful as well. This pervasive amoral pragmatism led, of course,
to the extensive and notorious MK-ULTRA experiments in which, for
nearly 25 years, thousands of everyday Americans, both military
and civilian, were heavily dosed with numerous very potent artificial
psychoactive drugs, often without their knowledge or consent.
phenomenon of the obsessive "interests of national security"
expediency combined with our celebrity-obsessed pop culture that
gleefully raises and shamelessly promotes snake oil hustlers as
well as the pharmaceutical industry's pricey "pill for every
ill" philosophy, was a form of incompetence and arrogance far
more hazardous than any synthetic alkaloid ever developed and came
as no surprise to those like Dr. Hofmann. LSD, invaluable in psychiatric
treatment – actor Cary Grant was cured of alcoholism by carefully
administered doses of the drug under close medical supervision –
is thousands of times more potent than the traditional herbal mixtures.
In fact, it is thousands of times more potent than the milder of
the entheogenic alkaloids. It is effective at doses of as little
as a ten-millionth of a gram, which makes it 5,000 times more potent
than mescaline. It should not be taken without training or supervision.
Navy tested mescaline as part of its 1947-53 Project CHATTER. MK-ULTRA
was first organized in 1949 by Richard Helms under the direction
of Allen Dulles as Project BLUEBIRD. Two years later, it was renamed
ARTICHOKE (after one of Dulles's favorite foods) then termed MK-ULTRA
in 1953, finally becoming MK-SEARCH in 1965 until the program’s
“official termination” eight years later. MK-ULTRA was directly
responsible for the wide underground availability of LSD, phencyclidine
(PCP — also called “angel dust”), dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine
(STP) and other powerful synthetic psychoactive drugs in the 1960s.
In the early 1950s, the CIA and the Army had contacted Sandoz requesting
several kilograms of LSD for use in the test program. Dr. Hofmann
and Sandoz refused this request, so Director Dulles persuaded the
Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical luminary Eli Lilly (later the
pioneers of and chief cheerleaders for the widely prescribed antidepressant
Prozac) to synthesize the drug contrary to existing international
patent accords–making the US government and Lilly the first illegal
domestic manufacturers and distributors of LSD.
were distributed via the agency's sometime allies in organized crime
and through the FBI's counterintelligence programs (COINTELPROs)
directed against various activist groups of the period. The actual
definition of the term MK-ULTRA remains unclear but a former Army
Special Forces captain, John McCarthy, who ran the CIA's Saigon-based
Operation Cherry which targeted the Cambodian ruler Prince Sihanouk
for assassination, claimed that MK-ULTRA stood for "Manufacturing
Killers Utilizing Lethal Tradecraft Requiring Assassination."
April 10, 1953, in a speech at Princeton University, CIA director
Allen Dulles (further feeding the already widespread but misguided
fear about the high effectiveness of the alleged Chinese "brainwashing"
of US POWs in the Korean conflict) warned that the human mind was
a "malleable tool," and that the "brain perversion
techniques" of the Reds were "so subtle and so abhorrent"
that "the brain&becomes a phonograph playing a disc put
on its spindle by an outside genius over which it has no control."
in its simplest form, is condemning one's opponent publicly for
doing what one is already doing privately. Dulles, of course, was
that very "outside genius." Three days after warning assembled
Princetonians of the disturbing ramifications of these techniques,
he had directed MK-ULTRA researchers to perfect them. Dr. Sidney
Gottlieb, the CIA's expert on lethal poisons, (who reputedly was
the inspiration for director Stanley Kubrick's bizarre "Dr.
Strangelove" character played by Peter Sellers in the 1964
film of the same title) headed up the operation as director of the
Chemical Division of the Technical Services Staff and, via a front
organization called "The Society For Human Ecology," distributed
$25 million in drug research grants to Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley
and other institutions.
George Hunter White, of THCA-laced "Lucky Strikes" fame,
had returned to the FBN (now the DEA) at war's end and continued
to research behavior modifying drugs. In 1955, when MK-ULTRA was
running full throttle, he was a high ranking FBN administrator who
helped the Agency develop and implement a similar operation called
Midnight Climax. In this infamous scheme, "safehouses"
staffed with prostitutes were established in San Francisco. The
hookers lured men from local taverns back to these safehouses after
their drinks had been previously spiked with LSD. White's team secretly
filmed the subsequent events in each house. The purpose of these
so-called "national security brothels" was to enable the
CIA to experiment with the use of sex and mind altering drugs to
extract information from test subjects, and it was planned, from
spies, POWs, defectors and saboteurs.
Climax was terminated after eight years when CIA Inspector General
John Earman charged that "the concepts involved in manipulating
human behavior are found by many people within and outside the Agency
to be distasteful and unethical." He stated that "the
rights and interest of U.S. citizens were placed in jeopardy."
