The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
The CIA and Mind Control
John Marks, New York: Times Books, 1979
World War II
On the outskirts of Basel, Switzerland, overlooking the Rhine, lies the worldwide headquarters of the Sandoz drug and
chemical empire. There, on the afternoon of April 16, 1943, Dr. Albert Hofmann made an extraordinary discoveryby accident.
At 37, with close-cropped hair and rimless glasses, Hofmann headed the companys research program to develop marketable
drugs out of natural products. He was hard at work in his laboratory that warm April day when a wave of dizziness suddenly
overcame him. The strange sensation was not unpleasant, and Hofmann felt almost as though he were drunk.
But he became quite restless. His nerves seemed to run off in different directions. The inebriation was unlike anything
he had ever known before. Leaving work early, Hofmann managed a wobbly bicycle-ride home. He lay down and closed his eyes,
still unable to shake the dizziness. Now the light of day was disagreeably bright. With the external world shut out, his mind
raced along. He experienced what he would later describe as an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity
and vividness. . . . accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscope-like play of colors.
These visions subsided after a few hours, and Hofmann, ever the inquiring scientist, set out to find what caused them.
He presumed he had somehow ingested one of the drugs with which he had been working that day, and his prime suspect was d-lysergic
acid diethylamide, or LSD, a substance that he himself had first produced in the same lab five years earlier. As part of his
search for a circulation stimulant, Hofmann had been examining derivatives of ergot, a fungus that attacks rye.
Ergot had a mysterious, contradictory reputation. In China and some Arab countries, it was thought to have medicinal
powers, but in Europe it was associated with the horrible malady from the Middle Ages called St. Anthonys Fire, which struck
periodically like the plague. The disease turned fingers and toes into blackened stumps and led to madness and death.
Hofmann guessed that he had absorbed some ergot derivative through his skin, perhaps while changing the filter paper
in a suction bottle. To test his theory, he spent three days making up a fresh batch of LSD. Cautiously he swallowed 250 micrograms
(less than 1/100,000 of an ounce). Hofmann planned to take more gradually through the day to obtain a result, since no known
drug had any effect on the human body in such infinitesimal amounts. He had no way of knowing that because of LSDs potency,
he had already taken several times what would later be termed an ordinary dose. Unexpectedly, this first speck of LSD took
hold after about 40 minutes, and Hofmann was off on the first self-induced trip of modern times.
Hofmann recalls he felt horrific . . . I was afraid. I feared I was becoming crazy. I had the idea I was out of my body.
I thought I had died. I did not know how it would finish. If you know you will come back from this very strange world, only
then can you enjoy it. Of course, Hofmann had no way of knowing that he would return. While he had quickly recovered from
his accidental trip three days earlier, he did not know how much LSD had caused it or whether the present dose was more than
his body could detoxify. His mind kept veering off into an unknown dimension, but he was unable to appreciate much beyond
his own terror.
Less than 200 miles from Hofmanns laboratory, doctors connected to the S.S. and Gestapo were doing experiments that led
to the testing of mescaline (a drug which has many of the mind-changing qualities of LSD) on prisoners at Dachau. Germanys
secret policemen had the notion, completely alien to Hofmann, that they could use drugs like mescaline to bring unwilling
people under their control. According to research team member Walter Neff, the goal of the Dachau experiments was to eliminate
the will of the person examined.
At Dachau, Nazis took the search for scientific knowledge of military value to its most awful extreme. There, in a closely
guarded, fenced-off part of the camp, S.S. doctors studied such questions as the amount of time a downed airman could survive
in the North Atlantic in February. Information of this sort was considered important to German security, since skilled pilots
were in relatively short supply. So, at Heinrich Himmlers personal order, the doctors at Dachau simply sat by huge tubs of
ice water with stopwatches and timed how long it took immersed prisoners to die. In other experiments, under the cover of
aviation medicine, inmates were crushed to death in high-altitude pressure chambers (to learn how high pilots could safely
fly), and prisoners were shot, so that special blood coagulants could be tested on their wounds.
The mescaline tests at Dachau run by Dr. Kurt Plötner were not nearly so lethal as the others in the aviation series,
but the drug could still cause grave damage, particularly to anyone who already had some degree of mental instability. The
danger was increased by the fact that the mescaline was administered covertly by S.S. men who spiked the prisoners drinks.
Unlike Dr. Hofmann, the subjects had no idea that a drug was causing their extreme disorientation. Many must have feared they
had gone stark mad all on their own. Always, the subjects of these experiments were Jews, gypsies, Russians, and other groups
on whose lives the Nazis placed little or no value. In no way were any of them true volunteers, although some may have come
forward under the delusion that they would receive better treatment.
After the war, Neff told American investigators that the subjects showed a wide variety of reactions. Some became furious;
others were melancholy or gay, as if they were drunk. Not surprisingly, sentiments of hatred and revenge were exposed in every
case. Neff noted that the drug caused certain people to reveal their most intimate secrets. Still, the Germans were not ready
to accept mescaline as a substitute for their more physical methods of interrogation. They went on to try hypnosis in combination
with the drug, but they apparently never felt confident that they had found a way to assume command of their victims mind.
Even as the S.S. doctors were carrying on their experiments at Dachau, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Americas
wartime intelligence agency, set up a truth drug committee under Dr. Winfred Overholser, head of St. Elizabeths Hospital in
Washington. The committee quickly tried and rejected mescaline, several barbiturates, and scopolamine. Then, during the spring
of 1943, the committee decided that cannabis indicaor marijuanashowed the most promise, and it started a testing program in
cooperation with the Manhattan Project, the TOP SECRET effort to build an atomic bomb. It is not clear why OSS turned to the
bomb makers for help, except that, as one former Project official puts it, Our secret was so great, I guess we were safer
than anyone else.
Apparently, top Project leaders, who went to incredible lengths to preserve security, saw no danger in trying out drugs
on their personnel.
The Manhattan Project supplied the first dozen test subjects, who were asked to swallow a concentrated, liquid form of
marijuana that an American pharmaceutical company furnished in small glass vials. A Project man who was present recalls: It
didnt work the way we wanted. Apparently the human system would not take it all at once orally. The subjects would lean over
and vomit. What is more, they disclosed no secrets, and one subject wound up in the hospital.
Back to the drawing board went the OSS experts. They decided that the best way to administer the marijuana was inhalation
of its fumes. Attempts were made to pour the solution on burning charcoal, and an OSS officer named George White (who had
already succeeded in knocking himself out with an overdose of the relatively potent substance) tried out the vapor, without
sufficient effect, at St. Elizabeths. Finally, the OSS group discovered a delivery system which had been known for years to
jazz musicians and other users: the cigarette. OSS documents reported that smoking a mix of tobacco and the marijuana essence
brought on a state of irresponsibility, causing the subject to be loquacious and free in his impartation of information.
The first field test of these marijuana-laced cigarettes took place on May 27, 1943. The subject was one August Del Gracio,
who was described in OSS documents as a notorious New York gangster. George White, an Army captain who had come to OSS from
the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, administered the drug by inviting Del Gracio up to his apartment for a smoke and a chat.
White had been talking to Del Gracio earlier about securing the Mafias cooperation to keep Axis agents out of the New York
waterfront and to prepare the way for the invasion of Sicily.
Del Gracio had already made it clear to White that he personally had taken part in killing informers who had squealed
to the Feds. The gangster was as tough as they came, and if he could be induced to talk under the influence of a truth drug,
certainly German prisoners couldor so the reasoning went. White plied him with cigarettes until subject became high and extremely
garrulous. Over the next two hours, Del Gracio told the Federal agent about the ins and outs of the drug trade (revealing
information so sensitive that the CIA deleted it from the OSS documents it released 34 years later). At one point in the conversation,
after Del Gracio had begun to talk, the gangster told White, Whatever you do, dont ever use any of the stuff Im telling you.
In a subsequent session, White packed the cigarettes with so much marijuana that Del Gracio became unconscious for about an
hour. Yet, on the whole the experiment was considered a success in loosening the subjects tongue.
