Plus a bonus puzzler: Let’s make a little history and break some CIA code
Have you had enough holiday yet? Same. You want to do something kinda wild during this down week before New Year’s? Me too.
Let’s break some CIA code.
The CIA code I’m referring to can be found on a large number of MKULTRA documents that have already been released to the public. According to Google, the project I’m proposing has never been done before. If we can do this—and I believe that we can—we’ll be ripping open a whole new portal into the top secret world of MKULTRA.
You heard me right. Us. Remember us? The ones who, I believe, first put two and two together to reveal Commander Robert Jay Williams as the former project coordinator of Project ARTICHOKE? The first ones who let the universe at-large know about St. Clair Switzer’s MKULTRA connections? The ones who discovered—much to the consternation of the FBI—why they’d purged Ron Tammen’s fingerprints 30 years ahead of schedule? We’re qualified to do this. We’re credentialed. The good news is that we won’t even be starting at square one. I do believe I’ve figured out some of the code already. And the better news is that the code I’ve figured out tells me that St. Clair Switzer was indeed working for the CIA at some point of his career. They said so themselves. Let’s do this!
At an unknown point in time, one or more persons within the CIA had gone through every surviving MKULTRA document and, on many of them, had written a letter of the alphabet and sometimes an accompanying number alongside key places of redacted text. The alphabetical list isn’t very long. It starts with the letter A and ends with H.** To the best of my knowledge, only three numbers were used: 3, 6, and, on the rarest of occasions, 1.
The letters or letter-number combos appear to refer to a person who is employed by an organization, the organization as a whole, or, very generally, a place, be it domestic or international. The CIA categorizers, as we shall refer to them, probably did this because lots and lots of names are dropped in CIA memos. It’s useful to have some additional identifying information about who Joe Blow is and what his role is in the grand scheme of things.
I don’t know who the intended audience is or was of this helpful, categorized information. The CIA staffers of the future? The guys and gals in the business wing at Langley who were keeping the books? (If you’ll recall, most of the MKULTRA docs had been destroyed in 1973, so the only surviving records originated with the people in accounting.) Given the CIA’s distaste for the Freedom of Information Act, I doubt very much that they were doing it to help out you and me.
But therein lies the poetic justice in all of this: even as someone at the CIA was busily crossing out names and job titles and hometowns and whatnot, someone else at the CIA was actually offering up a clue into a certain person’s identity. Very, VERY cool of you, CIA.
You know the letter that I believe was written by Louis Jolyon West to the CIA on February 6, 1957? In that letter, the man whom I believe to be Jolly West refers to another man who is spending the 1956-57 academic year helping him with his research. It was (I believe) West’s intention to create a hypnotic messenger during the summer of ‘57 and to have his eminently qualified helper, well, help him. And it’s my hypothesis that his helper was St. Clair Switzer, who was Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor the semester that Tammen disappeared.
At that point in our country’s history, the CIA and U.S. military wanted to learn as much as possible about interrogation techniques that could be used on prisoners of war, such as those involving hypnosis and drugs. They wanted to learn how they could elicit treasure troves of intelligence from POWs that the Americans had captured, and, conversely, how to ensure that American POWs wouldn’t give away the store to their captors. The interrogation aspect of the CIA’s mind control endeavors was known as Project ARTICHOKE, which was later broadened in scope beyond POWs. The creation of a hypnotic messenger—someone who could be hypnotized to deliver a detailed message of high sensitivity to an intended recipient without ever knowing what the message was—would’ve been right up the CIA’s alley back then.
Let’s begin by reexamining that letter, which was mailed to the CIA’s Morse Allen to accompany the hypnotic messenger proposal. The author (who, again, I believe to be Louis Jolyon West) has the letter C written next to his blacked-out name. The letter-number written next to his associate’s name is H-B/6. If we could figure out the meaning of H-B/6, we could further strengthen, or weaken, our argument that Jolly West’s helper was St. Clair Switzer.
After rereading a lot of MKULTRA documents—especially those pertaining to Project ARTICHOKE—and comparing notations from one document to the next, I think I’ve figured out the meaning of H-B/6. And (spoiler alert!) I believe that our argument has been strengthened. What’s more, I think I’ve found additional evidence to show that the CIA welcomed St. Clair Switzer to its cadre of hypnosis researchers with open arms.
