the TECHNICAL SERVICES STAFF (TSS)
“…MK-ULTRA, the CIA’s major drug and mind control program during the Cold War, was the brainchild of Richard Helms, a high-ranking member of the Clandestine Services -otherwise known as the “dirty tricks department” (see the Document Gallery) who championed such methods throughout his career as an intelligence officer. As Helms explained to CIA director Allen Dulles when he first proposed the MK-ULTRA project, “Aside from the offensive potential, the development of a comprehensive capability in this field… gives us a thorough knowledge of the enemy’s theoretical potential, thus enabling us to defend ourselves against a foe who might not be as restrained in the use of these techniques as we are.
“The supersecret MK-ULTRA program was run by a relatively small unit within the CIA known as the Technical Services Staff (TSS). For a while both the TSS and the Office of Security, which directed the ARTICHOKE project, were engaged in parallel LSD tests, and a heated rivalry developed between the two groups. Security officials were miffed because they had gotten into acid first and then this new clique started cutting in on what the ARTICHOKE crowd considered their rightful turf. The internecine conflict grew to the point where the Office of Security decided to have one of its people spy on the TSS. This set off a flurry of memos between the Security informant and his superiors, who were dismayed when they learned that Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the chemist who ran the MK-ULTRA program, had approved a plan to give acid to unwitting American citizens.
The Office of Security had never attempted such a reckless gesture – although it had its own idiosyncrasies. ARTICHOKE operatives, for example, were attempting to have a hypnotized subject kill someone while in a trance. Whereas the Office of Security utilized LSD as an interrogation weapon, Dr. Gottlieb had other ideas about what to do with the drug. Because the effects of LSD were temporary (in contrast to the fatal nerve agents), Gottlieb saw important strategic advantages for its use in covert operations.
For instance, a surreptitious dose of LSD might disrupt a person’s thought process and cause him to act strangely or foolishly in public. A CIA document notes that administering LSD “to high officials would be a relatively simple matter and could have a significant effect at key meetings, speeches, etc.” But Gottlieb realized there was a considerable difference between testing LSD in a laboratory and using the drug in clandestine operations. In an effort to bridge the gap, he and his TSS colleagues initiated a series of in-house experiments designed to find out what would happen if LSD was given to someone in a “normal” life setting without advance warning.
They approached the problem systematically, taking one step at a time, until they reached a point where outsiders were zapped with no explanation whatsoever. First everyone in Technical Services tried LSD. They tripped alone and in groups. A typical experiment involved two people pairing off in a closed room where they observed each other for hours at a time, took notes, and analyzed their experiences. As Gottlieb later explained, “There was an extensive amount of self-experimentation for the reason that we felt that a first hand knowledge of the subjective effects of these drugs [was] important to those of us who were involved in the program.” When they finally learned the hallucinogenic ropes, so to speak, they agreed among themselves to slip LSD into each other’s drinks.
The target never knew when his turn would come, but as soon as the drug was ingested a TSS colleague would tell him so he could make the necessary preparations – which usually meant taking the rest of the day off. Initially the leaders of MK-ULTRA restricted the surprise acid tests to TSS members, but when this phase had run its course they started dosing other Agency personnel who had never tripped before. Nearly everyone was fair game, and surprise acid trips became something of an occupational hazard among CIA operatives. Such tests were considered necessary because foreknowledge would prejudice the results of the experiment.
Indeed, things were getting a bit raucous down at headquarters. When Security officials discovered what was going on, they began to have serious doubts about the wisdom of the TSS game plan. Moral reservations were not paramount; it was more a sense that the MK-ULTRA staff had become unhinged by the hallucinogen. The Office of Security felt that the TSS should exercise better judgment when dealing with such a powerful and dangerous chemical.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came when a Security informant got wind of a plan by a few TSS jokers to put LSD in the punch served at the annual CIA Christmas office party. A Security memo dated December 15, 1954, noted that acid could “produce serious insanity for periods of 8 to 18 hours and possibly for longer.” The writer of this memo concluded indignantly and unequivocally that he did “not recommend testing in the Christmas punch bowls usually present at the Christmas office parties…”
LEGENDS of the OSS : GEORGE HUNTER WHITE
“…While looking through some old OSS files, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb discovered that mariiuana had been tested on unsuspecting subjects in an effort to develop a truth serum. These experiments had been organized by George Hunter White, a tough, old-fashioned narcotics officer who ran a training school for American spies during WWII. Perhaps White would be interested in testing drugs for the CIA. As a matter of protocol Gottlieb first approached Harry Anslinger, chief of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. Anslinger was favorably disposed and agreed to “lend” one of his top men to the CIA on a part-time basis.
