Sigh. It would have been so unbelievably cool, wouldn’t it? To be able to say that a CIA Project Artichoke report was typed up on Doc Switzer’s typewriter—a 1947 Smith Crappola, I’m guessing—with its wayward y’s and c’s and capital R’s, would have been too, too cool. A smoking typewriter could have saved this girl a lot of additional sweat and heartache and saved you all from having to read any more 3,000-word blog posts. (Oh, relax. This one’s shorter.) It would have been time for the party planning to begin because we would have attained our goal. Because, you guys, we’ll probably never know for sure what happened to Ron Tammen. The only thing we can probably hope to know is whether St. Clair Switzer indeed had CIA ties. And if the CIA was anywhere near Tammen during the second semester of 1952-53, then they made Tammen disappear. Plain and Simple.
But the report that had been written for the Psychological Strategy Board on September 5, 1952, wasn’t written on St. Clair Switzer’s typewriter. We know this because a forensic document examiner compared the three surviving pages of that report to a job application and letters that Switzer had typed up in 1951. She’s certain that they came from different typewriters, and now, so am I.
In the world of forensic document examination, a questioned document (Q) is compared to a known document (K) to see if they came from the same source. In our case, the Q is the 1952 Project Artichoke report and the K is Switzer’s job application and letters. Our examiner, Karen Nobles, concentrated on the typefaces of the two documents to arrive at her conclusion, and the evidence is compelling.
Here’s what she found:
the uppercase M: the center does not extend to the baseline on the questioned (Q) text, but does extend to the baseline in the known (K) text
the number 2 has a flat base on the Q, but a curvy base in the K
the bottom of the number 3 extends downward in the Q, but curves up in the K; the top of the 3 in the Q is rounded and in the K it is flat
the number 4 in the Q has an open top, but in the K it is closed
the number 5 in the Q has a flag on the top that extends upward and the bottom bowl extends downward; in the K the number 5 is flat on top and curves upward in the bottom bowl
the top of the number 6 extends upward in the Q, but in the K it curves downward and has a ball ending
the number seven may or may not have a downward extension on the top left in the Q but in the K, the 7 has a significant downward extension
the number 8 is much narrower in the Q than in the K
the number 9 extends downward in the Q, but curves upward and has a ball ending in the K
She also created this chart that shows the above differences in the numbers and letters:
So the report wasn’t typed on Switzer’s typewriter after all—OK, fine. That doesn’t mean that Switzer wasn’t on the RDB’s ad hoc committee or even that he didn’t write the report. It only means that our job isn’t over and we need to keep searching for clues.
You know what’s really hard? Trying to figure out the precise way in which something happened nearly 70 years ago is really hard. I mean, you find a couple memos that are riddled with black blotches, you hear a few tales from way back when, you stumble upon several additional details that seem apropos of the situation, and all of the sudden, you think you know how everything went down. But do you know what else can happen? Nuances can happen—like the Sliding Doors phenomenon, where things play out wildly differently depending on whether Gwyneth Paltrow makes the subway or just misses it, or when a butterfly in Zimbabwe flaps its wings and causes a hurricane in south Texas…those sorts of unpredictables.
The question we’ll be delving into today is what’s the most likely way in which St. Clair Switzer, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserves and Ron Tammen’s psychology professor, wound up dabbling in Project Artichoke?
Here’s the sequence of events as I initially pictured them:
On Tuesday, February 12, 1952, Morse Allen, a career CIA guy, went bounding off to his job in the Office of Security. He was super stoked about what he’d been tasked to do, which was to handle all the day-to-day operations in pursuit of controlling the minds of the nation’s and world’s citizenry—or at least certain unlucky members thereof.
On that particular morning, between 10:20 and 11:45 to be exact, he was on the receiving end of an earful from one Commander Robert J. (R.J.) Williams. Williams was in the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence and he was the project coordinator for Artichoke. He was also frustrated with how things were progressing. At the top of Williams’ wish list was a cadre of scientists with whom to consult who had expertise in the latest and greatest of a wide range of possible Artichoke techniques. Meanwhile, Allen and the crowd he ran with had been tinkering with only two of them: hypnosis and truth drugs.
On March 25, in response to R.J.’s concerns, Allen typed up a memo describing a conversation he’d recently had with one of the foremost experts in hypnosis. This was no stage act hypnotist, mind you. He’d spoken with the big kahuna himself—Clark Hull, a renowned psychologist and academician who’d written the seminal book on hypnosis, Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach. Alas, Hull was old (he was only 68, but they wore their ages differently back then) and sickly (he died a little over six weeks later). What’s more, he had absolutely zero interest in hypnosis after he’d published his book.
My guess is that it was during this conversation or maybe in a follow-up, after he’d given it some thought, that Hull had passed along to Allen the names of two of his top protégées as possible resources for the CIA’s hypnosis studies. In his third and fourth paragraphs, Allen tells R.J. about the two promising experts, who were by then psychology professors in their own right. Although their names have been redacted, they were St. Clair Switzer (I’m 100% positive), at Miami University, and Griffith Wynne Williams (I’m pretty sure), at Rutgers. Switzer’s added bonus was that he’d been a pharmacist before he studied psychology, which means that he also happened to know a lot about drugs.
What happened next was where I relied on logic and intuition. I figured that Switzer was probably contacted by someone with the CIA, because, by fall, he appeared to be embarking on some sort of hypnosis study or studies on Miami’s campus. There were students being recruited on the front lawn of Fisher Hall that September for a hypnosis project coordinated by the psychology department. Three Ohio youths had wandered off with amnesia around that time and then, happily, returned. One psychology student was told by the department chair that Ron Tammen had a proneness to dissociation. Things were happening in Oxford that appeared to be relevant.
Nevertheless, the evidence was admittedly thin and some pieces didn’t quite fit. For example, I’ve often wondered what research questions concerning hypnosis Dr. Switzer was pursuing at that time. His name has never been linked with CIA-sponsored research, such as the MKULTRA subprojects, which came later, beginning in April 1953. What could the CIA have been asking of him beginning in the spring of 1952?
As it happens, I no longer think that Dr. Switzer received a call from the CIA in March 1952. In my revised screenplay, there was no “Allen Dulles is on line two” defining moment.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t we still talking about Project Artichoke? If not the CIA, then who?
Me: You guys, I think Dr. Switzer was approached by someone with the RDB.
Me:. You know, the RDB? Short for the Research and Development Board?
You make an excellent point. The name is so nothing. So benign. So deadly dull. But that’s deceptive. The RDB was the research arm of the Department of Defense (DoD), created through the National Security Act of 1947 to coordinate the military’s research endeavors. On the DoD’s 1952 organizational chart, the RDB was on the same level as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both of which answered directly to the Secretary of Defense, who happened to be Robert A. Lovett.
In order to make its important research and development decisions, the RDB would oversee expert committees and panels, which, in the spring of 1950, involved some 1500 people, mostly volunteers. (The volunteers would have been experts who were already paid a salary by their military or civilian employers, and it would have been considered an honor to serve.) By the mid-1950s, the RDB’s permanent full-time staff totaled 315. To spell it out as simply as possible, OMG, the RDB was a BFD.
At the top of the RDB sat seven people: a civilian chairperson, who in 1952 was Walter G. Whitman, head of MIT’s chemical engineering department. The other six posts were held by members of the military’s three branches: Army, Navy, and Air Force. In 1948, the two Air Force representatives were Joseph T. McNarney, commanding general of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and L.C. Craigie, director of the Research and Development Office, who relocated to Wright Patterson AFB in September as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. Hence, both of the Air Force reps were with Wright Patt that year.
In 1949, Karl Compton, another MIT dignitary, chaired the RDB. The Air Force was represented by McNarney again, as well as Donald L. Putt, then stationed in Washington, DC, as deputy chief of staff for materiel, which is military-speak for supplies, equipment, and weapons—everything the military buys. Putt was from Sugarcreek, OH, also called “Little Switzerland of Ohio,” which is home to the “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock.”
Putt was also a longtime friend of Wright Patterson AFB. He started at Wright Field as a test pilot, then as a student at the Air Corps Engineering School, and following WWII, he headed intelligence for the Air Technical Service Command and later, the Engineering Division. In 1952, the two Air Force representatives were Roswell Gilpatric, the undersecretary of the Air Force, and Putt, who was working concurrently as a vice commander of the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore as well as commander of the Wright Air Development Center (WADC), at, you guessed it, Wright Patt.
So Wright Patterson was well known among the bigwigs of the RDB. But that makes perfect sense since Wright Patterson was at the center of research and development for the Air Force. R&D was Wright Patt’s jam.