Earman further noted LSD "had been tested on individuals at
all social levels, high and low, native American and foreign."
Richard Helms, MK-ULTRA's bureaucratic godfather, summarily rebuffed
Earman's charges, claiming that "positive operational capacity
to use drugs is diminishing owing to a lack of realistic testing.
Tests," Helms continued, "were necessary to keep up with
the Soviets." However, Helms reversed himself a year later
when testifying before the Warren Commission investigating the JFK
assassination, claiming that "Soviet research has consistently
lagged five years behind Western research."
retirement from civil service in 1966, White wrote a startling farewell
letter to Dr. Gottlieb. He reminisced about his Midnight Climax
work. His comments were frightening:
was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly
in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could
a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage
with the sanction and blessing of the all-highest?"
else indeed, but as a member of what would later become the hypocritical
War on (Some) Drugs?
the end of the 1950s the CIA was funding just about every qualified
LSD researcher and psychologist it could find, through such contractors
as the Society for the Study of Human Ecology, the Josiah Macy,
Jr. Foundation, and the Geschichter Fund for Medical Research. Author
John Marks, in his 1975 book, The
Search for the Manchurian Candidate, identified the CIA's
LSD research pioneers as:
Robert Hyde at Boston Psychopathic Hospital
Harold Abramson at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Columbia University
in New York City
Carl Pfeiffer at the University of Illinois Medical School,
Harris Isbell of the NIMH-sponsored Addiction Research Center
in Lexington, Ky.
Louis Jolyon West at the University of Oklahoma, Stillwater
Harold Hodge at the University of Rochester (N.Y.)
there were prominent critics of the US government's activities,
the earliest among them being Aldous Huxley, the famed author of
the chillingly prescient 1932 novel Brave
New World (which described a totalitarian society whose
population was completely controlled by forcible administration
of a government-mandated "happiness drug" called "soma.")
While taking mescaline supplied by famed English surgeon Dr. Humphrey
Osmond (who discovered the close similarities between the molecular
structures of adrenaline and mescaline), Huxley completed another
novel entitled The
Doors of Perception in 1954. In that book, the novelist
described his intensely personal vision of the world around him:
continued to look at the flowers, and in their living light I seemed
to detect the qualitative equivalent of breathing – but of
a breathing without returns to a starting point, with no recurrent
ebbs but only a repeated flow from beauty to heightened beauty,
from deeper to ever deeper meaning. Words like u2018grace' and u2018transfiguration'
came to my mind&Those idiots (MK-ULTRAns) want to be Pavlovians;
Pavlov never saw an animal in its natural state, only under duress.
The u2018scientific' LSD boys do the same with their subjects. No wonder
they report psychotics."
this isn't a typical CIA spook writing, and, given Huxley's incredible
mind, creative vision and compassion, we're not talking about a
moron or a mental case either. Which means that giving someone mescaline
while they're being tortured or lobotomized or electrocuted at Dachau
will only tell you a lot about torture, lobotomies and electrocution,
not about mescaline.
author Marks noted:
would become supreme irony that the CIA's enormous search for weapons
among drugs – fueled by the hope that spies could control life
with genius and machines – would wind up helping to create
the wandering, uncontrollable minds of the counterculture."
son and musician Jim Morrison led The Doors, [of Perception] a quartet
of Liverpudlians sang of "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,"
while the Rolling Stones dropped transparent hints about "Mother's
Little Helper." To take a lesson from Orwell, what is more
important about the 1960s, indeed, about any period in history,
is not so much what really happened as how that period is remembered
publicly decades later.
public memories of that particular era were carefully manipulated
in great part by the deliberate creation and promotion (via television
and the recording industry) of the phony and in reality quite small
"drug/rock/hippie subculture." The first underground LSD
labs were actually set up by the FBI in 1963 in both New York City
and San Francisco. Many began to incorrectly confuse the ancient
medical art of herbalism with the shenanigans of amateur basement
"flower-power" and "biker" chemists. Overenthusiastic
pitchmen like social psychologist Dr. Timothy Leary and Beat poet
Allen Ginsberg sadly failed to sufficiently stress that key difference,
although the technically competent Leary clearly understood the
artificially high potency of LSD.
(and his longtime associate, psychologist Richard Alpert) matured
professionally in a CIA-funded research world. In 1948, Leary, then
a UC Berkeley graduate student, attended the yearly convention of
the left-wing American Veterans' Council in Milwaukee. There he
met CIA officer Cord Meyer. Meyer's professional specialty was infiltrating
and discrediting various organizations deemed "un-American"
or "disloyal." Meyer persuaded Leary to help him. Leary
acknowledged Meyer's influence, crediting him with "helping
me understand my political-cultural role more clearly."