While members of the truth-drug committee never believed that the concentrated marijuana could compel a person to confess
his deepest secrets, they authorized White to push ahead with the testing. On the next stage, he and a Manhattan Project counterintelligence
man borrowed 15 to 18 thick dossiers from the FBI and went off to try the marijuana on suspected Communist soldiers stationed
in military camps outside Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans. According to Whites Manhattan Project sidekick, a Harvard Law
graduate and future judge, they worked out a standard interrogation technique:
Before we went in, George and I would buy cigarettes, remove them from the bottom of the pack, use a hypodermic needle
to put in the fluid, and leave the cigarettes in a shot glass to dry. Then, we resealed the pack. . . . We sat down with a
particular soldier and tried to win his confidence. We would say something like This is better than being overseas and getting
shot at, and we would try to break them. We started asking questions from their [FBI] folder, and we would let them see that
we had the folder on them . . . We had a pitcher of ice water on the table, and we knew the drug had taken effect when they
reached for a glass. The stuff actually worked. . . . Everyone but one and he didn"t smoke gave us more information than we
The Manhattan Project lawyer remembers this swing through the South with George White as a good time. The two men ate
in the best restaurants and took in all the sights. George was quite a guy, he says. At the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans
after we had interviewed our men, we were lying on the beds when George took out his pistol and shot his initials into the
molding that ran along the ceiling. He used his .22 automatic, equipped with a silencer, and he emptied several clips. Asked
if he tried out the truth drug himself, the lawyer says, Yes. The cigarettes gave you a feeling of walking a couple of feet
off the floor. I had a pleasant sensation of well-being. . . . The fellows from my office wouldnt take a cigarette from me
for the rest of the war.
Since World War II, the United States government, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, has searched secretly for ways
to control human behavior. This book is about that search, which had its origins in World War II. The CIA programs were not
only an extension of the OSS quest for a truth drug, but they also echoed such events as the Nazi experiments at Dachau and
Albert Hofmanns discovery of LSD.
By probing the inner reaches of consciousness, Hofmanns research took him to the very frontiers of knowledge. As never
before in history, the warring powers sought ideas from scientists capable of reaching those frontiersideas that could make
the difference between victory and defeat. While Hofmann himself remained aloof, in the Swiss tradition, other scientists,
like Albert Einstein, helped turned the abstractions of the laboratory into incredibly destructive weapons. Jules Vernes notions
of spaceships touching the moon stopped being absurd when Wernher von Brauns rockets started pounding London. With their creations,
the scientists reached beyond the speculations of science fiction. Never before had their discoveries been so breathtaking
and so frightening. Albert Hofmanns work touched upon the fantasies of the mindaccessible, in ancient legends, to witches
and wizards who used spells and potions to bring people under their sway. In the early scientific age, the dream of controlling
the brain took on a modern form in Mary Shelleys creation, Dr. Frankensteins monster.
The dream would be updated again during the Cold War era to become the Manchurian Candidate, the assassin whose mind
was controlled by a hostile government.  Who could say for certain that such a fantasy would not be turned into a
reality like Vernes rocket stories or Einsteins calculations? And who should be surprised to learn that government agenciesspecifically
the CIAwould swoop down on Albert Hofmanns lab in an effort to harness the power over the mind that LSD seemed to hold?
From the Dachau experiments came the cruelty that man was capable of heaping upon his fellows in the name of advancing
science and helping his country gain advantage in war. To say that the Dachau experiments are object lessons of how far people
can stretch ends to justify means is to belittle by cliché what occurred in the concentration camps. Nothing the CIA ever
did in its postwar search for mind-control technology came close to the callous killing of the Nazi aviation research. Nevertheless,
in their attempts to find ways to manipulate people, Agency officials and their agents crossed many of the same ethical barriers.
They experimented with dangerous and unknown techniques on people who had no idea what was happening. They systematically
violated the free will and mental dignity of their subjects, and, like the Germans, they chose to victimize special groups
of people whose existence they considered, out of prejudice and convenience, less worthy than their own. Wherever their extreme
experiments went, the CIA sponsors picked for subjects their own equivalents of the Nazis Jews and gypsies: mental patients,
prostitutes, foreigners, drug addicts, and prisoners, often from minority ethnic groups.
In the postwar era, American officials straddled the ethical and the cutthroat approaches to scientific research. After
an Allied tribunal had convicted the first echelon of surviving Nazi war criminalsthe Görings and SpeersAmerican prosecutors
charged the Dachau doctors with crimes against humanity at a second Nuremberg trial. None of the German scientists expressed
remorse. Most claimed that someone else had carried out the vilest experiments. All said that issues of moral and personal
responsibility are moot in state-sponsored research. What is critical, testified Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitlers personal physician,
is whether the experiment is important or unimportant. Asked his attitude toward killing human beings in the course of medical
research, Brandt replied, Do you think that one can obtain any worthwhile fundamental results without a definite toll of lives?
The judges at Nuremberg rejected such defenses and put forth what came to be known as the Nuremberg Code on scientific research.
Its main points were simple: Researchers must obtain full voluntary consent from all subjects; experiments should yield
fruitful results for the good of society that can be obtained in no other way; researchers should not conduct tests where
death or serious injury might occur, except, perhaps when the supervising doctors also serve as subjects. The judges all Americans
sentenced seven of the Germans, including Dr. Brandt, to death by hanging. Nine others received long prison sentences. Thus,
the U.S. government put its full moral force behind the idea that there were limits on what scientists could do to human subjects,
even when a countrys security was thought to hang in the balance.
The Nuremberg Code has remained official American policy ever since 1946, but, even before the verdicts were in, special
U.S. investigating teams were sifting through the experimental records at Dachau for information of military value. The report
of one such team found that while part of the data was inaccurate, some of the conclusions, if confirmed, would be an important
complement to existing knowledge. Military authorities sent the records, including a description of the mescaline and hypnosis
experiments, back to the United States. None of the German mind-control research was ever made public.
Immediately after the war, large political currents began to shift in the world, as they always do. Allies became enemies
and enemies became allies. Other changes were fresh and yet old. In the United States, the new Cold War against communism
carried with it a piercing sense of fear and a sweeping sense of missionat least as far as American leaders were concerned.
Out of these feelings and out of that overriding American faith in advancing technology came the CIAs attempts to tame hostile
minds and make spy fantasies real. Experiments went forward and the CIAs scientists bitten, sometimes obsessed kept going
back to their laboratories for one last adjustment. Some theories were crushed, while others emerged in unexpected ways that
would have a greater impact outside the CIA than in the world of covert operations. Only one aspect remained constant during
the quarter-century of active research: The CIAs interest in controlling the human mind had to remain absolutely secret.
World War II provided more than the grand themes of the CIAs behavioral programs. It also became the formative life experience
of the principal CIA officials, and, indeed, of the CIA itself as an institution. The secret derring-do of the OSS was new
to the United States, and the ways of the OSS would grow into the ways of the CIA. OSS leaders would have their counterparts
later in the Agency. CIA officials tended to have known the OSS men, to think like them, to copy their methods, and even,
in some cases, to be the same people. When Agency officials wanted to launch their massive effort for mind control, for instance,
they got out the old OSS documents and went about their goal in many of the same ways the OSS had. OSS leaders enlisted outside
scientists; Agency officials also went to the most prestigious ones in academia and industry, soliciting aid for the good
of the country. They even approached the same George White who had shot his initials in the hotel ceiling while on OSS assignment.
Years later, Whites escapades with OSS and CIA would carry with them a humor clearly unintended at the time. To those
directly involved, influencing human behavior was a deadly serious business, but qualities like bumbling and pure craziness
shine through in hindsight. In the CIAs campaign, some of Americas most distinguished behavioral scientists would stick all
kinds of drugs and wires into their experimental subjectsoften dismissing the obviously harmful effects with theories reminiscent
of the learned nineteenth-century physicians who bled their patients with leeches and belittled the ignorance of anyone who
questioned the technique. If the schemes of these scientists to control the mind had met with more success, they would be
much less amusing. But so far, at least, the human spirit has apparently kept winning. Thatif anythingis the saving grace
of the mind-control campaign.
World War II signaled the end of American isolation and innocence, and the United States found it had a huge gap to close,
with its enemies and allies alike, in applying underhanded tactics to war. Unlike Britain, which for hundreds of years had
used covert operations to hold her empire together, the United States had no tradition of using subversion as a secret instrument
of government policy. The Germans, the French, the Russians, and nearly everyone else had long been involved in this game,
although no one seemed as good at it as the British.
Clandestine lobbying by British agents in the United States led directly to President Franklin Roosevelts creation of
the organization that became OSS in 1942. This was the first American agency set up to wage secret, unlimited war. Roosevelt
placed it under the command of a Wall Street lawyer and World War I military hero, General William Wild Bill Donovan. A burly,
vigorous Republican millionaire with great intellectual curiosity, Donovan started as White House intelligence adviser even
before Pearl Harbor, and he had direct access to the President.
Learning at the feet of the British who made available their expertise, if not all their secrets, Donovan put together
an organization where nothing had existed before. A Columbia College and Columbia Law graduate himself, he tended to turn
to the gentlemanly preserves of the Eastern establishment for recruits. (The initials OSS were said to stand for Oh So Social.)
Friendsor friends of friendscould be trusted. Old boys were the stalwarts of the British secret service, and, as with most
other aspects of OSS, the Americans followed suit.
