1959, the Height of the Cold War. The Manchurian Candidate, a thriller novel written by Richard Condon, sends shivers across the nation as to the possibility of a secret U.S. Government mind control experiment program gone amok enters the mainstream. The story is about the son of a prominent political family who has been brainwashed into becoming an unwilling assassin for the Communist Party.
In the film, Major Bennett Marco, Sergeant Raymond Shaw and the rest of their platoon are captured during the Korean War in 1952 and are all brainwashed into believing Shaw saved their lives in combat. They go back home and Shaw gets the Medal of Honor. However, Marko begins to have a frequent nightmare in which Shaw kills two of his comrades. When he discovers that another platoon member has been having the same dream, he sets out to uncover the mystery about the nightmares.
What is happening to him is that he has become a sleeper agent.
The queen of diamonds in a deck of playing cards is the subconscious trigger, which compels him to follow their orders, which he doesn't remember afterwards. Making matters worse, Shaw is controlled by none other than his own domineering mother, who is working with the Communists in a plot to overthrow the government.
Could something like this happen?
How farfetched is a plot like this? This story, banned in communist countries, has long since fascinated conspiracy aficionados worldwide. After all, how much can we really trust big government, even our own? Could the U.S. Government do something like this to its own citizens? Hear the below evidence and make up your mind for yourself.
An Introduction to CIA Mind Control Experiments
For years, there has been speculation that the CIA has conducted numerous types of secret experiments on its own citizens. Some of these experiments included subjecting citizens to disease and testing the prolonged effects of LSD on some unwitting subjects.
Considerable evidence supports the contention that the so-called "Unabomber", none other than Theodore Kaczynski, participated in clandestine program called "MKULTRA". This CIA-sponsored battery of experiments was conducted at Harvard University under the direction of Henry A. Murray, at the time, a professor of Social Relations between 1959 and 1962.
According to Alston Chase of TheAtlanticOnline.com, Kaczynski was subjected to "a disturbing and what would now be seen as an ethically indefensible experiment on twenty-two undergraduates."
At the time, Alston asserts, Kaczynski was a "precocious, though impressionable, sixteen-year-old when he began his participation. His assigned code name was `Lawful.'" We all know the disturbing course of history Ted Kaczynski would soon follow. He emerged, years later, as a terrorist, sending mail bombs to academics. He has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Could his behavior have been a result of a failed mind control experiment? Could Kaczynski be a blowback?
What would happen if these allegations were true? Would our government do something so devious as to treat its very own citizens as lab mice or even worse? In addition, what would that say about the moral high ground our country has usually taken against other inhumane experimental regimes such as those conducted by the Nazis?
CIA Mind Control Projects
It is hard to imagine what it was like growing up the son of a CIA researcher privy to some of the nation's darkest secrets and that is exactly the case with Eric Olson. The statement below dated August 8, 2002 and attributed to the Olson family living in Frederick Maryland today, can shed some light on what it would be like to be the son of a man the government may have felt knew too much. Eric Olson and his family for years now, continue to search for the truth regarding the mysterious death of their father, a prominent biological weapons researcher in the early 50s, who leapt to his death from a New York Hotel room. The statement asserts the following:
1. The death of Frank Olson (their father) on November 28, 1953 was a murder, not a suicide.
2. This is not an LSD drug-experiment story, as it was represented in 1975. This is a biological warfare story. Frank Olson did not die because he was an experimental guinea pig who experienced a "bad trip." He died because of concern that he would divulge information concerning a highly classified CIA interrogation program called "ARTICHOKE" in the early 1950's, and concerning the use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War.
3. The truth concerning the death of Frank Olson was concealed from the Olson family as well as from the public in 1953. In 1975, a cover story regarding Frank Olson's death was disseminated. At the same time, a renewed cover-up of the truth concerning this story was being carried out at the highest levels of government, including the White House. The new cover-up involved the participation of persons serving in the current Administration.
At the heart of the Olson cover-up, is the allegation that Frank, a United States Army biochemist and biological weapons researcher, was given LSD without his knowledge or consent in 1953 as part of a CIA experiment, thus leading him to committing suicide a week later following a severe psychotic episode. A CIA doctor assigned to monitor Olson's recovery claimed to be asleep in another bed in a New York City hotel room when Olson jumped through the window to fall ten stories to his death on the streets of New York below.
MK Ultra and project Artichoke
One thing that has become clear: Project MKULTRA, or MK-ULTRA, was indeed the code name for a for a CIA mind-control program, run by the Office of Scientific Intelligence. The program began in the early 1950s. According to most sources, it continued at least through the late 1960s.
Like MK Ultra, "Artichoke" was an offensive program of mind control. The program gathered the intelligence divisions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and FBI. In addition, the scope of the project was outlined in a memo dated January 1952 that stated, "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?"
According to the web site, Micaael-Robinett.com, declassified MKULTRA documents indicated hypnosis was a primary focus in the early 1950s. Additionally, experimental goals of the program included: "hypnotically induced anxieties." Other curiosities of this program included:
~ Hypnotically increasing ability to learn and recall complex written matter;
~ Studying hypnosis and polygraph examinations, hypnotically increasing ability to observe and recall complex arrangements of physical objects;
- and -
~ Studying the relationship of personality susceptibility to hypnosis.
Furthermore, the site alleges there is much published evidence that the project involved the "surreptitious use of many types of drugs, as well as other methodology, to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function."
Project MK-ULTRA was first brought to wide public attention in 1975 by the U.S. Congress, in the form of the Church Committee, led by Senator Frank Church, and by a presidential commission known as the Rockefeller Commission. However, Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MKULTRA files destroyed in 1973.