But let’s get back to R.J. Williams, coordinator of Project Artichoke. A couple weeks before he and Morse Allen had their tête-á-tête, a memo dated January 28, 1952, had been drafted by the OSI for the signature of Allen Dulles, who was deputy director of central intelligence at that time. The memo was written to the secretary of defense asking for help with Project Artichoke. The OSI was seeking the assistance of the RDB, and suggested one of its ongoing committees, the Committee on Medical Sciences, to tackle an overriding problem. The problem was defined as: “Whether or not, and to what extent, any agent or procedure can be used to cause an individual to become subservient to an imposed control; and subsequently that individual be unaware of the event.” They were especially interested in discovering the feasibility of such methods because it was rumored that the Soviets were already using such tactics in their interrogations.
I don’t know if the January 28 memo was ever sent. However, on March 7, another memo was drafted, this one asking the director of central intelligence (Walter Bedell Smith) to seek technical assistance directly from the chairman of the RDB (Walter G. Whitman) regarding the “problem.”
At a meeting on March 12, Whitman told a small group of individuals (whose names are all redacted) that the RDB “will be pleased to undertake the study as requested and feel that it is something they should be doing.” However, he also said that he’d rather not put his acceptance in writing “if this conference could be considered as confirming his acceptance of the responsibility.” Whitman also said that he’d rather not use his Medical Sciences committee for such a task, but would prefer to assign the problem to an ad hoc committee.
On March 25, Allen wrote his memo to R.J. offering up the names of St. Clair Switzer (for sure) and Griffith Wynne Williams (maybe). Of special note is this partial sentence: “…his two principal research assistants are still active in psychology and would prove particularly valuable as consultants on a research project on hypnotism.”
I’ve probably read that memo a thousand times, and for 999 of those times, I was thinking much more broadly about the “research project on hypnotism.” I thought he was speaking about Project Artichoke in general, like: “Hey, if you want an expert on hypnosis to consult at some point, here are a couple good prospects.” Now, based on the events leading up to this memo, I think that Allen was suggesting the names of St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Williams for the RDB’s study.
A month later—April 26, 1952—R.J. wrote a 9-page memo to his boss, the assistant director of Scientific Intelligence, bringing him up to speed on Artichoke. Under the subhead “New items uncovered,” he discussed the RDB study, which the OSI would be monitoring:
“As an alternate measure to provide the best possible professional advice for the project, the Research and Development Board, at the request of the DCI, has undertaken a study of the technical feasibility of Artichoke-type techniques. Although the Study is designed ostensibly to provide CIA with a better basis for evaluating Soviet capabilities in this field, it can be useful in evaluating and guiding our own program. The committee members have been selected, and, subject to their availability and clearance, should be working on the subject in the near future.”
In May, the same memo was repurposed with the subject head “Special Interrogations,” and sent up the chain from the assistant director of OSI to Allen Dulles. Everyone was reassuring their bosses that things are being done in this area.
To be sure, there was a lot riding on the RDB’s shoulders. Until the technical feasibility study was completed, the CIA wouldn’t be able to do much else toward Project Artichoke.
On June 4, a memo was written by someone affiliated with the military. (The 1100 and 1200 hours were the giveaways.) They wanted to expedite the “setting up of the special committee to study Special Interrogation techniques.” Because the special committee wouldn’t be able to start meeting until August, they agreed to set up an “executive group” from the ad hoc committee as well as perhaps another group. (Unfortunately, the names are blacked out, though I’m certain the ad hoc committee is one of the groups.) “This group could do the spadework and actually represent an action group in being, pending the arrival of [the ad hoc committee] in August, the memo’s author wrote.
Are you interested in knowing who served on the RDB ad hoc study group? Me too. Here you go.
Yeah…fun times. In August 2016, I submitted a FOIA request to the CIA asking them to lift the redactions on the list of names of their study group. (I mean…come on, right?) On April 10, 2019, their FOIA office wrote me back and said “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 short: we have the blacked-out version, but we can’t find the version with the words on it.
Here’s what I wrote in my appeal:
“The classification and declassification of national security information is a highly regulated process, most currently outlined by Executive Order 13526. It is my understanding that MKULTRA documents that hadn’t been destroyed in 1973 underwent a declassification review and those documents were released digitally, in CD-ROM form, in 2004. It is also my understanding that the redactions are put in place during this declassification review. 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 feel it necessary to remind you of the following statement, provided by Senator Edward Kennedy 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]”
Because we’re now nearing the two-year mark since they thanked me for my appeal and told me they’d get back to me, I gave them a call to see how things were going. (Of course I’m taking Covid into account, but two years is a long time, and I felt it was worth a check-in.) The person who answered took down my reference number, put me on hold for several minutes, and then returned to say, and I quote directly, “your case is still being worked on.” I’m pretty sure they’re waiting for me to die.
The ad hoc committee met four times in 1952—August 15, October 1, November 11, and December 9. They released their report on January 15, 1953, one day after the memo was written on “Interrogation Techniques,” the one in which I believe that Switzer and Louis Jolyon West are mentioned in paragraph 3 in setting up a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” The ad hoc produced a typical “more research needed” report, signed off by the people who conduct the research, thus ensuring job security for all concerned.
But there was another report produced by one of the RDB’s foot soldiers—on September 5, 1952—and one for which we only have a cover page, preface, and a table of contents. This report—referred to as the [BLANK] report—appears to have been passed around so much that they ran out of copies. It also had a bibliography, which the ad hoc committee report appears to lack. As the chief of the CIA’s technical branch wrote to the chief of their psychiatric division in May 1953: “We have just received this back after loaning it out sometime ago and since I promised to loan it to you, I am sending it with the understanding that, after you and your associates have finished reading it, you will return it to me since at the present time it is the only copy we have for our files.”
The report was produced with resources supplied by the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB), which was an elite group that reported to the National Security Council on topics pertaining to psychological operations. The same cast of characters in the upper echelons of the CIA and the Defense Department attended the PSB meetings along with the undersecretary of state.
Here’s the report’s preface:
Here’s the TOC:
You guys? I think St. Clair Switzer wrote this report. Why do I think so?
Based on Allen’s letter to R.J., I believe that Switzer was invited to sit on the ad hoc committee. In addition, two members of the committee were asked to start the ball rolling early as part of the “executive group,” as mentioned in the June 4 military memo.
The person who produced the PSB report appears to be addressing the very question the RDB was asking, so it pertains to the ad hoc committee’s charge.
The preface reeks of Switzer, who had the habit of brown-nosing his superiors while acting too busy to be bothered by everyone else. (Adorable.) He also minored in English, so he fancied himself a writer. The line “It has been possible to cover these large areas solely because of the great amount of valuable assistance, cheerfully given” sounds so much like the smarmy letters he wrote to President Upham and others who could help him climb the ladder. I doubt the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, and the CIA director cared one iota about how cheerfully assistance was given.
In his TOC, he leads with hypnosis. He follows with drugs. Those were his two favorite topics.
The author refers to himself as a consultant, which is how Allen described Switzer’s possible role in his March 25 memo to R.J.
The name that’s blacked out looks to be of the same length as Switzer.
Do I know why the report was produced by or for the PSB instead of the RDB? I don’t. But let’s look at it this way: the PSB was an interagency board that was above the RDB in rank, since it was established by President Truman. Also, one of the chief architects of the PSB was Sidney Souers, the first director of central intelligence, and a 1914 Miami graduate. Sidney was still an adviser to President Truman in 1952, and, though he didn’t sit on the PSB, it was his baby, so he kept close watch over it. Had he stepped in for some reason to assist?
This much we know: St. Clair Switzer’s name was advanced at a time when the CIA was seeking technical assistance from the RDB. R.J., eager to show progress, could have called RDB chair Walter G. Whitman straight away, saying that he had a couple nominees for their ad hoc committee. Whitman would have shared those names with his board members, at least one of whom would be very familiar with Switzer’s credentials.
Would Switzer have been eager to be involved? I have no doubt. Will I be asking the CIA to lift the redaction from the name at the bottom of the preface? Oh, you better believe it.
The floor is now open.
ADDENDUM:Supporting evidence that the author of the September 5, 1952, report was St. Clair Switzer
So sorry! That was rude of me to ask you to just trust me when I told you about how smarmy Switzer’s letters were to his superiors. I am now posting several letters that were either typed or handwritten by Doc Switzer to Alfred Upham, president of Miami University, or A.K. Morris, vice president of Miami. I include the letters in their entirety. If you have any questions about the who’s, where’s and why’s, feel free to ask. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the smarm.
I’m including Switzer’s letters to V.P. Morris because they also show how high up in the military he was during WWII. He had an office at the Pentagon and was in charge of placing servicemen at the end of the war. I think he enjoyed bragging to Morris about how truly important he was, as if to say “You’ll get me when the Air Forces say you’ll get me.”
