Welcome to part three of this particular installment in my LSD Chronicles series. Here I've been examining the origins of the CIA's LSD research. In part one I noted that the CIA's interest in LSD stemmed from various projects concerning mind control that the Agency had been involved in since the early 1950s. In both part one and two I noted that the rationalization for the CIA's forays into mind control was the Communist practice of 'brainwashing,' a concept that captured the American mind (har har) shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War. But reports of 'brainwashing' were already being framed by the CIA as early as 1950. What's more, the Agency became obsessed with the notion that the Communist secret to brainwashing was some type of drug despite little to no evidence to support this assumption.
In reality, the CIA was simply continuing a long standing American obsession with discovering a type of drug capable of enabling mind control. This search began as early as World War II, and was greatly influenced thereafter by the Nazi regime upon the conclusion of that war. The Nazis hand conducted their own research and experiments using various drugs with an eye toward discovering an effective truth serum, and perhaps more. This 'research' was incorporated into American Cold War efforts to discover an effective truth drug.
The post-war search for an effective truth drug never ceased until the 1970s (allegedly) once Project CHATTER, a US Navy program begun in 1947, was initiated. The CIA would begin its own major drug testing programs by at least 1950. Surprisingly, it's hard to pinpoint when exactly the CIA latched on to LSD as the ultimate truth drug, or who was behind this revelation. Most sources simply leave it at the CIA embarking wholesale on LSD research in the early 1950s.
"An ARTICHOKE document dated October 21, 1951, indicates that acid was tested initially as part of a pilot study of the effects of various chemicals 'on the conscious suppression of experimental or non-threat secrets.' In addition to lysergic acid this particular survey covered a wide range of substances, including morphine, ether, Benzedrine, ethyl alcohol, and mescaline. 'There is no question,' noted the author of this report, 'that drugs are already on hand (and new ones are being produced) that can destroy integrity and make indiscreet the most dependable individual.' The report concluded by recommending that LSD be critically tested 'under threat conditions beyond the scope of civilian experimentation.' POWs, federal prisoners, and Security officers were mentioned as possible candidates for these field experiments...
"Initial reports seemed promising. In one instance LSD was given to an officer who had been instructed not to reveal 'a significant military secret.' When questioned, however, 'he gave all the details of the secret... and after the effects of the LSD had worn off, the officer had no knowledge of revealing information (complete amnesia).' Favorable reports kept coming in, and when this phase of experimentation was completed, the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) prepared a lengthy memorandum entitled 'Potential New Agent for Unconventional Warfare.' LSD was said to be useful 'for eliciting true and accurate statements from subjects under its influence during interrogation.' Moreover, the data on hand suggested that LSD might help in reviving memories of past experiences."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee &Bruce Shlain, pgs. 13-14)
|the Potential New Agent for Unconventional Warfare document|
All of this is compelling, though it doesn't really pinpoint the origins of the Agency's interest in LSD. Even the often reliable John Marks, a former State Department official, is rather vague on this account.
"Albert Hofmann's discovery of LSD in 1943 may have begun a new age in the exploration of the human mind, but it took six years for word to reach America. Even after Hofmann and his coworkers in Switzerland published their work in a 1947 article, no one in the United States seemed to notice. Then in 1949, a famous Viennese doctor named Otto Kauders traveled to the United States in search of research funds. He gave a conference at Boston Psychopathic Hospital, a pioneering mental -health institute affiliated with Harvard Medical School, and he spoke about a new experimental drug called d-lysergic acid diethylamide. Milton Greenblatt, the hospital's research director, vividly recalls Kauders' description of how an infinitesimally small dose had rendered Dr. Hofmann temporarily 'crazy....' If the drug really did induce psychosis for a short time, the Boston doctors reasoned, an antidote --which they hoped to find --might cure schizophrenia. It would take many years of research to show that LSD did not, in fact, produce a 'model psychosis,' but to the Boston doctors in 1949, the drug showed incredible promise. Max Rinkel, a neuropsychiatrist and refugee from Hitler's Germany, was so intrigued by Kauder's presentation that he quickly contacted Sandoz, the huge Swiss pharmaceutical firm where Albert Hofmann worked. Sandoz officials arranged to ship some LSD across the Atlantic...
