The US Record on Human Rights: CIA Project MK-ULTRA

Mind Control, Brainwashing and Torture Experiments 

The United States government funded and performed numerous psychological experiments, especially during the Cold War era, to help develop more effective torture and interrogation techniques for the U.S. military and the CIA.

In studies running from 1947 to 1953, which were known as Project Chatter, the U.S. Navy began identifying and testing truth serums, which they hoped could be used during interrogations of Soviet spies.

Some of the chemicals tested on human subjects included mescaline and the anticholinergic drug scopolamine.

Operation MK-ULTRA 

MK-ULTRA came to light in the spring of 1963 during a wide-ranging survey of the CIA’s technical services division, when John K. Vance, a member of the Central Intelligence Agency inspector general’s staff, discovered that the agency was running a research project that included administering LSD and other drugs to unwitting human subjects.

MK-Ultra was a code name declassified in the 1970’s Church Committee where the public was informed that thousands of people, patients from hospitals, mental health patients, prisoners in the so-called US ‘justice system’. Even public citizens were selected and used for testing without their consent.

This program was carried out illegally by the CIA, and the testing included torture, drugs and exotic hypnosis experiments in an effort to explore the mind, propaganda and other related patterns. Testing was conducted from the 1950s to the 1990s, and some individuals claim – with evidence – that they persist today.

One part of the operation included CIA-sponsored scientists creating an assassins program, wanting to kidnap an individual, conduct hypnosis and other MK-ULTRA techniques, then send them to a country to assassinate the leaders.

Another part of the CIA mind-control project was aimed at finding a “truth serum” to use on communist spies. Test subjects were given LSD and other drugs, often without their knowledge or consent, and some were tortured.

Apparently many people died – or were killed – as a result of these experiments, and at least one man, civilian biochemist Frank Olson, who was working for the government, was murdered for fear he would tell what he had seen.

The project was steadfastly denied by both the government and the CIA, but was finally exposed after investigations by the Rockefeller Commission. When this information became known, the US government paid many millions of dollars to settle the hundreds of claims and lawsuits that resulted.

The Beginnings of a new US Depravity 

In 1953, the CIA placed several of its interrogation and mind-control programs under the direction of a single program, known by the code name MK-ULTRA, after CIA director Allen Dulles complained about not having enough “human guinea pigs to try these extraordinary techniques”.

The MK-ULTRA project was under the direct command of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb and received over $25 million for hundreds of experiments on human subjects at eighty different institutions.

In a memo describing the purpose of one MK-ULTRA program subprogram, Richard Helms said:

“We intend to investigate the development of a chemical material which causes a reversible, nontoxic aberrant mental state, the specific nature of which can be reasonably well predicted for each individual.

This material could potentially aid in discrediting individuals, eliciting information, and implanting suggestions and other forms of mental control.” Richard Helms, internal CIA memo.

Brainwashing and Mind Control 

Inspired by thoughts of a brainwashing program, the CIA began experiments on mind control. The most notorious part involved giving LSD and other drugs to American subjects without their knowledge or against their will, causing many to commit suicide.

However, the operation involved far more than this. Funded in part by the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, CIA research included propaganda, brainwashing, public relations, advertising, hypnosis, and other forms of suggestion.

In 1950, the US government established the first program to develop human mind control techniques. Known under a variety of codenames, this program was designed to exert such control, according to declassified documents, that an individual would do another’s bidding, “against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature such as self-preservation.”

25 years later, the Rockefeller Commission uncovered CIA plans for “programmed assassins” and said that MK-ULTRA led to American citizens being drugged, kidnapped and tortured on American soil.

Operation Paperclip – Interrogation by War Criminals 

Both MK-ULTRA and ARTICHOKE grew out of “Operation Paperclip,” in which Nazi scientists were smuggled into the US to provide the government with information on everything from rocket science to germ warfare to torture and interrogation techniques.

The CIA sought new methods of interrogation. “In 149 separate mind-control experiments, researchers used hypnosis, electroshock treatments and drugs, including marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine and mescaline.

Test subjects were usually people who could not easily object-prisoners, mental patients and members of minority groups-but the agency also performed many experiments on other people without their knowledge or consent.”

In addition, thousands of people were used, without their knowledge or consent, for experiments with LSD, mescaline, morphine, seconal, atropine and other drugs. The CIA even ran its own brothels in order to lure its victims.

As the inspector general of the US Army later stated in a report to a Senate committee: “In universities, hospitals and research institutions” an “unknown number of chemical tests and experiments” … were carried out with healthy adults, with mentally ill and with prison inmates.”

The Life and Death of Frank Olson 

By 1950 Frank Olson was a scientist who had been working on the MK-ULTRA Project, and also was aware of this group’s experiments in the late 1950 to assess the efficacy of certain bacterial strains on human beings, including the US military’s use of biological pathogens.

In 1975, as this information was exposed, the US government apparently panicked through fear their use of biological weapons in North Korea would become public knowledge.

Olson had apparently also witnessed the deaths of subjects during drug injections and various torture experiments, and had begun expressing moral misgivings about his work.

The CIA and US military feared he might take that knowledge public, so they had him killed.

LSD was administered to Olson a week or so before his death, then again on the day he died. He was apparently clubbed on the head, then thrown out of a high-floor hotel window. The CIA initially claimed it to have been a sucide, but the truth escaped.

In a bid to stave off “a devastating PR problem”, then US President Johnson held a private meeting with Olson’s family at the White House, to apologise for Olson’s death, admitting that the CIA gave Dr. Olson LSD before he was murdered.

The CIA paid $750,000 in hush money to Olson’s family, on condition that they cease pursuing any further the facts surrounding Olson’s death.



  • References and Additional Reading

The Sleep Room’s Missing Memories.

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the Manchurian Candidate.

US used biological weapons in Korean War.

YouTube video on MK-ULTRA.


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