Welcome to part two of my examination of George Hunter White, a Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent and CIA asset heavily involved in the Company's ventures into LSD. As we saw in part one, White was involved in the spy trade since the birth of the modern US intelligence community at the time of World War II. White was an officer in the Office of Strategic Services, the WWII-era predecessor to the CIA. He was also involved in the highly secretive Division 19, a joint venture of the OSS and the National Defense Research Committee. Division 19 was involved in a host of black op activities, including assassinations, Mafia alliances, and the search for a 'truth drug.' White was a student of Division 19's Camp X, an 'assassination and elimination' training program that he later described as "the school for mayhem and murder."
White later became a trainer himself. Several of his students included Richard Helms, William Colby, Frank Wisner and James Jesus Angelton, among others. Helms and Colby would later become CIA directors while Wisner and Angelton would head several of the CIA's most powerful departments.
White's services were also required in the field as well. He occasionally conducted assassinations in addition to field trials involving cannabis, a drug Division 19 researchers thought possible of acting as a 'truth drug.' Later, when Sidney Gottlieb was searching for drugs for the CIA's MK-Ultra program, he asked White about cannabis' potential, to which White responded in the negative. Eventually Gottlieb, the individual who directed MK-Ultra, became fascinated with the possibility of LSD as a potential truth drug as well as a brainwashing agent. When it came to testing acid in the field, White was the man Gottlieb looked too.
Before getting to this, however, I would like to briefly consider some of White's post-WWII actions. Within weeks of the war ending in Europe White was discharged from the Army and OSS and was back working for the FBN, at least officially. Curiously, one of White's first acts after rejoining the FBN was to meet with several powerful Mafia chieftains who incidentally (or not) would later collaborate with the CIA in one capacity or another.
"White was soon back in the thick of things, meeting with Santo Trafficante, Sr. in Miami on September 3, 1945. Head of the lucrative Havana-based gambling, narcotics, and prostitution empire, Trafficante, Sr. was a close associate of Meyer Lansky. The elder Trafficante, from his Tampa, Florida base, oversaw Mansky's expansive criminal and narcotics operation, as well as operating, with help from his son, Santo, Jr., a number of his own lucrative gambling casinos, hotels, and brothels in Cuba. (Santo Jr... would go on in the 1960s to conspire with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro by using exotic poisons manufactured in the Fort Detrick laboratory that Frank Olson had toiled in seven years earlier). White's meeting would be the first of many unexplained encounters with the Trafficante's over the next ten years.
"Around the same time that he met with Trafficante, Sr., White made additional excursions to visit several other Mafia chieftans. While the reasons for these visits are not revealed in any FBN document or in White's copious date book entries, it is certainly interesting to note that all of the mobsters he met with would soon become confidential informants for the CIA and participate in Agency-initiated assassination schemes."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pg. 403)
|Santo Trafficante, Sr|
Sometime around 1948 White met another underworld figure who he would work closely with throughout the 1950s and early 1960s in both his FBN and CIA dealings. This individual was a man named Pierre Lafitte, a figure so enigmatic he has only recently come to the attention of researchers.
Lafitte was likely born in Louisiana in either 1902 or 1907 (he claimed either date at various times). Sometime around the age of seven Lafitte and his mother (reportedly a Louisiana madam) relocated to Marseilles, France, after a brief stay in Paris. Less than a year later Lafitte's mother vanished, leaving the young rogue to be raised by the thriving Merseilles criminal underground. It was during this time that Lafitte became acquainted with various members of the Corsican mafia, many of whom would later play a major role in the notorious French Connection. Lafitte himself played a significant role in this operation, as we shall see in a moment.
Sometime between 1936 and 1937 Lafitte returned to the United States, though Federal authorities would claim that he had not arrived until 1952 for years. For the rest of the 1930s and early 1940s he was involved in the drug trade, reportedly having dealings with Henri Dericourt and Francois Spirito, the later of whom would allegedly assist Lafitte in the Frank Olson affair. After World War II broke out Lafitte became involved with the OSS carrying out dangerous operations in Nazi-occupied France and Belgium. It was the beginning of what would become a decades spanning association with the US intelligence community.
|Henri Dericourt, the notorious Nazi collaborator|
By 1951 Lafitte began working with George White as an undercover informer, his extensive ties to the international drug trade making him idea for such a role. It was also around this time that Lafitte helped launch the notorious French Connection, which was for years the largest heroin smuggling operation in the world.
"British crime historian Charles Wighton significantly noted, in 1960, 'The overseas section of the Corsican gang working in closet collaboration with the American Mafia in Montreal, Havana, and Mexico City [is] run by [Antoine] D'Agostino and the notorious Paul Monolini.' Indeed, it was Monolini, along with fellow Corsican Jean Jehan, who masterminded the infamous international heroin caper popularized by the hit film The French Connection. Worth noting here is that Jehan, according to CIA records produced in 1976, was thought to be the owner of the Bedford Street building in New York City where George White operated his CIA-funded safe house. Throughout his drug trafficking career, which extended well in the 1970s, the small-framed, impeccably dressed, multi-lingual Mondolini was considered one of the shrewdest and most intelligent dealers that the FBN had confronted.