1954-59 Leary was the director of clinical research and psychology
at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, Calif. The personality
test that made him famous, "The Leary," was actually used
by the CIA to test prospective employees. A grad school classmate
of Leary's, CIA contractor Frank Barron, worked with the Berkeley
Institute for Personality Assessment and Research, which was funded
and staffed by CIA psychologists. In 1960 Barron, with government
funding, founded the Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Center. Leary
followed Barron to Harvard, becoming a lecturer in psychology where
he remained for three years. Leary's Harvard associates included
former chief OSS psychologist Harry Murray, who had monitored the
early OSS "truth serum" experiments, and numerous other
knowing CIA contractors. One of Dr. Murray's many test subjects
was a Harvard undergraduate math major named Theodore Kaczynski.
the spring of 1963, Leary and Alpert left Harvard and founded the
International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) – later
renamed the Castalia Foundation – on a 2,500-acre estate in
the small upstate New York community of Millbrook. There, the pair
of psychologists continued their hallucinogenic drug research and
soon became the chief investigative target of an ambitious Dutchess
County district attorney named G. Gordon Liddy. Multimillionaire
William Mellon Hitchcock generously bankrolled the founding and
operation of IFIF/Castalia and later financed a huge black-market
LSD manufacturing operation.
so, Leary carefully stressed proper mindset, setting and dosages
in a book he coauthored with Alpert and Ralph Metzner, The
Psychedelic Experience. It was based on an ancient Tibetan
The Book of the Dead. The latter work referred to an
herbal tea similar in content to but far less powerful than LSD,
and insisted on mental discipline as an inherent part of the process.
The Incans of Andean South America, for instance, were an invaluable
source of medical knowledge, and used whole herbs like ayahuasca
and the coca leaf, not their artificially refined alkaloids, and
spiritual technique was also taught as an key part of the process.
much like the crusading "drys" before and during Prohibition,
the MK-ULTRA inquisitors with their police state mentality in concert
with misinformed and emotionally distressed LSD users, had found
their "devil drug," (the term used by the Harrison Tax
Act advocates in the 1910s and Marijuana Tax Act backers in the
1930s) replete with tragic tales of already emotionally distressed
and lonely young people quite unprepared for such an artificially
powerful entheogen. It was also well within CIA policy to randomly
distribute LSD laced with the lethal poison strychnine so as to
create "horror stories" useful as propaganda. Dr. Hofmann
himself chemically confirmed the presence of pure strychnine in
several random street samples of LSD.
with its policy of deliberately confusing the beneficial ancient
herbs with extremely dangerous synthetic alkaloid derivatives, the
CIA surreptitiously distributed of these synthetic compounds, termed
"psychedelics," to the public. One of them was STP, originally
developed as an incapacitating agent for the Army in 1964 at Dow
Chemical. Dow even made the STP formula public information three
years later. This potent synthetic put many unsuspecting people
on a three-day trip, and sent many, hysterical with anxiety, to
the emergency room. That, of course, was the purpose of its distribution.
1955-75, the Army tested LSD (termed EA-1729) and PCP on several
of its enlisted men at what was then the headquarters of its Chemical
Corps, Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland, something described in detail
by Bill Kurtis in a televised 1995 A&E Investigative Reports
segment titled "Bad Trip to Edgewood." The CIA also tested
PCP (in conjunction with electroshock "therapy" and sleep
deprivation) at Allain Memorial Institute in Montreal under the
direction of the notorious Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron.
The Chemical Corps (whose commander in the 1950s, Lt. General William
Creasy, advocated a new military strategy of LSD-based "nonkill
warfare") then stockpiled PCP for use as a "nonlethal
incapacitant." Excess doses of PCP, reported the CIA, could
"lead to convulsions and death." Soon, PCP was flooding
also received an average of 400 product "rejects" a month
from major US pharmaceutical firms. These "rejects" were
actually drugs found to be commercially useless because of their
demonstrated hazards and numerous undesirable side effects. In 1958,
Edgewood obtained its first sample of a "reject" called
phenylbenzeneacetic acid (BZ) developed by pharmaceutical giant
Hoffmann-LaRoche, later known by its street nickname as "brown
(some 10,000 times as powerful as LSD) inhibits the production of
hormones which aid the brain's transfer of messages and instructions
across nerve endings (synapses), thereby severely disrupting normal
human perceptual, behavioral and sensory patterns. Its effects generally
last about three days, although symptoms-migraine headaches, giddiness,
disorientation, auditory and visual hallucinations, and erratic
if not maniacal behavior – could persist for as long as six
weeks. "During the period of acute effects," noted an
Army physician, "the person is completely out of touch with
his environment." The Army also developed artillery shells
and rockets with warheads able to deliver large dosages of BZ to
the summer of 1964, Beat novelist Ken Kesey (the author of One
Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and who had been an MK-ULTRA
test subject at Stanford along with Allen Ginsberg and Grateful
Dead musician Bob Hunter) launched a yearlong cross-country trip
in a Day-Glo painted school bus filled with friends called "Merry
Pranksters." The Merry Pranksters distributed thousands of
doses of LSD along the way (a phenomenon colorfully described in
author Tom Wolfe's 1969 novel, The
Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) supplied by one Ronald Hadley
Stark. Stark (who died in 1984) was a CIA operative fluent in five
languages with access to unlimited public funds and numerous high-level
contacts in business and government throughout the world.
