Yes, the CIA Had Ex-Nazi and Japanese Torturers Advise Them on Human LSD Experiments in the 50's

September 16th 2019

MK ULTRA spill equipment ( Regan Walsh )

MK ULTRA spill equipment (Regan Walsh)

By Bill Berkowitz 

In 1943, Albert Hoffman, a scientist working at Sandoz Laboratories in Basil, Switzerland, became the first person to synthesize, ingest, and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). A decade later, the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence, in coordination with the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories, organized the MK-ULTRA project. The project was headed by the scientist, Sidney Gottlieb, “the first person the United States government ever hired to find ways to control human minds," Stephen Kinzer writes in his new book "Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control" (September 2019, Henry Holt & Co.). Kinzer recently told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that Gottlieb “was the man who brought LSD to America,” becoming “the unwitting Godfather of the entire LSD counter-culture." Gottlieb presided over a program that performed horrific experiments on unwitting Americans, including, the opening of a “national security whorehouse” where victims were unknowingly dosed by CIA-paid prostitutes; authorized experiments on so-called expendables in overseas black sites; and, brought Nazi and Japanese torturers to the U.S. to brief CIA operatives about their work. 

As a response to ginned-up stories about the Soviet Union discovering mind-altering drugs, the CIA launched a “search [for drugs] … that would allow people to control the human mind, CIA scientists became aware of the existence of LSD, and this became an obsession for the early directors of MK-ULTRA,” said Kinzer, the award-winning journalist and author of several brilliant books including All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror and The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War. 

According to Kinzer, MK-ULTRA, a project that lasted up to ten years, was an attempt by the CIA “to find ways to control the human mind. They wanted to be able to have a truth serum that would make prisoners say everything they knew; also an amnesiac, that would make people forget what they had done; and, most important, a technique or a drug that would allow the CIA to direct agents to carry out acts like sabotage, assassination, and then forget who had ordered them to do it, or even that they had carried out the actions at all.

In the early 1950s, Gottlieb “arranged for the CIA to pay $240,000 to buy the world’s entire supply of LSD,” Kinzer maintained. “He brought this to the United States, and he began spreading it around to hospitals, clinics, prisons and other institutions, asking them, through bogus foundations, to carry out research projects and find out what LSD was, how people reacted to it and how it might be able to be used as a tool for mind control.

In 1953, The American Conservative’s Kelley Beaucar Vlahos recently reported, “Allen Dulles [the director of the CIA] told a group of fellow Princeton alumni that the U.S. was far behind the Russians and North Koreans in ‘brain warfare.’ He warned of a mind control gap that would likely grow because ‘we in the West have no human guinea pigs to try these extraordinary techniques.’” Well, it wasn’t too long before the CIA came up with American guinea pigs.

As Vlahos noted, “the CIA tested a … variety of unregulated drugs, electro-shock, sensory deprivation, and other extreme techniques on unwitting souls across the United States—in ‘safe houses,’ prisons, psychiatric hospitals, doctors’ offices—even in the CIA itself. People died, went crazy, or withered away in a vegetative state, often with little or no clue of what had happened to them.”

Gottlieb apparently was a man for many horrific seasons. He “was also the chief scientist in a CIA program that developed poisons with which to assassinate world leaders (failed attempts included Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba), tested aerosol-delivered germs and deadly gases, and honed extreme torture techniques,” Vlahos maintained in her review of Poisoner in Chief. He’s been called Dr. Death, Washington’s ‘official poisoner,’ and a mad scientist. But he never became a household name, mostly because he never paid for his crimes.” 

This CIA-directed program “was the most sustained search in history for techniques of mind control,” Kinzer pointed out. “Commitment to a cause provides the ultimate justification for immoral acts. Patriotism is the most seductive of those causes,” Kinzer writes. “Some do things they know are wrong for what they consider good reasons. No one else of Gottlieb’s generation, however, had the government-given power to do so many things that were so profoundly and horrifically wrong. No other American—at least, none that we know of—ever wielded such terrifying life-or-death power while remaining so completely invisible.”

Interestingly, many creative including Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Robert Hunter, the lyricist for the Grateful Dead, the poet, Allen Ginsberg, got their LSD from the CIA. 

Kinzer told Gross that the notorious crime boss Whitey Bulger “was one of the who volunteered for what he was told was an experiment aimed at finding a cure for schizophrenia.” Bulger, who was given LSD on a regular basis, later found out that the experiments had nothing to do with finding a cure for schizophrenia, but was aimed at seeing the effects of long-term LSD use. 

In an interview that covered numerous CIA-initiated horrendous activities, perhaps one of the most startling revelations was Kinzer’s discussion of how the CIA became dependent on previous appalling experiments that had been performed in Japanese and Nazi concentration camps. In fact, “the CIA actually hired the vivisectionists and the torturers who had worked in Japan and in Nazi concentration camps to come and explain what they had found out so that we could build on their research.”

For example, Nazi doctors had conducted extensive experiments with mescaline at the Dachau concentration camp, and the CIA was very interested in figuring out whether mescaline could be the key to mind control that was one of their big avenues of investigation. So they hired the Nazi doctors who had been involved in that project to advise them.

Another thing the Nazis provided was information about poison gases like sarin, which is still being used. Nazi doctors came to America to Fort Detrick in Maryland, which was the center of this project, to lecture to CIA officers to tell them how long it took for people to die from sarin.

Gottlieb was basically on his own, checking in with his “real boss” Allen Dulles and “titular boss” Richard Helms. Gottlieb “had a license to kill. He was allowed to requisition human subjects across the United States and around the world and subject them to any kind of abuse that he wanted, even up to the level of it being fatal — yet nobody looked over his shoulder. He never had to file serious reports to anybody. I think the mentality must have been [that] this project is so important — mind control, if it can be mastered, is the key to global world power.”

In 1972, Richard Nixon removed Helms, and Gottlieb would not be far behind. But before he left, “they agreed that they should destroy all records of MK-ULTRA. Gottlieb actually drove out to the CIA records center and ordered the archives to destroy boxes full of MK-ULTRA records. … However, it turns out that there were some [records] found in other places; there was a depot for expense account reports that had not been destroyed, and various other pieces of paper remain. So there is enough out there to reconstruct some of what he did, but his effort to wipe away his traces by destroying all those documents in the early ’70s was quite successful.”

Gottlieb, who was never held accountable for his crimes against humanity, died in 1999. It is likely that this despicable character would have continued to fade into history had not Kinzer’s book brought these startling revelations back into the spotlight.

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