How the CIA Conducted Secret LSD Experiments on Unwitting U.S. Citizens

After World War II, the possibility of gaining control over a person’s mind became one of the top pursuits for intelligence services. Amid never-ending spy games, the capacity to make someone tell the full truth during an interrogation, or to wipe out a subject’s personality and impose another – perhaps, a controlled one – became quite attractive to secret services.

In 1979, former US State Department officer John Marks published a book called ‘The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate’’, which focused on the CIA’s mind-control experiments and is based on agency documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The term ‘Manchurian Candidate’ emerged from a title of a novel by Richard Condon, first published in 1959, which tells the story of a US soldier brainwashed and turned into an assassin by the Communists. Back then, the fear that America’s rivals might use such techniques was not only a fictional fantasy, but a matter of very serious concern.

This is how John Marks describes it: “In 1947 the National Security Act created not only the CIA but also the National Security Council – in sum, the command structure for the Cold War. Wartime [Office of Strategic Services] leaders like William Donovan and Allen Dulles lobbied feverishly for the Act. Officials within the new command structure soon put their fears and their grandiose notions to work. Reacting to the perceived threat, they adopted a ruthless and warlike posture toward anyone they considered an enemy – most especially the Soviet Union. They took it upon themselves to fight communism and things that might lead to communism everywhere in the world.”

‘Defensive orientation soon became secondary’

In 1975, this US Senate select committee, chaired by Democratic senator from Idaho Frank Church, looked into the possible intelligence abuses committed in the past. It was part of a so-called ‘Year of Intelligence,’ a series of investigations into the operations which included “illegal, improper or unethical activities,” as the resolution establishing the Church committee put it.

Actually, there were reasons for the US public to question the secret services’ methods. After the Watergate scandal, it was disclosed that the CIA had a direct role in what happened. While describing the CIA’s activities in his article for the New York Times, journalist Seymour Hersh mentioned other agencies’ operations targeting American citizens. The CIA itself only released the documents on the matter in 2007.

So, the Church committee had quite a lot of work to do. The members held 126 full committee meetings, 40 subcommittee hearings and interviewed some 800 witnesses. After having searched through 110,000 documents, the committee published its final report in April 1976. It also issued a document called ‘Alleged Assasination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders’, detailing the intelligence’s plans to kill several top figures like Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro.

The main report contains a huge chapter dedicated to the use of chemical and biological agents by the intelligence agencies. “Fears that countries hostile to the United States would use chemical and biological agents against Americans or America’s allies led to the development of a defensive program designed to discover techniques for American intelligence agencies to detect and counteract chemical and biological agents,” the report says, pointing that the defensive weapon soon turned into an offensive one.

Reporting from RT News.