The role of nefarious elements of the U.S. covert intelligence operations in the use of brainwashing, mind-controlling drugs and cult-controlling methods is not really very secret, as it turns out. Thanks to the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, a great deal came out into the public record, even though enormous efforts have been made to misdirect attention, to provide smoke screens and false leads or character assassinations and ridicule, all typical covert spy stuff.
Coming out of the investigations by Sen. Frank Church’s committee to explore unauthorized domestic spying aspects of the CIA’s work, author John Marks wrote an important work that brought much of the CIA’s domestic operations into the daylight, entitled The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate” The CIA and Mind Control with a subtitle, “The Secret History of the Behavioral Sciences.”
In his introduction, Marks notes that his book is based on 16,000 pages of documents that the CIA released following the Church Committee hearings and the work of the Rockefeller Commission on the same subject. Marks got them through the use of the Freedom of Information Act.
“Without these documents, the best investigative reporting in the world could not have produced a book, and the secrets of CIA mind control work would have remained buried forever,” Marks wrote, but he reminds his readers at the outset that in 1973 the CIA’s Richard Helms ordered the destruction of tons of secret material pertaining to the CIA’s efforts, under the title Allen Dulles’ Operation MK-Ultra, from the early 1950s to the mid-1970s, mostly pertaining to the application of their efforts to domestic operations in the U.S.
Thus, for as much as Marks includes in his well-documented 300 pages, there is still a nagging question that remains. It pertains to the matter of intentions and end purposes.
What’s the point of the efforts the CIA undertook to experiment with mind-control and drugs like LSD? Marks has no real answer to this except the general proposition, “The principle secret of secret intelligence is how to get someone to do your bidding” for the purpose of holding onto spies.
But this is where true intelligence work begins, and the correlation between the work of MK-Ultra and the growth of a new self-centered “human potential” psychology movement in the U.S. in the 1950s, fueled by the rise of some key cults, provides a vital clue.
It is well known that the CIA set up covert labs at 40 college campuses across the U.S. from which to conduct secret experiments on mind control, including through the proliferation of LSD.
It impressed the CIA operatives that LSD not only “would bring out primitive responses of fear and worship in people,” but that “only a speck of LSD could take a strong-willed man and turn his most basic perceptions into willowy shadows. Time, space, right, wrong, order, and the notion of what was possible took on new faces. LSD was a frightening weapon,” Marks wrote.
Add to this mix the wider social context of the U.S. in the 1950s. Despite its imperfections, there was a growing civil rights movement, and key inflection points like the Brown Vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954 helped to fuel a nascent but perceptible climate of social upheaval in the land.
The result of World War II, America’s ally in the war, the Soviet Union, now posed a serious threat in the ideological sense in the battle for the minds of young Americans. The American military-industrial-financier-big oil complex grew to fear that an equality-minded young population, in tandem with a muscular organized labor movement, could pose a serious threat to their most fundamental interests.
It is entirely plausible in this context that the scions of American industry would turn to their allies in the political and intelligence communities to come up with strategies to undercut this potential ferment, covert strategies that would undermine such ferment from within, without seeming to be coming from the top down.
This is where the impetus for the CIA’s MK-Ultra operations came from. It was to intervene in the growing movement for civil rights and equality with drugs and disorientation.
(To be continued)