And now, with a huge thank you to astute reader and commenter Stevie J, I attach some additional typing that was performed by Doc Switzer on his Miami U typewriter in 1951, one year before he would have produced the 9-5-52 report for the RDB (if it was Switzer, of course). Switzer filled out this application for a post at the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore, for which he served from August to December 1951.
Among other anomalies, Stevie J has pointed out that, in the Preface of the report, “every lower case y is way left of center. Every single time.”
O.M.G.–the wayward ‘y’ that hugs its preceding letter. Do you see it? I’m freaking out. Freaking out on a Friday night. Pay special attention to the section at the bottom, under “Present Position,” especially the word Psychology.
What do you think? Is this the author of the 9-5-52 RDB report?
Has this ever happened to you? You’re writing a blog post, and you’re all in-the-moment and everything. It’s been a whole year since you’ve written an update, and you can’t wait to share some stuff you’ve found out. PLUS you’re relearning the software, including the changes that WordPress has introduced since you last posted, but you manage. Finally, you hit the “SEND” button and it’s up. You pour yourself a glass of zin (the red kind, not that pink stuff) and settle in to watch something mindless: Creature from the Black Lagoon. You feel nothing but respect and empathy for the so-called monster. You go to bed, dream your sweet little unicorn dreams, wake up, and then, OH MY GOD, you realize that you forgot to include something in your blog post. Something huge and important. Something so big, you’ve practically buried the lede. Has this happened to you too? No? I’m all alone on this?
So, I guess it’s official: I’m human. Let’s proceed as if I meant to make this a two-parter all along, shall we?
Do you remember how I’d visited UCLA last year and went through documents from the files of Louis Jolyon West, one of the most well-known of the MKULTRA researchers who was also an officer—a major—at Lackland AFB in San Antonio? Well, a few of those documents had something to do with Wright Patterson AFB. Here are a couple additions to the list I’d started in part 1 regarding why I think Wright Patterson was involved in MKULTRA.
6. In October 1955, Wright Patterson sponsored a classified meeting on psychochemicals, which West attended.
That’s right. Wright Patterson AFB was the venue of choice for a meeting on psychochemicals that took place on October 4, 1955. According to Louis Jolyon West, who was also there, attendees were required to have a Top Secret security clearance.
One of the sponsors of the meeting was the Air Research and Development Command, part of the U.S. Air Force. (St. Clair Switzer had served a short stint with the ARDC in Baltimore, from August to December 1951.) The second sponsor was the Army Chemical Corps, the folks who were based out of Edgewood Arsenal and who, I’m guessing, most likely conducted the germ warfare experiments, gosh, just two months prior at Wright Patt. What an exciting year 1955 turned out to be! Wouldn’t you love to see the day planner for someone who was in the top brass?
August: Release the microbes!
October: LSD, baby!!
West, who attended the meeting principally as an observer for the USAF surgeon general, described its objective this way:
“Its purpose was to review recent advances in the field of neuropharmacology that have led to the development of drugs which produce significant alterations in personality, and to discuss the possible uses of these chemical agents in furtherance of the mission of the United States Air Force.”
On the first page of the report, West mentions the work of Amedeo S. Marrazzi, who was identified as the chief of the Clinical Research Division of the Army Chemical Corps. Dr. Marrazzi’s name became known publicly in 1975 for LSD experiments that had ended badly while he was at the University of Minnesota. It appears West and Marrazzi hit it off at the Wright Patt meeting, because West received a letter from Marrazzi shortly after, making plans for future interactions.
7. Neil Burch wrote a letter to Louis Jolyon West while Burch was working at Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory.
Neil Burch was a psychiatrist and researcher who has been identified by authors Colin Ross, M.D. (The CIA Doctors), and John Marks (The Search for the Manchurian Candidate) as being associated with MKULTRA and the military.
In December 1955, Burch, who was working at Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory, wrote a letter to Jolly West, when Burch would have been 31 years old. (My hunch is that he must have met West during the October meeting on psychochemicals.) Among other things, he discusses his work in the laboratory and his interest in “continuing our research in an academic setting.”
It looks as though Burch’s dream was realized.
Marks included Burch’s name in a list of “well-known researchers” whose LSD work was supported by “military security agencies.” By then, Burch was affiliated with Baylor University, and after Burch’s name, Marks added that he “performed later experiments for the CIA.”
A July 1975 UPI article backs up Marks’ assertion:
“In Houston, Neil Burch, director of the psychophysiology division for the Texas Research Institute of Mental Sciences, said the CIA funded a project that involved volunteer Baylor University medical students taking small amounts of LSD.
‘The CIA was concerned that certain elements in this country might dump LSD into the water supply of a community,’ he said.
Burch said the experiments began in the late 1950s. He said he participated in the program and once swallowed 20 micrograms of the hallucinogenic drug.
‘Thirty minutes after taking it, the drug started to have an effect on me. My sensitivity to flickering lights, for example, was increased. That was exactly the type of thing we were trying to find out.’”
Ross wrote in his book that Burch and another colleague had been the recipient of $300K worth of Air Force contracts in hallucinogens from 1956 through 1961.
Here’s a copy of Burch’s letter:
So what do you think? Do these two documents strengthen the argument that Wright Patterson AFB was involved with MKULTRA?
Greetings everyone! Can you believe we’ve matured another year since I last posted on this blogsite? Can you see how a whole ten years can go by lickety split when you’re working on a book? Yeah, this is the part of book research—and life in general—that tends to suck. As someone once said to me, time flies.
So here we are, on the 67th anniversary of Ron Tammen’s disappearance, in the middle of A PANDEMIC. I hope you all are doing OK. I’m hoping that you’ve been sheltering at home as much as possible. I hope you, like I, have developed a deeper appreciation for soap—that lovely, sudsy surfactant we’ve been using all of our lives, and still the best defense we currently have against the coronavirus. I hope you’ve found cleverly nuanced ways to avoid touching your face. I hope you’re tipping your delivery person with gusto. If the spread of COVID-19 is impacting your life more directly than it has for most of us—if you’re in health care or you’re a first responder or if you’re in food production or food service or food delivery or you’re filling consumers’ online orders for all their needs—my God. You’ve been selflessly carrying the survival of so many of us on your backs. To say “thank you” is hardly enough, but it’s all I have right now, and believe me, it’s from the heart. Lastly, please, every single one of you who is taking the time to read this post, please stay well. Let’s all look out for each other during this historic, surreal, and rip-roaringly bonkers time in our lives and do our part to flatten that curve.
SO…what to tell you? First, some bad news: I have yet to hear back from the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP) about my mandatory declassification review (MDR) appeal concerning the two names listed in the third paragraph of the January 14, 1953, CIA memo. If you were hoping to hear the results of that appeal in this post, I’m afraid you will not. This past October, ISCAP updated their log to indicate that they’d received “materials” from the CIA in response to their request for information on my behalf, but unfortunately, that hasn’t seemed to help spur things along. When I asked the folks at ISCAP if that was a promising sign during a livestreamed info session, they quashed any feelings of hopefulness I had and reemphasized how backlogged they are. So…settle in, amigos, it could be a while.
Over the past year, I’ve continued pursuing new leads and tracking down old acquaintances and contemporaries of Ron Tammen. I’ve sought corroboration or, if possible, documentation of some of the more compelling memories that various sources have shared with me from that time period. Last fall into early winter, I dug deep into the fingerprint issue, and spoke with a number of retired FBI employees about their fingerprint retention policies and how unusual it was that they had purged Ron’s prints when they did. (There’s more to be uncovered there and I’m still working on it.) For those of you who follow AGMIHTF on Facebook, you’ve learned some of the day-to-day stuff I’ve picked up along the way. And I’ve been doing some writing.
(Care to share what you’ve been up to over the past year? Or maybe you’d like to focus on what you’ve been doing during the pandemic? Or you could send pictures of yourselves in your homemade masks. Feel free to provide any of the above—plus pet photos!—in the comments.)
Today I want to focus on a question that’s probably crossed the minds of most people when they hear my theory of how the CIA and MKULTRA had something to do with Ron Tammen’s disappearance. And that question is usually something along the lines of: “Hmmm…I don’t know…”
I mean, I feel you. It sounds so far-fetched. Oxford, Ohio, cute-as-a-button college town that it is, is so remotely located—even now—and a long way from Langley, Virginia. Why would the CIA find it prudent to set up shop there during their mischievous MKULTRA years, despite a certain psych professor’s expertise in hypnosis and drugs? What’s more, why would they be drawn to a small town at all, when small towns are known for their ability to pry open deep, dark secrets, adding them, and everyone involved, to the menu of topics for discussion at the local lunch counter?
Although I don’t profess to know all the things that Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, Sidney Gottlieb, and the gang were contemplating during this time, I do have some thoughts.