"For better or worse, LSD had come to America in 1949 and had embarked on a strange trip of its own. Academic researchers would study it in search of knowledge that would benefit all mankind. Intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, would subsidize and shape the form of much of this work to learn how the drug could be used to break the will of enemy agents, unlock secrets in the minds of trained spies, and otherwise manipulate human behavior. These two strains --of helping people and of controlling them --would coexist rather comfortably through the 1950s."The figure of Max Rinkel is rather curious. Some credit him as the first individual to bring LSD to America and he would remain a major supplier of the drug along the East Coast throughout the 1950s. While I've seen no indication that Rinkel officially worked for the CIA, he would remain in close contact with the Agency throughout his career. Rinkel had close ties to the after mentioned George Hunter White, who had been involved in various 'truth drug' projects since WWII, and Dr. Harold Abramson, a major CIA LSD researcher and a key player in the Frank Olson saga.
(The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate", pgs. 57-58)
"White in turn would sometimes receive his supply of the drug from a Boston-based research psychiatrist, Dr. Max Rinkel, who is credited with first bringing LSD to the United States in 1949. Rinkel, who fled Germany when Hitler came to power, would often hand-carry LSD to New York for White, as well as for Drs. Paul Hoch and Harold Abramson."Rinkel was clearly a major influence of the CIA's embrace of LSD even though he is sparingly mentioned by most researchers. This is also true of another figure that would become a major proponent of LSD. He was in fact one of the first American doctors to be made aware of the substance.
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli, pg. 284)
"In November 1948, L. Wilson Greene, Scientific Director of the Army's Chemical and Radiological Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland received a communication marked TOP SECRET from Dr. John P. Clay, a high-level Army consultant to the Chemical Division at the European Command Center in Heidelberg, Germany. Clay's purpose was to alert Greene to the existence of a 'powerful hallucinatory agent' that had been 'recently discovered' by scientists at the Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Basle, Switzerland. Experiments 'are actively underway on abnormal subjects at Swiss institutions,' Clay reported, 'and results appear very promising.' "
(ibid, pg. 362)
|Dr. L. Wilson Greene, a major part of our story|
By 1952 L. Wilson Greene had become convinced that LSD, along with psychedelics, were the key to a totally new concept of warfare. His notions would have an major influence on a young Sidney Gottlieb, among others. Gottlieb would go on to head the CIA's notorious MK-ULTRA project, which would commit some of the worst abuses of US Intelligence Community's LSD research, most notably the Cameron 'medical experiments.'
"...Dr. L. Wilson Greene, Chemical Corps Scientific Director, the man largely responsible, along with Stanley Lovell, for the creation of Camp Detrick's Special Operations Division. Dr. Greene, a civilian, was a strong advocate of the use of mind-altering drugs, including mescaline and LSD, covertly and in battlefield situations. Sidney Gottlieb found Greene's thoughts most impressive and worthy of pursuit. Much later, Gottlieb would admit:
Greene would cause quite a stir in 1952 when he held a Chemical Corps conference at Camp Detrick (which was the center of the United States biological warfare program for many years), attended by Gottlieb and Frank Olson, among others. The subject was "the use of psychochemicals as a new concept of warfare." There Greene would site LSD specially as the future of warfare. Continuing with Albarelli:I was fascinated by the ideas Greene was advancing. He was convinced that it was possible to actually win a battle or larger engagement without killing anyone or destroying any property. While I found this to be a novel approach to war, I was somewhat skeptical about it, but I was intrigued by the potential applications of psychochemicals to much smaller conflicts and situations. There I saw tremendous promise."(ibid, pg. 61)
"Dr. Greene's presentation about the potential uses of psychochemicals in warfare caused a real stir among conference attendees, generating animated discussion concerning the benefits of tactical and strategic uses of such drugs.
