Sunday, May 27, 2012

The LSD Chronicles: Origins Part II

In part one of this series we began examining the origins of the CIA's various LSD testing programs. I noted that these experiments were an extension of various mind control projects the Agency was running by the mid-1950s. The rational for delving into such an arcane field had to do with fear of Communist brainwashing that had gradually been working its way into the popular consciousness since the late 1940s, in large part due to the peculiar behavior of defendants at various Soviet show trials, most notably Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty.


When the Korean War broke out, the notion of brainwashing gained vast mainstream acceptance. The America public was now confronted with the specter of American POWs speaking in Marxist/Maoist rhetoric and admitting to deeds, such as the use of germ warfare, that the public knew simply could not be true (in reality, US use of biological weapons during Korea has never been conclusively disproven). The CIA (who had been actively studying various mind control techniques since 1950) and large chunks of the American public were convinced that the Communists had discovered some kind of magical formula for gaining total control of an individual's mind. Why else would red-blooded American boys be saying such things?

The CIA began to study Communist methods of interrogation in the hopes of learning what the special ingredient was, be it a drug, hypnosis, electroshock, or some other such technique, as early as 1949. It was not till 1953 that a thorough account would be produced. The man tapped to launch the CIA's most noted investigation into Communist mind control was the migraine specialist Dr. Harold Wolff, a close friend of then-CIA director Allen Dulles.
"Dr. Wolff, a veteran of numerous military and intelligence panels, had been briefed to begin work with his colleagues at Cornell University, Dr. Lawrence Hinkle, an equally brilliant neurologist. With the full consent of Cornell's president, Deane W. Molott, and the university's most senior administrators, the two doctors were given full access to Agency files on 7,190 American prisoners brainwashed during the Korean War. They also examined the extensive data the CIA had on Soviet methods of mind control. 
"For the first time, important distinctions were made by the doctors between the techniques used by the Russians and Chinese. Both systems began with a prisoner in solitary confinement, continually harassed by rotating shifts of guards telling him when to stand and sit, and disrupting his sleep if he made the slightest move during the short spells permitted; both systems excluded all outside contact, newspapers, letters from home, or listening to the radio. Time itself was denied the prisoner: his watch was taken away and he was kept in a cell with no windows and a constant overhead light. 
"However, the Russians rarely extended this initial period of sensory deprivation beyond six weeks. The Chinese maintained it far longer, often keeping a prisoner under these conditions for three months, and adding lengthy periods of total darkness to the incarceration. 
"The interrogation techniques were also different. The Soviet approach was to confront a victim with specific accusations, and to demand a full and immediate confession to these crimes. The method depended on telling a prisoner that he knew what wrong he had done and the interrogator was merely there to record any admission of guilt. In his Kafkaesque situation of not knowing what he was accused of, but being invited to admit to some crime, a prisoner invariably found himself struggling to prove his innocence. The Chinese interrogator would point out how manifestly absurd it was to make such a claim; the fact that he was a prisoner must surely suggest to him that he had committed some offense.
"While the prisoner continued to try to reason and plead, the interrogator would sit clearly bored with such unbelievable protestations. Abruptly, the mood would change. A prisoner would be invited to accept a last chance to recant by helping the interrogator to review the accused man's entire life. Confused, yet sensing there may yet be a way out, a prisoner would eagerly seize the opportunity. Captive and captor would move forward toward what the prisoner believed was a common goal, an end to this relentless probing. But ,as he was once more taken through the details of previous interrogations, the slightest departure from what from what he had said then would be seized upon. The Chinese interrogator would say, often with a sigh of regret, that the offender was not yet ready to tell the truth. Further weeks of isolation would follow. Then, once more, the questioning would resume.  
"The American neurologists suggested this was the point where the prisoner invariably felt something must be done to end this. He must find a way out.  
"In Soviet hands it meant signing a blanket confession of a list of itemized crimes for a show trial that was followed either by execution or exile to a labor camp. 
"But the Chinese went further. They wanted to reeducate their prisoners. This was done at special centers where the teachings of Marx and Mao were instilled, along with self-criticism and all the other trappings of conversion.  
"The Cornell doctors concluded that neither the Russians nor the Chinese depended totally on drugs, hypnosis, or any of the standard methods of behavioral control known in the West."
(Journey Into Madness, Gordon Thomas, pgs. 126-128)