One of Donovans new recruits was Richard Helms, a young newspaper executive then best known for having gained an interview
with Adolf Hitler in 1936 while working for United Press. Having gone to Le Rosey, the same Swiss prep school as the Shah
of Iran, and then on to clubby Williams College Helms moved easily among the young OSS men. He was already more taciturn than
the jovial Donovan, but he was equally ambitious and skilled as a judge of character. For Helms, OSS spywork began a lifelong
career. He would become the most important sponsor of mind-control research within the CIA, nurturing and promoting it throughout
his steady climb to the top position in the Agency.
Like every major wartime official from President Roosevelt down, General Donovan believed that World War II was in large
measure a battle of science and organization. The idea was to mobilize science for defense, and the Roosevelt administration
set up a costly, intertwining network of research programs to deal with everything from splitting the atom to preventing mental
breakdowns in combat. Donovan named Boston industrialist Stanley Lovell to head OSS Research and Development and to be the
secret agencys liaison with the government scientific community.
A Cornell graduate and a self-described saucepan chemist, Lovell was a confident energetic man with a particular knack
for coming up with offbeat ideas and selling them to others. Like most of his generation, he was an outspoken patriot. He
wrote in his diary shortly after Pearl Harbor: As James Hilton said, Once at war, to reason is treason. My job is clearto
do all that is in me to help America.
General Donovan minced no words in laying out what he expected of Lovell: I need every subtle device and every underhanded
trick to use against the Germans and Japaneseby our own peoplebut especially by the underground resistance programs in all
the occupied countries. Youll have to invent them all, Lovell, because youre going to be my man. Thus Lovell recalled his
marching orders from Donovan, which he instantly received on being introduced to the blustery, hyperactive OSS chief. Lovell
had never met anyone with Donovans personal magnetism.
Lovell quickly turned to some of the leading lights in the academic and private sectors.
A special groupcalled Division 19within James Conants National Defense Research Committee was set up to produce miscellaneous
weapons for OSS and British intelligence. Lovells strategy, he later wrote, was to stimulate the Pecks Bad Boy beneath the
surface of every American scientist and to say to him, Throw all your normal law-abiding concepts out the window. Heres a
chance to raise merry hell.
Dr. George Kistiakowsky, the Harvard chemist who worked on explosives research during the war (and who became science
adviser to Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy) remembers Stanley Lovell well: Stan came to us and asked us to develop ways
for camouflaging explosives which could be smuggled into enemy countries. Kistiakowsky and an associate came up with a substance
which was dubbed Aunt Jemima because it looked and tasted like pancake mix. Says Kistiakowsky: You could bake bread or other
things out of it. I personally took it to a high-level meeting at the War Department and ate cookies in front of all those
characters to show them what a wonderful invention it was. All you had to do was attach a powerful detonator, and it exploded
with the force of dynamite. Thus disguised, Aunt Jemima could be slipped into occupied lands. It was credited with blowing
up at least one major bridge in China.
Lovell encouraged OSS behavioral scientists to find something that would offend Japanese cultural sensibilities. His
staff anthropologists reported back that nothing was so shameful to the Japanese soldier as his bowel movements. Lovell then
had the chemists work up a skatole compound which duplicated the odor of diarrhea. It was loaded into collapsible tubes, flown
to China, and distributed to children in enemy-occupied cities. When a Japanese officer appeared on a crowded street, the
kids were encouraged to slip up behind him and squirt the liquid on the seat of his pants. Lovell named the product Who? Me?
and he credited it with costing the Japanese face.
Unlike most weapons, Who? Me? was not designed to kill or maim. It was a harassment substance designed to lower the morale
of individual Japanese. The inspiration came from academicians who tried to make a science of human behavior. During World
War II, the behavioral sciences were still very much in their infancy, but OSSwell before most of the outside worldrecognized
their potential in warfare. Psychology and psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology all seemed to offer insights that could
be exploited to manipulate the enemy.
General Donovan himself believed that the techniques of psychoanalysis might be turned on Adolf Hitler to get a better
idea of the things that made him tick, as Donovan put it. Donovan gave the job of being the Fuhrers analyst to Walter Langer,
a Cambridge, Massachusetts psychoanalyst whose older brother William had taken leave from a chair of history at Harvard to
head OSS Research and Analysis. Langer protested that a study of Hitler based on available data would be highly uncertain
and that conventional psychiatric and psychoanalytic methods could not be used without direct access to the patient. Donovan
was not the sort to be deterred by such details. He told Langer to go ahead anyway.
With the help of a small research staff, Langer looked through everything he could find on Hitler and interviewed a number
of people who had know the German leader. Aware of the severe limitations on his information, but left no choice by General
Donovan, Langer plowed ahead and wrote up a final study. It pegged Hitler as a neurotic psychopath and proceeded to pick apart
the Führers psyche. Langer, since retired to Florida, believes he came pretty close to describing the real Adolf Hitler. He
is particularly proud of his predictions that the Nazi leader would become increasingly disturbed as Germany suffered more
and more defeats and that he would commit suicide rather than face capture.
One reason for psychoanalyzing Hitler was to uncover vulnerabilities that could be covertly exploited. Stanley Lovell
seized upon one of Langers ideasthat Hitler might have feminine tendenciesand got permission from the OSS hierarchy to see
if he could push the Führer over the gender line. The hope was that his moustache would fall off and his voice become soprano,
Lovell wrote. Lovell used OSSs agent network to try to slip female sex hormones into Hitlers food, but nothing apparently
came of it. Nor was there ever any payoff to other Lovell schemes to blind Hitler permanently with mustard gas or to use a
drug to exacerbate his suspected epilepsy. The main problem in these operationsall of which were triedwas to get Hitler to
take the medicine. Failure of the delivery schemes also kept Hitler aliveOSS was simultaneously trying to poison him.
Without question, murdering a man was a decisive way to influence his behavior, and OSS scientists developed an arsenal
of chemical and biological poisons that included the incredibly potent botulinus toxin, whose delivery system was a gelatin
capsule smaller than the head of a pin. Lovell and his associates also realized there were less drastic ways to manipulate
an enemys behavior, and they came up with a line of products to cause sickness, itching, baldness, diarrhea, and/or the odor
thereof. They had less success finding a drug to compel truthtelling, but it was not for lack of trying.
Chemical and biological substances had been used in wartime long before OSS came on the scene. Both sides had used poison
gas in World War I; during the early part of World War II, the Japanese had dropped deadly germs on China and caused epidemics;
and throughout the war, the Allies and Axis powers alike had built up chemical and biological warfare (CBW) stockpiles, whose
main function turned out, in the end, to be deterring the other side. Military men tended to look on CBW as a way of destroying
whole armies and even populations. Like the worlds other secret services, OSS individualized CBW and made it into a way of
selectively but secretly embarrassing, disorienting, incapacitating, injuring, or killing an enemy.
As diversified as were Lovells scientific duties for OSS, they were narrow in comparison with those of his main counterpart
in the CIAs postwar mind-control program, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. Gottlieb would preside over investigations that ranged from
advanced research in amnesia by electroshock to dragnet searches through the jungles of Latin America for toxic leaves and
barks. Fully in the tradition of making Hitler moustacheless, Gottliebs office would devise a scheme to make Fidel Castros
beard fall out; like Lovell, Gottlieb would personally provide operators with deadly poisons to assassinate foreign leaders
like the Congos Patrice Lumumba, and he would be equally at ease discussing possible applications of new research in neurology.
On a much greater scale than Lovells, Gottlieb would track down every conceivable gimmick that might give one person leverage
over anothers mind. Gottlieb would preside over arcane fields from handwriting analysis to stress creation, and he would rise
through the Agency along with his bureaucratic patron, Richard Helms.
Early in the war, General Donovan got another idea from the British, whose psychologists and psychiatrists had devised
a testing program to predict the performance of military officers. Donovan thought such a program might help OSS sort through
the masses of recruits who were being rushed through training. To create an assessment system for Americans, Donovan called
in Harvard psychology professor Henry Harry Murray. In 1938 Murray had written Explorations of Personality, a notable book
which laid out a whole battery of tests that could be used to size up the personalities of individuals. Spying is attractive
to loonies, states Murray. Psychopaths, who are people who spend their lives making up stories, revel in the field. The programs
prime objective, according to Murray, was keeping out the crazies, as well as the sloths, irritants, bad actors, and free
Always in a hurry, Donovan gave Murray and a distinguished group of colleagues only 15 days until the first candidates
arrived to be assessed. In the interim, they took over a spacious estate outside Washington as their headquarters. In a series
of hurried meetings, they put together an assessment system that combined German and British methods with Murrays earlier
research. It tested a recruits ability to stand up under pressure, to be a leader, to hold liquor, to lie skillfully, and
to read a persons character by the nature of his clothing.
