Friday, November 17, 2017
The death (or murder?) of CIA scientist Dr. Frank Olson hinted of an enormous secret CIA program into techniques of mind alteration and control. The enterprise was assigned the code-name MK-ULTRA and was headed in the 1950s by Willis Gibbons.
MK-ULTRA was inspired by reports of mind-control work in the Soviet Union and China. The CIA's Office of Security attempted to develop techniques in hypnosis, drugging, electro-shock therapy and even brain surgery on unsuspecting humans in various projects over twenty years whose object was to get an individual "to do our bidding against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature as self-preservation."
The first operations were conducted in Japan in October 1950, witnessed by Richard Helms under code name Bluebird. Twenty-five North Korean prisoners of war were given alternating doses of depressants and stimulants. The POWs were shot up with barbiturates, allowing them to go to sleep, then abruptly awoken with injections of amphetamines, hypnotized, then questioned. These interrogations continued throughout the Korean War and violated international protocols on the treatment of POWs.
MK-ULTRA was always intended as an operational program, and by the early 1960s these techniques were being fully deployed in the field, sometimes in situations so vile that they rivaled in evil the efforts of the Nazi scientists in German concentration camps. Dr. Sidney Gottlieb sent a little black bag to the Congo, with a biotoxin scheduled for Patrice Lumumba's toothbrush. Similar plots followed Castro, an Iraqi Colonel and North Vietnamese prisoners. The CIA never had any success breaking those prisoners and soon began using them as lab animals in Nazi-like experiments.
In one such experiment, three North Vietnamese prisoners were anaesthetized; their skulls were then opened and electrodes were implanted by CIA doctors into different parts of their brains. The prisoners were revived, placed in a room with knives and the electrodes in the brains activated by the CIA psychiatrists who were covertly observing them. The hope was that they could be prompted in this manner to attack each other. The experiment failed. The electrodes were removed, the patients were shot and their bodies burned. This rivaled anything in Dachau.
One horrific story after another takes us to Montreal Canada where Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, a most esteemed psychiatrist of his time, headed both the American Psychiatric Association and the World Psychiatry Association. He also helped to the craft the Nuremberg Code on medical research. After the war Cameron developed a near obsession with schizophrenia. He believed that he could cure the condition by first inducing a state of total amnesia in his patients and then reprogramming their consciousness through a process he termed "psychic driving."
Cameron pioneered research into the use of sensory deprivation techniques. He once locked a woman in a small white "box" for thirty-five days, where she was deprived of all light, smells and sounds. Cameron used a variety of exotic drugs on his patients, once slipping LSD to an unsuspecting woman fourteen times over a two-month period. He also investigated the practical benefits of inducing paralysis in some of his patients by giving them injections of curare. Lobotomies were another area of intense interest for Dr. Cameron, who instructed his psycho-surgeons to perform their operations using only mild local anesthetics. He wanted the patients awake so that he could chart the minute changes in their consciousness the deeper the scalpel blade sliced into the frontal lobe.
Nothing satisfied Cameron quite like the use of electro-shock therapy, which he believed could "wipe the mind clean," allowing him to purge his patients of their disease. These experiments were conducted on more than 150 patients, until Linda McDonald emerged from Cameron's care in a near infantile condition, unable to go to the bathroom herself. Cameron was eased out of his post, but that didn't end the programs.
Senator Edward Kennedy investigated the program and the mass media played the program and its grave consequences down.
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