According to author John Marks in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, the CIA insists that MKULTRA-type experiments have been abandoned. However, a 14-year CIA veteran Victor Marchetti has stated in various interviews that the CIA "routinely conducted disinformation campaigns and that CIA mind control research continued."
According to the site, Namebase.org, the CIA went to court prior to publication of this book, claiming that it would compromise national security. The court disagreed, but the publisher had to submit the manuscript to the CIA for prior review. The CIA asked for 339 deletions, most of which were refused by the court. Moreover, along with Philip Agee's "Inside the Company: CIA Diary," Marks' book is considered by some to be one of the most important works on the CIA in the 1970s.
Other evidence backing the veracity of such mind-control programs comes from Senator Ted Kennedy, no less. On the Senate floor in 1977, Senator Ted Kennedy said:
"The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over thirty universities and institutions were involved in an 'extensive testing and experimentation' program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens 'at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign.' Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to 'unwitting subjects in social situations.' At least one death, that of Dr. [Frank] Olson resulted from these activities. The Agency itself acknowledged that these tests made little scientific sense. The agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific observers."
The Canadian Connection
The extent of MKULTRA gets even murkier. According to Marks, the experiments were exported to Canada when the CIA recruited Scottish physician Donald Ewen Cameron, creator of all sorts of outlandish experiments involving the mind.
Marks asserts Cameron had been hoping to correct schizophrenia by "erasing existing memories and completely rebuilding the psyche." Allegedly, this strange fellow commuted from Albany, New York to Montreal every week to work at the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University. He was on the books for an annual salary of $69,000 from 1957 to 1964 to conduct MKULTRA experiments there.
Supposedly, Cameron experimented with various paralytic drugs besides LSD as well as "electroconvulsive therapy at thirty to forty times the normal power."
According to Marks, his "driving" experiments consisted of putting subjects into drug-induced coma for weeks at a time (up to three months in one case) while playing tape loops of noise or simple repetitive statements.
Marks further alleges, Cameron's experiments were typically carried out on patients who had entered the institute for minor problems such as anxiety disorders and postpartum depression, many of whom suffered permanently from his actions. The results of Cameron's experiments were highly disturbing: incontinence, amnesia, forgetting how to talk, forgetting their parents, and thinking their interrogators were their parents.
Cameron's work was inspired and mirrored by the British psychiatrist Dr William Sargant at St Thomas' Hospital, London, and Belmont Hospital, Surrey, who also experimented extensively and very damagingly on his patients without their consent. According to Marks, Sargant was equally involved with the Intelligence Services.
It was during this era that Cameron became known worldwide as the first chairman of the World Psychiatric Association as well as president of the American and Canadian psychiatric associations. Perhaps ironically, Cameron had also been a member of the Nuremberg medical tribunal only a decade earlier. It is reasonable to ask if he learned a thing or two from the Nazis?
Word Gets Out
So where is all the evidence today? Unfortunately, like anything involving allegations about the CIA, hard evidence is in short supply.
Allegedly, in 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MKULTRA files destroyed. It would follow logically then, most CIA documents concerning the project were destroyed, making a full investigation of MKULTRA all but a pipe dream.
The New York Times reported in 19741 that the CIA had conducted illegal domestic activities, including experiments on U.S. citizens, during the 1960s. That report sparked investigations by the U.S. Congress, in the form of a committee headed by Senator Frank Church, and by a presidential commission known as the Rockefeller Commission.
The congressional committee investigating the CIA research, chaired by Senator Frank Church, concluded that prior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects.
The committee noted that the "experiments sponsored by these researchers ... call into question the decision by the agencies not to fix guidelines for experiments."
President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued the first Executive Order on Intelligence Activities which, among other things, prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject" and in accordance with the guidelines issued by the National Commission.
Yes, indeed something was afoul at the CIA during the height of the Cold War. MK-Ultra was unconscionable and the facts surrounding the death of Frank Olson remain clouded with suspicion all these years later.
The more frightening question is do these sorts of clandestine programs continue today? Could our Government still be trying to gain that extra advantage that would guarantee our global dominance for centuries to come? We only hope that the answer to that distributing question is no. We would like to believe we could trust Uncle Sam on this issue. We will put our faith in our hope that Uncle Sam has abandoned any interest in mind-control experimentation, but just in case, that tin foil hat will be in a place where we can easily get to it.
Marks, John (1979). The Search for the Manchurian Candidate.
New York: Times Books. ISBN 0-8129-0773-6.
Marchetti, Victor and Marks, John D. The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence.
New York: Dell Publishing, 1975. 397 pages.
"Book Disputes CIA Chief on Mind-Control Efforts", by Bill Richards.
The Washington Post, January 29, 1979, page A2.
"The CIA's Attempt At Mind Control: Bad Trips?",
The Washington Post, February 15, 1979, page C2.
"Canadians Sue U.S. Over CIA Tests of Behavior Modification Methods", by Laura A. Kiernan.
The Washington Post, December 12, 1980, page A44.
"Tests Contradict U.S. Story of Man's Suicide; Family Suspects CIA Killed Researcher"
by Brian Mooar. The Washington Post, July 12, 1994, page B1.
"New Study Yields Little on Death of Biochemist Drugged by CIA", by Brian Mooar.
The Washington Post, November 29, 1994, page B3.
"Mk Ultra", by Mark Jenkins.
The Washington Post, September 25, 1998, page N15.
The Frank Olson Project – a website created by Frank Olson's family
to explore the issues surrounding his death.
Declassified MKULTRA Documents at the Black Vault – the full 4-CD collection
of MKULTRA (and related) FOIA documents, online.
Declassified MKULTRA Project Documents