The letters and letter-number combinations that the CIA uses throughout the MKULTRA documents, some more frequently than others, are as follows:
That list may not seem too terrible, but there’s a reason that (to the best of my knowledge) this project has never been attempted before by a layperson. Reading MKULTRA documents is always irritating. No one does it for fun.
The ones I think we know for sure
Let’s start with the easy letters—the meanings for which I’m 99.9% certain:
A is the Agency itself. Anyone with an A next to his or her name is employed by the CIA. It’s written next to a lot of important job titles in the “To” and “From” lines of a CIA memo, and it’s often written next to an author’s name at the bottom of a CIA-composed letter. It’s written next to the names of CIA staffers whose identities have been revealed—people like Morse Allen and Robert Jay Williams. It’s this simple: if you have an A next to your name, you, my friend, are in the CIA.
B, I believe, stands for a Business or Organization that conducts the type of research in which the CIA was especially interested. And, in the early to mid-1950s, the type of research that the CIA’s ARTICHOKE program was especially interested in pertained to hypnosis and drugs. As you can see on the February 6, 1957, letter, an address at the top right is blacked out and marked with a B, which is likely Jolly West’s business address.
Here’s a table in which the letter B clearly signifies a Research Organization, versus C, which stands for…
C stands for Consultant. Anyone with a C next to their blacked-out name is employed by another entity, likely a university or research organization. They may be partially supported by the CIA through a grant or contract or some other temporary means for their expertise, although not everyone with a C was paid. Some offered up their expert opinions free of charge. In the February 6 letter, ostensibly, Jolly West was considered a C, but his workplace was categorized as a B.
F is for Foreign. The letter F is used to signify a country whose name has been redacted, sometimes as a location to conduct ARTICHOKE experiments or perhaps to denote other related overseas travel or consultation.
Clever, right? Our friends at the CIA came up with alphabetical shorthand that uses the first letter of the word it represents. I don’t know if that will apply to all of the categories, but it’s a nice way to start. As you can probably imagine, the letters A and C are by far the most frequently ones used in the ARTICHOKE documents.
The tougher ones
The Bs and Hs gave me the biggest trouble, since they appeared alone as well as with numbers. I also knew that the three main branches of the military were heavily involved in ARTICHOKE, but I was having difficulty identifying which branch might be represented by a corresponding letter. I won’t bore you with why I thought this, but for a while, I thought the B might mean Navy, the H might mean Air Force, and the G might be the Army. But that system didn’t play out in the documents.
And then I started to think like the bean counters in the CIA. You know what? If they can lump all the research orgs together, and they can lump all the consultants together, and they can lump everyone in the CIA together, then they can certainly lump all of the people in uniform together. I’d concluded that the B/3s and B/6s were part of the military because of their “tour of duty” and war talk and their inclination to measure hours in a day by the hundreds. That’s when I determined that B/3 meant a military base and B/6 meant an officer who is affiliated with a military base. As for the H that precedes the B/3s or B/6s, I figured out what that meant when I read the following two paragraphs from page 5 of a lengthy document in which the writer was kvetching about how no one, particularly researchers affiliated with the military, ever briefed him on any of their ARTICHOKE-related activities. Here are the two most awesome grafs:
So, now we know, and I just want to thank the CIA categorizers for practically handing us the working definitions of an H-B/3 and an H-B/6. H-B/3 ostensibly refers to a hospital or clinic on a military base and an H-B/6 ostensibly refers to an officer, and most likely a medical specialist, who is affiliated with a military base that has a hospital or clinic on site. A hospital on a military site would be considered a huge plus in conducting ARTICHOKE research. You, as an ARTICHOKE researcher, would be among friends. You wouldn’t have to hide what you’re doing nearly as much as if you were in a non-military hospital.
Aaaaand, guess what? Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had just completed a 314-bed, 7-floor, state-of-the-art hospital facility in June 1956. So, yeah, if psychologist St. Clair Switzer was still active in the Air Force Reserves in 1957, and he very much was, and he was known in the hallways of Wright Patterson AFB, and he no-doubt was, then an H-B/6 next to his name would be apropos. I’d think that having an H-B/6 next to your name would be one of the more glowing attributes in the eyes of Morse Allen, the recipient of (ostensibly) Jolly West’s letter.
