|The Frank Olson Legacy Project|
Corey Ransom paper, part 8
In the early summer of 1977 journalist John Marks received a letter in response to his freedom of information act request. The letter stated that seven boxes of financial records relating to project MKULTRA had been uncovered by agency researchers. He soon received approximately 1,000 documents which he quickly began sifting through. While heavily censored and mostly describing project bookkeeping, Marks quickly realized that the scope of MKULTRA had been greatly under-appreciated. He found that the project went far beyond drug-assisted interrogation and drug related mind control. The project included "other techniques such as electric shock, radiation, ultrasonics, psychosurgery, psychology and incapacitating agents."
the release of the initial batch of documents, Marks went public with
his findings. Almost simultaneously CIA Director Stansfield Turner issued
a press release covering the documentary discovery of MKULTRA records.
Turner reported that the documents would be available for the review of
upcoming joint hearings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research. Turner also announced
that an additional 5,000 documents would be released to Marks and would
be ready in time for the up-coming congressional hearings.
Marks was almost immediately offered a book deal from Time-Life books (the book division of the New York Times.) Marks hired a staff of assistants and began to pour through the hundreds of documents. They began uncovering and charting the vast organizational plan of project MKULTRA, learning about numerous subprojects and their ties back to the CIA. Releasing their findings in articles to the New York Times during the summer of 1977, Marks journalistic team detailed several MKULTRA subprojects and much of the contract work funneled out from the CIA through cover organizations. One such subproject was known within TSS as Operation Midnight Climax.
This project had been set up in early 1952 by Sidney Gottlieb to observe the effects of LSD administered to unwitting subjects. Early investigations into LSD by those in the intelligence community had been isolated to self-experimentation. An agent would take LSD under a controlled situation and would himself take observations, and would be observed by an associate. As experience was gained, LSD was soon being administered to agents preparing to deploy overseas as a preemptive exposure. This provided further data on LSD, however, little was known about effectiveness of offensive employments of LSD such as in interrogations, and behavioral control situations.
TSS research studies on LSD found that it would be necessary to secretly test LSD on unwitting subjects to get a true sense for the covert applications of the drug. The first series of unwitting LSD administrations were restricted to other agents within TSS. Researchers would slip LSD into a coworkers drink and then observe his behavior as the drug took effect.
The experiment involving Frank Olson was another example of such in-house testing. The researchers thought by keeping such tests within agency walls and under direct observation, they were relatively safe. Obviously the results of the Deep Creek Lake experiment proved otherwise. However, the LSD unwitting test program continued to progress to new levels. Sidney Gottlieb determined actual field tests would be required of LSD. He hired Narcotics agent and former OSS agent George White to carry out experiments on unwitting persons from established safe houses in New York City and San Francisco. From these safe houses, George White and fellow agents would fan out across the city to bars and nightclubs where they would secretly drug unsuspecting subjects.
In later phases of the field studies, the true "Midnight Climax" portion of these experiments, White would hire prostitutes to lure customers back to the safe house where they would be drugged with LSD. Then unknowingly under the influence of LSD, and being observed by CIA agents, the subjects would engage in sexual activity with the prostitutes. The goal of such experiments was to determine the effectiveness of controlling a subjects behavior through drugs and sexual enticement.
field tests would continue unhindered (even after the internal investigations
following the Olson fiasco) from the early 50s until 1963 when they
were discovered and shut down by the CIA inspector general under the pretense
that the tests were "distasteful and unethical." Distasteful
and unethical may qualify as understatements in describing the field tests.
The tests flagrantly violated ethical and moral standards for human experimentation.
They violated the subjects civil rights, and the experiments were
anything but scientific and controlled.
Marks research also uncovered and charted contract programs initiated at more than 80 universities, hospitals and institutions. Such programs were funded through cover organizations established as covert conduits for CIA money. Examples of such organizations were the Geschikter Foundation for Medical Research, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, and the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology.
One researcher funded through the Geschikter Foundation was Dr Harold Abramson, the doctor who treated Frank Olson in New York City prior to his suicide. Abramson, who had been turned on to psychology despite his training as an allergist, became a noted expert on LSD. He eventually published 2 books and 40 articles on the psychomimetric qualities of the drug. Secretly, Abramson investigated intelligence-related aspects of LSD for MKULTRA. Abramson funded his research, unclassified and classified, through the Geschikter Foundation which was financed in part by the CIA.
Another contractor funded through the Geschikter Foundation was Dr Carl Pfieffer of the Bordentown New Jersey Federal Penitentiary. Dr Pfieffer who tested LSD on prisoners in much the same way that Harris Isbell had done at the Public Health Hospital in Kentucky. Dr Ewen Cameron of McGill University of Montreal, Quebec, led an MKULTRA project funded through the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. It was discovered that his project centered on developing brainwashing and depatterning techniques such as sensory deprivation. Using civilian mental patients admitted as clients of his private practice, Dr Cameron attempted to combine his CIA contract research with his treatment of patients, with terrible results. These are just a few of the programs detailed in New York Times research published over the summer of 1977.
In early August of 1977, many of these programs were again reviewed by the joint hearings of the congressional committees of Intelligence, Health and Scientific Research and Human Resources. While these hearings brought the CIAs former behavioral control program back into the mainstream media, they did very little in adding to the scholarship and understanding of the programs. This was partially due to the involvement of conservative members of the committees who were determined to end the negative attention surrounding the CIA.
The publishing of John Marks book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate in 1979 would be more instrumental in laying a groundwork for future studies on the CIAs behavioral control programs. The release of the book received considerable attention in the mainstream media, but its most important role would be as the starting point for future studies and investigations of MKULTRA and its subprojects. It would become know as the source for behavioral control matters from lawsuits against the CIA, to academic scholarship to fringe conspiracy theories. One of the finest roles Marks research played was in providing the research for the case of Orlikow vs. the US (CIA) a landmark case for those who had been human research subjects.