MKUltra is the codename given to the CIA’s mind control program. The objective of the project was to develop drugs and procedures to be used in torture and interrogations. This included illegal experiments on human subjects. Their aim was to develop methods of mind control to weaken an individual to make them confess. More often than not, victims were administered drugs without any consent. This was in direct violation of the Nuremberg laws arising from the Nuremberg trials in 1945-46.
Another main objective of experimenting with mind control was to influence international politics to favor the USA and specifically, the CIA. One such example is the use of a Manchurian Candidate. Supposedly, the CIA developed drugs to influence Fidel Castro. This was at the time of the height of the Cold War and the USA wanted to develop mind control against the Soviet Union, North Korea and the Chinese.
The project was officially sanctioned in 1953 and halted in 1973. In 1973, the Director of the CIA, Richard Helms ordered all evidence with respect to MKUltra be destroyed. A FOIA (Freedom of Information) request in 1977 led to the discovery of 20,000 documents that were accidentally stored in the wrong building. This and personal testimonies brought several crimes of the project to light.
Project MKUltra was famous for the use of LSD, sensory deprivation, psychological torture, isolation to name a few on test subjects. Test subjects were unwitting American and Canadian citizens. 44 Colleges and Universities, 80 institutions in total including hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies served as front organizations for MKUltra. Apart from LSD, other drugs such as psilocybin, mescaline, scopolamine, marijuana, heroin, morphine, alcohol, etc. were used in human experiments without the consent or knowledge of the subject. The subjects were then hypnotized after being induced with such drugs.
The LSD experiments of the MKUltra project on human test subjects are as follows:
- LSD was continuously administered to a patient in Kentucky for 174 days. In another instance, LSD was administered to 7 people for 77 days straight in Kentucky.
- LSD was administered to CIA agents and employees, military personnel, doctors, etc. to conduct tests.
- Heroin addicts were bribed with more heroin to take LSD.
- Brothels were equipped with one-way mirrors and cameras in San Francisco under Operation Midnight Climax. The clients were spiked with a dose of acid and studied.
- Dr. Frank Olson, an army scientist was spiked with LSD in 1953. He went into depression and jumped (fell/was pushed?) from a 13-story building in New York 9 days later.
Despite all of this, the CIA did a horrible job keeping MKUltra a secret. It has been a part of popular imagination, music, movies and media for some time now. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Robert Hunter volunteered for MKUltra experiments involving LSD and other psychedelics while they were still studying at Stanford University. Ken Kesey was one of the first to promulgate LSD in the hippy culture, outside the context of MKUltra. Stephen King’s book Firestarter is a work of fiction describing a different version of MKUltra projects and the characters develop superpowers because of the experimentation. Today, MKUltra is also the name of a Dutch Cannabis strain.