Project MKUltra (MK-Ultra) was a code name given to an illegal experimental program designed and conducted by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It was organized by the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence and coordinated with the U.S. Army’s Biological Warfare Laboratory. The program was sanctioned in 1953, downsized in 1964 and restricted in 1967. The MKUltra project engaged in illegal activities, including the use of US and Canadian citizens as ignorant test subjects, which led to controversy about its legitimacy.
The MKUltra project was a secret mind-control program. It was started in 1953 to develop techniques to gain the upper hand over the enemy during the Cold War. In addition to human experiments, the CIA also tried to find ways to weaken the enemy to force information through methods of mind control.
MKUltra was a top secret CIA project in which the CIA conducted hundreds of secret experiments on uninsured US citizens in order to assess the potential use of LSD and other drugs for mind control, information gathering and psychological torture. Many aspects of Project MKUltra, as it was called, were illegal, including the use of ignorant test subjects in both the US and Canada. Although the project lasted from 1953 to 1973, the details of MKUltra were not made public until 1975, after a congressional investigation into widespread illegal CIA activities in the United States and around the world.
In the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the United States feared that Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean agents were using thought control to brainwash US prisoners of war in Korea.
The MKUltra project was a large-scale effort by the CIA to investigate the effects of certain drugs and psychological treatments on the human mind. These included experiments with MDMA (ecstasy), mescaline, heroin, barbiturates, methamphetamine, psilocybin and magic mushrooms. The project consisted of 144 different sub-projects related to the control of human behavior and was carried out at 89 different institutions, including universities.
Under the cover of research LSD was administered to CIA employees, US soldiers, psychiatric patients and the public whose psychedelic properties were discovered in 1943 by a Swiss chemist. A federal drug agent who worked as a consultant for the CIA on a project called Operation Midnight Climax hired prostitutes to smuggle LSD into unsuspecting suitors and watch them stumble in a double mirror. The CIA then dosed unsuspecting men with the drug again and again, this time drinking the cocktail through the mirror and observing the effects of the drugs on the men’s behavior.
Frank Olson, a biochemist and bioweapons researcher in the US Army, received LSD as part of a CIA experiment in 1953 without his knowledge or consent and committed suicide a week later after a serious psychotic episode. A CIA doctor tasked with monitoring Olson’s recovery claimed that while sleeping in a bed in a New York hotel room, Olson jumped out a window and plunged ten floors to his death. Olson’s family claims that he was murdered in the wake of his LSD experience and that he became a security risk by leaking state secrets related to secret CIA programs, many of which he knew personally.
The article, “CIA Directed Non consensual Mind Control Experiments,” led to the creation of the Church Committee, which examined intelligence-gathering programs and held Senate hearings. Victims of the experiments sued the federal government for human rights violations and neglect.
Although the project was halted in the early 1970s, CIA investigators continued their mind-control efforts with new programs. To develop the famous Netflix show Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers used a handful of real-life conspiracy theories about secret government experiments as inspiration to develop the series. Like other MKUltra Projects they have done a lot of research on the Montauk Project, a conspiracy theory that suggests that some government projects have taken place in Montauk, New York.
In 1953, the Director of Central Intelligence approved Project MKUltra. The project was intended to ensure that the US government kept pace with supposed Soviet advances in mind-control technology. But the project grew in size, and its eventual outcome was, among other things, illegal drug testing on thousands of Americans. There is no evidence that the CIA ever managed to control a person’s actions with mind control techniques.
Although the CIA destroyed all documents relating to MK-Ultra, most of what we know about the experiments comes from the testimony of subjects. Farrell Kirk, a plaintiff in one of the CIA lawsuits, said experiments with LSD led him to extreme depression that drove him to attempt suicide.
After its discovery in 1943, scientists wanted to find out how LSD could be used in depressed, epileptic and psychotic patients. James Knight, who was jailed for smuggling alcohol, explained in an experiment that the drug gave him violent tendencies and severe memory loss. In the early 1950s, Gottlieb arranged for the CIA to buy the world’s entire supply of LSD.
There are many questions to be investigated about the use of unsuspecting subjects such as drug addicts, prisoners, marginalized sex workers, terminal cancer patients, and people who did not object to Sidney Gottlieb, the chemist who introduced LSD to the CIA.