Project MKUltra

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Project MKUltra: CIA mind control program

A program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency—and which were, at times, illegal.

Declassified MKUltra document

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The experiments were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control.

CIA approved sub-project on LSD in this June 9, 1953 letter

1955 MKUltra document describes the study of mind-altering substances as follows:

  1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
  2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
  3. Materials which will cause the victim to age faster/slower in maturity.
  4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so they may be used for malingering, etc.
  6. Materials which will cause temporary/permanent brain damage and loss of memory.
  7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture, and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
  8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
  9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
  10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
  11. Substances which will produce a chemical that can cause blisters.
  12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
  13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
  14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
  15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
  16. A knockout pill which can be surreptitiously administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
  17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a person to perform physical activity.

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In 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MKUltra files destroyed, but about 20,000 documents survived. They had been stored incorrectly in a financial records building and were discovered following a FOIA request in 1977

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.

The CIA funded studies at Columbia University, Stanford University and other colleges for experiments with LSD, MDMA, mescaline, heroin, barbiturates, methamphetamine and psilocybin.

Operation Midnight Climax: MK-Ultra project that used government-employed prostitutes to lure unsuspecting men to CIA “safe houses” where drug experiments took place.

A CIA agent named George White wrote in 1971: “Of course I 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 and cheat, steal, deceive, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?”

Documented subjects:

  • Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Robert Hunter is an American lyricist, singer-songwriter, translator, and poet
  • Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger
  • Ted Kaczynski, a domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber
  • Sirhan Sirhan 
  • Candy Jones, an American fashion model and radio host

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Frank Olson was a scientist who worked for the CIA. In 1953, he was secretly dosed with LSD at a secret meeting and only days later, fell to his death from a hotel window. The death was ruled a suicide.

An autopsy in 1994 revealed that injuries on the body that had likely occurred before the fall.

The family received apologies from President Gerald Ford, then-CIA director William Colby, and $750,000.


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