Following WW2, the fledgling C.I.A formerly known as the O.S.S. took to the idea of mind control for the sake of keeping Soviet powers in check. Practically everything which caught the pragmatic eye of one nation, was sure to be mimicked by the other. This volleying of configurations opened the doorway for unscrupulous acts on the part of the C.I.A which could be conveniently justified on the premises of national security.
During the 1950’s, the first techniques developed as a type of interrogative aid involved the administration of psychotropic drugs such as the hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and marijuana to aware and unwitting subjects. The C.I.A. projects under which these experimentations took place titled Bluebird (1950) and Artichoke (1952), would be the beginnings of an expansive enterprise for the development of mind manipulation strategies.
The strides in interrogation and mind control techniques would come with a price however, namely the abhorrent lack of ethics in regards to the subjects of experimentation. For example, among the annals of project Artichoke resides the debauched Kentucky LSD experiments, in which in-patients of a drug treatment center were dosed with the drug for 77 days straight10; hardly a sensible or humane approach to gathering data.
Another infamous chapter of the MK-Ultra project involved C.I.A. funding of a prominent psychiatrist of Canada’s Alan Memorial Institute, Dr. Ewen Cameron.
At the time the C.I.A. approached Cameron, he was deeply entrenched in research efforts which he thought would eventually pave the way for a cure to the afflictions of mental patients. One of his treatments known as ‘psychic driving’ was developed in 1953.
Psychic driving may, in some instances, be considered a euphemism for strapping patients down to a bed, injecting them with drugs to instate a clinical coma, and securing headphones around their heads which would then facilitate the implantation of a recorded message targeting a patient’s mental constellations. The messages were short, derived either from the therapist or the patient, and in some instances were played for a period of 12 hours or more over a span of 70-80 days.
The hope for the efficaciousness of psychic driving lay in the belief that by playing messages relating to the symptomatic thoughts of a neurosis with which the patient was afflicted, the mind might re-configure in a therapeutically desirable way, first offering up “fresh recollections”1 thus serving as an expedient to mental illness abrogation that might surpass long drawn sessions of psychotherapy. Cameron himself delineates ‘psychic driving’ as:
“[T]he exposure of the patient to continued replaying, under controlled conditions, of a cue communication derived from one of the original areas from which his current difficulties arise. A major consequence of such exposure is to activate and bring progressively into his awareness more recollections and responses generally from this area. The ultimate result is the accelerating of therapeutic reorganization.”2
When word of Cameron’s method spread, the doctor found himself approached by members of ‘The Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology’, a C.I.A. front3 which invested grant money in Cameron’s work with the intentions of seizing insights which would aid the MK-Ultra research. Cameron worked ceaselessly in the perfection of his method which eventually collapsed as a viable tool to neurotic remissions.
Another “therapeutic” methodology of Cameron’s psychiatry, known as ‘de-patterning’, entailed a whole slew of what would be conventionally dubbed “malpractices” or ethically unjustifiable actions. De-patterning is also a euphemism for a rather atrocious procedure which consists of frequent and successive 1 second, 150 volt shocks to the patient’s brain via electro-convulsive shock apparatuses which basically dismantled the entire psyche of the individual. The only propitious aspect of this procedure was that the neurotic symptoms of the given patient were erased, though childhood memories and recognitions of the patient’s loved ones were extinguished simultaneously.
For example, one publicized victim of Ewen Cameron’s “treatments” was Val Orlikow who, after being admitted under Cameron’s practice for treatment of post-partum depression, had all memories of her children and spouse utterly obliterated through receiving such unconventional therapies. In addition to this, Val’s mind was so abused that she had regressed to a state of infantile incontinence, also forgetting so much as how to dress or cook for herself. For this abuse, Val, along with other plaintiffs, received a financial settlement of $750,000 from the CIA in 1988 which thereby evinced a side-step of guilt admission by the agency.4
This and many more occurrences of notable cruelty were typical landmarks of the CIA’s mind-control research. Between 1953 and 1963 a total of $25 million issued for human experimentation under the auspices of Mk-Ultra programs to hundreds of non-governmental researchers culminated in many acts of unscrupulousness respecting human dignity and .5
At the outset these programs emphasized mind-substance interactions and stress responses as prime importance for the acquisition of effective interrogation/manipulation strategies. Then a turn somewhere along the lines of research and development towards radio frequencies of the EM spectrum and their significance as “non-lethal” tools for war cultured the whole inquest into new levels of estrangement.
- Cameron p.703-712 The Psychiatric Quarterly
January 1957, Volume 31, Issue 1. P.707
- McCoy, A. (2006). A Question of Torture.28-29