MK-ULTRA was a project that the CIA ran starting in 1953 in order to research mind control. The program was started during a time when it was believed that Communist countries, such as the Soviet Union and China, had make breakthroughs in the field of mind control, brain washing and interrogation. The project is notorious for it’s use of American citizens and soldiers as test subjects, both through volunteering and without informed consent.
Although documents were declassified in 1975, many other records relevant to the program were destroyed by command of Richard Helms, then-director of the CIA, in 1975. This, combined with refusal by participating scientists and researchers, has lead many to speculate on the actual intention and reach of the program, as well as whether or not some form of it is active today.
MK-ULTRA had its first beginnings at the end of WWII, when Project Paperclip, the US effort to recruit defecting German scientists, first went underway in 1945. The program begat several intelligence directives, such as Projects BLUEBIRD (later renamed ARTICHOKE) and CHATTER, which were both mind control and interrogation directives. Efforts on these projects were combined in 1953, and MK-ULTRA was born.
The program was headed by an unassuming American scientist by the name of Stanley Gottlieb, who started MK-ULTRA under the orders of Allaen Dulles, the Chief of the CIA. Under their supervision, the CIA would go on to commit some of the greatest crimes on record of the American nation against it’s people with the MK-ULTRA experiments.
Although many methods of mind control, interrogation, and brain washing were tested, most notable among them was the use of mind-altering chemicals in order to learn how to extract information, drive subjects insane, or even program subjects to act against their will under subliminal commands. Although many drugs were used, such as mescaline, psilocybin, marijuana, heroin, and even alcohol, most famous was the use of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.
Many well-known individuals took part in MK-ULTRA LSD testing, including Ken Kesey, an author who would go on to help found the iconic counter-culture group “The Merry Pranksters”, as well as Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Both went on to promote both recreational and therapeutic use of the drug. Another participant in early MK-ULTRA experiments was sixteen-year-old Theodore Kaczynski, who would later go on to become the infamous Unabomber.
Other mind control experiments were the use of hypnosis, either through standard means or of a drug-induced nature, to plant subconscious commands in order to force a subject to act against their will. The idea was to create a perfect “Manchurian candidate,” who could then be programmed to carry out a commanding body’s actions.
The CIA attempted several different versions of brain-washing as well, including “psychic driving” a process which theoretically erased portions of a persons memory and personality in order for them to be rewritten. There was also the Navy-backed Subproject 54, which was the attempt to use mechanical sound waves to erase a subjects brain in order to prepare them for programming, considered a "perfect concussion".
MK-ULTRA soon turned into MK-SEARCH, a further effort to perfect a method of mind control, but by all official accounts was ended in 1972. Most official documents were subsequently destroyed, and the program declassified a short while later.
MK-ULTRA was no less a criminal act of a government upon it’s own people. Unwilling test subjects were forced into experiments they had no idea were even being conducted. To this day, it remains one of the most reprehensible acts the American government has ever committed, and no less than two different presidents have attempted to make amends.
The question remains, however, of where the trail leads after MK-SEARCH, which has not been fully declassified. Did the CIA cease experimentation on mind control, or more specifically, did they cease experiments on the American people? Some conspiracy theorists point to “mass hallucinations” such as UFO sightings or other strange phenomena as proof the mass-mind control experiments are still being conducted. Others point to chem-trails and call them the tools of mind control.
MK-ULTRA, ultimately, led us to do one thing that we hadn’t thought we needed to do: ask ourselves whether the government had our best interests in mind, and whether they could be trusted not to undertake the same course of action. As of yet, the answer lies mostly in theory and speculation, but the truth is that we may never know.