Right from the start White had plenty of leeway in running his operations. He rented an apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, and with funds supplied by the CIA he transformed it into a safehouse complete with two-way mirrors, surveillance equipment, and the like. Posing as an artist and a seaman, White lured people back to his pad and slipped them drugs. A clue as to how his subjects fared can be found in White’s personal diary, which contains passing references to surprise LSD experiments: “Gloria gets horrors… Janet sky high.” The frequency of bad reactions prompted White to coin his own code word for the drug – ‘Stormy’ – which was how he referred to LSD throughout his fourteen-year stint as a CIA operative.
In 1955 White was transferred to San Francisco, where two more safehouses were established. During this period he initiated Operation Midnight Climax, in which drug-addicted prostitutes were hired to pick up men from local bars and bring them back to a CIA-financed bordello. Unknowing customers were treated to drinks laced with LSD while White sat on a portable toilet behind two-way mirrors, sipping martinis and watching every stoned and kinky moment. As payment for their services the hookers received $100 a night, plus a guarantee from White that he’d intercede on their behalf should they be arrested while plying their trade. In addition to providing data about LSD, Midnight Climax enabled the CIA to learn about the sexual proclivities of those who passed through the safe-houses. White’s harem of prostitutes became the focal point of an extensive CIA study of how to exploit the art of lovemaking for espionage purposes.
When he wasn’t operating a national security whorehouse, White would cruise the streets of San Francisco tracking down drug pushers for the Narcotics Bureau. Sometimes after a tough day on the beat he invited his narco buddies up to one of the safehouses for a little “R and R.” Occasionally they unzipped their inhibitions and partied on the premises – much to the chagrin of the neighbors, who began to complain about men with guns in shoulder straps chasing after women in various states of undress. Needless to say, there was always plenty of dope around, and the feds sampled everything from hashish to LSD. “So far as I’m concerned,” White later told an associate, “‘clear thinking’ was non-existent while under the influence of any of these drugs. I did feel at times like I was having a ‘mind-expanding experience’ but this vanished like a dream immediately after the session.”
White had quite a scene going for a while. By day he fought to keep drugs out of circulation, and by night he dispensed them to strangers. Not everyone was cut out for this kind of schizophrenic lifestyle, and White often relied on the bottle to reconcile the two extremes. But there were still moments when his Jekyll-and-Hyde routine got the best of him. One night a friend who had helped install bugging equipment for the CIA stopped by the safehouse only to find the roly-poly narcotics officer slumped in front of a full-length mirror. White had just finished polishing off a half gallon of Gibson’s. There he sat, with gun in hand, shooting wax slugs at his own reflection.
George H. White’s passport on file at Stanford Special Collections
No definitive record exists as to when the CIA’s unwitting acid tests were terminated, but it appears that White and the CIA parted ways when he retired from the Narcotics Bureau in 1966. Afterwards White reflected upon his service for the Agency in a letter to Gottlieb: “I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape, and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?”
DID YOU PASS the ACID TEST?
“…The burgeoning acid scene raised more than a few eyebrows within the intelligence community, and a number of CIA-connected think tanks, including the Rand Corporation, analyzed broad questions relating to the social and political impact of LSD. Based in Santa Monica, California, the Rand Corporation played a crucial role in designing strategies for counter-revolution and pacification that were implemented in Vietnam. (Former CIA director and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger is a senior strategic analyst at Rand; Henry Rowen, former Rand president, previously served as head of the CIA’s National Intelligence Command.)
In the mid-1960s the think tank approach was expanded to include domestic issues; along this line Rand personnel examined the short- and long-term effect of LSD on personality change. A Rand report by William McClothlin refers to “changes in dogmatism” and political affiliation: “If some of the subjects are drawn from extreme right or leftwing organizations, it may be possible to obtain additional behavioral measure in terms of the number resigning or becoming inactive.”
While Rand Corporation specialists pondered whether LSD might be an antidote to political activism, the Hudson Institute, another think tank with strong ties to the intelligence community, kept tabs on shifting trends within the grassroots psychedelic movement. Founded by Herman Kahn, one of America’s leading nuclear strategists, the Hudson Institute specialized in classified research on national security issues. Kahn experimented with LSD on repeated occasions during the 1960s, and he visited Millbrook and other psychedelic strongholds on the East Coast.