Allen Dulles was unimpressed with the findings of his hand-picked committee. He remained convinced that drugs were the key, despite all evidence to the contrary.
"Their report to Dulles --so sensitive that it would never be fully declassified --led to a conclusion only remarkable to those unfamiliar with the director's thought process. In the years he had spent in wartime Europe --his daily life filled with spies and counterspies, secret police, emigres and exiles, saboteurs, professional assassins, agents provocateurs, Fascists and anti-Fascists, Nazis and anti-Nazis, Communists and anti-Communists, all being encouraged by him to intrigue against and, where need be, kill each other --Dulles had survived by following one rule: Nothing is what it seems. 
"The director was convinced that neither neurologist had fully understood what happened in North Korea. Accepting that the Communists did not depend on known behavioral methods of mind control, Dulles persuaded himself that the enemy must possess a method unknown in the West. It was therefore all that more urgent to move forward on that assumption."
(ibid, pg. 128)
Allen Dulles

Gordon Thomas would have use believe that Dulles embraced a 'scientific' method towards mind control off of a good old fashioned hunch. But in reality, the United States had been searching for a magical truth sermon (and mind control agent) since at least World War II. Dulles was simply continuing a long standing goal of the US Intelligence community.
"In the spring of 1942 General William 'Wild Bill' Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA's wartime predecessor, assembled a half-dozen prestgious American scientists and asked them to undertake a top-secret research program. Their mission, Donovan explained, was to develop a speech-inducing drug for use in intelligence interrogations. He insisted that the need for such a weapon was so acute as to warrant any and every attempt to find it. 
"The use of drugs by secret agents had long been a part of cloak-and-dagger folklore, but this would be the first concerted attempt on the part of an American espionage organization to modify human behavior through chemical means. 'We were not afraid to try things that had never been done before,' asserted Donovan, who was known for his freewheeling and unconventional approach to the spy trade. The OSS chief pressed his associates to come up with a substance that could break down the psychological defenses of enemy spies and POWs, thereby causing an uninhibited disclousure of classified information. Such a drug would also be useful for screening OSS personnel in order to identify German sympathizers, double agents, and potential misfits. 
"Dr. Windfred Overhulser, superintendent of Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, DC, was appointed chairman of the research committee. Other members included Dr. Edward Stretcher, then president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Henry J. Aslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The committee surveyed and rejected numerous drugs, including alcohol, barbiturates, and caffeine. Peyote and scopolamine were also tested, but the visions produced by these substances interfered with the interrogation process. Eventually marijuana was chosen as the most likely candidate for a speech-inducing agent. 
"OSS scientists created a highly potent extract of cannabis, and through a process known as esterification a clear and viscous liquid was obtained. The final product had no color, odor, or taste. It would by nearly impossible to detect when administered surreptitiously, which is exactly what the spies intended to do. 'There is no reason to believe that any other nation or group is familiar with the preparation of this particular drug,' stated a once classified OSS document. Henceforth the OSS referred to the marijuana extract as 'TD' --a rather transparent cover for 'Truth Drug.' "
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, pgs. 3-4)
Various field tests were performed during the war with this liquid marijuana substance, all of which proved inconclusive. Many of these tests were done in conjunction with the highly secretive Division 19.
"Division 19 had been a highly secret operation tucked away within the National Defense Research Committee's Office of Scientific Research and Development. Established on June 28, 1941 by Roosevelt's Executive Order, Division 19 was run by Dr. Marshall Chadwell... Most of the documents concerning the work of the Division 19 are still classified and may never be released for public scrutiny."
(A Terrible Mistake, H.P. Albarelli, pg. 66) 
Division 19 was a kind of precursor to the CIA'S Technical Services Staff. It helped devise gadgets and weapons as well as the OSS's war time assassination program. It would also aid the OSS in developing a truth drug, of which they felt marijuana was the most promising. A joint Division 19 and OSS operator (who also worked for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and later, the CIA) named George Hunter White, who would eventually oversee the CIA's notorious Operation Midnight Climax, conducted much of the field research on the marijuana liquid. Hunter is a figure that already appeared briefly at the of the first installment of "The LSD Chronicles," and who will appear again and again. But I digress.