More than 30 years after the war, Murray remains modest in his claims for the assessment system, saying that it was only
an aid in weeding out the horrors among OSS candidates. Nevertheless, the secret agencys leaders believed in its results,
and Murrays system became a fixture in OSS, testing Americans and foreign agents alike. Some of Murrays young behavioral scientists,
like John Gardner, would go on to become prominent in public affairs, and, more importantly, the OSS assessment program
would be recognized as a milestone in American psychology. It was the first systematic effort to evaluate an individuals personality
in order to predict his future behavior.
After the war, personality assessment would become a new field in itself, and some of Murrays assistants would go on
to establish OSS-like systems at large corporations, starting with AT&T. They also would set up study programs at universities,
beginning with the University of California at Berkeley. As would happen repeatedly with the CIAs mind-control research,
OSS was years ahead of public developments in behavioral theory and application.
In the postwar years, Murray would be superseded by a young Oklahoma psychologist John Gittinger, who would rise in the
CIA on the strength of his ideas about how to make a hard science out of personality assessment and how to use it to manipulate
people. Gittinger would build an office within CIA that refined both Murrays assessment function and Walter Langers indirect
analysis of foreign leaders. Gittingers methods would become an integral part of everyday Agency operations, and he would
become Sid Gottliebs protégé.
Stanley Lovell reasoned that a good way to kill Hitlerand the OSS man was always looking for ideaswould be to hypnotically
control a German prisoner to hate the Gestapo and the Nazi regime and then to give the subject a hypnotic suggestion to assassinate
the Führer. The OSS candidate would be let loose in Germany where he would take the desired action, being under a compulsion
that might not be denied, as Lovell wrote.
Lovell sought advice on whether this scheme would work from New York psychiatrist Lawrence Kubie and from the famed Menninger
brothers, Karl and William. The Menningers reported that the weight of the evidence showed hypnotism to be incapable of making
people do anything that they would not otherwise do. Equally negative, Dr. Kubie added that if a German prisoner had a logical
reason to kill Hitler or anyone else, he would not need hypnotism to motivate him.
Lovell and his coworkers apparently accepted this skeptical view of hypnosis, as did the overwhelming majority of psychologists
and psychiatrists in the country.
At the time, hypnosis was considered a fringe activity, and there was little recognition of either its validity or its
usefulness for any purposelet alone covert operations. Yet there were a handful of serious experimenters in the field who
believed in its military potential. The most vocal partisan of this view was the head of the Psychology Department at Colgate
University, George Esty Estabrooks. Since the early 1930s, Estabrooks had periodically ventured out from his sleepy upstate
campus to advise the military on applications of hypnotism.
Estabrooks acknowledged that hypnosis did not work on everyone and that only one person in five made a good enough subject
to be placed in a deep trance, or state of somnambulism. He believed that only these subjects could be induced to such things
against their apparent will as reveal secrets or commit crimes. He had watched respected members of the community make fools
of themselves in the hands of stage hypnotists, and he had compelled his own students to reveal fraternity secrets and the
details of private love affairsall of which the subjects presumably did not want to do.
Still his experience was limited. Estabrooks realized that the only certain way to know whether a person would commit
a crime like murder under hypnosis was to have the person kill someone. Unwilling to settle the issue on his own by trying
the experiment, he felt that government sanction of the process would relieve the hypnotist of personal responsibility. Any
accidents that might occur during the experiments will simply be charged to profit and loss, he wrote, a very trifling portion
of that enormous wastage in human life which is part and parcel of war.
After Pearl Harbor, Estabrooks offered his ideas to OSS, but they were not accepted by anyone in government willing to
carry them to their logical conclusion. He was reduced to writing books about the potential use of hypnotism in warfare. Cassandra-like,
he tried to warn America of the perils posed by hypnotic control. His 1945 novel, Death in the Mind, concerned a series of
seemingly treasonable acts committed by Allied personnel: an American submarine captain torpedoes one of our own battleships,
and the beautiful heroine starts acting in an irrational way which serves the enemy. After a perilous investigation, secret
agent Johnny Evans learns that the Germans have been hypnotizing Allied personnel and conditioning them to obey Nazi commands.
Evans and his cohorts, shaken by the many ways hypnotism can be used against them, set up elaborate countermeasures and then
cannot resist going on the offensive. Objections are heard from the heroine, who by this time has been brutally and rather
graphically tortured. She complains that doing things to peoples minds is a loathsome way to fight. Her qualms are brushed
aside by Johnny Evans, her lover and boss. He sets off after the Germansto tamper with their minds; Make them traitors; Make
them work for us.
In the aftermath of the war, as the U.S. national security apparatus was being constructed, the leaders of the Central
Intelligence Agency would adopt Johnny Evans missionalmost in those very words. Richard Helms, Sid Gottlieb, John Gittinger,
George White, and many others would undertake a far-flung and complicated assault on the human mind. In hypnosis and many
other fields, scientists even more eager than George Estabrooks would seek CIA approval for the kinds of experiments they
would not dare perform on their own. Sometimes the Agency men concurred; on other occasions, they reserved such experiments
for themselves. They would tamper with many minds and inevitably cause some to be damaged. In the end, they would minimize
and hide their deeds, and they would live to see doubts raised about the health of their own minds.
The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
The CIA and Mind Control
John Marks, New York: Times Books, 1979
In September 1950, the Miami News published an article by Edward Hunter titled Brain-Washing Tactics Force Chinese into
Ranks of Communist Party. It was the first printed use in any language of the term brainwashing, which quickly became a stock
phrase in Cold War headlines. Hunter, a CIA propaganda operator who worked under cover as a journalist, turned out a steady
stream of books and articles on the subject. He made up his coined word from the Chinese hsi-naoto cleanse the mindwhich had
no political meaning in Chinese.
American public opinion reacted strongly to Hunters ideas, no doubt because of the hostility that prevailed toward communist
foes, whose ways were perceived as mysterious and alien. Most Americans knew something about the famous trial of the Hungarian
Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, at which the Cardinal appeared zombie-like, as though drugged or hypnotized. Other defendants at
Soviet show trials had displayed similar symptoms as they recited unbelievable confessions in dull, cliché-ridden monotones.
Americans were familiar with the idea that the communists had ways to control hapless people, and Hunters new word helped
pull together the unsettling evidence into one sharp fear. The brainwashing controversy intensified during the heavy 1952
fighting in Korea, when the Chinese government launched a propaganda offensive that featured recorded statements by captured
U.S. pilots, who confessed to a variety of war crimes including the use of germ warfare.
The official American position on prisoner confessions was that they were false and forced. As expressed in an Air Force
Headquarters document, Confessions can be of truthful details. . . . For purposes of this section, confessions are considered
as being the forced admission to a lie. But if the military had understandable reasons to gloss over the truth or falsity
of the confessions, this still did not address the fact that confessions had been made at all. Nor did it lay to rest the
fears of those like Edward Hunter who saw the confessions as proof that the communists now had techniques to put a mans mind
into a fog so that he will mistake what is true for what is untrue, what is right for what is wrong, and come to believe what
did not happen actually had happened, until he ultimately becomes a robot for the Communist manipulator.
By the end of the Korean War, 70 percent of the 7,190 U.S. prisoners held in China had either made confessions or signed
petitions calling for an end to the American war effort in Asia. Fifteen percent collaborated fully with the Chinese, and
only 5 percent steadfastly resisted. The American performance contrasted poorly with that of the British, Australian, Turkish,
and other United Nations prisonersamong whom collaboration was rare, even though studies showed they were treated about as
badly as the Americans. Worse, an alarming number of the prisoners stuck by their confessions after returning to the United
States. They did not, as expected, recant as soon as they stepped on U.S. soil. Puzzled and dismayed by this wholesale collapse
of morale among the POWs, American opinion leaders settled in on Edward Hunters explanation: The Chinese had somehow brainwashed
But how? At the height of the brainwashing furor, conservative spokesmen often seized upon the very mystery of it all
to give a religious cast to the political debate. All communists have been, by definition, brainwashed through satanic forces,
they arguedthereby making the enemy seem like robots completely devoid of ordinary human feelings and motivation. Liberals
favored a more scientific view of the problem. Given the incontrovertible evidence that the Russians and the Chinese could,
in a very short time and often under difficult circumstances, alter the basic belief and behavior patterns of both domestic
and foreign captives, liberals argued that there must be a technique involved that would yield its secrets under objective
CIA Director Allen Dulles favored the scientific approach, although he naturally encouraged his propaganda experts to
exploit the more emotional interpretations of brainwashing. Dulles and the heads of the other American security agencies became
almost frantic in their efforts to find out more about the Soviet and Chinese successes in mind control. Under pressure for
answers, Dulles turned to Dr. Harold Wolff, a world-famous neurologist with whom he had developed an intensely personal relationship.