"In Cuba, Lafitte was also well acquainted with Santo Trafficante, Jr., whom he initially knew from his days in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. Trafficante, beginning in 1955, spent a lot of time in Cuba looking after his numerous casinos and hotel properties, including the Sans Souci, Havana's oldest gambling casino, the Hotel Deauville, the nightclub Capri, the Havana Hilton, and one of Havana's most popular casinos, the Tropicana. Trafficante was no stranger to Cuba. His father, Santo, Sr., born in Sicily and godfather of the Florida mob, had gambling and bolita operations there that pre-dated World War II and that Santo Jr., had helped operate since the early 1940s.
"Santo Trafficante, Jr., much like his close partner in crime Meyer Lansky, maintained an elusive yet steadfast relationship with the CIA. Some former government officials have observed that Trafficante's cautious alliance with the intelligence community was based 'on a quid pro quo relationship whereby both sides prospered in their frequently similar objectives.' Perhaps Trafficante's close relationship with Lansky insured his relative immunity from law enforcement and prosecution. (Santo Jr. was never convicted of breaking any federal laws). As has been noted, Lansky's alliance with the CIA extended back to the days of the OSS and the long kept secret Operation Underworld.
"In 1950, Lansky opened a major new heroin avenue between Turkey, Marseilles' processing labs, and America's ever-expanding demand for the drug. Chief among Lansky's suppliers were Paul Mondolini and Antoine D'Agostino. Often facilitating the reliable and uninterrupted flow of heroin to its ultimate sales points on America's streets was Pierre Lafitte, who played a brokering role in many of the larger shipments that were routed to Lansky's dealers. We can only assume that Lafitte's other life as an undercover federal informant and investigator significantly helped his darker deeds involving drug trafficking."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli, pgs. 434-435)
|Mob boss Meyer Lansky, an associate of Pierre Lafitte|
That his go-to informant was a major part of what was arguably the largest drug ring of its day didn't seem to bother George White in the slightest, nor presumably the CIA, FBI, or FBN, all of whom used Lafitte in some capacity or other at various points. What's more, the Corsican mob was hardly the only curious company Lafitte kept. Lafitte also potentially had some kind of ties to the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, long the subject of much speculation in conspiracy culture.
"... Howard Hughes, his special assistant Robert Aimee Maheu, a former FBI agent and a CIA contractor, and underworld financier Meyer Lansky. Hughes, as has been widely reported, maintained a close and lucrative association with the CIA. The Agency contracted with many of Hughes' companies for specialized services, including leasing several of his private islands for anti-Castro bases. Writers Sally Denton and Roger Morris revealed in 2001 that at the time of his death Hughes was earning a staggering $1.7 million a day 'from U.S. government contracts, mostly from the CIA.'
"While there is no evidence that Lafitte played any role in Hughes' doings, Lansky and Maheu's operations are a different story. Despite his unusual yet active undercover investigatory role with a number of federal agencies, Lafitte on occasion helped broker Lansky's international drug deals, and also worked on occasion for Maheu's private investigation firm, both in New York and Las Vegas."
(ibid, pgs. 427-428)
|Howard Hughes (top) and Robert Aimee Maheu (bottom)|
Naturally, Lafitte also turns up in connection with the JFK assassination.
"It is worth noting that Lafitte turned up in yet another tangle of major, historic proportions during the 1960s. Around the time of the JFK assassination, Lafitte worked for the Reily Coffee Company and then as a chef for the World Trade Mart, both in new Orleans. William B. Reily, an avid anti-Communist, owned the Reily Coffee Company and was closely connected to McCarthyite and rabid anti-Communist Edward Scannell Butler, who were both close to CIA assistant director Charles Cabell, CIA SRS chief Paul Gaynor, and Agency ARTICHOKE official Morse Allen. Readers may recall that alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald also worked as a maintenance man for the Reily Coffee Company in the summer of 1963."
(ibid, pg. 428)
Regular readers will recall that Morse Allen was also heavily involved with the CIA's ventures into hypnosis. Albarelli indicates that this was not Lafitte's only involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Lafitte, along with 'former' CIA agent Allan Hughes, broke into the office of Jim Garrison, the New Orleans District Attorney who investigated businessman Clay Shaw's ties to Kennedy assassination, in the midst of said investigation.
"Lafitte and Allan Hughes collaborated on another occasion in a very bizarre and revealing episode having to do with accused JFK assassination co-conspirator Clay Shaw... Hughes, Lafitte and investigative writer James Phelan --who some maintain was in league with both Maheu and the CIA --literally crawled into New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's office to purloin documents having to do with Clay Shaw. Lafitte would later tell George Hunter White that the Garrison office break-in was 'maybe one of the only jobs I ever did that made me worry any at all.'"