"Attendees became even more excited when Dr. Greene shared top-secret information with them about a very recent and 'incredible discovery' of a previously unknown drug that 'causes hallucinations and suicidal tendencies in man.' The drug was quite effective and powerful in 'extremely small amounts,' Greene explained, with symptoms amounting to a cornucopia of disorders. They included 'uneasiness, vertigo, restlessness, hysteria, unsteady and uncertain movements of the arms and legs, and hallucinations,' Hallucinations ranged from the simple to the more complex, Dr. Greene said. His preliminary report quoted a researcher's description: 'Flicking, glimmering, glittering, scintillating, rapid and slow blotting of colors, sparks, whirling, traveling small dots, light flashes and sheet lightning...'
"Dr. Greene's own excitement about the incredible drug was more than evident and he implied to attendees that LSD-25 could well be that much sought after magical psychochemical that would transform modern warfare. Greene... was already smitten with the potentials of LSD through top-secret information being generated from the very heart of activities around the drug's development."
(ibid, pg. 63)
|Olson (top) and Gottlieb (bottom)|
As noted above, Greene was already made aware of the drug as early as 1948 via top secret reports being given to him by the US Military. But his concept of a 'psychochemical' war stemmed from a much different source, one that he was made aware of shortly after discovering LSD. Once again, continuing with Albarelli:
"...Edgewood Arsenal scientific director, Dr. L. Wilson Greene, was developing his own thesis that LSD could well be a major advance toward 'non-violent war.' A significant step in reaching this conclusion was Dr. Greene's review of a massive amount of Nazi files and documents, many of which have never seen the light of day in America. Greene would later recount that... he first discovered the characteristics of psychochemicals during a routine scientific staff meeting in 1946 at Edgewood. A team of Chemical Corps physicians, including several from Camp Detrick, had just returned from Germany to report their findings and observations on the interrogation of captured Nazi scientists at Nuremburg's Landsberg Prison. One of the physicians 'remarked that he had been surprised to learn that the Germans [had] conducted what appeared to be elaborate human experiments [on concentration camp prisoners] using hallucinogenic drugs... including mescaline and various compounds drawn from ergot.'
"Greene was intrigued with the report and became fascinated with the possibility of employing mind-altering drugs as a more 'humane' weapon of war. He spoke with members of the Chemical Corps team and learned that OSS and Office of Naval Intelligence officials, under the auspices of the U.S. Naval Technical Mission, had produced a number of studies, including one top-secret report detailing Nazi experiments, entitled German Aviation Medical Experiments at the Dachau Concentration Camp. After reviewing nearly three hundred pages of reports, Greene was disappointed to find fewer than two pages devoted to Nazi drug experiments. However, he noticed several unexplained references to an intriguing research institute called Das Ahnenerbe... It appeared that Das Ahnenerbe was the organization responsible for ordering and conducting the horrific drug experiments at Dachau and other locations.
"L. Wilson Greene doggedly pursued the subject and, after subsequent meetings with Army G-2 intelligence officers and further review of a large cache of captured documents, he was able to learn a great deal more about the activities of the Ahnenerbe."We examined the Ahnenerbe in much greater detail in part two of this series. In brief, it was a Nazi think tank co-founded by Heinrich Himmler himself. Superficially dedicated to the study of the ancient Aryan race, it delved into numerous occult topics. It has been described as "the new Knights Templar, defending the Nazi 'faithful.'" To this days, it remains one of the most mysterious organizations of Nazi Germany.
(ibid, pg. 371)
|the Ahnenerbe seal|
It's most interesting to note that the above quotation notes that ergot was also studied by Nazi scientists as part their hallucinogenic drug experiments. While Nazi studies of mescaline and cannabis are relatively well known, this is only the mention I've found to a Nazi interest in ergot, the psychedelic component of LSD. With this in mind, Greene made a fascinating connection between Nazi Germany and LSD.
