MK Ultra Government Program of Research Behavioral Modification

Research to develop a capability in the covert use of bio-logical and chemical materials. This also involves the production of various physiological conditions which could support present or future clandestine operations. Aside from the offensive potential, the development of a comprehensive capability in this field of covert chemical and biological warfare gives us a thorough knowledge of the enemy’s theoretical potential, thus enabling us to defend ourselves against a foe who might not be as restrained in the use of these techniques as we are.

Part of the rationale for the establishment of this special funding mechanism was its extreme sensitivity. The Inspector General’s survey of MKULTRA in 1963and noted the following reasons for this sensitivity.

  • Research in the manipulation of human behavior is considered by many authorities in medicine and related fieldsto be professionally unethical, therefore the reputation of professional participants in the MIKULTRA-program are on occasion in jeopardy.
  • Some MKILTRA activities raise questions of legality implicit in the original charter.
  • A final phase of the testing of MKULTRA products places the rights and interests of U.S. citizens in jeopardy.
  • Public disclosure of some aspects of MKULTRA activity could induce serious adverse reaction in U.S. public opinion, as well as stimulate offensive and defensive action in this field on the part of foreign intelligence services.

Over the ten-year life of the program, many “additional avenues to the control of human behavior” were designated as appropriate for investigation under the MKULTRA charter. These include “radiation, electroshock, various fields of psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and anthropoloy, graphology, harassment substances, and paramilitary devices and materials.”

The research and development of materials to be used for altering human behavior consisted of three phases: first, the search for materials suitable for study; second, laboratory testing on voluntary human subjects in various types of institutions; third, the application of MKULTRA materials in normal life settings.

The next phase of the MKULTRA program involved physicians, toxicologists, and other specialists in mental, narcotics, and general hospitals, and in prisons. Utilizing the products and findings of the basic research phase, they conducted intensive tests on human subjects.

One of the first studies was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health. This study was intended to test various drugs, including hallucinogenics, at the NIMH Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky. The “Lexington Rehabilitation Center,” as it was then called, was a prison for drug addicts serving sentences for drug violations.

The test subjects were volunteer prisoners who, after taking a brief physical examination and signing a general consent form, were administered hallucinogenic drugs. As a reward for participation in the program, the addicts were provided with the drug of their addiction.

LSD was one of the materials tested in the MIKULTRA program.

The final phase of LSD testing involved surreptitious administration to unwitting non volunteer subjects in normal life settings by undercover officers of the Bureau of Narcotics acting for the CIA.

The rationale for such testing was “that testing of materials under accepted scientific procedures fails to disclose the full pattern of reactions and attributions that may occur in operational situations.”

According to the CIA, the advantage of the relationship with the Bureau was that test subjects could be sought and cultivated within the setting of narcotics control. Some subjects have been informers or members of suspect criminal elements from whom the [Bureau of Narcotics] has obtained results of operational value through the tests. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the
substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native American and foreign, is of great significance and testing has been performed an a variety of individuals within these categories.

The Rationale for the Testing Programs

The late 1940s and early 1950s were marked by concern over the threat posed by the activities of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and other Communist bloc countries. United States concern over the use of chemical and biological agents by these powers was acute. The belief that hostile powers had used chemical and biological agents in interrogations, brainwashing, and in attacks designed to harass, disable, or kill Allied personnel created considerable pressure for a “defensive” program to investigate chemical and biological
agents so that the intelligence community could understand the mechanisms by which these substances worked and how their effects could be defeated.,”

Of particular concern was the drug LSD. The CIA had received reports that the Soviet Union was engaged in intensive efforts to produce LSD; and that the Soviet Union had attempted to purchase the world’s supply of the chemical. As one CIA officer who was deeply involved in work with this drug described the climate of the times:

“It is awfully hard in this day and age to reproduce how frightening all of this was to us at the time, particularly after the drug scene has become as widespread and as knowledgeable in this country as it did. But we were literally terrified, because this was the one material that we had ever been able to locate that really had potential fantastic possibilities if used wrongly.” 


In order to meet the perceived threat to the national security, substantial programs for the testing and use of chemical and biological agents-including projects involving the surreptitious administration of LSD to unwitting non volunteer subjects “at all social levels,high and low, native American and foreign” were conceived, and implemented. These programs resulted in substantial violations of the rights of individuals within the United States.

The above is an excerpt from the “Joint hearing before the select committee on intelligence and the subcommittee on health and scientific research of the committee on human resources. United states senate, ninety-fifth congress, first session, august 3, 1977”

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