The Frank Olson Legacy Project
25 Years of Nightmares
|25 Years of Nightmares
David Remnick, Washington Post Staff Writer
July 28, 1985; Page F1
Harvey Wein stein, a quiet, bearded man who practices psychiatry at Stanford University, says there are days when he is "ashamed" of his profession, nights when he cannot stop thinking about the Canadian psychiatrist who "ruined my father's life . . . Left him with nothing. It's a nightmare that never ends."With funding from the CIA, the late Dr. D. Ewen Cameron did a series of mind-control experiments on 53 people, including Harvey Weinstein's father, Louis, a prosperous Montreal businessman. All had come to the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University in Montreal between 1957 and 1961 for treatment of various psychological ailments. The experiments, Weinstein says, left his father "a human guinea pig, a poor pathetic man with no memory, no life. He lost his business, he lost everything." Weinstein is one of nine plaintiffs in a lawsuit, seeking damages from the CIA.
To erase or "de-pattern" personality traits, Cameron gave his subjects megadoses of LSD, subjected them to drug-induced "sleep therapy" for up to 65 consecutive days and applied electroshock therapy at 75 times the usual intensity. To shape new behavior, Cameron forced them to listen to repeated recorded messages for 16-hour intervals, a technique known as "psychic driving." Cameron and the CIA were interested in brainwashing and the ability to redirect thought and action. The patients did not consent to the treatment and were never told they were being used for research.
"When you're 13 years old and you see your father -- an independent, kind, smart person -- become a different man before your eyes, it's impossible to accommodate that," Weinstein says. "I remember one of his first visits home from the hospital. He didn't talk much, and when he did talk it made no sense. When he wasn't sleeping he was drowsy. He asked us things about his parents, even though they'd been dead for years. His memory was gone. At night once, when I was in bed, I saw him come into my room and urinate on the floor. He didn't know where he was.
"My father has ended up feeling guilty that he had done something to deserve this punishment. He is convinced the CIA listens to his telephone. He's ashamed, embarrassed. My mother died without seeing the end of this. It will be a tragedy if my father dies without restoring some sense of dignity to his life." Today Louis Weinstein lives alone in Montreal, cared for by his two grown daughters.
No one knows the whereabouts of all the subjects, some of whom may be dead. But Louis Weinstein and eight others, including Velma Orlikow, the wife of a New Democratic Party member of the Canadian parliament, claim they have been injured irreparably by the experiments. "I'd say Velma operates at about 20 percent of capacity," David Orlikow says. "It's horrific."
The CIA's involvement in mind control experiments has been coming to light for years. The suit filed by the group against the U.S. government has been pending here in U.S. District Court since December 1980 before Judge John Garrett Penn. The plaintiffs originally asked for $1 million each in damages but have cut that to $175,000. The government has offered to pay $25,000. The group's attorney, Joseph Rauh Jr., calls the settlement offer "demeaning" and contends that the CIA has managed to delay the proceedings by "stonewalling."
The CIA's counsel, Lee Strickland, declined to comment on the case. Agency spokeswoman Kathy Pherson said, "We don't comment on cases under litigation. It's inappropriate to try cases in the press."
In Cameron's defense, Brian Robertson, the present director of the Allan Institute, and James Farquhar, a psychiatrist there, wrote in the Montreal Gazette that "we have not been able to uncover a single shred of evidence that Dr. Cameron knew of the CIA connection with his research funding." They said Cameron's work "must be placed in its historical context" and that "in Cameron's day researchers were not expected to inform their patients of the nature of their research in the way that they are today."
The CIA has asked Judge Penn to block Rauh from taking depositions from two key agency figures -- Stacey Hulse and John Knaus, who have been publicly identified as former CIA station chiefs in Ottawa. They are both retired.
Cameron, who died of a heart attack while mountain climbing in 1967, had been one of the most prominent psychiatrists in North America. A former president of both the Canadian and American psychiatric associations, he was selected to diagnose Nazi figures, including Rudolf Hess, during the Nuremberg trials. (He declared Hess sane.) But for his work on brainwashing and mind control, critics have called him a "mad scientist."
"We hanged Nazis for doing the sort of things Cameron did," says Rauh.
"Cameron wanted to be up there with Freud," says David Orlikow. "He wanted that stature, so he would do anything. Anything! It was horrific."
Since World War II, U.S. intelligence agencies have been interested in the techniques of controlling behavior and thought. The military was especially intrigued by interrogation techniques used on American POWs during the Korean War. Brainwashing entered the American vocabulary.
The CIA's first major project in the area, called ARTICHOKE, was rudimentary compared to MKULTRA, which succeeded it in 1953. Through front organizations, the CIA channeled about $10 million to dozens of universities and independent researchers.
