It’s Sunshine Week! Let the Sunshine In

It’s March 12, 2023, the first day of Sunshine Week, a time when journalists, authors, bloggers, documentarians, archivists, librarians, historians, students, teachers, and inquisitive citizens of all stripes pay homage to our right to review government files. Whether they’re old or new, hard copy or electronic, sleep-inducing or eye-opening, pristine or heavily redacted to the point of being laughable, public records can help us develop a better understanding of how our tax dollars are spent. It’s a way of holding public officials accountable.

In writing this, I’ve been humming that one song from the musical HAIR—starting with “Aquarius” and ending with “Let the Sunshine In.” As the lyrics have been going through my head, I’m like “Dang, gurl! These lyrics are apropos to Sunshine Week in a trippy sort of way!” But song lyrics are copyrighted. If I print them on my blog site, I’ll be going straight to song lyric jail, and I don’t think I’d last very long there. (Titles are OK though.)

Here’s what we’re going to do: I’m including a link to the lyrics here and you can fill in the blanks in your heads as you read along, Mad Libs–style.

Does everyone have the two web pages open, so you can toggle back and forth? Good. Let’s begin by focusing on PARAGRAPH 3 of the lyrics.


Thanks to our right to seek public records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state sunshine laws, 

we can achieve _____________________________________________,





 PAR 3, LINE 3

maybe even the occasional____________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 4

plus, if we’re lucky, __________________________________________,

 PAR 3, LINE 5

and, ultimately, if the CIA finally comes clean about what’s still hiding in the MKULTRA documents,


 PAR 3, LINE 6

What then? Maybe, just maybe, if our ongoing quest for transparency inspires our government institutions to do their jobs ever more responsibly, and more responsively, for the citizens it serves, 


PAR 1, LINE 3   




Clearly, we have a ways to go.

Incidentally, if you’ve never heard the above sung by a Broadway cast, it’s time. I’m posting two renditions that were performed in NYC’s Ed Sullivan Theater. The first aired on March 30, 1969, on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the second was performed 40 years later, on April 30, 2009, on the Late Show with David Letterman. If you have a little time, consider watching both, paying close attention to the audiences’ reactions at the end. Fellow Boomers, I know we get mocked a lot these days, but if there’s one thing we’ve managed to accomplish, it was that, on our watch, people loosened up a bit more. 

That was fun, but, in all seriousness, transparency in our public institutions is extremely important. We’d never have gotten as far as we have in our fact-finding mission on Ronald Tammen without FOIA and Ohio’s Public Records Act.

And now, in the spirit of Sunshine Week, I’d like to make several announcements on the topic of FOIA and public records requests as they pertain to Ron’s story. Announcement #1 is enlightening, #2 is vindicating, #3 is…what it is, and you’re not going to believe how cool announcement #4 is.

Announcement #1

You should totally read:

 “Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act,” by Nicholson Baker

Thanks to a reader’s recommendation, I recently finished reading Baseless (etc.), by Nicholson Baker, and maaaan, could I relate with the frustration he’s experienced when submitting FOIA requests to the CIA and Air Force. It appears that he has similar views about how the CIA treats its FOIA requesters—they’re just waiting for us to die. 

For years, Baker has been studying whether there’s truth to the rumors—which U.S. officials have summarily denied—that the United States had deployed biological weapons during the Korean War. He presents a strong case that they did. On the face of it, it might appear as if bioweapons research has little to do with the mind control research that we’re interested in, however, it is related. As you may recall, Frank Olson, who’s discussed in Baker’s book, was a prominent bioweapons researcher at Camp Detrick (later named Fort Detrick), in Maryland, in 1953. He’d had a bad reaction to some LSD that had been slipped into his drink at a CIA-sponsored retreat that took place November 18-20, 1953, and, on November 28, just two days after Thanksgiving, he fell (read: was likely pushed) out of a tenth-story hotel window in Manhattan. His case is directly linked to MKULTRA. 

I also learned a few things that are tied somewhat to Ron’s story, or, more specifically, to Ron’s former psychology professor, St. Clair Switzer.

First, Baker discusses several organizations that I’ve been bumping into in my research on Switzer. He has a lot to say about the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board (RDB) as well as the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), both of which were advocating for the use of bioweapons during the Korean War. In my post from May 20, 2021, I discuss Switzer’s possible relationship with both the RDB and the PSB. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen no evidence that links Switzer to possible bioweapons research—I still believe he was focused mostly on interrogation techniques, such as hypnosis and drugs, and the possible development of a hypnotic messenger—but he may have been running in the same circles as people who were.

Second is a random factoid that I find particularly fascinating. A man who has received a sizable word count in Baker’s book is Frank Wisner, the former director of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), the epicenter for the CIA’s covert operations. Wisner had his hand in pretty much all of the CIA’s misdeeds at that time, including the importation of Nazi scientists after WWII through Operation Paperclip and the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala in 1954 because they felt like it. He was a huge supporter of the use of bioweapons, and, naturally, he was involved in MKULTRA too. 