First, the CIA liked doing business with universities. The agency was known to have lots of professors on its payroll, recruiting among the country’s cream of the crop to build up its ranks. In addition, when Project Artichoke and MKULTRA were in full swing, much of the work was being performed at universities all over the country, with Gottlieb, stationed at CIA Headquarters, pulling the strings.
Also, you may recall that the CIA already had a prior history with Miami University. Sidney Souers, the first director of central intelligence, was from Dayton, and had graduated from Miami in 1914. So they were…familiar, shall we say?
But, until today, I haven’t delved into one aspect concerning Oxford, Ohio, that could have outweighed any knock it would have had against it. That one aspect is this: Oxford is roughly an hour’s drive from Wright Patterson Air Force Base (AFB), near Dayton.
Oh, and there’s a second aspect: St. Clair Switzer, Miami’s hypnotically-adept and pharmaceutically-adroit psychology professor, who was also a lieutenant colonel in the USAF and, later, Air Force Reserves, had a longstanding association with Wright Patterson.
Some historical background on Wright Patterson AFB
Wright Patterson AFB—or Wright Patt to the locals—was named in honor of two guys by the name of Wright, and one guy named Patterson. Of course, you already know the first two esteemed fellows. They were Wilbur and Orrville, aka, the Wright brothers. The Wright brothers spent most of their lives in Dayton, OH, after the family had moved from Richmond, IN. They had a bicycle shop on Williams Street before they began inventing, building, and flying airplanes, and they’re buried in Woodland Cemetery, near the University of Dayton—the same cemetery in which Erma Bombeck is buried. After their experimental aircraft—dubbed “the Wright Flyer”—was successfully launched near Kitty Hawk, NC, in December 1903, the Wright brothers made use of a piece of land called Huffman Prairie to improve upon their invention and, later, to open a flight training school for military pilots. In 1917, the U.S. Army leased the land for its Army Air Corps, renaming the property Wright Field, short for Wilbur Wright Field. (I’m not sure why Wilbur was singled out, but I’m guessing it’s because, by that time, Wilbur had passed away of typhoid fever at the young age of 45, and they probably thought it would be a nice gesture.)
The Patterson part comes from a guy named Frank Stuart Patterson, a test pilot who was the son and nephew of the men who started National Cash Register. Patterson died in 1918, when the plane he was flying crashed in…wait for it…Wright Field. To memorialize him, the Army carved out a slice of Wright Field, renaming it Patterson Field. After the end of WWII, in 1947, the U.S. Air Force separated from the U.S. Army, becoming its own branch of the military. A year later, Wright Patterson AFB was created, and—I think you can see where this is going—the two airfields were rejoined, and a couple adjacent properties were added. (If you’re really into the specifics, I recommend you read this historical document commemorating Wright Patt’s 100-year anniversary. Also, if you haven’t visited it yet, the National Museum of the United States Air Force, which is on its premises, is amazing.)
Before I write another word, I need to make the following statement: Wright Patterson Air Force Base is a world-class hub of aviation ingenuity, leadership, and training that has been a huge asset to the state of Ohio as well as the country. (My mother grew up in Dayton, and her grave-spinning would have commenced immediately if I didn’t take care of that.) Yet, despite its sterling reputation, Wright Patt has had its share of controversies, some of which may involve the CIA’s mind control program, not to mention other related programs. (Sorry, Mom—I love and miss you, but I still have to go there.)
One such controversy has to do with U.S. activities following WWII, and—spoiler alert!—if this is the first time you’re hearing about this and you’re an idealist with a clear, black-and-white view of right versus wrong, prepare to be outraged. After the war, as one part of the U.S. government was very publicly taking part in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals for the atrocities they’d committed on prisoners in concentration camps, other parts of our government were surreptitiously involved in quite the opposite activity. Some members of the military, the Office of Strategic Services (the CIA’s forerunner), and others on what was called the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency had decided that the United States’ next nemesis would be the Communists, and they speculated about whether all of the science the Nazis had been involved with—including the horrific human experiments—shouldn’t still be put to use somehow. They also didn’t like the thought of seeing the Soviets and Chinese luring those scientists over to their side and using them against us. So, they decided to bring some of the Nazis to the United States (and by “some,” I mean more than 1600) to start mining their knowledge. The endeavor was called Operation Paperclip, named for the process by which sanitized cover sheets were attached to the Nazis’ paperwork to help disguise their fascist backgrounds and speed up the approval process for U.S. entry. Some of the scientists were aeronautical engineers who were later credited with significantly improving our understanding of aviation technology and enabling the U.S. to achieve space travel. (One engineer, named Wernher von Braun, went on to head up NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The National Space Society has created an award in his name.) Others were medical doctors, some of whom had taken part in heinous human experiments without informed consent that could be considered a blueprint for the CIA’s mind control efforts. So yeah…a mixed bag.
According to Annie Jacobsen, author of Operation Paperclip, The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America, Wright Field was one of the primary destinations for these German men of science and engineering early on. “In the fall of 1946, of the 233 Nazi scientists in America, 140 were at Wright Field,” she writes. Many who arrived at Wright Field were aeronautical engineers, however others would have medical expertise. That’s because the Aero Medical Laboratory there, which had been established by Major General Malcom Grow, the surgeon general of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe, and Lt. Col. Harry Armstrong, the laboratory’s first commander, would be seeking new recruits. During the war, the laboratory had been instrumental in developing equipment that protected airmen from both physiological stressors, such as flying in high altitudes, to the physical ones, such as withstanding artillery fire, and now, writes Jacobsen, the two men “saw unprecedented opportunity in seizing everything that the Nazis had been working on in aviation research so as to incorporate that knowledge into U.S. Army Air Force’s understanding.”
Several of the German scientists who were brought to Wright Field’s Aero Medical Laboratory (as indicated in this historical document) were the same ones who’d been recruited by Grow at the war’s end for the establishment of a similar laboratory in Heidelberg. Those names probably won’t mean much to you—Willie Buehring/Buehrung, Otto Gauer, Ulrich Henschke, Hans Mauch, and Henry Seeler—however, you may have heard of a few of their bosses. Theodor Benzinger, Siegfried Ruff, and Hubertus Strughold (the one-time director of the Aviation Medical Research Institute of the Reich Air Ministry), were part of the scientific leadership at the Heidelberg laboratory and they have all been linked to war crimes. (You can page through a book documenting the Aero Medical Laboratory in Heidelberg from 1945 to 1947, with photos of all of the above people. By the way, after Strughold was brought to the States, he was named head of the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph AFB, in San Antonio, and later, chief scientist at NASA. The former war criminal had managed to rebrand himself as the Father of Space Medicine.)
If the above Wright Patt Paperclip scientists weren’t involved in the insidious experiments in wartime Germany, they obviously rubbed elbows with those who had been, as you can see in the Heidelberg photos. However, it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves. As far as I can tell, none of the above medical researchers brought to Wright Patt under the guise of Operation Paperclip have been linked to Nazi war crimes. However, each man is listed on the Federation of American Scientists War Crimes chart with the following caveat: “This is a listing of file subjects compiled by the Interagency Working Group on Nazi War Crimes for which files exist at the National Archives. It should not be inferred that any individual listed below is a war criminal.”
That said, there may also be evidence that at least three of the more notorious Nazi doctors had at least some interaction with Wright Field. In the April 1985 issue of the journal Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, this detail was included in an article about Project Paperclip:
“…then on June 2, 1946, Brig. Gen. N.B. Harbold, in a memo from AAF Headquarters to the War Department, asked that Konrad Schaefer ‘be contracted for Project Paperclip for exploitation at Wright Field’ in Ohio but be permitted to continue his work at the Aero Center until November 1. On June 14, Harbold sent an identical secret memo to request Paperclip contracts for [Hermann] Becker-Freysing [sic] and Ruff.”
I can’t tell if Harbold’s secret memos were actually requesting that Schaefer, Becker-Freyseng, and Ruff be physically relocated to Dayton sometime after November 1, 1946, or if they were to be “exploited” remotely. But it’s a question worth asking, since all three were considered war criminals. I have some research to conduct in that regard. But, at least at this point, it’s safe to say that Wright Patterson was home base for a hefty number of Nazis not long after the end of WWII.
Was Wright Patterson AFB involved in MKULTRA?
As you know by now, the question of whether Wright Patterson AFB was involved in MKULTRA is not easy to address, since the majority of evidence concerning BLUEBIRD, ARTICHOKE, and MKULTRA was summarily destroyed in 1973. This, by the way, should tell you a lot about MKULTRA. I mean, if a secret program focused on sneaking Nazis into the United States a little over a year after the end of WWII was willing to come clean with the American public, but MKULTRA wasn’t, well, MKULTRA must have been truly awful. But we already knew that.
