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CIA Mind-Control Operations and THE SYNDROME
[Editor's Note: The following article was forwarded to me by Susan Ford
(Brice Taylor) <email@example.com>. She prefaced the story with
following note: "I have highlighted and emphasized portions of this
important article. The infamous Tavistock Institute, which operates
under the aegis of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Great
Britain, is the brainchild and executor for the CIA regarding mind control
experimentation and its implementation." Ken Adachi]
THE SYNDROME is a thriller driven by a secret culled from the deepest recesses of the Cold War. It is a secret that encompasses an illicit program of human experimentation, using pain, drugs and hypnosis to create the perfect assassin. So sensitive was this program that only a handful of people have ever been privy to more than a small part of it. The activity's existence was first hinted at by the Rockefeller Commission in a 1974 report on domestic CIA operations. The Commission devoted just two sentences to the program, whose documentary record had been destroyed by an outgoing CIA Director. Despite that Director's attempt to impose institutional amnesia on the Agency he'd headed, seven boxes of financial documents were later found in a dusty cabinet at the Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
The paper-trail contained within those boxes wound its way through a complex of medical institutes, hospitals and foundations that had given cover to a behavioral modification program in which human guinea pigs had been "tested to destruction" without their knowledge or consent.
Beyond those seven boxes, no other records are known to exist. Even so, the New York District Attorney's office continues to seek homicide indictments against CIA officers who are believed to have murdered a key scientist in the program.
Though few records of its existence remain, the program is known to have begun during World War II, when the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) attempted to develop "a truth drug" in an effort to elicit information from recalcitrant Prisoners of War. The subjects of these earliest experiments were captured Axis soldiers, and American GIs facing court-martial for various crimes.
When the war came to an end, the program did not. Instead, it took a strange turn--and gained momentum. What had been a search for a truth-drug morphed into a mind-control program whose purpose was to create a murderous automaton whose memory could be "edited" by his handlers at headquarters.
The need for an assassination "utility" of this kind had been articulated a few years earlier by a professor of anthropology at Harvard, a former OSS operative who was himself implicated in World War II assassination plots. This was the late Carleton Coon who, in an after-action report to OSS chief "Wild Bill" Donovan, wrote,
"...we cannot be sure that the clear and objective scholars who study the existing social systems and draw up the blueprints for a society to suit our technology will always be heard, or that their plans will be put into operation. We can almost be sure that this will not be the case. Therefore some other power, some third class of individuals aside from the leaders and the scholars must exist, and this third class must have the task of thwarting mistakes, diagnosing areas of potential world disequilibrium, and nipping the causes of potential disturbances in the bud. There must be a body of men whose task it is to throw out the rotten apples as soon as the first spots of decay appear. A body of this nature must exist undercover. It must either be a power unto itself, or be given the broadest discretionary powers by the highest human authorities."
With the outbreak of the Korean War, Coon's proposal seems to have been melded with the truth-drug investigations then under way, and given a jump-start. The Pentagon and the CIA arranged for the publication of articles about "communist brainwashing" in popular magazines such as The Reader's Digest and Saturday Evening Post. The message was explicit: there was a "mind-control gap."
This created a groundswell of political support for the Agency's decision to embark upon a full-fledged "mind-control" program of its own. Beginning in 1952, the CIA began to work with the Special Operations Division of the Army's biological research center at Fort Detrick, studying the covert use of chemical and biological weapons. Among the drugs studied was LSD.
The subjects in these experiments were people on the margins of society. They included the inmates of prisons and mental institutions, as well as homeless alcoholics on Skid Row. Those who espoused unpopular political views or whose lifestyle was perceived as immoral were also considered "fair game"--and so became unwitting guinea pigs in the spooks' quest to create a "Manchurian Candidate."
Occasionally, the Agency experimented on its own--and, sometimes, with terrible consequences. In 1954, Dr. Frank Olson was invited to a gathering at a CIA retreat near Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. At that gathering, we are told that Olsen and nine other people were given high doses of LSD without their knowledge. By all accounts, Olson's reaction was negative in the extreme. Plunged into severe depression, he suffered hallucinations for days, and was taken to see a therapist in New York. While there, and under the most mysterious circumstances, he fell to his death from an upper-story window of the Statler Hotel.
Though Olsen's death was pronounced a suicide, the case has since been re-opened, and is now under investigation by the New York District Attorney's office.
Meanwhile, the Agency forged ahead. Fearful of adverse publicity from incidents such as the one that claimed Olsen's life, the CIA shifted many of its operations to the West Coast and abroad. One such activity involved safe-houses in New York and Washington, where prostitutes were paid to bring clients. "Fair game," the clients would be dosed with drugs, and their behavior observed by CIA operatives sitting behind two-way mirrors.
With Olsen's death, these and other operations were moved to San Francisco, where the fallout from such activities could be more easily controlled. Still other experiments were funded abroad.
At McGill University in Montreal, Dr. Ewen Cameron carried out a series of experiments for the CIA, effectively turning his patients into "vegetables." The process, which Cameron called "depatterning," relied upon intensive electroshocks, followed by 30-60 days of drug-induced sleep, to destroy existing patterns of behavior. In the end, the patient would become a tabula rasa, her mind wiped clean and empty.
Elsewhere, scientists such as Maitland Baldwin agreed to go one step further, volunteering to carry out "terminal experiments" in sensory deprivation. Patients-subjects-victims would be buried alive for an "indefinite" period in stimulus-free "boxes." In effect, they would become the CIA's very own zombies.
Behind the codewords, BLUEBIRD and PANDORA and ARTICHOKE, the CIA and its sister agencies experimented upon a large and diverse group of subjects, many of whom suffered terribly. Using drugs and hypnosis, microwaves and radiation, the experimenters sought ways to affect moods, impose "selective amnesia," create multiple personalities, induce trance-states by rapid and remote means, and generate so-called "screen memories."
This last involved the creation of false "memories" as a way of blocking genuine ones. A key plot-point in THE SYNDROME, it is also a way to impel an agent to commit suicide when his usefulness is at an end.
The mind-control program initiated by the CIA in the 1950s was
officially discontinued in the 1960s, though many critics
of the Agency insist that the most "promising" research continues under
other auspices, at home and abroad. This book--THE SYNDROME--is about that.
Copyright© 2001 by
John Case. Published online by permission of Ballantine, a division
of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.