The person I find even more compelling was Wisner’s assistant director, Col. Kilbourne Johnston, who was an expert on biological and chemical warfare and who, according to Baker, was employed with the Air Force at the same time he was with the CIA. 

Let me just say that Baker has some seriously mad research skills, because I’ve found no online sources linking Kilbourne Johnston to the Air Force—only documents pertaining to his stint with the Army Service Forces during WWII. But Baker found hard copies of documents that identify a Mr. Johnson—which was Johnston’s original surname—in the Air Force who had the same phone number as the CIA’s Kilbourne Johnston. According to Baker’s citations in the back pages of his book, Johnston was in the Air Force’s Air Targets Division, which, well…I think we have a pretty good notion of their area of expertise.

After an extended illness following a trip to Asia in May 1952, Johnston left both the CIA and the Air Force and started a lithograph business. (I don’t care who you are;  when your inner voice tells you that life’s too short and that you need to start something new, like lithography, for example, it’s best to heed the call.) In 1955, at the still-youthful age of 48, he signed on with the Texas Division of Champion Paper, a name that probably rings a bell for readers who are familiar with the paper mill that used to occupy 601 N. B Street in Hamilton, Ohio. And for good reason. Because in the late 1950s, this highly decorated Air Force colonel and assistant director of the CIA moved to Hamilton to work at the headquarters of Champion Paper, and in 1962, he was named vice president. He remained in that position until 1966. 

In other words, this Army/Air Force colonel who knew everything there was to know about what the CIA was up to in the early 1950s was living 10 miles from Miami University not too long after he left the Agency. Did he and Lt. Col. Switzer ever meet up for coffee or a cold one to, you know, talk about sensitive stuff? If Switzer had known who was living nearby, I think he would have conjured up a way.

The third take-home I learned from Baker’s book could turn out to be a game-changer. It has to do with a more efficient, more effective way to search for CIA documents that are posted in their Electronic Reading Room. If you visit the search page for the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room and type in a word or term such as “hypnosis,” you’ll probably bring up a huge number of pages to wade through, most of which have no bearing on what you’re actually looking for. But if you type “hypnosis” into the Google search bar, a more digestible list of documents will pop up, with short descriptions that give you a clue what they’re about and quick links that take you straight to the document instead of an intermediary page that the CIA has set up. It’s usually faster too.

This search technique plus a document that Baker describes in his book concerning the CIA’s sanitization process directly applies to…

Announcement #2

The unredacted July 15, 1952, memo still hasn’t turned up

Remember the CIA memo dated July 15, 1952, in which a group of panelists is named for a [BLANK] Study Group? As I mentioned in my May 20, 2021, blog post, I think that the letters RDB (abbrev-speak for the Department of Defense’s Research and Development Board) occupy the blank next to “Subject” and I also believe, based on the chronology of various related memos, that the RDB’s study group had to do with Project ARTICHOKE.

All of the names listed in the memo are blanked out as well. Here’s that memo: 

In August 2016, I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA asking them to lift the redactions from the list of names. Almost three years later, on May 12, 2019, they responded as follows: “Please be advised that we conducted a thorough and diligent search in an effort to locate a full-text version of the document, but unfortunately were unsuccessful.” 

In other words: Sorry, but we only have the whited-out version.

I appealed on the basis of, well, here’s an excerpt: “I find it inconceivable that a government employee charged with the critical responsibility of declassifying national security documents would be so sloppy and abusive in his or her handling of this information as to somehow misplace or destroy the original document, particularly given the CIA’s already embarrassing history with mishandling documents pertaining to MKULTRA.” 

I also quoted Senator Edward Kennedy, who said the following during the Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence on MKULTRA in August 1977:

The intelligence community of this Nation, which requires a shroud of secrecy in order to operate, has a very sacred trust from the American people. The CIA’s program of human experimentation of the fifties and sixties violated that trust. It was violated again on the day the bulk of the agency’s records were destroyed in 1973. It is violated each time a responsible official refuses to recollect the details of the program. The best safeguard against abuses in the future is a complete public accounting of the abuses of the past. [bold formatting added]

On June 11, 2021, they wrote and said that I should receive a ruling sometime around December 8, 2022. I’m not sure what I was doing on December 8, 2022, which was a Thursday, but I know for sure that I wasn’t reading the CIA’s ruling on my appeal, which has yet to arrive.

Last week, I called the CIA and left a message asking for a status update on my appeal. Still no word. 