(ibid, pg. 663)
So to recap, George Hunter White's close associate Pierre Lafitte, a man who played a major role in White's MK-Ultra work, also had ties to major international drug traffickers, the Kennedy assassination and possibly billionaire Howard Hughes. Lafitte also played a major role in Frank Olson's death, as we shall see. But for now, back to White.
White had apparently wanted to join the CIA since it's very inception but he was initially blackballed by various "ivy-league" types who felt that White was too "rough" for the organization. White bid his time with various projects. He made national headlines in January of 1949 when he busted legendary jazz singer Billie Holliday for possession of heroin while working for the FNB. In 1950 and 1951 he served as a special investigator to the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, an attempt by Congress to determine the reach of organized crime and the Mafia in the United States. In this capacity White interviewed a mobster named Jack Ruby who would eventually murder Lee Harvard Oswald in the wake of the JFK assassination.
|Jack Ruby and friends|
White's CIA career would get rolling in earnest in 1952, after Allen Dulles assumed the directorship. While White was approached earlier by both Dulles and James Jesus Angleton, a former student of White's in the OSS days, earlier about a position it was MK-Ultra head Sidney Gottlieb who officially recruited White. Gottlieb first approached White in May of 1952, in part to learn about the OSS ventures into truth drugs.
It was at this meeting that White and Gottlieb also discussed LSD for the first time. The CIA had only recently taken a major interest in the drug, thus Gottlieb was a bit surprised to learn that White was very knowledgeable about the drug. The FBN had apparently taken an interest in LSD after another of White's former OSS students, Al 'Captain Trips' Hubbard, had begun stockpiling massive quantities of it in his bid to spread the psychedelic evangelical. Unsurprisingly, Gottlieb got it in his head that White would be most useful for Project MK-Ultra and pushed forward to bring White on as a consultant.
|Al 'Captain Trips' Hubbard|
Approval for White's contract would drag on for several months but by the of October 1952 White was given authorization to begin testing LSD on unwitting persons in New York. His first act under contract with the CIA was to begin setting up the first of his infamous safehouses in May of 1953. Thus began one of the stranger projects the CIA would embark upon in the 1950s.
"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 he 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 horror... Janet sky high.' The frequency of bad reactions prompted White to coin his own code of 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 proclivites of those who passed through the safehouses. 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."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, pgs. 32-33)
These studies into "sexual proclivities" apparently involved ventures into Crowley-ian sex magic.
"...Crowley variously combined these drugs with sexual practices and wrote of the experiences in lurid detail.
"Apparently, this tied into the safe house experiments that George White, Dr. James Hamilton, and John Gittinger were conducting, first in New York and then in San Francisco. Gittinger would say later:
Yes, we were interested in the combination of certain drugs with sex acts... we looked at the various pleasure positions used by prostitutes and others... this well before anything like the Kama Sutra had become widely popular. Some of the women, the professionals, we used were very adept at these practices.
"It is not known what precisely Gittinger meant by 'professionals,' either prostitutes or Agency-employed sex agents, which several fromer Agency officials admit were first used by the OSS and then by the CIA. Said Gittinger in a 1987 interview:
For a while we employed several prostitutes for project-related work in the safe house. They would lure clients in for the purpose of drawing information from them while they were preoccupied or distracted.
"This would have fit neatly with Crowley's practice of 'sexual magic' and drugs..."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli Jr., pg. 289)
White was apparently in his element, being rather sexually adventurous in his private life.
"It seems that White also had a number of friends in the pornographic publishing business, including one John Alexander Scott Coutts, or 'John Willie' as he was most popularly known. Willie ran a small publishing domain that included the pulp magazine, Bizarre, published for ten years between 1946 to 1956, containing nude and bondage artwork, and he wrote a graphic novel, The Adventure of Sweet Gwendoline.The Foxs were hardly the only people White dosed with LSD outside of his work on MK-Ultra, many of them unwittingly. The results were frequently disastrous, as well shall see in the next installment. Stay tuned.
"White was also a close friend of pornographic and lesbian pulp fiction writer Gil Fox, author of over one hundred lurid and provocative titles. George and Albertine White lived just a few blocks away from Gil and Patricia Fox, and the couples socialized on a regular basis during the 1950s. It was Gil who introduced George to the work of John Willie, and Patricia who baptized Albertine in the 'pleasure' of spanking, and other sexual aberrations. Fox would tell writer Douglas Valentine in 2002, 'George was into high heels. That was his major fetish... He was playing out his sexual fantasies too. One time [Patricia] and I went with him to see his hooker girlfriend at a hotel. She tied him up and strapped him to the bed and whipped his ass. She had high heels on.'
"Several weeks after this, on November 28, 1952, exactly a year before Frank Olson died, White dosed Gil and Patricia Fox with LSD. Fox recalled that it was snowing that night and that the snowflakes on Cornelius Street where they had stopped their car 'were red and green and blue --a thousand beautiful colors, and we were dancing in the street.'"
(ibid, pgs. 411-412)