The US CIA and military is filled with a history of bad decisions, deceit, and in some cases what I would classify as pure evil. One such misguided and unethical program was an appendage of Project MKULTRA under the name of Operation Midnight Climax.
Before we go into detail we must first explore the nature of Project MKULTRA. MKULTRA was started in 1953 under the direction of CIA director Allen Dulles. The program was allowed to use up to 6% of the total CIA budget and required no budget oversight or reporting. The premise of MKULTRA was to explore the use of “mind-control” drugs after alleged uses of such drugs by Communist Leadership (Soviets, Chinese and North Koreans) on U.S. POWs. The drugs included the use of LSD, Heroin, and Sodium Pentothal (Truth Serum).
Dr. Sidney Gottlieb oversaw many experiments exploring the use of LSD on often times unknowing U.S. citizens. The experiments often took a sadistic turn. Gottlieb was known to torture victims by locking them in sensory deprivation chambers while dosed on LSD, or to make recordings of psychiatric patients’ therapy sessions, and then play a tape loop of the patient’s most self-degrading statement over and over through headphones after the patient had been restrained in a straitjacket and dosed with LSD. Gottlieb himself took LSD frequently, locking himself in his office and taking copious notes.
After recruitment efforts became increasingly difficult to find volunteers of these programs the CIA sought out other means of conducting their “studies”. Operation Midnight Climax was an illegal operation initially established by Dr. George Hunter White under the alias of Morgan Hall for the CIA. The direction of this operation employed the use of prostitutes from the San Francisco area to lure men and then serve them alcohol containing large doses of LSD. These women would then fulfill their financial obligations to the drugged men under observation of CIA personnel through a two-way mirror and taped for later observation. The selection of the men focused on candidates that would be too embarrassed to present the circumstances to the public for fear of exposure themselves.
Some subjects’ participation was consensual, and in these cases, the subjects appeared to be singled out for even more horrific experiments. In one case, a selection of volunteers was given LSD for 77 days straight.
LSD was eventually dismissed by the researchers as too unpredictable in its effects. Although useful information was sometimes obtained through questioning subjects on LSD, not uncommonly the most marked effect would be the subject’s absolute and utter certainty that they were able to withstand any form of interrogation attempt, even physical torture.
In 1964 Project MKULTRA was renamed MKTRUTH and continued to operate well into the 1970s. In 1972 all documentation related to MKULTRA was ordered to be destroyed by CIA director Richard Helms, no doubt seeing public pressure weighing on the situation. This action hid the details of more than 150 individually funded programs.
In 1974 the New York Times blew the lid off of things and soon after the Church Committee and Rockafeller Commission was created to explore and put an end to these programs.
In the summer of 1975, congressional hearings and the Rockefeller Commission report revealed to the public for the first time that the CIA and the DOD had conducted experiments on both cognizant and unwitting human subjects as part of an extensive program to influence and control human behavior through the use of psychoactive drugs such as LSD and other chemical, biological, and psychological means. They also revealed that at least one subject had died after administration of LSD.