But in the book Baseless, Nicholson Baker discusses a CIA document from 1975 (the year when the Church Committee was investigating the intelligence activities of the CIA and other agencies) that describes a process by which the CIA sanitized its records in response to requests from members of the House and Senate. Its title, “Workers’ Kit for Sanitizing Documents,” is friendly and adorable and almost sounds as if they could create a child’s version to sell on Amazon. I’m including it here:

In that process, for every original document that was requested, the worker made two Xerox copies. On copy 1, the worker drew lines through words that they felt needed to be covered up, and on copy 2, they put correction tape over those words and typed less specific words to take their place. Then they made more copies of the taped-over version for people up the chain to review and for the worker to keep as a record. I’m sure this protocol is different than the one used in declassification—at least from my experience, they don’t type over their redactions in declassification—but I’m guessing it’s not that different.

If you look at the July 15, 1952, memo, you can see that it’s a copy, and a really bad copy at that. Also, the whited-out parts are super straight, as if it was done with correction tape. My guess is, not only is there an original version, but there are likely several versions of this memo, including the original, the taped-over version, and at least one of several copies that were made of the taped-over version for the higher-ups. They can’t have lost all of those copies, can they? 

Besides, what would it say about the CIA’s declassification process if the original copy—the one containing all the ostensibly classified information—is the one that gets mislaid somewhere while the taped-over copy is the only one they can find?

Speaking of taped-over copies…

Announcement #3

Most of the posts on Carl Knox’s former secretary and/or the Miami Stories Oral History Project have been pulled down

If you’ve been wondering what happened to my posts concerning my search for an interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary—the ones where I talk about edited tapes, missing tapes, the recorded-over tape, and ice hockey—I’ve pulled most of them down for now. They still exist and there may come a time when I repost one or more or all of them, but for now I’ve decided to handle things this way.

If I have something truly significant to share, I will, however, most activity on this topic is now being conducted behind the scenes.

I just don’t want you to feel out of sorts when you run searches for them and come up empty.

But speaking of sorts and searches…(😬 …too lame?)

Announcement #4

For the first time ever, you can download a sortable, searchable MKULTRA index here, on this website!

I’ve saved the best announcement for last. I am totally pumped to let you know that Julie Miles, AGMIHTF reader, frequent commenter, good book recommender (she’s the one who recommended Nicholson Baker’s book to me), and computer sorceress, has taken the CIA’s mammoth index of MKULTRA titles and…

…wait for it….

…made a spreadsheet out of it. 

I’m. Not. Joking.

Anyone who’s explored the MKULTRA collection understands that you have to start with the index to figure out which documents are pertinent to whatever you’re researching. But the index is 84 pages long and incredibly random—dates, topics, you name it, are all over the place. It’s almost as if the CIA made it that way on purpose. Plus, the PDF pages that are posted online aren’t searchable. Until now, you had to scroll through the index, page by page, to figure out which documents you’d like to review, and then you opened one of four folders originally provided by the CIA, now posted on the Black Vault website, and searched for the ID number. In 2018, the Black Vault posted additional MKULTRA documents that they’d obtained from the CIA. 

Now, thanks to Miles, the index is transcribed as a spreadsheet into Google Sheets. You can copy/paste it as-is to your hard drive, or download or copy/paste it to a preferred software, such as Excel. Then, run with it, have fun with it! You can organize it however you’d like: alphabetically, topically, chronologically, etc., which makes it sooooooo much easier to find what you’re looking for. Then you can locate the pertinent document or documents from the Black Vault site.

As far as I can tell, not only has no one attempted this before, but no one has even considered attempting it before. It’s that daunting. But Miles thought it seemed doable, and then she went ahead and did it. 

[Wait for applause.]

Meryl Streep Applause GIF by SAG Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the MKULTRA index:


User notes as well as other helpful info can be found at the bottom.

If you prefer to have it in Excel, here you go:

Although I happen to think it looks perfect, Miles says that it’s still a draft, so there may be tiny corrections or style changes in store. If anyone wants to assist in proofing it, please contact me at and I’ll pass along your info. Also, Miles has created an email address specifically related to the MKULTRA index for questions, comments, suggestions, whatever. But please bear in mind that this isn’t her full-time job, so she can’t guarantee a response: Nevertheless, she’s interested in your feedback.

So happy Sunshine Week, y’all! If you have any FOIA stories to share to help us celebrate, please feel free to comment below. Also, this is a reminder that the 70th anniversary of Ron’s disappearance is fast approaching. If you have ideas on how we might observe the date of April 19, 2023, please feel free to suggest those below as well.

5 1 vote
Article Rating

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stevie J
Stevie J
6 months ago

Go Julie, go Julie, go Julie! I’ve made a few tentative searches of Black Vault and know what a job it is. I pretty much gave up in frustration. I’ll have to give it another try.

6 months ago
Reply to  Stevie J

Thank you! Definitely try it out. And if you get frustrated, go to the Black Vault and look up cafeteria complaints of the various alphabet agencies. He FOIAed those when the CIA kept stonewalling him on other requests and some are pretty amusing.

Stevie J
Stevie J
6 months ago

Ed Sullivan wearing beads and carrying flowers. 😂