The ones that could use more research
Before I get to the most exciting part of this post, here are the categories that I’m still stuck on. If anyone has an inkling to visit The Black Vault’s MKULTRA collection to find occurrences of the following and to help figure out their meaning, I’d be grateful:
D – The March 25, 1952, letter that (ostensibly) refers to Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith Williams, the Rutgers professor and hypnosis expert who’d also worked under Clark Hull, is studded with handwritten letter Ds. Because Ds weren’t used very frequently in the MKULTRA documents I’ve examined, I haven’t yet figured out a pattern. Perhaps it indicates referrals for consideration, but I don’t know. I don’t think it stands for drugs, since neither Clark Hull nor Griffith Williams had expertise in that area.
G – I think G stands for an internal group within the CIA, such as the gadgetry group mentioned in this memo. (Good Lord, do you think it stands for Gadgetry?) A letter for various separate internal groups makes sense if we’re considering the perspective of an Agency accountant. If they need to expend money from a specific line item for a designated group within the Agency, then that would be an important distinction.
H – I’m most stymied by the letter H when used on its own, with no B/3s or B/6s nearby. At one point I thought it represented hypnosis, but I don’t think so. When I noticed the blurb about the pilots, that’s when I thought it might mean the Air Force. But that would be weird to have a special designation for the Air Force and not the other military branches, wouldn’t it?This one definitely needs to be investigated further. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
B/1 (H-B/1) – I haven’t seen enough of this designation to ascertain how it differs from the B/3 and B/6 designations, but I think it’s probably similar. I don’t think it matters for our purposes though.
The most exciting part: why I think St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA payroll
In my blog post about how St. Clair Switzer spent his 1956-57 sabbatical, including the summer of 1957, I introduced two letters that I believe were written from St. Clair Switzer to his former colleague under Clark Hull, Griffith Williams. In the letters, Switzer is hoping to obtain guidance from Williams, who was, by then, an internationally recognized expert in the field of hypnosis.
Let’s have another look at those letters with our newfound knowledge.
As you can see, any references to Williams have a C attached to them—in CIA lingo, he was considered a Consultant. But in the December 6, 1956, letter, references to West and Switzer were bestowed with As. They were considered Agency. Curiously enough, in the February 8, 1957, letter, West and Williams were designated as Cs, while the letter writer, whom I believe to be St. Clair Switzer, was an A-lister once again.
You may ask: are you sure that it was Switzer who wrote the two letters? Couldn’t it have been Morse Allen? I honestly don’t think so. First, the letters aren’t written in Allen’s style. Allen wasn’t an academic. The two letters were written by someone who clearly was. His words, “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D thesis,” tells me that the writer held his own doctorate degree, and he was acknowledging that the recipient did as well. He’s comfortably collegiate. In addition, the letter writer is gracious and deferential, both to the recipient, who is unquestionably Williams, but also to the researcher with whom the writer is working. He uses the term “we” quite a bit. Morse Allen worked alone. There was no “we” when he wrote his letters and memos about ARTICHOKE. From what I’ve read, Morse Allen didn’t do gracious. Switzer was no sweetheart either, but he knew how to write as if he were.
If St. Clair Switzer was the letter writer, and I continue to believe that he was, then he wasn’t a wannabe sitting on the sidelines. Switzer was CIA, at least for part of his career. That’s big. I also think he was running in those circles for quite a while.
P.S.: This post came to be because of one person’s recent email asking a question about Lackland Air Force Base. His question led me back to the MKULTRA documents, which was when I started fixating on the H-B/6 notation. I’m not sure I would have tried to figure out its meaning without that email. So…thank you…to all of you, for your input. You really do contribute to this process and influence my thinking in new ways.
** Late in the process, I noticed a faint S at the top of several documents, and on one document to date, several Js and Es. These are the exceptions to the rule. I’m going to ignore them for this blog post, since they don’t pertain to the question at hand, but I acknowledge their existence. If you can figure out what in the heck they mean, let me know!