instance, when the underground manufacture and distribution of LSD
was suddenly derailed in 1969 due to the scarcity of its key ingredient,
ergotamine tartrate, and increasing federal law enforcement pressure,
Stark, via the Laguna Beach, Calif.-based Brotherhood of Eternal
Love, a small group of local surfers led by chemist Nicholas Sand,
got it quickly back on track. For five years, Stark, aided by the
Castle Bank of the Bahamas (which pioneered the art of money laundering
for the Mob) and his contacts in a French pharmaceutical firm, facilitated
the mass production and distribution (via the Brotherhood and other
groups) an even more powerful strain of LSD nicknamed "orange
sunshine." This firm also manufactured BZ. Stark (who operated
LSD labs in Brussels and Paris as well) claimed he was going to
supply orange sunshine as an offensive weapon to CIA-backed Tibetan
rebels fighting the Chinese occupation.
also was a close friend of the Los Angeles founders of a small breakaway
Scientology sect called "The Process Church of the Final Judgement,"
English expatriates Robert DeGrimston Moore and Mary Ann McClean.
attendees of the Process Church included members of the Beach Boys,
the Rolling Stones and other prominent pop performers as well as
an ex-convict and wannabe rock musician named Charles Manson. Manson
and his followers became heavy users of orange sunshine – the
trademark "bad acid" of the day – which they were
all on when, on Manson's orders, they carried out the brutal August
1969 Tate-LaBianca murders. When Stark (who is believed to have
distributed an estimated 50 million doses of LSD during his Agency
career) was arrested for drug trafficking in Bologna in 1975, Italian
magistrate Giorgio Floridia ordered his release on the grounds that
he had been a CIA agent since 1960. Judge Floridia documented and
justified this using a list of Stark's numerous intelligence contacts.
were and are all classic government COINTELPRO-style tricks — this
is how natural herbs and their mild, pharmaceutical-grade derivatives
were quickly and easily made lethal and consequently demonized.
How was this done? First, foolish claims were made that there was
no difference between safe whole herbs and their potentially deadly
ultra-refined alkaloids, next, the best of the traditional herbs
and the milder of the pharmaceutical-grade alkaloid derivatives
were made unavailable, and finally, the streets were flooded with
potentially deadly synthetics. Deliberate perversions of science
like angel dust continue to be a great propaganda tool for our diehard
drug warriors, and the worn catchall excuse of “the interest of
national security” is used to justify appalling covert drug capers
ranging from CIA-sponsored heroin production and trafficking in
Southeast Asia in the 1960s to the Bush/Clinton/Mena/Nicaragua cocaine-for-arms
smuggling schemes in the 1980s.
Constitution-shredding police state methods were adapted from the
Nazis and the Soviets by and large and were applied by the CIA,
NSA, DEA, BATF, IRS and FBI against us. Scores of groups, ranging
from the American Indian Movement and Black Panthers to militias
and religious organizations like the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas
(in which the government first falsely charged as illegal methamphetamine
dealers in order to get a Posse Comitatus Act waiver to use military
force against them) were either disrupted by agents provocateur-style
riots, bombings and armed standoffs, smeared in the mainstream news
media through the "Reichstag Fire" approach, or, in the
case of the Davidians, physically exterminated. The War on Some
Drugs is merely a horrible extension and intensification of these
tried-and-true Hegelian methods, a "war" in which we all
Mind Control, Dell Publishing, 1978.
Control of the Mind, Harper, NYC, 1969.
Doors of Perception, Harper, NYC, 1954.
Martin; Shalin, Bruce, Acid
CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, New York, 1974.
Search for the Manchurian Candidate, New York, 1975.
Robert & Houston, Jean, The
Varieties of Psychedelic Experience: The Classic Guide to the
Effects of LSD on the Human Psyche, 2000.
Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,
Lawrence Hill, 1972, rev. 1991.
Rape of the Mind, Crowell, NYC, 1956.
Freedom and Dignity," Knopf, NYC, 1971
Harris R. OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central
Intelligence Agency, Berkeley, 1972.
Heaven – LSD and the American Dream, 1998.
E. Kreca lives in San Diego and has been a financial reporter for
Knight-Ridder, Business Week and the Financial Times