Posts Tagged ‘Covert operations’

The secret wars of the CIA – II

The immediately preceding post talked about the recently terminated “kill or capture” covert program which the CIA ran for eight years without the knowledge of the U.S. Congress. It can be viewed here.

This post outlines the top-secret MKUltra program that the CIA ran during the 1950s and a large part of the 1960s, uncovered later by the New York Times and investigated subsequently by the Church Committee and the Rockefeller Commission. The CIA faced a lot of congressional ire following the disclosure and attempted hampering the process of investigations by destroying a large collection of documentation related to the program at the behest of then CIA Director Richard Helms. Investigations, nonetheless were carried out often relying on sworn testimonies and a retrieved cache of documents that survived the purge ordered by Helms. It is believed that the CIA still conducts some experiments and programs related to the MKUltra project although not at the same scale as was back in the time of its inception and research! However, these claims cannot be verified!

MKUltra was the code name given to a series of top secret mind control experiments devised by the CIA during the 1950s aimed at understanding the human mind and its functioning under the influence of psychotropic substances. It was commissioned into existence by then CIA Director Allen Dulles and headed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who was a Jewish American military psychiatrist and chemist. Sidney’s obsession with the program was so much that he quickly earned the titles “Black Sorcerer” and the “Dirty Trickster.” At the time, it was widely believed in the CIA that U.S. Prisoners of War (PoWs) were interrogated by mind control techniques by the Soviets, the Chinese and the North Koreans as a result of which the need for a similar program in the United States was felt.

The program was illegal ab-initio, owing to the facts that it neither had the approval of the U.S. Congress nor the consent of those who were made to participate in it, many of whom met with death or permanent incapacitation as a result of what they were subject to.

The CIA poured millions of dollars into this program with the objective of researching the many methods involved in ‘tweaking’ the mind! Budgets for this elaborate program were of course secretive and unofficial with the program director being assigned six percent of the CIA operating budget. It is estimated that at least $10 million USD was spent on the program.

This ominous program was conducted with some of the most infamous goals in mind. A document pertinent to the project outlines the the size and range of the effort, the process involving a comprehensive study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:

1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad-hoc basis.
17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

To accomplish what the CIA believed they could via MKUltra, an assortment of drugs were used, some of them being heroin, morphine, temazepa, mescaline, psilocybin, scopolamine, marijuana, alcohol, sodium pentothal and most prominently LSD, which dominated many MKUltra sub-programs! Several people suffered massive and permanently irreparable conditions as a result of these experiments and surprisingly no remarkable breakthrough was made despite massive investments and persistence, or so it is publicly believed!

Almost a year before the New York Times broke the story in the winter of 1974, Director Richard Helms abruptly ordered documentation pertaining to the program to be destroyed hence making large amounts of information permanently unavailable to the U.S. Congress. Following the expose on the program, the U.S. Congress created investigation bodies in the form of the Church Committee and the presidential Rockefeller Commission. Although reports of these commissions revealed little beyond what was already publicly known, they created a tight spot for the CIA particularly when it came to be known that subjects under the program were induced into taking part without their consent and knew little or nothing about what they were participants of! Senator Frank Church, who chaired the Church Committee, concluded that “prior consent was obviously not obtained from any of the subjects” and noted that the “experiments sponsored by these researchers call into question the decision by the agencies not to fix guidelines for experiments.” This prompted President Gerald Ford to issue an executive order prohibiting “experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed by a disinterested party, of each such human subject

Following the news-break surrounding MKUltra, reports of many branches of the US Military conducting similar experiments continued to surface, the most prominent of them being that of Harold Blauer, a professional tennis player in New York and Frank Olson, a U.S. Army biochemist, both of whom died as a result of experiments conducted on them.

It is believed that 44 American colleges or universities, 15 research foundations or chemical or pharmaceutical companies, including Sandoz (currently Novartis) and Eli Lilly, 12 hospitals or clinics (in addition to those associated with universities), and 3 prisons participated in the MKULTRA program making it the most elaborated colluded yet secretive programs of the CIA and perhaps the most damaging of all!

The full extent of information and damages caused by the MKUltra program will never be known as it is still designated ‘top-secret’ and much of the documents related to the program do not exist. However, there is no doubting the fact that it became one of the most controversial scandals that the CIA was embroiled in!

Ironically, the entrance of the CIA loudly boasts a verse from Gospel of John 8:32, The Holy Bible which reads “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

With inputs from Wikipedia

The secret wars of the CIA – I

Once again the Central Intelligence Agency has come under fire, this time for not disclosing its secret “kill or capture” counter terrorism program to the U.S. Congress! As an independent U.S. Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers, the CIA is bound by statute to disclose all of its covert operations programs, in minimal measure, to the U.S. Congress and the Senate Intelligence Committee, neither of which this time around were aware of the existence of such a program which was put together by the Bush Administration eight years ago! Incumbent Director, Leon Panetta who became aware of this program sometime late in June, ordered its termination and proceeded to inform the Congress of its erstwhile existence and subsequent termination. As required by Title 50 of the United States Code Chapter 15, Sub Chapter III, “when it becomes necessary to limit access to covert operations findings that could affect vital interests of the U.S., as soon as possible, the President must report at a minimum to the Gang of Eight.”

For several years the CIA has had a very turbulent relationship with the U.S. Congress, often caught concealing many covert operations programs from the latter although mandated to disclose in minimal measure any and all activities undertaken under the ambit of national security. What is surprising is the level of secrecy surrounding the currently terminated program even within the CIA leadership! It is significant to note that former Director Gen. Michael Hayden did not inform his successor of the existence of such a program despite it being very highly likely of his affirmed knowledge of its existence, given his close proximity to the Bush Administration, the President and his Vice-President in particular.

As was believed during the news break of the existence of this program, it is now becoming increasingly clear that former US Vice President Dick Cheney directed, more than once, the CIA not to inform the US Congress about the so called “kill or capture” program. Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein has stated that “Director Panetta did brief us two weeks ago, I believe it was on the 24th of June, and, as had been reported, did tell us that he was told that the vice president had ordered that the program not be briefed to the Congress.” Reacting to comments on the CIA’s delinquent attitude, House Intelligence subcommittee Chairwoman Representative Jan Schakowsky stated that “It’s not as if this was an oversight and over the years it just got buried. There was a decision under several directors of the CIA and administration not to tell the Congress.”

While the CIA leadership has been proactive in informing the Congress this time, it is highly unlikely that this incident will fade away without serious implications for the CIA and the White House. In the recent future, the Congress is likely to express support for the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill including a provision that would require the President to inform more than 40 members of Congress about covert operations. While the current administration has threatened to veto the final version of the bill should it include such a provision, it should be noted that mid last year, the Fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Bill was approved by House majority containing stipulations that 75% of money sought for covert actions would be withheld until all members of the House Intelligence panel were briefed on sensitive covert actions.

Now that the affair is out in the open, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Silvestre Reyes has announced that he considers an investigation into alleged CIA violations of the National Security Act, which requires with limited exception that Congress be informed of covert activities. Apparently he has support from fellow representatives who given the long standing Congressional-CIA relationship, the bitter acrimony and hatred involved, will not let the latter go off the hook, without some hard hitting at least!

This is a two-part series outlining CIA’s covert operations programs that have continued to operate without the knowledge of the US Congress. While this post outlines the recent disclosure of DCI Leon Panetta, the upcoming post will outline some of CIA’s most notorious covert programs that have brought it considerable controversies to court!