|The Frank Olson Legacy Project|
Corey Ransom paper, part 4
LSD, the drug that would be instrumental in creating the 1960s psychedelic counter-culture, had only become known to those in the scientific and psychology community in the early 1950s. LSD was discovered on April 16, 1943 by Dr Albert Hoffmann, but was actually first synthesized by Hoffmann in 1938. Hoffmann was a Swiss chemist working for the Sandoz Pharmaceutical company in Basel, Switzerland.
In 1938 he was searching for a new circulatory stimulant and was working with ergot, a parasitic fungus which attacks rye grain, when he isolated LSD. The drug sat on a shelf in Hoffmanns lab for the next five years, until April 16, 1943, when he resumed his investigation of LSD. During the course of an experiment, Hoffman absorbed a miniscule quantity of the compound through his fingertips and soon experienced a feeling of intoxication. He also began to experience mild hallucinations consisting of flashes of bright colors. Hoffmann noted an " altered state of awareness of the world."
would again ingest LSD, but as a controlled experiment. On this occasion,
ingesting a metered amount: 250 micrograms, Hoffmann would experience
more intense symptoms. The symptoms became so strong so as to make Hoffman
initially believe that the drug had altered his brain. Though it had temporarily
altered his brain, Hoffman soon came down off his psychedelic cloud. Hoffman
realized he had made an important discovery. He felt that the drug could
be used as a means of studying the workings of the mind, and also as a
means of recreating mental illness. This powerful drug would allow, psychiatric
researchers to use LSD to create a model of mental illness, allowing the
researcher to temporarily be a patient and explore the characteristics
of the illness.
in the United States had been experimenting with narcotics and hallucinogens
for less noble purposes than that of the small Sandoz team of chemists.
Since the early nineteen forties the American Office of Strategic Services
(OSS) had been searching for a drug to compliment modern interrogation
techniques. OSS agents hoped to find a drug, that when administered to
a prisoner or foreign agent, would loosen their inhibitions or perhaps
even compel them to truthfully answer questions. While an absolute truth
serum was not found in the early studies, OSS gained valuable experience
in using marijuana as an interrogation supplement. In one notable operation,
OSS agent George White used marijuana laced cigarettes to test the loyalty
of mobsters contracted to protect the waterfront in New York City. In
addition, White had been able to become close enough to one stoned mobster
that he was able to extract highly sensitive drug trafficking intelligence
while socializing in Whites apartment.
With the close of
World War Two and the discovery of both German military science programs
and atrocities, came a turn in the quest for a truth drug. The Nazis
themselves had a chemical interrogation program, and were pursuing truth
drug applications similar to that of the OSS program. The Nazis
however, as with many of their other scientific projects,
integrated science with the torture of concentration camp prisoners. Never
successful in perfecting chemically-assisted-interrogation techniques,
many Nazi scientists involved in these experiments were tried and convicted
of war crimes related to the interrogation programs. However, the German
programs provided an indirect motivation to reinvigorate the American
program. While data from German interrogation experiments was useless
(collected unscientifically from cruelly developed tests,) German scientists
had been successfully integrated into other programs such as rocketry
and aerodynamics by not only America and Britain, but also the Soviet
Union. The drastic shift in relations between the Soviet Union and the
Western Hemisphere created an arms and science race. There grew an urgency
in the American military science community to make maximum use of new
technology as fast as possible to counter scientific advances made in
the Communist bloc.
While Cold War tensions heated up, Dr Hoffman and his Sandoz associates published data drawn from the LSD experiments and even the chemical composition of the drug in open scholarly journals. The LSD publicity drew the attention of the newly created Central Intelligence Agencys (CIA) in-house scientists. They had continued the earlier OSS chemically-assisted interrogation programs under a larger program known as "Bluebird."
LSD seemed to be
a custom drug for the intelligence community in that its characteristics
held promise for cloak and dagger applications. LSD, being potent in miniscule
amounts would be easy to employ by agents seeking to drug interrogation
subjects. The sense of euphoria and the symptoms of an LSD trip would
allow an interrogation subject to drop their guard, enabling a free flow
of information. Furthermore, LSDs psychomimetric capabilities might
allow the CIA to study the mind and develop manipulation techniques. This
could open a whole new series of possibilities, perhaps an absolute "truth
serum, " which would block the portion of brain activity which controlled
truth and fabrication. Even more incredible, some in the CIA (and military)
believed LSD could possibly be used to alter the state of a persons
being, to convert an enemy agent, to dishearten idealistic radicals, to
program a persons memory or thoughts.
Information from the Rockefeller Commission was thin, but at least provided a further explanation as to why the government had been experimenting with LSD. Further explanations were drawn from former CIA scientists, including Robert Lashbrook, who had been hunted down by the news media. It was revealed that perhaps an even greater driving force behind the CIAs LSD research was fear that the Soviets had a similar program. With the attention that Hoffmanns research drew, the publication of chemical composition of LSD, along with the large amounts of ergot found in the Eastern Block, it seemed highly likely that the Soviets would be developing LSD for military and intelligence applications. Furthermore, wild rumors and unconfirmed reports had spread through the intelligence community about Soviets LSD programs, including one that the Soviets had bought a huge supply of Sandoz manufactured LSD. It was rumored that Korean War POWs were being released brainwashed and that "diplomats and other people coming out from behind the iron curtain" (including Hungarian Cardinal Mindszenty) had been victims of "unexplained dramatic alterations of human behavior."
American Intelligence was very concerned that there was a threat of an LSD attack from the Communist block. Was it possible that the Soviets could use LSD en-masse against American troops? Could a lone Communist agent contaminate the drinking water of large metropolitan areas in the United States with LSD? It was felt that Western agents might face drug-assisted interrogation. Countering enemy usage of LSD became a primary concern in American LSD research.