Wolff was then treating Dulles own son for brain damage suffered from a Korean War head wound. Together they shared the trauma
of the younger Dulles fits and mental lapses. Wolff, a skinny little doctor with an overpowering personality, became fast
friends with the tall, patrician CIA Director. Dulles may have seen brainwashing as an induced form of brain damage or mental
illness. In any case, in late 1953, he asked Wolff to conduct an official study of communist brainwashing techniques for the
CIA. Wolff, who had become fascinated by the Directors tales of the clandestine world, eagerly accepted.
Harold Wolff was known primarily as an expert on migraine headaches and pain, but he had served on enough military and
intelligence advisory panels that he knew how to pick up Dulles mandate and expand on it. He formed a working partnership
with Lawrence Hinkle, his colleague at Cornell University Medical College in New York City. Hinkle handled the administrative
part of the study and shared in the substance. Before going ahead, the two doctors made sure they had the approval of Cornells
president, Deane W. Malott and other high university officials who checked with their contacts in Washington to make sure
the project did indeed have the great importance that Allen Dulles stated. Hinkle recalls a key White House aide urging Cornell
to cooperate. The university administration agreed, and soon Wolff and Hinkle were poring over the Agencys classified files
on brainwashing. CIA officials also helped arrange interviews with former communist interrogators and prisoners alike. It
was done with great secrecy, recalls Hinkle. We went through a great deal of hoop-de-do and signed secrecy agreements, which
everyone took very seriously.
The team of Wolff and Hinkle became the chief brainwashing studiers for the U.S. government, although the Air Force and
Army ran parallel programs. Their secret report to Allen Dulles, later published in a declassified version, was considered
the definitive U.S. Government work on the subject. In fact, if allowances are made for the Cold War rhetoric of the fifties,
the Wolff-Hinkle report still remains one of the better accounts of the massive political re-education programs in China and
the Soviet Union. It stated flatly that neither the Soviets nor the Chinese had any magical weaponsno drugs, exotic mental
ray-guns, or other fanciful machines. Instead, the report pictured communist interrogation methods resting on skillful, if
brutal, application of police methods. Its portrait of the Soviet system anticipates, in dry and scholarly form, the work
of novelist Alexander Solzhenitzyn in The Gulag Archipelago. Hinkle and Wolff showed that the Soviet technique rested on the
cumulative weight of intense psychological pressure and human weakness, and this thesis alone earned the two Cornell doctors
the enmity of the more right-wing CIA officials such as Edward Hunter. Several of his former acquaintances remember that Hunter
was fond of saying that the Soviets brainwashed people the way Pavlov had conditioned dogs.
In spite of some dissenters like Hunter, the Wolff-Hinkle model became, with later refinements, the best available description
of extreme forms of political indoctrination. According to the general consensus, the Soviets started a new prisoner off by
putting him in solitary confinement. A rotating corps of guards watched him constantly, humiliating and demeaning him at every
opportunity and making it clear he was totally cut off from all outside support. The guards ordered him to stand for long
periods, let him sit, told him exactly the position he could take to lie down, and woke him if he moved in the slightest while
sleeping. They banned all outside stimulibooks, conversation, or news of the world.
After four to six weeks of this mind-deadening routine, the prisoner usually found the stress unbearable and broke down.
He weeps, he mutters, and prays aloud in his cell, wrote Hinkle and Wolff. When the prisoner reached this stage, the interrogation
began. Night after night, the guards brought him into a special room to face the interrogator. Far from confronting his captive
with specific misdeeds, the interrogator told him that he knew his own crimesall too well. In the most harrowing Kafkaesque
way, the prisoner tried to prove his innocence to he knew not what. Together the interrogator and prisoner reviewed the prisoners
life in detail. The interrogator seized on any inconsistencyno matter how minuteas further evidence of guilt, and he laughed
at the prisoners efforts to justify himself. But at least the prisoner was getting a response of some sort. The long weeks
of isolation and uncertainty had made him grateful for human contact even grateful that his case was moving toward resolution.
True, it moved only as fast as he was willing to incriminate himself, but . . . Gradually, he came to see that he and his
interrogator were working toward the same goal of wrapping up his case. In tandem, they ransacked his soul. The interrogator
would periodically let up the pressure. He offered a cigarette, had a friendly chat, explained he had a job to domaking it
all the more disappointing the next time he had to tell the prisoner that his confession was unsatisfactory.
As the charges against him began to take shape, the prisoner realized that he could end his ordeal only with a full confession.
Otherwise the grueling sessions would go on forever. The regimen of pressure has created an overall discomfort which is well
nigh intolerable, wrote Hinkle and Wolff. The prisoner invariably feels that something must be done to end this. He must find
a way out. A former KGB officer, one of many former interrogators and prisoners interviewed for the CIA study, said that more
than 99 percent of all prisoners signed a confession at this stage.
In the Soviet system under Stalin, these confessions were the final step of the interrogation process, and the prisoners
usually were shot or sent to a labor camp after sentencing. Today, Russian leaders seem much less insistent on exacting confessions
before jailing their foes, but they still use the penal (and mental health) system to remove from the population classes of
people hostile to their rule.
The Chinese took on the more ambitious task of re-educating their prisoners. For them, confession was only the beginning.
Next, the Chinese authorities moved the prisoner into a group cell where his indoctrination began. From morning to night,
he and his fellow prisoners studied Marx and Mao, listened to lectures, and engaged in self-criticism. Since the progress
of each member depended on that of his cellmates, the group pounced on the slightest misconduct as an indication of backsliding.
Prisoners demonstrated the zeal of their commitment by ferociously attacking deviations. Constant intimacy with people who
reviled him pushed the resistant prisoner to the limits of his emotional endurance. Hinkle and Wolff found that The prisoner
must conform to the demands of the group sooner or later. As the prisoner developed genuine changes of attitude, pressure
on him relaxed. His cellmates rewarded him with increasing acceptance and esteem. Their acceptance, in turn, reinforced his
commitment to the Party, for he learned that only this commitment allowed him to live successfully in the cell. In many cases,
this process produced an exultant sense of mission in the prisonera feeling of having finally straightened out his life and
come to the truth. To be sure, this experience, which was not so different from religious conversion, did not occur in all
cases or always last after the prisoner returned to a social group that did not reinforce it.
From the first preliminary studies of Wolff and Hinkle, the U.S. intelligence community moved toward the conclusion that
neither the Chinese nor the Russians made appreciable use of drugs or hypnosis, and they certainly did not possess the brainwashing
equivalent of the atomic bomb (as many feared). Most of their techniques were rooted in age-old methods, and CIA brainwashing
researchers like psychologist John Gittinger found themselves poring over ancient documents on the Spanish Inquisition. Furthermore,
the communists used no psychiatrists or other behavioral scientists to devise their interrogation system. The differences
between the Soviet and Chinese systems seemed to grow out of their respective national cultures. The Soviet brainwashing system
resembled a heavy-handed cop whose job was to isolate, break, and then subdue all the troublemakers in the neighborhood. The
Chinese system was more like thousands of skilled acupuncturists, working on each other and relying on group pressure, ideology,
and repetition. To understand further the Soviet or Chinese control systems, one had to plunge into the subtle mysteries of
national and individual character.
While CIA researchers looked into those questions, the main thrust of the Agencys brainwashing studies veered off in
a different direction. The logic behind the switch was familiar in the intelligence business. Just because the Soviets and
the Chinese had not invented a brainwashing machine, officials reasoned, there was no reason to assume that the task was impossible.
If such a machine were even remotely feasible, one had to assume the communists might discover it. And in that case, national
security required that the United States invent the machine first. Therefore, the CIA built up its own elaborate brainwashing
program, which, like the Soviet and Chinese versions, took its own special twist from our national character. It was a tiny
replica of the Manhattan Project, grounded in the conviction that the keys to brainwashing lay in technology. Agency officials
hoped to use old-fashioned American know-how to produce shortcuts and scientific breakthroughs. Instead of turning to tough
cops, whose methods repelled American sensibilities, or the gurus of mass motivation, whose ideology Americans lacked, the
Agencys brainwashing experts gravitated to people more in the mold of the brilliantand sometimes madscientist, obsessed by
the wonders of the brain.
In 1953 CIA Director Allen Dulles made a rare public statement on communist brainwashing: We in the West are somewhat
handicapped in getting all the details, Dulles declared. There are few survivors, and we have no human guinea pigs to try
these extraordinary techniques. Even as Dulles spoke, however, CIA officials acting under his orders had begun to find the
scientists and the guinea pigs. Some of their experiments would wander so far across the ethical borders of experimental psychiatry
(which are hazy in their own right) that Agency officials thought it prudent to have much of the work done outside the United
Call her Lauren G. For 19 years, her mind has been blank about her experience. She remembers her husbands driving her
up to the old gray stone mansion that housed the hospital, Allan Memorial Institute, and putting her in the care of its director,
Dr. D. Ewen Cameron. The next thing she recalls happened three weeks later:
They gave me a dressing gown. It was way too big, and I was tripping all over it. I was mad. I asked why did I have to
go round in this sloppy thing. I could hardly move because I was pretty weak. I remember trying to walk along the hall, and
the walls were all slanted. It was then that I said, Holy Smokes, what a ghastly thing. I remember running out the door and
going up the mountain in my long dressing gown.