Thankfully, there are remnants that can be patched together to form some sort of picture. And these remnants have led me to believe that MKULTRA was alive and well and walking the hallways of Wright Patterson AFB. Let’s take things step by logical step, as I share my evidence, from the general to the specific. And again, keep in mind that this evidence is cursory. I intend to dig deeper and to FOIA, FOIA, and, if all else fails, FOIA some more (and then appeal).
1. The military brass, including the USAF, was at the table.
We know that the Air Force, Army, and Naval intelligence were all represented at MKULTRA meetings, as is indicated by this memo, date stamped Feb. 18, 1952. The memo is difficult to read, but the important part is under bullet 2a. It reads:
On 2 April 1951, Project Artichoke was discussed at an Executive Session of the Intelligence Advisory Committee attended by the members representing G-2 [Army Intelligence], ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence], A-2 [Air Force Intelligence], and the FBI. Except for the FBI which indicated no interest, the members agreed to assist and to appoint a representative to work with CIA on the project.
In John Marks’ book, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, he expounded on this:
There was bureaucratic warfare outside the CIA as well, although there were early gestures toward interagency cooperation. In April 1951, the CIA Director approved liaison with the Army, Navy, and Air Force intelligence to avoid duplication of effort. The Army and Navy were both looking for truth drugs, while the prime concern of the Air Force was the interrogation techniques used on downed pilots. Representatives of each service attended regular meetings to discuss ARTICHOKE matters. The Agency also invited the FBI, but J. Edgar Hoover’s men stayed away.
2. The USAF was funding ARTICHOKE/MKULTRA experiments.
There’s scant evidence regarding financial support from non-CIA sponsors in the MKULTRA documents that have survived, but I suppose that makes sense. The documents that remained were the CIA’s financial records. The target audience would have been the agency’s bean counters, who were most concerned about their own expenses. However among the MKULTRA subprojects listed in The Project MKULTRA Compendium (Stephen Foster, ed.), at least two projects were either funded or considered for funding by the Air Force.
Subproject 129 Subproject 129 is described as “Computer analysis of bioelectric response patterns: significance for polygraph.” While the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a CIA front organization, ponied up $2505 for the project, the USAF Office of Scientific Research paid over ten times that amount, or $27,500. Even though the researcher and university are redacted, a little sleuthing from the grant proposal (and a listing of publication titles he included) turns up the name Herbert Zimmer, an associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University. The sponsor representing the Air Force Office of Scientific Research was Albert Biderman, who coauthored a book with Zimmer, titled The Manipulation of Human Behavior, on the techniques used to manipulate Air Force POWS during the Korean War.
Subproject 68 Subproject 68, which was led by Ewen Cameron of McGill University, in Montreal, is one of the most infamous of all the MKULTRA projects. Cameron was conducting psychic driving experiments in which he played repetitious sounds to patients and then tried to psychologically break them down through additional means, in this case, LSD-25. His patients were often severely and permanently damaged, and class-action lawsuits continue to this day. The CIA paid Cameron $60,000 to perform this research. Under “Other Sponsors” is the Allan Memorial Institute of Psychiatry, which is Cameron’s institute, as well as this notation: “17 August 1960 Memorandum for the Record indicates the U.S. Air Force was considering co-sponsorship of effort.” It’s not clear if the Air Force followed through or if they came to their senses and walked away.
Fun fact! On the bottom of both of those projects, is the name C.V.S Roosevelt, who is listed as an approver. That’s Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt, or Corney for short. Corney was head of the CIA’s Technical Services Division for a period, and ostensibly, Sidney Gottlieb’s supervisor. Judging by the number of times he approved the various subprojects, ol’ Corney was up to his neck in MKULTRA.
Interrogation Methods Study
The third example of relevant USAF-funded research is this December 18, 1953, memo that appears to be between two Air Force personnel, one of whom was Col. A.P. Gagge. There are a couple interesting coincidences tied to this memo. First, you’ll note in his obituary that Gagge had been chief of biophysics at Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory before moving onward and upward to the top spot of the Human Factors Division of the Air Force’s R&D Directorate, which is his position in 1953. In addition, the memo, which discusses interrogation research, refers to a study that was conducted by Douglas Ellson, of Indiana University, for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The Ellson study was on the physiological detection of deception, and the letter writer is interested in having the Air Force make use of the Ellson equipment—the main piece being a commercial lie detector—for their study. He adds that the CIA could benefit as well. As it so happens, Professor Ellson had graduated from Miami University in psychology in 1935 and he had been a student of St. Clair Switzer. Eventually, he, too, had received his Ph.D. under Clark Hull.
3. Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory sponsored LSD research.
In his book, The CIA Doctors, Colin A. Ross, M.D., points to one LSD study supported by Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory as evidence of military involvement in the CIA’s mind control program. The resulting research paper, entitled “Cognitive Test Performance Under LSD-25, Placebo, and Isolation,” was published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease in January 1966. The author, Leo Goldberger, Ph.D., also happened to be an unwitting participant in MKULTRA research conducted at both McGill and Cornell Universities when he was a graduate student. Goldberger wrote an essay in 1991 about his experience, although, in it, he also argues that the LSD and sensory deprivation research he conducted for the Air Force and other entities was “carried out under quite legitimate auspices, governmental and otherwise. Not everything in these areas of research was tainted by CIA moneys.” He added that the Air Force found the studies useful for the selection of astronauts for the Mercury space program.
4. Wright Patterson experimented with germ warfare.
One extension of the MKULTRA program, called MKNAOMI, focused on the testing and stockpiling of biological and chemical agents for potential use against U.S. adversaries. You may remember that one of the first casualties of the MKULTRA experiments was Frank Olson, a bioweapons expert at Fort Detrick, MD. (Olson is the guy who’d been given LSD by Sidney Gottlieb and his deputy, Robert Lashbrook, at a cabin retreat in November 1953, and who subsequently died from a fall out of a 10th story NYC hotel window.) In August 1955, Wright Patterson was one of several sites in which so-called “harmless” bacteria were released by the Army. [One of the bacterial species that was used, Serratia Marcescens, is now a recognized pathogen.] Here’s what a March 9, 1977, newswire article reported:
An Army spokesman yesterday said, ‘The reason they used the agent simulants was because they were harmless and easily detectable.’
He said the purpose of the Wright Patterson test—like all of the other tests conducted over the 20-year period—was to determine ‘how far and how fast a biological substance might travel.’
The spokesman, Lt. Col. Hugh Waite, said no other details are available regarding the outcome of the Wright-Patterson test.”
Another interesting coincidence is that, at that time of the above experiment, a highly-regarded physiologist named David Bruce Dill was employed as director of research for the U.S. Army Chemical Research and Development Laboratory, Edgewood Arsenal, a facility that conducted bioweapons testing on humans. Earlier in his career, from 1941 to 1945, Dr. Dill had served at Wright Patterson’s Aero Medical Laboratory. Weirder still, according to author H.P. Albarelli, Jr., in A Terrible Mistake,The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments, Dill was one of the attendees at a 1952 retreat, much like the retreat in the fall of 1953, to discuss “the use of psychochemicals as a new concept of warfare.” Among the others who attended were: Gottlieb, Lashbrook, and Frank Olson.
I’m not saying that Dill was one of the persons behind the Wright Patterson exercise or that he was involved in the drugging of Olson. I’m just saying that there appears to be a great deal of overlap between people in the world of MKULTRA and this is another area that may call for more digging.
5. A woman who was experimented on as a child remembers going to Wright Patterson for “tune ups.”
Lastly, and most tragically, is the experience of Carol Rutz, who says that, as a child, she was the subject of experimentation through the CIA and MKULTRA. The details are horrifying. Rutz claims that, because she’d been sexually abused by family members beginning at a very young age, Sidney Gottlieb and his associates had deemed her an excellent candidate for MKULTRA. The reason for this, they figured, was that she would have a tendency to “dissociate,” which is to bury the trauma and to create alter egos that could be used for their nefarious purposes. Here’s the passage from a 2003 lecture she gave at Indiana University that caught my attention:
Over the next twelve years, I was tested, trained, and used in various ways. All the programming that was done to me by the CIA was to split my personality making me a compliant slave. It was trauma-based using things like electroshock, sensory deprivation, and drugs. Later the trauma wasn’t necessary, only hypnosis accomplished with implanted triggers and occasional tune-ups that took place at Wright Patterson Air Force Base not far from my home.I became a human experiment—part of their search for a way to take control of a man‘s mind. During the course of these experiments they created alters to do their bidding—Manchurian Candidates is an appropriate term.
Fortunately, Ms. Rutz was able to overcome these horrific experiences, and she has led a healthy, happy adult life. However, when I contacted her to see if she might be willing to tell me more about Wright Patterson, she let me know that she was retired and no longer doing interviews. She also said that she’d already written everything that she could remember about Wright Patterson. Her book, fascinating as it was, provided no additional details on Wright Patterson.