George White, a former Division 19 man who is a reoccurring figure throughout this series

In addition to the OSS's research into a truth drug, another WWII-era organization would have an enormous influence on the CIA's Cold War era search for a mind control-inducing drug. It was an outfit known as the Ahnenerbe, a Nazi think tank attached to the SS and overseen by Heinrich Himmler. The nature of the Ahnenerbe is difficult to describe. Officially billed as study society focused on the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan race, the Ahnenerbe more closely resembled an occult society with a budget the size of the Department of Defense.
"In short, Himmler --along with occultist Hermann Wirth and race-obsessed Richard Walter Darre, had founded the Ahnenerbe in 1935. It was set up as a Nazi think tank and 'research' institute dedicated to anything under the sun that could be seen as promoting the anthropological and cultural history and 'superiority' of the so-called Aryan race. The Ahnenerbe's founding papers state that its primary objective was 'to promote the science of ancient intellectual history.' Its guiding thought, as enunciated by Himmler, was 'A Volk lives happily in the present and the future as long as it is aware of its past and the greatness of its ancestors.' 
"The Ahnenerbe operated a vast number of branches and over thirty programs, including 'folk' research, religious history, astronomy, geophysics, biology, botany, expeditions, cave studies, natural history, and plant genetics and preparations. In April 1945, American troops stumbled across a massive cache of Ahnenerbe files hidden in a dark, dank cave called Kleines Tuefelsloch (the Little Devil's Hole) near the Bavarian village of Pottenstein. For the next four years, American intelligence officials closely studied the captured documents, eventually sending many to the Army's Edgewood Arsenal and Camp Detrick."
(ibid, pg. 371)

This is only scratching the surface of the Ahnenerbe's  scope of 'research.'
"Himmler gave the Ahnenerbe official status within the Reich in 19935 (thus protecting it and its members from the spate of new laws that were designed to ban occult-related activity); in 1940 it became a formal division of the SS. With over fifty separate sections devoted to a wide range of scientific and pseudoscientific research, the Ahnenerbe became a boondoggle for Nazi scholars of every description. There was a Celtic Studies group within the Ahnenerbe; a group to study the Teutonic cult center Externsteine (near Wewelsberg), which as we have seen was believed to be the site of the famous World-Tree, Ydragsil or Yggdrasil; a group devoted to Icelandic research (as the Eddas were sacred to the Teuton myth, and since Iceland was considered to be the location of Thule itself); a group that was formed around Ernst Schafer and his Tibet expeditions; a runic studies group; a 'World Ice Theory' division; an archaeological research group that scoured the earth for evidence of Aryan presence in lands as remote from Germany as the Far East and South America... the list goes on."
(Unholy Alliance, Peter Levenda, pg. 182)
the Ahnenerbe symbol

Probably the most well known of the Ahnenerbe's various projects was the organization's research into the Holy Grail. Himmler was obsessed with the Grail and eventually located a young scholar bent on proving the pagan origins of the legendary (but only nominally) Christian relic. This young scholar was a fellow named Otto Rahn, an SS officer and alleged homosexual who developed a thesis for the Grail that incorporated the Medieval troubadours, the Cathars, and of course, the Knights Templar, among others. In fact, Rahn's theories (devised in the 1930s) are remarkably similar to contemporary speculations concerning the Grail, troubadours, Cathars, and Templars put forth in such works as Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Templar Revelation, in addition to the fiction of Dan Brown.