In one highly publicized experiment an Army employe, Dr. Frank Olson, was given LSD without his knowledge. He was hospitalized and days later jumped out a window to his death.Few people knew much about MKULTRA and cases like those of Frank Olson until 1977, when requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act exposed the nature and breadth of the CIA's activities. Such intelligence experiments have since been outlawed.Former CIA director Richard Helms had ordered papers concerning the experiments in Montreal destroyed in 1973, but in 1977, acting on a Freedom of Information Act request by writer John Marks, then-CIA director Adm. Stansfield Turner announced that some files had not been destroyed. Those documents form the basis of what is generally known about the work of D. Ewen Cameron.
A CIA chemist, Sidney Gottlieb, supervised the MKULTRA project from within the agency, documents show. A CIA doctor, Lt. Col. James L. Monroe, worked undercover and ran the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, the organization that channeled money to Cameron and the Allan Institute.
Rauh contends that Cameron knew the CIA was interested in his work and actively solicited the grant. With the CIA's approval (and with checks drawn against U.S. Treasury funds), documents show that Monroe got at least $60,000 to Cameron.
I suffer from chronic depression which sometimes becomes acute. I call those periods my 'black holes.' I don't see anybody and I won't leave the house. I can't read and I used to love to read. I can't write a letter. I have unexplained fears. I wake up at night afraid and I don't know why. I'm trying to limp through my life like someone who's been in a terrible accident that leaves them crippled.
Dr. Cameron could be cruel if you didn't do exactly what he wanted. He was a god figure to the patients. He'd say to me, 'What's the matter with you, lassie?' I still hear his voice sometimes.
Ewen Cameron was born in Scotland and educated at the University of Glasgow, the Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital and at Johns Hopkins. He first won a measure of fame for setting up mobile psychiatric clinics in the '30s in Canada.
During the war, Cameron was part of an international committee of psychiatrists and social scientists who studied the origins and nature of Nazi culture. He published numerous articles on mass psychology during wartime. Cameron began the Allan Memorial Institute in 1943 with the help of a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He gave numerous speeches on "the problem of Germany" and believed that the psychology and forces that gave to rise to Nazism may have been longstanding in German culture.
Although he was based in Montreal, Cameron became an American citizen and angered many in the bilingual community of Montreal for being an insistent English speaker.
More and more, Cameron came to believe in the possibility of changing the human mind, of altering thought and behavior patterns. But rather than experiment in psychotherapy, what Freudians have called "the talking cure," Cameron believed in quicker, organic means, including drugs and electroshock. He began experimenting on organic ways of controlling schizophrenia.
The experiments of 1957-1961 were done on patients, mostly women, who entered the Allan Institute voluntarily, usually at the recommendation of a private physician.
Louis Weinstein went to the institute suffering from respiratory and digestive difficulties caused by anxiety. After undergoing the complete treatment of LSD and other drugs, electroshock and psychic driving, Weinstein is, in his son's words, a "lost soul . . . My father has no social sense, how to keep clean, how to carry on a conversation." "They took his self away from him."
Velma Orlikow suffered from depression after the birth of her daughter. After several years of treatment with a private psychiatrist in Winnipeg, she entered the Allan Institute to speed her progress. Without being told the nature of the injections, she was given shots of LSD on 14 occasions and went through psychic-driving sessions. She found the treatments frightening but, according to her testimony, Cameron persuaded her to continue until 1963. Now Orlikow says she cannot concentrate well, can no longer read books or magazine articles.
Dr. Mary Morrow approached Cameron for a fellowship in psychiatry, but Cameron thought, after a physical exam, that Morrow appeared "nervous" and admitted her as a patient instead. For 11 days, Morrow says she underwent de-patterning experiments that included electroshock treatment, and barbiturates. The treatment resulted in a brain anoxia -- not enough oxygen reaching the brain -- and she was hospitalized. Today Morrow suffers from prosopagnosia -- she cannot recognize people's faces.
The list goes on. Robert Logie, a native of Vancouver, says he cannot hold a steady job or sleep without the help of drugs. He suffers from severe depression and still dreams about the experiments. Lyvia Stadler of Montreal has been institutionalized.
In his court claim, Rauh claims that not only did the experiments have "no likely therapeutic value," they also violated the accepted standards of medical experimentation as formulated at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and ratified in the Charter of the United Nations.
"The frustration is incredible," Harvey Weinstein says. "It's impossible to know, to ever know, what kind of life my father might have led, what kind of lives all these people might have led, if this had never happened. So much has been stolen from my father and everyone like him."
Dr. Mary Morrow:
"I'm 68 years old now. Most of us who have suffered from Ewen Cameron are getting old. I don't have a cent left in savings. I've spent it all on lawyers. The stigma of this case ruined me professionally. I think I'll be dead and buried by the time this is over.