From time to time the rotund futurist (Kahn weighed over three hundred pounds) would stroll along Saint Mark’s Place in New York’s East Village, observing the flower children and musing on the implications of the acid subculture. At one point he predicted that by the year 2000 there would be an alternative “dropped-out” country within the United States. But Kahn was not overly sympathetic to the psychedelic movement. “He was primarily interested in social control,” stated a Hudson Institute consultant who once lectured there on the subiect of LSD.
The psychedelic subculture and its relationship to the New Left and the political upheavals of the 1960s was the subiect of an investigation by Willis Harmon, who heads the Futures Department at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Located in Palo Alto, California, this prestigious think tank received a number of grants from the US Army to conduct classified research into chemical incapacitants. Harmon made no bones about where he stood with respect to political radicals and the New Left. When Michael Rossman, a veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, visited SRI headquarters in the early 1970s, Harmon told him, “There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”
Harmon was turned on to LSD in the late 1950s by Captain Al Hubbard, the legendary superspy, who took a special interest in his new convert. Harmon considered himself a disciple of the Captain. Hubbard’s protege became director of the Educational Policy Research Center at SRI. In October 1968 Harmon invited Hubbard, then living in semiretirement in British Columbia, to join SRI as a part-time “special investigative agent.” As Harmon stated in a letter to his acid mentor, “Our investigations of some of the current social movements affecting education indicate that the drug usage prevalent among student members of the New Left is not entirely undesigned.
Some of it appears to be present as a deliberate weapon aimed at political change. We are concerned with assessing the significance of this as it impacts on matters of long-range educational policy. In this connection it would be advantageous to have you considered in the capacity of a special investigative agent who might have access to relevant data which is not ordinarily available.” Hubbard accepted the offer, and from then on he was officially employed as a security officer for SRI. “His services to us,” explained Harmon, “consisted in gathering various sorts of data regarding student unrest, drug abuse, drug use at schools and universities, causes and nature of radical activities, and similar matters, some of a classified nature…”
AUTOPSY of a YOUTH MOVEMENT
“…But the mood changed dramatically by the end of the decade, and the political fortunes of the New Left quickly plummeted. There were many reasons for this, not the least of which involved covert intervention by the CIA, FBI, and other spy agencies. The internecine conflicts that tore the Movement apart were fomented in part by government subversion. But such interference would have been far less effective if not for the innate vulnerability of the New Left, which emphasized both individual and social transformation as if they were two faces of an integral cultural transition, a rite of passage between a death and a difficult birth. “We had come to a curious place together, all of us,” recalls Michael Rossman.
“As politics grew cultural, we realized that deeper forces were involved than had yet been named, or attended to deliberately. We were adrift in questions and potentials: the organizational disintegration of the Movement as a political body was an outer emblem of conceptual incoherence, the inability to synthesize an adequate frame of understanding and program to embody all that we had come to realize was essential for the transformation we sought.”
An autopsy of the youth movement would show that death resulted from a variety of ills, some self-inflicted, others induced from without. There was the paramilitary bug that came in like the plague after the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a bug transmitted by provocateurs and other government geeks who were welcomed by the Movement’s own incendiaries…
…The use of LSD among young people in the US reached a peak in the late 1960s, shortly after the CIA initiated a series of covert operations designed to disrupt, discredit, and neutralize the New Left. Was this merely a historical coincidence, or did the Agency actually take steps to promote the illicit acid trade? Not surprisingly, CIA spokesmen dismiss such a notion out of hand. “We do not target American citizens,” former CIA director Richard Helms told the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1971. “The nation must to a degree take it on faith that we who lead the CIA are honorable men, devoted to the nation’s service.” Helms’ reassurances are hardly comforting in light of his own role as the prime instigator of Operation MK-ULTRA, which utilized unwitting Americans as guinea pigs for testing LSD and other mind-altering substances.
During Helms’s tenure as CIA director, the Agency conducted a massive illegal domestic campaign against the antiwar movement and other dissident elements in the US. The New Left was in a shambles when Helms retired from the Agency in 1973. Most of the official records pertaining to the CIA’s drug and mind control projects were summarily destroyed on orders from Helms shortly before his departure. The files were shredded, according to Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, chief of the CIA’s Technical Services Staff, because of “a burgeoning paper problem.” Lost in the process were all existing copies of a classified CIA manual titled, “LSD: Some Un-Psychedelic Implications”…
Excerpts from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove Press, 1985)
LEGENDS of the OSS : the ORIGINAL CAPTAIN TRIPS
TELEPATHY & GEOMAGNETIC FIELDS