Rahn would eventually fall out of favor (allegedly due to his blatant homosexuality) with the Nazi regime and resign his SS commission in 1939. Shortly thereafter he was found frozen to death in Austria, on the anniversary of the fall of Montsegur, the final Cathar stronghold. Over the years the mysterious figure of Otto Rahn has gradually worked his way into the popular consciousness, via Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones films. Rahn's saga informed several of the plot lines in the first three Jones films, and may even have served as the basis for the Indiana character.

But it wasn't all dashing adventures in exotic lands in search of legendary relics at the Ahnenerbe. In fact, several of the most barbaric experiments of the Holocaust fell under the direction of the Ahnenerbe. One such experiment, conducted at the notorious Dachau concentration camp, was described as 'aviation medicine.'
"There, in a closely guarded, fenced-off part of the camp, S.S. doctors studied such questions as the amount of time a downed airman could survive in the North Atlantic in February. Information of this sort was considered important to German security, since skilled pilots were in relatively short supply. So, at Heinrich Himmler's personal order, the doctors at Dachau simply sat by huge tubs of ice water with stopwatches and timed how long it took immersed prisoners to die. In other experiments, under the cover of 'aviation medicine,' inmates were crushed to death in high-altitude pressure chambers (to learn how high pilots could safely fly), and prisoners were shot, so that special blood coagulation could be tested on their wounds."
(The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate," John Marks, pg. 5)

one of Dachau's 'high-altitude pressure chambers'

Another notorious medical experiment the Ahnenerbe participated in was the attempt to catalog and measure a collection of Jewish skulls from Auschwitz. For our purposes, the Ahnenerbe's most noteworthy experiments centered around the uses of cannabis and mescaline.
"As revealed by statements in Wolfram Sievers's diaries and by other records and Nuremberg testimony concerning medical experimentation at Dachau, the Ahnenerbe was actively involved in a program of experimentation on unwitting prisoners with the use of mescaline. Under SS-Sturmbanfuhrer Dr. Kurt Plotner and an inmate-assistant, Walter Neff, drinks given to concentration camp prisoners were spiked with mescaline and the prisoners observed for signs of altered human behavior. 
"This experimentation continued right up to the end of the war. An entry in Siever's official Ahnenerbe diary for February 1945 shows that discussions were being held with SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer August Hirt concerning the use of both mescaline and canabinol by the Soviets, and this being coordinated with RSHA Amt VI, in other words, with Schellenberg's own Foreign Intelligence Section."
(Unholy Alliance, Peter Levenda, pgs. 233-234)
Wolfram Sievers

The American Intelligence services were intrigued, to say the least, by the the Ahnenerbe records concerning these experiments. Naturally we, the American public, will never be allowed to know the extent that the Ahnenerbe influenced our own mind control experiments as little concerning the Nazi experimentation has ever been released.
"After the liberation of Dachau, US investigating teams read through the Ahnenerbe and Luftwaffe files on the concentration camp experiments, looking for anything that might be useful in a military application. Marks goes on to note that 'None of the German mind-control research was ever made public.' Other than the hints of it we can discover in Sievers's diary and similar memoranda, that pretty much remains the situation today."
(ibid, pg. 235)
We do know, however, that the records recovered from the Ahnenerbe would have an immediate influence upon post-WWII American mind control efforts.
"After the war, the CIA and the military picked up where the OSS had left off in the secret search for a truth serum. The navy took the lead when it initiated Project CHATTER in 1947, the same year the CIA was formed. Described as an 'offensive' program, CHATTER was supposed to devise means of obtaining information from people independent of their volition but without physical duress. Toward this end Dr. Charles Savage conducted experiments with mescaline... at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. But these studies, which involved animal as well as human subjects, did not yield an effective truth serum, and CHATTER was terminated in 1953. 
"The navy became interested in mescaline as an interrogation agent when American investigators learned of mind control experiments carried out by Nazi doctors at the Dachau concentration camp during World War II."
(Acid Dreams, Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, pg. 5) 
And it is here that we shall wrap things up for now. In part three we shall examine how the CIA became convinced that LSD was the ultimate tool of mind control. We'll also examine possible connections between LSD and the Nazi regime. Stay tuned.

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