Was Wright Patterson involved in MKULTRA? And if so, could it be the missing link between the CIA and St. Clair Switzer? As I said earlier, the above evidence is cursory and needs to be further researched. If you or someone you know has information on any of the above topics—if any of the above resonates with you—I’d love to hear from you. Or if you have an opinion about my reasoning or anything else, I’d love to hear about that too. Feel free to weigh in starting…now!
A Good Man primer on the CIA’s mind control program and the universities that took part
I know what you’re thinking. “A primer about MKULTRA? YAHOO!
Well, actually, that’s probably not what you’re thinking. Very few people on this planet truly appreciate a good primer. No one ever looked forward to curling up on a rainy day with a primer. No primer has ever won a Pulitzer. Some of you may have taken one look at the above title and decided to walk away until April 19th, when you can finally see for yourself the evidence that I’ve been dangling over your heads for lo these many months and then be done with it. And I guess that’d be OK. (If you do choose to skip this one, please be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post first for an update on what to expect that day.)
But please don’t go just yet. Because A.) you’d be hurting my feelings, and B.) primers can be super useful tools. They provide background details and references you can consult if you want to know more. And you can pick and choose what topic to read up on and what to skip till later. For the people who stick it out and read the 5000-plus words I have in store for you today, you’re going to be way ahead of the game. How so? Because when I post the two CIA documents on the 19th, you’re going to immediately understand their significance and why the information contained in them is newsworthy. While everyone else is busy looking up who a particular past researcher was, you’re going to be all, “Oh. My. GOSH! So-and-so is mentioned in the same document as What’s-his-name? Incredible!” And I’ll be like, “I know, right?!?” It’ll be amazing. So, Yahoo? Ya betcha!
Do I consider myself to be an MKULTRA expert? Not even a little. This topic is daunting and depressing and scary as hell. But I’ve learned at least a few things that I think will (in a couple short weeks) help us put things in perspective Tammen-wise. That said, I also recognize that I’m perfectly capable of oversimplifying a complex topic in order to wrap my ever-shrinking brain around it, and there’s a reasonable chance that I could do so here. If you feel that I’ve left out an important point or that I could do a better job of boiling things down, please feel free to add your two cents in the comments and I’ll make amends.
And now, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know to be conversant about one of the most egregious programs ever to come out of the CIA.
What was MKULTRA?
MKULTRA was the name of the CIA’s notorious mind control program that started in the early 1950s. There were similar programs that pretty much fit under the MKULTRA umbrella, but MKULTRA is the one that has received the most press. Of all the CIA’s mind control programs, MKULTRA was the top dog, the big kahuna.
In 1977, the Senate held a Joint Hearing on MKULTRA, referring to it as the CIA’s “Program of Research in Behavioral Modification.” Mind control, behavior modification—either description is apt, since it’s all about a person or persons having control over someone’s thoughts and actions.
What was the purpose of MKULTRA?
When MKULTRA and related programs were instituted, the United States was in the throes of the Korean War, and the powers that be were concerned about preventing U.S. intelligence from getting into enemy hands. Conversely, they also had a desire to obtain as much information as possible from the other side. They knew that one key way in which this potential transfer of information could take place was during the interrogation of prisoners.
The CIA wondered if techniques such as hypnosis and drugs could help prevent agency personnel and others from saying too much to potential captors while, if used in an alternative way, encouraging enemy operatives to share state secrets as openly as if they were shooting the breeze over a game of Canasta. As the CIA got further into things, their goals for the program crept into other areas. In the Senate Report, MKULTRA was described as “concerned with the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.”
Why was it called MKULTRA?
The CIA likes to assign bizarre names—called cryptonyms—to its programs to keep everyone in the dark about what they’re up to. One might be tempted to think that the MK is an abbreviation for “mind control,” but that would be way too obvious. Rather, MK is a digraph for the division of the CIA that oversaw the MKULTRA program, which was the Technical Services Staff (TSS), later renamed the Technical Services Division. As for the“ULTRA” part, during WWII, that word was used by British intelligence when referring to the highly sensitive information derived from encrypted German signals after they’d been decoded. Such info was also described as being “ultra secret.” With the CIA employing so many seemingly off-the-wall cryptonyms to describe its programs, the name MKULTRA seems to stand out as one that holds more meaning than most. The fact that they felt that this particular program should be held to a higher level of secrecy is especially noteworthy, since they pretty much feel that every single program they’re involved with is top secret, exempt from FOIA, and, to put it exceedingly mildly, nobody’s business but their own.
How was Project MKULTRA initiated?
In an April 3, 1953, memo written to CIA Director Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, then deputy director of the CIA, described some program activities as being “of such an ultra-sensitive nature” that they needed to be handled a little differently than the CIA’s usual way of handling outside contracts. He guesstimated that roughly 6 percent of their projects fell under this overall description whereby “they cannot and should not be handled by means of contracts which would associate CIA or the Government with the work in question.”
Helms then described the two categories as:
“Research to develop a capability in the covert use of chemical and biological materials.” [Read the full paragraph below.] And
Sorry, you don’t get to know about category B. [See the redacted paragraph below.]
Helms then laid out a plan by which the fewest number of people possible should know about the intentions of the government, including most of the people who were doing the actual work and where TSS should be given carte blanche to authorize the payment of invoices that fall within these two categories. The project would be called MKULTRA and TSS’s only restriction was that they stay within 6 percent of their approved budget. He closed with “The establishment and approval of Project MKULTRA will allow TSS to undertake highly desirable and necessary research in these two sensitive fields which would not be possible unless the work can be handled in this manner.” [Read the entire document here.]
On April 10, 1953—a Friday—CIA Director Allen Dulles stood before the National Alumni Conference of the Graduate Council of Princeton University in Hot Springs, Virginia. In his speech, titled “Brain Warfare,” Dulles treated attendees to frightening tales of how the Soviets and Chinese were able to both break down individuals’ old belief systems through extreme interrogation practices and instill new belief systems through indoctrination. In so doing, they were able to induce American citizens and others of the free world to make false confessions and even renounce their democratic ideals.
“This campaign for men’s minds, with its two particular manifestations, has such far reaching implications that it is high time for us to realize what it means and the problems it presents in thwarting our own program for spreading the gospel of freedom.”
The following Monday, April 13, 1953, Dulles put his official stamp of approval to Richard Helms’ April 3 memo, ramping up the government’s activities in mind and behavior control. [Read the April 13, 1953, memo here.]
What were the other related programs that fell under the mind control umbrella?
The way most people have described these programs is that BLUEBIRD was the first, which gave way to ARTICHOKE, which then evolved into MKULTRA. However, that explanation is a tad too simplistic, since, even after MKULTRA had gotten its official start, ARTICHOKE was still going strong.
BLUEBIRD, the first of the mind control programs, was authorized on April 20, 1950. According to the report of the Senate Select Committee on MKULTRA, dated August 3, 1977: “Its objectives were: (a) discovering means of conditioning personnel to prevent unauthorized extraction of information from them by known means, (b) investigating the possibility of control of an individual by application of special interrogation techniques, (c) memory enhancement, and (d) establishing defensive means for preventing hostile control of Agency personnel.” A fifth goal was then added: “the evaluation of offensive uses of unconventional interrogation techniques, including hypnosis and drugs.”
ARTICHOKE was officially on the books as of August 20, 1951, with the renaming of Project BLUEBIRD. ARTICHOKE was principally involved with “in-house experiments on interrogation techniques conducted ‘under medical and security controls which would ensure that no damage was done to individuals who volunteer for the experiments.’ Overseas interrogations utilizing a combination of sodium pentothal and hypnosis after physical and psychiatric examinations of the subjects were also part of ARTICHOKE.” The report says that “the CIA maintains that the project ended in 1956.” however, it also asserts that “special interrogation techniques” continued for several more years.
As for the other programs:
MKNAOMI had to do with the stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons “for specific use by the Technical Services Division.” The CIA was assisted in this venture by the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, MD, the same place where Frank Olson had worked.
MKDELTA was the program that oversaw the use of MKULTRA materials overseas. According to the Senate Report, this program probably began in 1953, and maybe as early as 1950.
MKSEARCH is probably the least-often mentioned program associated with CIA mind control. Interestingly, it was the name that replaced MKULTRA in 1964, which just goes to show us how some efforts at rebranding don’t work out very well.
When did these programs finally end?
In November 1969, President Nixon called for the end of the use and stockpiling of bioweapons, which brought MKNAOMI to a halt in 1970. As for MKULTRA/MKSEARCH, according to former CIA Director Stansfield Turner, the program ran until 1972, 22 years after the start of BLUEBIRD.