The mountain, named Mont Royal, loomed high above Montreal. She stumbled and staggered as she tried to climb higher and
higher. Hospital staff members had no trouble catching her and dragging her back to the Institute. In short order, they shot
her full of sedatives, attached electrodes to her temples, and gave her a dose of electroshock. Soon she slept like a baby.
Gradually, over the next few weeks, Lauren G. began to function like a normal person again. She took basket-weaving therapy
and played bridge with her fellow patients. The hospital released her, and she returned to her husband in another Canadian
Before her mental collapse in 1959, Lauren G. seemed to have everything going for her. A refined, glamorous horsewoman
of 30, whom people often said looked like Elizabeth Taylor, she had auditioned for the lead in National Velvet at 13 and married
the rich boy next door at 20. But she had never loved her husband and had let her domineering mother push her into his arms.
He drank heavily. I was really unhappy, she recalls. I had a horrible marriage, and finally I had a nervous breakdown. It
was a combination of my trying to lose weight, sleep loss, and my nerves.
The family doctor recommended that her husband send her to Dr. Cameron, which seemed like a logical thing to do, considering
his wide fame as a psychiatrist. He had headed Allan Memorial since 1943, when the Rockefeller Foundation had donated funds
to set up a psychiatric facility at McGill University. With continuing help from the Rockefellers, McGill had built a hospital
known far beyond Canadas borders as innovative and exciting. Cameron was elected president of the American Psychiatric Association
in 1953, and he became the first president of the World Psychiatric Association. His friends joked that they had run out of
honors to give him.
Camerons passion lay in the more objective forms of therapy, with which he could more easily and swiftly bring about
improvements in patients than with the notoriously slow Freudian methods. An impatient man, he dreamed of finding a cure for
schizophrenia. No one could tell him he was not on the right track. Camerons supporter at the Rockefeller Foundation, Robert
Morrison, recorded in his private papers that he found the psychiatrist tense and ill-at-ease, and Morrison ventured that
this may account for his lack of interest and effectiveness in psychotherapy and failure to establish warm personal relations
with faculty members, both of which were mentioned repeatedly when I visited Montreal. Another Rockefeller observer noted
that Cameron appears to suffer from deep insecurity and has a need for power which he nourishes by maintaining an extraordinary
aloofness from his associates.
When Lauren G.s husband delivered her to Cameron, the psychiatrist told him she would receive some electroshock, a standard
treatment at the time. Besides that, states her husband, Cameron was not very communicative, but I didnt think she was getting
anything out of the ordinary. The husband had no way of knowing that Cameron would use an unproved experimental technique
on his wifemuch less that the psychiatrist intended to depattern her. Nor did he realize that the CIA was supporting this
work with about $19,000 a year in secret funds.
Cameron defined depatterning as breaking up existing patterns of behavior, both the normal and the schizophrenic, by
means of particularly intensive electroshocks, usually combined with prolonged, drug-induced sleep. Here was a psychiatrist
willingindeed, eagerto wipe the human mind totally clean. Back in 1951, ARTICHOKEs Morse Allen had likened the process to
creation of a vegetable. Cameron justified this tabula rasa approach because he had a theory of differential amnesia, for
which he provided no statistical evidence when he published it. He postulated that after he produced complete amnesia in a
subject, the person would eventually recover memory of his normal but not his schizophrenic behavior. Thus, Cameron claimed
he could generate differential amnesia. Creating such a state in which a man who knew too much could be made to forget had
long been a prime objective of the ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA programs.
Needless to say, Lauren G. does not recall a thing today about those weeks when Cameron depatterned her. Afterward, unlike
over half of the psychiatrists depatterning patients, Lauren G. gradually recovered full recall of her life before the treatment,
but then, she remembered her mental problems, too. Her husband says she came out of the hospital much improved. She declares
the treatment had no effect one way or another on her mental condition, which she believes resulted directly from her miserable
marriage. She stopped seeing Cameron after about a month of outpatient electroshock treatments, which she despised. Her relationship
with her husband further deteriorated, and two years later she walked out on him. I just got up on my own hind legs, she states.
I said the hell with it. Im going to do what I want and take charge of my own life. I left and started over. Now divorced
and remarried, she feels she has been happy ever since.
Camerons depatterning, of which Lauren G. had a comparatively mild version, normally started with 15 to 30 days of sleep
therapy. As the name implies, the patient slept almost the whole day and night. According to a doctor at the hospital who
used to administer what he calls the sleep cocktail, a staff member woke up the patient three times a day for medication that
consisted of a combination of 100 mg. Thorazine, 100 mg. Nembutal, 100 mg. Seconal, 150 mg. Veronal, and 10 mg. Phenergan.
Another staff doctor would also awaken the patient two or sometimes three times daily for electroshock treatments. This
doctor and his assistant wheeled a portable machine into the sleep room and gave the subject a local anesthetic and muscle
relaxant, so as not to cause damage with the convulsions that were to come.
After attaching electrodes soaked in saline solution, the attendant held the patient down and the doctor turned on the
current. In standard, professional electroshock, doctors gave the subject a single dose of 110 volts, lasting a fraction of
a second, once a day or every other day. By contrast, Cameron used a form 20 to 40 times more intense, two or three times
daily, with the power turned up to 150 volts. Named the Page-Russell method after its British originators, this technique
featured an initial one-second shock, which caused a major convulsion, and then five to nine additional shocks in the middle
of the primary and follow-on convulsions. Even Drs. Page and Russell limited their treatment to once a day, and they always
stopped as soon as their patient showed pronounced confusion and became faulty in habits. Cameron, however, welcomed this
kind of impairment as a sign the treatment was taking effect and plowed ahead through his routine.
The frequent screams of patients that echoed through the hospital did not deter Cameron or most of his associates in
their attempts to depattern their subjects completely. Other hospital patients report being petrified by the sleep rooms,
where the treatment took place, and they would usually creep down the opposite side of the hall.
Cameron described this combined sleep-electroshock treatment as lasting between 15 to 30 days, with some subjects staying
in up to 65 days (in which case, he reported, he awakened them for three days in the middle). Sometimes, as in the case of
Lauren G., patients would try to escape when the sedatives wore thin, and the staff would have to chase after them. It was
a tremendous nursing job just to keep these people going during the treatment, recalls a doctor intimately familiar with Camerons
operation. This doctor paints a picture of dazed patients, incapable of taking care of themselves, often groping their way
around the hospital and urinating on the floor.
Cameron wrote that his typical depatterning patientusually a womanmoved through three distinct stages. In the first,
the subject lost much of her memory. Yet she still knew where she was, why she was there, and who the people were who treated
her. In the second phase, she lost her space-time image, but still wanted to remember. In fact, not being able to answer questions
like, Where am I? and How did I get here? caused her considerable anxiety. In the third stage, all that anxiety disappeared.
Cameron described the state as an extremely interesting constriction of the range of recollections which one ordinarily brings
in to modify and enrich ones statements. Hence, what the patient talks about are only his sensations of the moment, and he
talks about them almost exclusively in highly concrete terms. His remarks are entirely uninfluenced by previous recollectionsnor
are they governed in any way by his forward anticipations. He lives in the immediate present. All schizophrenic symptoms have
disappeared. There is complete amnesia for all events in his life.
Lauren G. and 52 other subjects at Allan Memorial received this level of depatterning in 1958 and 1959. Cameron had already
developed the technique when the CIA funding started. The Agency sent the psychiatrist research money to take the treatment
beyond this point. Agency officials wanted to know if, once Cameron had produced the blank mind, he could then program in
new patterns of behavior, as he claimed he could. As early as 1953the year he headed the American Psychiatric AssociationCameron
conceived a technique he called psychic driving, by which he would bombard the subject with repeated verbal messages. From
tape recordings based on interviews with the patient, he selected emotionally loaded cue statementsfirst negative ones to
get rid of unwanted behavior and then positive to condition in desired personality traits. On the negative side, for example,
the patient would hear this message as she lay in a stupor:
Madeleine, you let your mother and father treat you as a child all through your single life. You let your mother check
you up sexually after every date you had with a boy. You hadn't enough determination to tell her to stop it. You never stood
up for yourself against your mother or father but would run away from trouble. . . . They used to call you crying Madeleine.
