At the beginning of the Cold War, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was convinced that Russian communists had discovered a drug or method that allowed them to control the human mind. Therefore, the CIA launched its secret mission, called the MKUltra project. It intended to find a drug to control the human mind that could be used to fight the enemy.
CIA Safe Homes
In the early 1950s, making unfortunate acquaintances in New York City caused some people to experience psychological shock. They were led to an apartment on 81 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village and treated with LSD drinks. As they raced on their psychedelic journeys, CIA agents watched their reactions.
These unlucky people were the involuntary participants in one of the first experiments of the MKUltra project.
It was a gathering of haunted chemists, soulless intelligence aces, grim torturers, hypnotists, electroshock specialists, and Nazi doctors. The man hired by Sidney Gottlieb to lead this operation, George Hunter White, stood out even from the dazzling MKUltra project team. White was an ambitious agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and lived a lavish life in a dark world of crime.
Gottlieb offered him a job running a CIA "safe house" of the MKUltra project to administer LSD to unsuspecting visitors and record the results. He eagerly seized the opportunity. White imagined it would be another crazy episode in a long series of secret exploits. And he was not disappointed. He even experienced more than he expected.
These two masters of the behind-the-scenes action of the MKUltra project couldn't have been more different. White was an adrenaline-fueled libertine with a sadistic tendency, who rarely sobered up and loved living on the fringes of violence. Gottlieb was a scientist who fed on yogurt. At that point, however, they fit together very well.
The head of the MKUltra project was looking for someone who could handle dangerous situations and bend and break the law by pretending to be enforcing it. White knew both and so much more.
The Brains Behind The MKUltra Project
Being in suspicious circles, he had a wealth of potential participants in drug experiments. White was used to the brutal treatment of people and was reliable for secrecy. And since he was still working at FBN, the Agency could have denied any ties to him if something went wrong. These advantages made him an ideal collaborator.
Gottlieb had already tested LSD on volunteers and unsuspecting victims and was now arranging to introduce the drug to hospitals and medical colleges for controlled experiments. To find out how ordinary people would react to this drug, he decided to open a "safe house" in the United States to test the local "unnecessary" ones. Many of the people White brought to the conspiratorial premises at 81 Bedford Street were drug addicts, petty criminals, and other outcasts who were reasonably likely to be hesitant to complain about what happened to them.
The handful of people who knew about the MKUltra project believed it was critical to America's survival. In their eyes, it was not only absurd but also an act of madness to limit the scope of research because of concern for the lives of a few - or even a few hundred or more - people.
The "Safe House" in New York was a manifestation of a peculiarly understood ethical compromise.
The Search For The "Truth Serum"
Allen Dulles gave Gottlieb a command so intimidating it sounded almost like a joke: to discover a miracle drug that would deny the enemies of freedom and save the world. Such a goal posed the greatest challenge to the scientific imagination, but Gottlieb was ready for it like no other.
In May 1952, he heard about White from a colleague from the Technical Service Staff. He soon invited him to Washington for a chat. They talked about the OSS - both the Bureau's experiments to search for the "truth serum" and its infamous Department 19, a workshop where craftsmen crafted silent pistols, poison dart-throwing weapons, and other espionage tools. Later the conversation turned to LSD.
Gottlieb was surprised by his interlocutor's extensive knowledge, which reflected the extent of the secret experiments conducted by FBN12. White then offered Gottlieb to show him how he works and took him by car to New Haven, Connecticut, where the Bureau was dealing with a businessman suspected of being a wholesale heroin dealer. This trip, as Gottlieb later recalled, gave him "an opportunity to discuss interesting issues" and also allowed him to see an unknown world that charmed him. It was White's natural environment, who "was always armed to the teeth with all kinds of weapons; it could be rough and gruff, even vulgar, but then he became polished and even eloquent. The CIA generally did not hire people like him."
Gottlieb also added:
"We were from the Ivy League, middle-class white people, one former employee of the Technical Service Staff later explained. We were completely naive about these things, and he seemed to be a real expert. He knew whores, pimps, people who delivered drugs. [...] He was quite a savage. "
The apartment complex on Bedford Street became something special: a CIA "safe house" for the MKUltra project. In the heart of New York City, it was a place where unsuspecting citizens would be lured and surreptitiously drugged - all in the name of fighting communism. The conspiratorial premises consisted of two adjacent apartments so that the surveillance equipment placed in one allowed observers to record what was happening in the other. Gottlieb already had "safe houses" overseas where he was free to administer drugs to people and now had a similar one in New York as well.
That fall, White began to roam Greenwich Village searching for people he befriended and to whom he then surreptitiously administered LSD or other drugs. He made up a nickname - Morgan Hall - and two false biographies. One career report on White states:
"He posed in turns as a merchant seaman or a member of the artistic bohemian and had a lot of underworld characters, all of whom had to do with criminal activities such as drugs, prostitution, gambling, and pornography.... It was in the artist's role that he ensnared most of the victims of MKUltra project".
Among the people he applied to LSD were his friends, including the Vixen Press publishing house owner, specializing in fetish and lesbian prints. White's victims were also young women who were unlucky enough to stumble upon him. His diary gives some idea of how they reacted to the drugs administered to them: "Gloria has a nightmare [...] Janet is flying high."