"Soon after reading about the Dachau mescaline experiments, Greene's attention turned to the powerful drug about which he had been alerted months earlier through top-secret Army reports from Europe. Right away, Greene later said, he 'was struck by the physical proximity of the laboratory doing the most to refine ergot and the camp where most of the mescaline experiments was performed.' The Sandoz Laboratories in Basle, Switzerland were only about four hundred kilometers, or 248 miles, away from Dachau. Greene went back to his recently received reports from Army intelligence and refreshed himself with the amount of 'what we thought was the mostly-by-chance discovery of LSD-25 in 1942 or 1943 by Hofmann at Sandoz...'
"Greene learned that Hofmann had actually worked under the direction of the highly respected physician Arthur Stoll, founder and director of Sandoz's aggressive drug research program. During World War I, Stoll had been an associate in Berlin to world famous chemist and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Richard Willstatter. Around the same time Hofmann was hired by Sandoz, according to Greene's findings, Stoll's laboratory was diligently working on ways to isolate and prepare in pure form 'the intact active principles of medicinal plants whose active principles are unstable or whose potency is subject to variation.' This objective was particularly attractive to Hofmann because of his deep interest in the development of natural chemical products. Said Greene, 'Stoll's laboratory was concentrating its efforts on such plants as foxglove, Mediterranean squill, and ergot.'
"Beginning in 1946 through to mid-1949, Greene recounted, 'after three Sandoz researchers volunteered to self-administer LSD-25 in order to confirm, and possibly replicate, Hofmann's 'wondrous experience' with the drug to a very skeptical Arthur Stoll,' Stoll's son [Dr. Werner A. Stoll, a psychiatrist at the Bleuler Clinic in Zurich], undertook a number of human experiments on about twenty [it was twenty-two] people at the University of Zurich.' Greene found that documentation concerning these experiments was scant, and recalled what he later termed 'troubling rumors or gossip' that the experiments, or related tests, resulted in 'at least one death, possibly more,' involving one 'unwitting mental patient,' 'the suicide of one nurse,' and 'the death in Geneva of a woman physician who had been depressed' and had taken LSD-25 and became more depressed, 'killing herself three weeks later.'"
(ibid, pgs. 372-373)
|Did Dr. Albert Hofmann discover LSD while inadvertently working for the Nazi regime?|
While Albarelli doesn't come out and say it, he strongly indicates that LSD may have been developed under the auspices of the Nazis. That Sandoz was aggressively pursuing ergot research (whose hallucinogenic properties had been known for some time) at the same time that the Nazis were aggressively studying hallucinogenic substances at locations less than 250 miles from each seems a bit more than coincidence. As noted above, there was speculation that the Nazis were researching ergot, though I've never seen the substance mentioned in any official reports on the experiments conducted at Dachau. Could it be that Nazi ergot experiments were outsourced to Switzerland, a country that while officially neutral during the war harbored ample Nazi sympathizers?
While Nazi ties to LSD are tenuous at best, the ties of Nazi mind control experiments and the search for a truth drug clearly had an enormous influence on the post-war U.S. Intelligence community. Of course, the early U.S. Intelligence outfits such as the OSS were already trending in the direction of truth drugs and mind control even before the Dachau discoveries. The Nazi interest in such fields seemed to have reinforced the belief in certain intelligence circles that psychochemicals were the future of warfare.
And it is here that I shall finally wrap things up. As we have seen, US interest in LSD and mind control was publicly rationalized as a necessity against Communist 'brainwashing' ploys. Yet the national brainwashing debate was already being framed by the CIA even before Korea presented alleged victims of Communist brainwashing to the America public. What's more, there was no evidence that the Communists resorted to drugs (or other esoteric instruments such as hypnosis) to brainwash their victims. In fact, Communist 'enhanced interrogation methods' (to borrow a phrase from the War on Terror) more closely resemble re-education than brainwashing. The obsession with mind control and truth drugs was very much an American phenomenon, with heavy Nazi overtones.