Now that you have two children, you dont seem to be able to manage them and keep a good relationship with your husband. You
are drifting apart. You don't go out together. You have not been able to keep him interested sexually.
Leonard Rubenstein, Camerons principal assistant, whose entire salary was paid from CIA-front funds, put the message
on a continuous tape loop and played it for 16 hours every day for several weeks. An electronics technician, with no medical
or psychological background, Rubenstein, an electrical whiz, designed a giant tape recorder that could play 8 loops for 8
patients at the same time. Cameron had the speakers installed literally under the pillows in the sleep rooms. We made sure
they heard it, says a doctor who worked with Cameron. With some patients, Cameron intensified the negative effect by running
wires to their legs and shocking them at the end of the message.
When Cameron thought the negative psychic driving had gone far enough, he switched the patient over to 2 to 5 weeks of
You mean to get well. To do this you must let your feelings come out. It is all right to express your anger. . . . You
want to stop your mother bossing you around. Begin to assert yourself first in little things and soon you will be able to
meet her on an equal basis. You will then be free to be a wife and mother just like other women.
Cameron wrote that psychic driving provided a way to make direct, controlled changes in personality, without having to
resolve the subjects conflicts or make her relive past experiences. As far as is known, no present-day psychologist or psychiatrist
accepts this view. Dr. Donald Hebb, who headed McGills psychology department at the time Cameron was in charge of psychiatry,
minces no words when asked specifically about psychic driving: That was an awful set of ideas Cameron was working with. It
called for no intellectual respect. If you actually look at what he was doing and what he wrote, it would make you laugh.
If I had a graduate student who talked like that, Id throw him out. Warming to his subject, Hebb continues: Look, Cameron
was no good as a researcher. . . . He was eminent because of politics. Nobody said such things at the time, however. Cameron
was a very powerful man.
The Scottish-born psychiatrist, who never lost the burr in his voice, kept searching for ways to perfect depatterning
and psychic driving. He held out to the CIA frontthe Society for the Investigation of Human Ecologythat he could find more
rapid and less damaging ways to break down behavior. He sent the Society a proposal that combined his two techniques with
sensory deprivation and strong drugs. His smorgasbord approach brought together virtually all possible techniques of mind
control, which he tested individually and together. When his Agency grant came through in 1957, Cameron began work on sensory
For several years, Agency officials had been interested in the interrogation possibilities of this technique that Hebb
himself had pioneered at McGill with Canadian defense and Rockefeller money. It consisted of putting a subject in a sealed
environmenta small room or even a large boxand depriving him of all sensory input: eyes covered with goggles, ears either
covered with muffs or exposed to a constant, monotonous sound, padding to prevent touching, no smellswith this empty regime
interrupted only by meal and bathroom breaks. In 1955 Morse Allen of ARTICHOKE made contact at the National Institutes of
Health with Dr. Maitland Baldwin who had done a rather gruesome experiment in which an Army volunteer had stayed in the box
for 40 hours until he kicked his way out after, in Baldwins words, an hour of crying loudly and sobbing in a most heartrending
fashion. The experiment convinced Baldwin that the isolation technique could break any man, no matter how intelligent or strong-willed.
Hebb, who unlike Baldwin released his subjects when they wanted, had never left anyone in the box for more than six days.
Baldwin told Morse Allen that beyond that sensory deprivation would almost certainly cause irreparable damage. Nevertheless,
Baldwin agreed that if the Agency could provide the cover and the subjects, he would do, according to Allens report, terminal
type experiments. After numerous meetings inside the CIA on how and where to fund Baldwin, an Agency medical officer finally
shot down the project as being immoral and inhuman, suggesting that those pushing the experiments might want to volunteer
their heads for use in Dr. Baldwin's noble project.
With Cameron, Agency officials not only had a doctor willing to perform terminal experiments in sensory deprivation,
but one with his own source of subjects. As part of his CIA-funded research, he had a box built in the converted stables behind
the hospital that housed Leonard Rubenstein and his behavioral laboratory. Undaunted by the limits set in Hebbs work, Cameron
left one woman in for 35 days, although he had so scrambled her mind with his other techniques that one cannot say, as Baldwin
predicted to the Agency, if the prolonged deprivation did specific damage. This subjects name was Mary C., and, try as he
might, Cameron could not get through to her. As the aloof psychiatrist wrote in his notes: Although the patient was prepared
by both prolonged sensory isolation (35 days) and by repeated depatterning, and although she received 101 days of positive
driving, no favorable results were obtained. Before prescribing this treatment, Cameron had diagnosed the 52-year-old
Mary C.: Conversion reaction in a woman of the involutional age with mental anxiety; hypochondriatic. In other words, Mary
C. was going through menopause.
In his proposal to the CIA front, Cameron also said he would test curare, the South American arrow poison which, when
liberally applied, kills by paralyzing internal body functions. In nonlethal doses, curare causes a limited paralysis which
blocks but does not stop these functions. According to his papers, some of which wound up in the archives of the American
Psychiatric Association, Cameron injected subjects with curare in conjunction with sensory deprivation, presumably to immobilize
Cameron also tested LSD in combination with psychic driving and other techniques. In late 1956 and early 1957, one of
his subjects was Val Orlikow, whose husband David has become a member of the Canadian parliament. Suffering from what she
calls a character neurosis that started with postpartum depression, she entered Allan Memorial as one of Camerons personal
patients. He soon put her under his version of LSD therapy. One to four times a week, he or another doctor would come into
her room and give her a shot of LSD, mixed with either a stimulant or a depressant and then leave her alone with a tape recorder
that played excerpts from her last session with him. As far as is known, no other LSD researcher ever subjected his patients
to unsupervised tripscertainly not over the course of two months when her hospital records show she was given LSD 14 times.
It was terrifying, Mrs. Orlikow recalls. Youre afraid youve gone off somewhere and cant come back. She was supposed to write
down on a pad whatever came into her head while listening to the tapes, but often she became so frightened that she could
not write at all. You become very small, she says, as her voice quickens and starts to reflect some of her horror. Youre going
to fall off the step, and God, youre going down into hell because its so far, and you are so little. Like Alice, where is
the pill that makes you big, and youre a squirrel, and you cant get out of the cage, and somebodys going to kill you. Then,
suddenly, Mrs. Orlikow pulls out of it and lucidly states, Some very weird things happened.
Mrs. Orlikow hated the LSD treatment. Several times she told Cameron she would take no more, and the psychiatrist would
put his arm around her and ask, Lassie, which he called all his women patients, dont you want to get well, so you can go home
and see your husband? She remembers feeling guilty about not following the doctors orders, and the thought of disappointing
Cameron, whom she idolized, crushed her. Finally, after Cameron talked her out of quitting the treatment several times, she
had to end it. She left the hospital but stayed under his private care. In 1963 he put her back in the hospital for more intensive
psychic driving. I thought he was God, she states. I dont know how I could have been so stupid. . . . A lot of us were naive.
We thought psychiatrists had the answers. Here was the greatest in the world, with all these titles.
In defense of Cameron, a former associate says the man truly cared about the welfare of his patients. He wanted to make
them well. As his former staff psychologist wrote:
He abhorred the waste of human potential, seen most dramatically in the young people whose minds were distorted by what
was then considered to be schizophrenia. He felt equally strongly about the loss of wisdom in the aged through memory malfunction.
For him, the end justified the means, and when one is dealing with the waste of human potential, it is easy to adopt this
Cameron retired abruptly in 1964, for unexplained reasons. His successor, Dr. Robert Cleghorn, made a virtually unprecedented
move in the academic world of mutual back-scratching and praise. He commissioned a psychiatrist and a psychologist, unconnected
to Cameron, to study his electroshock work. They found that 60 percent of Camerons depatterned patients complained they still
had amnesia for the period 6 months to 10 years before the therapy. They could find no clinical proof that showed the
treatment to be any more or less effective than other approaches. They concluded that the incidence of physical complications
and the anxiety generated in the patient because of real or imagined memory difficulty argue against future use of the technique.
The study-team members couched their report in densely academic jargon, but one of them speaks more clearly now. He talks
bitterly of one of Camerons former patients who needs to keep a list of her simplest household chores to remember how to do
them. Then he repeats several times how powerful a man Cameron was, how he was the godfather of Canadian psychiatry. He continues,
I probably shouldnt talk about this, but Cameronfor him to do what he didhe was a very schizophrenic guy, who totally detached
himself from the human implications of his work . . . God, we talk about concentration camps. I dont want to make this comparison,
but God, you talk about we didnt know it was happening, and it was right in our back yard.
Cameron died in 1967, at age 66, while climbing a mountain. The American Journal of Psychiatry published a long and glowing
obituary with a full-page picture of his not-unpleasant face.