White was so impressed with the power of LSD that he began to refer to it as "Stormy" in his journal entries. Even so, he continued to administer the drug to anyone he managed to lure into his den. The owner of the publishing house Vixen Press stated years later:
"I was angry with George about it. It turned out that he was making people dirty, but we didn't realize it at the time."
White's connections prevented him from being exposed to running the MKUltra project. When a victim of one of the experiments then staggered to a hospital in Lenox Hill, claiming that she had been treated with drugs, two hours later, she heard that she was probably wrong and was discreetly discharged home. These sorts of incidents were silenced because the CIA, as one report puts it, "agreed with the New York Police Department of Medicine to keep White out of trouble."
The Rivalry Between The FBI And The CIA
The opening of a "safe house" on Bedford Street has increased tensions between the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI. Some former employees considered the Federal Bureau of Investigation a safe haven for dumb cops and clumsy thugs. Naturally, the FBI agents did not remain indebted to believe the CIA men as an underdeveloped prima donna and, as one of them puts it:
"Mostly wealthy boys, snobs with fundraising trustees who think they are God's answer to all the evils of this world. "
Their bosses - Allen Dulles and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover - were also bitter rivals in the professional field. Hoover would not be himself if he had any objections to this kind of activity, but it would also be unlike him if he did not find out about it. The relevant information appeared in the New York report only three weeks after White's advance payment.
The report said:
"Our office's secret whistleblower reported on July 1 that his former custodian from the Narcotics Bureau, George White [...] has partnered with the CIA as a consultant in an ultra-secret job."
"White and the CIA rented a double apartment at 81 Bedford Street, New York. One of these apartments has a bar and entertainment area, while the CIA uses the other apartment to make films through a Venetian mirror and record what happens in the first. "
Gottlieb supervised the operation closely. He regularly met with his associate in Washington and New York, and their bond grew stronger. When the TSS Chemical Department head celebrated his thirty-sixth birthday on August 3, 1954, White, a leathercraft hobbyist, presented him with a handmade belt.
Deep Search On MKUltra Project
Former New York Times journalist and a historian at Brown University, Stephen Kinzer, has researched the MKUltra project for several years. He describes Operation MKUltra project as "the most time-consuming search for mind control techniques."
As Kinzer explains, the CIA mind-control project was just a continuation of what started in Japanese and Nazi concentration camps. Not only was the MKUltra project based on these inhumane attempts, but the CIA also actually hired torturers from Japanese and Nazi concentration camps. Nazi doctors conducted extensive experiments with mescaline in the Dachau concentration camp. The CIA was also interested in whether hallucinogenic mescaline could be used to control the mind. So they hired Nazi doctors to advise.
For the MKUltra project, the CIA established secret centers throughout Europe and East Asia, particularly in Japan, Germany, and the Philippines, which were mainly under American control. Thus, Gottlieb did not have to worry about legal complications or consequences in these countries. After the war, CIA agents in Europe and Asia hunted down hostile agents and "others" they considered suspicious or "missing." These people were locked up in cells and then tested on all kinds of drugs and techniques. It included electroshock, extreme temperatures, sensory isolation - and bombarded with questions all the time to see if resistance could be destroyed and a way found to the destruction of human reason.
MKUltra project and similar programs were designed not only to understand the human mind but also how to destroy it. Gottlieb operated almost entirely without supervision. He reported to his boss Richard Helms and CIA Director Allen Dulles, but in reality, neither of them wanted to know what he was doing.
Gottlieb was not required to make official reports. He had "permission to kill." He was allowed to "seize human subjects" from the United States and other countries, which he was allowed to subject to any abuses, including fatal ones - without any consequences. Authorities apparently felt this project was so important (mind control and world domination) that it was worth every sacrifice. The CIA, therefore, funded medical trials and criminal tortures aimed at memory impairment, discrediting unintentional behavior, changing sexual patterns, obtaining information, suggestions, and creating addictions.
"Gottlieb wanted to create a way to take control of people's minds, and he realized it was a two-part process," Kinzer says.
"First, the existing mind had to be destroyed, then a way had to be found to insert a new one into the resulting void. They were not successful in creating a new one, but a lot of work was done on the destruction. "
Kinzer notes that due to the secret nature of Gottlieb's work, it is impossible to determine the exact number of human victims of his experiments.
"We don't know exactly how many people died, certainly many, and an even greater number of human lives were permanently destroyed."
Destruction Of Evidence On The MKUltra Project
Kinzer explains the LDS and MKUltra project in detail in his new book, Poisoner In Chief, published in September 2019. Gottlieb's career ended in 1972, when his patron Richard Helms, then director of the CIA, was dismissed by President Richard Nixon. When Helms was gone, it was only a matter of time before Gottlieb was removed.
Helms was the only man in the CIA who knew what Gottlieb was doing at all. Since they were both on their way out of the CIA, they agreed that they had to destroy all evidence of the MKUltra project.
Gottlieb drove to the CIA record center and ordered the archivists to destroy all the MKUltra project document boxes. However, later some records of the MKUltra project program were found in the archives for expenditure reports. There is enough evidence about the program to paint a picture of some of the things he did. Yet his effort to destroy all traces and documents in the early '70s was very successful. Gottlieb lived contentedly until the 1980s in the United States at large, presumably thanks to the CIA, and among other things, helped them try to poison Fidel Castro.
During the interrogation in the 1970s, the public also learned about the MKUltra project experiments. The admission that CIA agents conducted such frightening tests in the United States, where they are not allowed to act by law, is still proof that there are certainly more dangerous projects.