Before LSD escaped the lab and was evangelized by hippies, the U.S. government was secretly testing the effects of the drug on hundreds of unsuspecting American civilians and military personnel. In a must-read feature on newly unclassified material on the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert operation, the MK-ULTRA program, which ran from 1953 to 1964, SF Weekly fully exposes the bizarre world of the CIA’s unethical drug tests. The utterly-unbelievable-but-true story involved using hookers to lure in unwitting johns for undisclosed testing, narcotics agents who slipped drugs into drinks, and a U.S. marshal who held up a San Francisco bar not knowing he was high on acid.
It sounds like something out of a paranoid dream. And indeed, before the documentation and other facts of the program were made public, those who talked of it were frequently dismissed as being psychotic. But the U.S. government’s history of secret human experimentation ought to be kept in mind, particularly when we consider the power we grant to it and the way we regulate drugs.
The LSD experiments were purportedly carried out because the U.S. believed that communist Russia, North Korea and China were using the drug to brainwash captured Americans. Consequently, the CIA didn’t want to fall behind in developing and responding to this potentially useful technology.
So, incredibly, it decided to slip acid secretly to Americans — at the beach, in city bars, at restaurants. For a decade, the CIA conducted completely uncontrolled tests in which they drugged people unknowingly, then followed and watched them without intervening. In some cases, the agency used the drug to perform interrogations, but these procedures were conducted so inconsistently that they proved equally useless in providing useful data.
"Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality." Edgar Allan Poe.
The CIA, during that era, did all kinds of illegal things, which resulted in their being properly called to account in a Senate investigation led by Senator Frank Church. Church was carrying out responsibilities of the Congress to exercise oversight over agency activities. His committee's findings described mountains of abuse.
<<<By the early years of the 1970s, the unpopularity of the Vietnam War and the unfolding Watergate scandal brought the era of minimal oversight to an abrupt halt. The US Congress was determined to rein in the Nixon administration and to ascertain the extent to which the nation's intelligence agencies had been involved in questionable, if not outright illegal, activities.
A series of troubling revelations started to appear in the press concerning intelligence activities. First came the revelations of Christopher Pyle in January 1970 of the U.S. Army's spying on the civilian population and Sam Ervin's Senate investigations that resulted. The dam broke on 22 December 1974, when The New York Times published a lengthy article bySeymour Hersh detailing operations engaged in by the Central Intelligence Agency over the years that had been dubbed the "family jewels". Covert action programs involving assassination attempts against foreign leaders and covert attempts to subvert foreign governments were reported for the first time. In addition, the article discussed efforts by intelligence agencies to collect information on the political activities of US citizens.
These revelations convinced many Senators and Representatives that the Congress itself had been too lax, trusting, and naive in carrying out its oversight responsibilities.>>>
One consequence of the Church investigation was to clamp down on the CIA's forays into such illegal activities. Right wing extremists are fond of castigating Church and his investigation, claiming that the ultimate result was damage to critical intelligence operations. Seemingly forgotten in all of that is the proven fact that the CIA brought that investigation down on itself by grossly and illegally extending its activities into areas where it had no business going.
Thanks Contendah for the info and links. Interesting stuff for sure. I'm basically just learning about a lot of this stuff as most of it happened way before my time. It's both fascinating and disturbing.