D. Ewen Cameron did not need the CIA to corrupt him. He clearly had his mind set on doing unorthodox research long before
the Agency front started to fund him. With his own hospital and source of subjects, he could have found elsewhere encouragement
and money to replace the CIAs contribution which never exceeded $20,000 a year. However, Agency officials knew exactly what
they were paying for. They traveled periodically to Montreal to observe his work, and his proposal was chillingly explicit.
In Cameron, they had a doctor, conveniently outside the United States, willing to do terminal experiments in electroshock,
sensory deprivation, drug testing, and all of the above combined. By literally wiping the minds of his subjects clean by depatterning
and then trying to program in new behavior, Cameron carried the process known as brainwashing to its logical extreme.
It cannot be said how many if any other Agency brainwashing projects reached the extremes of Camerons work. Details are
scarce, since many of the principal witnesses have died, will not talk about what went on, or lie about it. In what ways the
CIA applied work like Camerons is not known. What is known, however, is that the intelligence community, including the CIA,
changed the face of the scientific community during the 1950s and early 1960s by its interest in such experiments. Nearly
every scientist on the frontiers of brain research found men from the secret agencies looking over his shoulders, impinging
on the research. The experience of Dr. John Lilly illustrates how this intrusion came about.
In 1953 Lilly worked at the National Institutes of Health, outside Washington, doing experimental studies in an effort
to map the body functions controlled from various locations in the brain. He devised a method of pounding up to 600 tiny sections
of hypodermic tubing into the skulls of monkeys, through which he could insert electrodes into the brain to any desired distance
and at any desired location from the cortex down to the bottom of the skull, he later wrote. Using electric stimulation, Lilly
discovered precise centers of the monkeys brains that caused pain, fear, anxiety, and anger. He also discovered precise, separate
parts of the brain that controlled erection, ejaculation, and orgasm in male monkeys. Lilly found that a monkey, given access
to a switch operating a correctly planted electrode, would reward himself with nearly continuous orgasmsat least once every
3 minutesfor up to 16 hours a day.
As Lilly refined his brain maps, officials of the CIA and other agencies descended upon him with a request for a briefing.
Having a phobia against secrecy, Lilly agreed to the briefing only under the condition that it and his work remain unclassified,
completely open to outsiders. The intelligence officials submitted to the conditions most reluctantly, since they knew that
Lillys openness would not only ruin the spy value of anything they learned but could also reveal the identities and the interests
of the intelligence officials to enemy agents. They considered Lilly annoying, uncooperativepossibly even suspicious.
Soon Lilly began to have trouble going to meetings and conferences with his colleagues. As part of the cooperation with
the intelligence agencies, most of them had agreed to have their projects officially classified as SECRET, which meant that
access to the information required a security clearance. Lillys security clearance was withdrawn for review, then tangled
up and misplacedall of which he took as pressure to cooperate with the CIA. Lilly, whose imagination needed no stimulation
to conjure up pictures of CIA agents on deadly missions with remote-controlled electrodes strategically implanted in their
brains, decided to withdraw from that field of research. He says he had decided that the physical intrusion of the electrodes
did too much brain damage for him to tolerate.
In 1954 Lilly began trying to isolate the operations of the brain, free of outside stimulation, through sensory deprivation.
He worked in an office next to Dr. Maitland Baldwin, who the following year agreed to perform terminal sensory deprivation
experiments for ARTICHOKEs Morse Allen but who never told Lilly he was working in the field. While Baldwin experimented with
his sensory-deprivation box, Lilly invented a special tank. Subjects floated in a tank of body-temperature water wearing a
face mask that provided air but cut off sight and sound. Inevitably, intelligence officials swooped down on Lilly again, interested
in the use of his tank as an interrogation tool. Could involuntary subjects be placed in the tank and broken down to the point
where their belief systems or personalities could be altered?
It was central to Lillys ethic that he himself be the first subject of any experiment, and, in the case of the consciousness-exploring
tank work, he and one colleague were the only ones. Lilly realized that the intelligence agencies were not interested in sensory
deprivation because of its positive benefits, and he finally concluded that it was impossible for him to work at the National
Institutes of Health without compromising his principles. He quit in 1958.
Contrary to most peoples intuitive expectations, Lilly found sensory deprivation to be a profoundly integrating experience
for himself personally. He considered himself to be a scientist who subjectively explored the far wanderings of the brain.
In a series of private experiments, he pushed himself into the complete unknown by injecting pure Sandoz LSD into his thigh
before climbing into the sensory-deprivation tank. When the counterculture sprang up, Lilly became something of a cult
figure, with his unique approach to scientific inquirythough he was considered more of an outcast by many in the professional
For most of the outside world, Lilly became famous with the release of the popular film, The Day of the Dolphin, which
the filmmakers acknowledged was based on Lillys work with dolphins after he left NIH. Actor George C. Scott portrayed a scientist,
who, like Lilly, loved dolphins, did pioneering experiments on their intelligence, and tried to find ways to communicate with
them. In the movie, Scott became dismayed when the government pounced on his breakthrough in talking to dolphins and turned
it immediately to the service of war. In real life, Lilly was similarly dismayed when Navy and CIA scientists trained dolphins
for special warfare in the waters off Vietnam.
A few scientists like Lilly made up their minds not to cross certain ethical lines in their experimental work, while
others were prepared to go further even than their sponsors from ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA. Within the Agency itself, there was
only one final question: Will a technique work? CIA officials zealously tracked every lead, sparing no expense to check each
angle many times over.
By the time the MKULTRA program ended in 1963, Agency researchers had found no foolproof way to brainwash another person.
All experiments beyond a certain point always failed, says the MKULTRA veteran, because the subject jerked himself back for
some reason or the subject got amnesiac or catatonic. Agency officials found through work like Camerons that they could create
vegetables, but such people served no operational use. People could be tortured into saying anything, but no science could
guarantee that they would tell the truth.
The impotency of brainwashing techniques left the Agency in a difficult spot when Yuri Nosenko defected to the United
States in February 1964. A ranking official of the Soviet KGB, Nosenko brought with him stunning information. He said the
Russians had bugged the American embassy in Moscow, which turned out to be true. He named some Russian agents in the West.
And he said that he had personally inspected the KGB file of Lee Harvey Oswald, who only a few months earlier had been murdered
before he could be brought to trial for the assassination of President Kennedy. Nosenko said he learned that the KGB had had
no interest in Oswald.
Was Nosenko telling the truth, or was he a KGB plant sent to throw the United States off track about Oswald? Was his
information about penetration correct, or was Nosenko himself the penetration? Was he acting in good faith? Were the men within
the CIA who believed he was acting in good faith themselves acting in good faith? These and a thousand other questions made
up the classical trick deck for spieseach card having true on one side and false on the other.
Top CIA officials felt a desperate need to resolve the issue of Nosenkos legitimacy. With numerous Agency counterintelligence
operations hanging in the balance, Richard Helms, first as Deputy Director and then as Director, allowed CIA operators to
work Nosenko over with the interrogation method in which Helms apparently had the most faith. It turned out to be not any
truth serum or electroshock depatterning program or anything else from the Agencys brainwashing search. Helms had Nosenko
put through the tried-and-true Soviet method: isolate the prisoner, deaden his senses, break him. For more than three years
1,277 days, to be exact Agency officers kept Nosenko in solitary confinement. As if they were using the Hinkle-Wolff study
as their instruction manual and the Cardinal Mindszenty case as their success story, the CIA men had guards watch over Nosenko
day and night, giving him not a moment of privacy. A light bulb burned continuously in his cell. He was allowed nothing to
readnot even the labels on toothpaste boxes. When he tried to distract himself by making a chess set from pieces of lint in
his cell, the guards discovered his game and swept the area clean. Nosenko had no window, and he was eventually put in a specially
built 12 X 12 steel bank vault.
Nosenko broke down. He hallucinated. He talked his head off to his interrogators, who questioned him for 292 days, often
while they had him strapped into a lie detector. If he told the truth, they did not believe him. While the Soviets and Chinese
had shown that they could make a man admit anything, the CIA interrogators apparently lacked a clear idea of exactly what
they wanted Nosenko to confess. When it was all over and Richard Helms ordered Nosenko freed after three and a half years
of illegal detention, some key Agency officers still believed he was a KGB plant. Others thought he was on the level. Thus
the big questions remained unresolved, and to this day, CIA men past and present are bitterly split over who Nosenko really
With the Nosenko case, the CIAs brainwashing programs had come full circle. Spurred by the widespread alarm over communist
tactics, Agency officials had investigated the field, started their own projects, and looked to the latest technology to make
improvements. After 10 years of research, with some rather gruesome results, CIA officials had come up with no techniques
on which they felt they could rely. Thus, when the operational crunch came, they fell back on the basic brutality of the Soviet