When were the MKULTRA documents destroyed?
In January 1973, Sidney Gottlieb, who headed up TSS’s chemical division, ordered all documents pertaining to the program to be destroyed in an effort to keep MKULTRA from the public. This was at the behest of then-CIA director Richard Helms, whom, as you’ll recall, was the guy who authored the memo that put MKULTRA into motion. Thankfully, they’d forgotten about the financial documents, underscoring the happy truths that everyone makes mistakes and what goes around eventually comes back around. Oh, and as for karma? It’s a comfort to know that she is and always has been quite the little bitch.
Why would someone give MKULTRA the green light?
Allen Dulles’ Brain Warfare speech serves as an excellent example of Cold War logic and the code-red-level fear of Communism it incited. Also, weird stuff had been happening. In 1949, Josef Cardinal Mindszenty, leader of the Catholic church in Hungary and staunch opponent to Communism, was tried for treason by the Soviets, and his dazed expression and willingness to admit to acts he hadn’t committed led many to believe he’d been drugged or hypnotized.
In 1952, it was widely reported that American POWs had been recorded admitting that the United States had been using germ warfare, such as disease-carrying bombs, on the Koreans. The government vehemently denied such activities and claimed that the prisoners had been forced into such confessions. As Dulles described in his speech:
“Here American boys—their identity is beyond doubt—stand up before the members of an international investigatory group of Communists from Western Europe and the Satellites and make open confessions, fake from beginning to end, giving the details of the alleged dropping of bombs with bacteriological ingredients on North Korean targets. They describe their indoctrination in bacteriological warfare, give all the details of their missions, their flight schedules, where they claim to have dropped the germ bombs, and other details. As far as one can judge from the film, these pseudo confessions are voluntary. There is little prompting from the Communist interrogators.”
As far as everyone was concerned, brainwashing—a term first used in September 1950 by CIA-paid journalist and author Edward Hunter—seemed like the only plausible explanation.
So, were the Cardinal Mindszenty and the POWs actually brainwashed?
Cardinal Mindszenty had indeed been treated harshly by his Soviet captors. A fellow captive, Father Bela Ispanky, told of his and the cardinal’s unspeakable treatment in a 1956 interview with the International News Service:
“I saw the room. I heard the crackle of high voltage electric current as it passed through his frail body. I heard the cardinal’s voice as they tried to break him in the room adjoining my own with third degree treatment. The next day I was in the same torture chamber, where I saw the tell-tale marks. The wall behind the electric activating switch was completely blackened by fresh burn marks indicating the current had been on for a long, long time.”
As for the POWs, this topic remains controversial, and some researchers contend that the prisoners were telling the truth and that the CIA’s claims that they were brainwashed were designed to both cover up for U.S. bioweapons activities in Korea AND to justify the CIA’s mind control experiments back home and elsewhere. [A recently released report on the topic of bioweapons can be found here.] Frank Olson’s son Eric believes that bioweapons were the reason behind his father’s death in November 1953. According to the Netflix documentary series Wormwood (spoiler alert), Frank Olson was slipped LSD in his drink, not so much because the CIA wanted to test the drug on a bunch of unsuspecting bureaucrats on retreat, but because of Olson’s knowledge of and outrage over the U.S.’s (alleged) use of bioweapons in Korea. The documentary contends that CIA representatives were using LSD as a truth serum to find out if Frank was planning to blow the lid off the government’s (alleged) bioweapons activities. Within the week, Frank Olson would (allegedly) “jump” from the tenth floor of Manhattan’s Hotel Statler.
What sorts of activities did MKULTRA and its related programs fund?
We’ll probably never know the complete truth behind MKULTRA. If you peruse the documents that are available and read some of the passages on the creative ways the CIA hatched to control people’s thoughts and actions, you’ll be sufficiently creeped out. But these are just the financial files. The Senate Report on MKULTRA described how the CIA maintained two documents on a project: one went to TSS, and the other version, which was said to be sanitized, went to the financial division. As former Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania said at the time: “I wonder what the real files contain.”
To this day, even certain portions of the so-called sanitized versions of these documents remain redacted, so I’m sure we’re missing out on some mind-blowing details. Nevertheless, what we do know is that there were 149 subprojects that ran the gamut from hypnotizing unwilling subjects to giving LSD to prisoners in Kentucky to constructing safe houses of prostitution to any number of assorted, sordid projects. [Find the full list of subprojects in Appendix C of the Senate Report, here.]
Who oversaw MKULTRA?
As we’ve discussed above, the office most closely associated with MKULTRA for the longest period of time is the Technical Services Staff (TSS), which was renamed the Technical Services Division and, later, the Office of Technical Services. (Is it just me or does the CIA like to change its org chart on occasion to keep us all guessing about that too?) However, it all began when the Office of Security and its director, Sheffield Edwards, initiated Project BLUEBIRD in April 1950 as a way of corralling agency-wide interest in the operational use of hypnosis. With an eye mostly on protecting the agency from infiltrators, Edwards set up interrogation teams consisting of a psychiatrist, a polygraph operator who specialized in hypnosis, and a technician. But make no mistake, the security folks were very interested in understanding what was happening on the world stage in the area of mind control and getting ahead of that ball.
In March 1951, the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), which, as its name implies, was composed mainly of science types as opposed to the law and order guys in security, took over BLUEBIRD and, later, ARTICHOKE. The security office, whose official name at that time was the Inspection and Security Office (IS&O), continued to do a lot of the leg work, however. This is why we have Commander Robert Jay Williams, who was with OSI and listed as project coordinator of ARTICHOKE at that time, in the “To” line of a March 1952 document that I believe links an associate of Ronald Tammen’s to that program.
Unfortunately, people are people, no matter how well-run the bureaucracy, and there were growing signs of friction between the two offices. OSI complained that IS&O wasn’t making enough progress on the science pertaining to ARTICHOKE techniques—they were mostly practicing hypnosis on staff and working on a training video—while IS&O felt that OSI wasn’t giving them enough information to work with. On October 29, 1952, ARTICHOKE was handed back over to IS&O, however, not for long. According to John Marks’ book, a couple years later, it was transferred to “yet another CIA outfit full of Ph.D.’s with operational experience”—TSS. Also, when MKULTRA was approved in April 1953, it, too, was given to TSS, which is where the program remained until it came to an end in 1972.
Which people oversaw it?
We’ve already discussed Sheffield Edwards and Commander Robert Jay Williams, who, I might add, had never been spoken of online with regard to his role in ARTICHOKE before we did on this blogsite. (We rock, y’all!) However, the person who was most in the trenches during MKULTRA’s formative years was Morse Allen, a security guy who, according to John Marks, headed up BLUEBIRD at the end of 1950, before it was handed over to OSI. Even after that happened, it was Allen who was often overseeing IS&O’s part of the collaboration, and, even though his name is often redacted, he appears to be the author on many memos that have survived from that period. Allen was born on March 6, 1910, in Washington, D.C., served in WWII, and was employed as a civil servant before signing on with the CIA. He was super zealous about the possibilities of hypnosis, and apparently had become fairly good at the technique himself. (Unfortunately, there isn’t much that I can link to online to provide additional background on Allen. I will, however embed the CIA’s initial response to author H.P. Albarelli’s 2015 FOIA request on Allen from the website MuckRock.com, because it also shows how difficult the CIA chooses to be in handling a simple request on a person who is well known to the CIA. He got the same treatment I got for Commander Robert Jay Williams. There was no other Morse Allen. Would they send the same reply for a request about Allen Dulles, I wonder?)
Once MKULTRA was approved, the person most involved was Sidney Gottlieb. Gottlieb didn’t head all of TSS at first—that was Willis Gibbons, a former executive with U.S. Rubber. Rather, he headed the chemical division of TSS, the arm that had direct oversight of MKULTRA, most likely because drugs and other chemicals played such a big role in the program. Gottlieb was an enigmatic man with eclectic interests, from raising goats to folk dancing to spearheading humanitarian efforts and it’s difficult to understand how he rationalized his work life with how he spent his time off hours. Nevertheless, the times were strange back then, and he believed in what he did, right up to the end. Robert Lashbrook, the man who was with Frank Olson on his fateful night, was Gottlieb’s former deputy.
What other government organizations took part?
Military intelligence collaborated with the CIA in these programs, including Army, Navy, and Air Force intelligence. According to John Marks’ book, the Army and Navy were most interested in “truth drugs,” while the Air Force was concerned with “interrogation techniques used on downed pilots.”
Which universities have been identified as having conducted research through MKULTRA so far?
In 1977, it was widely reported that 80 institutions played some role in MKULTRA, a number that included 44 colleges and universities. Because the ties to the CIA were often hidden by intermediary funding sources, many of these schools and the researchers themselves had no idea that they were linked to such a program. They were referred to as unwitting. The names of the institutions that have been publicly identified, and which then–CIA Director Stansfield Turner claimed were notified by the CIA in 1977 of their involvement, are listed below. Note that we still don’t have all 44 colleges or universities identified. (Sources: MKULTRA Briefing Book; The CIA Doctors, by Colin A. Ross; The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, by John Marks; NY Times; Alliance for Human Research Protection.)
University of Delaware
University of Denver
George Washington University
University of Florida
University of Georgia (the word “Leler” inexplicitly precedes the university’s name in most lists)
University of Helsinki
University of Houston
University of Illinois
University of Indiana
Johns Hopkins University
University of London
University of Maryland
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
McGill University, Montreal
University of Minnesota
Montana State College
University of Nijmegen Netherlands
Ohio State University
University of Oklahoma
University of Richmond
University of Rochester
Texas Christian University
University of Texas
University of Wisconsin
Who were some of the best-known university researchers with MKULTRA ties?
Many university researchers were connected to MKULTRA, however, most were considered unwitting participants, since they had no idea who they were working for. Here are three university researchers who seemed to be more witting than most in their activities. As illustrious as the rest of their careers may have been, their names have been indelibly linked to, and almost synonymous with, MKULTRA.
D. Ewen Cameron was a world famous psychiatrist who had immigrated to Canada in 1929 from Scotland. He was director of the Allan Memorial Institute, McGill University’s psychiatric facility, from 1943 to 1964. So revered was he in his field, he was elected president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, and the World Psychiatric Association. Cameron treated his psychiatric patients through a process called “depatterning,” in which he would subject them to drug-induced sleep and electroshock therapy to a point where they would be reduced to a childlike state. He’d received MKULTRA funding through Subproject 68, which was “to study the effect upon human behavior of the repetition of verbal signals,” a procedure he called “psychic driving” in which he played audio signals to patients on continuous loop for hours each day, every day, for weeks or even months. Needless to say, the harm he inflicted on his patients was profound. In May 2018, victims and their family members launched a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government for its role in helping fund his unconscionable experiments.
George Estabrooks was the chair of the psychology department at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. Estabrooks was a hypnosis expert, and, according to John Marks’ book, he’d advised the military on hypnosis since the early 1930s. In 1943, he wrote a book for public consumption on “Hypnotism,” in which, among other topics, he discussed potential military applications, including the creation of a multipersonality “Super Spy.” He described the process in great detail—not hypothetically, but from real-life experience—in this 1971 article from “Science Digest.” He also said, “I can hypnotize a man — without his knowledge or consent — into committing treason against the United States.” According to Colin A. Ross, M.D., author of “The CIA Doctors,” George Estabrooks is “the only psychiatrist or psychologist to have claimed in public that he created Manchurian Candidates.”
Louis Jolyon (“Jolly”) West was a renowned psychiatrist at the University of Oklahoma before becoming chair of UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institutein 1969. Before his move into academia, West had been a major in the U.S. Air Force, and had been stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where he studied the indoctrination of POWs who had converted to Communism. West was the investigator of MKULTRA Subproject 43, titled, “Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestibility.” His name became infamous when he accidentally killed a beloved Asian elephant named Tusko at the Oklahoma City Zoo using massive amounts of LSD. Here’s more on Jolly West.
Who were the victims?
Who are the usual victims when humans are inhumane to other humans? People who are most vulnerable. Prisoners. Prostitutes. People with mental health issues. Foreigners. So-called “sexual deviants.” Members of racial minorities. Lowly students in need of some cash. Anyone whom the CIA considered expendable seemed to be fair game.
How did researchers get funded?
As Richard Helms discussed in his April 3, 1953, memo to Allen Dulles, the CIA wanted to keep the actual funders of these research projects secret. As a result, CIA front organizations were established so that researchers would be none the wiser about where the money was coming from. Two of the most well-known to help serve as intermediaries were the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology and the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research.
What is meant by the term “Manchurian Candidate”?
In 1959, author Richard Condon wrote his bestselling novel “The Manchurian Candidate,” which was turned into a movie in 1962, and again in 2004. If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to watch it asap (the 1962 version, natch). The story is about Sergeant Raymond Shaw who’d been captured during the Korean War and, through hypnosis, is turned into a sleeper agent and political assassin by the Communists. (Fun fact: Angela Lansbury is actually three years younger than Laurence Harvey, even though she plays his mother in the film. Dang, that woman was good at her craft.)
What’s most amazing is that Condon, thinking he was making the story up, had pretty much nailed what the U.S. government had been working toward when he wrote his book. According to a 2010 article by author H.P. Albarelli and psychologist and investigative researcher Jeffrey S. Kaye, a March 1952 CIA document told of an OSI objective in which “‘Two hundred trained [CIA] operators, trained in the United States, could develop [and command] a unique, dangerous army of hypnotically controlled agents’ who would carry out any instructions they were given without reservations.” In the same article, the researchers told of another 1952 document in which an ARTICHOKE official wrote, “Let’s get into the technology of assassination.”
We also know of this document in which members of the ARTICHOKE team are investigating the possibility of creating an unwitting foreign assassin. That project failed, but who’s to say they didn’t try, try again?
Did the CIA ever succeed at creating a Manchurian candidate?
According to the CIA, they didn’t. But, honestly, do you think they’d tell us if they did? Let’s look at it this way: Did they have a desire to create hypnotically controlled assassins? We know that they did. Do we know of political assassinations during that period in which someone who was implicated in the killing appeared to have memory issues, or had been recently hypnotized? We have evidence of that too. Robert F. Kennedy’s and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassinations, both of which took place in 1968, have a possible hypnosis link. I mean, guys, it’s still me here. I need evidence before I buy into something. I know some of you are dyed-in-the-wool skeptics as well. But it’s a question worth looking into. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. These people are asking that the two cases, along with JFK’s and Malcolm X’s cases, be reopened as well.
Finally, this 1980 article posted online in the CIA’s reading room discusses highly-respected hypnosis expert Dr. Milton Kline, who was concerned about the CIA’s efforts in creating a Manchurian candidate. As to its feasibility, the article quotes Kline as saying, “It cannot be done by everyone. It cannot be done consistently, but it can be done.” Kline went on to say that “given the proper subject and circumstances, by using hypnosis he could produce such a killer in three to six weeks.”
So, again, I ask, if creating a hypnotically controlled Manchurian candidate can be done, and if the CIA was committing so many people and resources to making it happen, who’s to say that they didn’t achieve it?
What’s coming on April 19, 2019?
On April 19, I’ll be showing you all of my cards. Here’s the plan: at 8 a.m. ET (roughly—my automatic scheduler isn’t always precise), I’ll be posting the two documents that I think implicate someone Ronald Tammen knew in assisting with his disappearance, and I’ll spell out my current theory. In my view, this new information could potentially add at least one more university to the MKULTRA list, a university that many of you readers know…and love…and honor. I will also be sharing a couple people’s remembrances, one of which (I believe) places ARTICHOKE in the front yard of Fisher Hall in the fall of 1952.
From 1 to 2 p.m. ET, I’ll be hosting a Twitter chat, where you’ll be able to pose questions about those documents or anything else Tammen-related. You can take part in the conversation by tweeting and following the hashtag #Tammenchat. My social media adviser will be helping me out (thanks, sis!), but please keep in mind that neither of us is an expert at this. We just thought it would be fun to try. I’ll also leave comments open on the blog site just in case people prefer to have a discussion that way. I’ll answer as many questions as humanly possible. (Btw, my Twitter handle is @jwwenger. Please follow me! So far I have a small number of followers, and I’d love to drive that number up.)
If you happen to live or work anywhere near Oxford, Ohio, consider stopping by Mac & Joe’s during that hour (or a little after) and saying “hi.” I’ll be giving out some awesome Tammen key chains to the first 50 people. And if 50 people don’t stop by, well, I’ll give what’s left to the Mac & Joe’s waitstaff for being such good sports. It’s all good.
Then, on April 20, I’ll be putting the blog to bed. It’ll still be up and running, and I may add some different tools and functions and whatnot, but the posts will end and I’ll essentially be going back underground, subsisting mainly on roots and grubs. I’ll also be attempting to find an agent during that time and, you know, writing. The minute I hear from the interagency panel about whether they’ve supported my appeal to have the name revealed of my person of interest, I’ll post that update on the blog. If you follow me, you’ll be pinged, and we’ll all have our answer. If the news is good, there may be a party. I’ve always dreamed of getting all of my sources and loyal blog readers into one room for a giant meet and greet. We’ll see how it goes. As I’ve said before, this could take a while—years even.
Sound like a plan? Have I forgotten anything? Hope to see or tweet with you on the 19th!