The CIA's MKULTRA
program explored the
use of LSD and hypnosis
in covert operations.
The Mind Control Connection
Though certainly this is a remarkable document, its science-based approach to interrogation demonstrates a perspective common among national security officials when the manual was written. The manual was one of thousands of government efforts to apply behavioral science expertise to military and intelligence objectives deemed crucial in the early years of the Cold War.
In her survey of "the career of Cold War psychology," Ellen Herman reports that "between 1945 and the mid-1960s, the U.S. military was by far the country's major institutional sponsor of psychological research," spending at least $15.7 million on psychological studies in fiscal year 1961 alone. (13) The research explored topics ranging from the psychological traits of insurgents to the mental defenses against interrogation. The government made a similarly massive effort to enlist the field of communication studies to perfect U.S. propaganda and counterinsurgency programs. (14)
By 1963, when the manual was authored, the CIA counterintelligence staff had a sizable foundation of government-funded psychological research on which to base their guidebook. The manual's introduction states that "a principal source of aid [to interrogators] today is scientific findings. The intelligence service which is able to bring pertinent, modern knowledge to bear upon its problems enjoys huge advantages over a service which conducts its clandestine business in eighteenth century fashion." In fact, the manual argued, this knowledge "is of sufficient importance and relevance that it is no longer possible to discuss interrogation significantly without reference to the psychological research conducted in the past decade" (p. 2).
Accordingly, the manual explains, "a major purpose of this document is to focus relevant scientific findings upon CI [counterintelligence] interrogation." The manual does not explain that many of the "relevant scientific findings" that had become so useful for interrogators were the product of covert funding from the CIA. The bibliography of source materials for the manual is laced with the names of scientists involved with Project MKULTRA, the agency's secretive, multi-million dollar program of experiments in mind and behavior control. At this time it is impossible to state definitively how many of the authors in this bibliography were recipients of MKULTRA funds, as the CIA has destroyed and withheld many of their records on the program. (15) Other specialists listed in the bibliography received Pentagon grants for similar mind control research.
The published works of some of the CIA's most experienced and relied upon scientific contacts were put to use in the interrogation manual. Among this group were two noted Cornell University medical researchers, Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle, who authored the CIA's first major study on the indoctrination of prisoners of war. During the 1950s, "the team of Wolff and Hinkle became the chief brainwashing studiers for the U.S. government," according to John Marks, author of the definitive account of the CIA's mind control program. (16) Two of the most enthusiastic academic participants in MKULTRA, Wolff and Hinkle were the president and vice-president, respectively, of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, a CIA front organization.
Posing as a non-governmental scientific foundation, between 1955 and 1965 Human Ecology channeled CIA funds into dozens of MKULTRA studies. One researcher financed by Human Ecology, Harvard's Martin Orne, examined potential applications of hypnosis in interrogation. (17) A chapter summarizing his research forms the basis of the CIA manual's discussion of the uses of hypnosis (see pp. 96-98). Another Human Ecology grant went to Air Force researcher Albert Biderman to fund his study of "Social Psychological Needs and 'Involuntary' Behavior as Illustrated by Compliance in Interrogation" -- another article referred to in the manual. (18)
In another effort to improve its interrogation methods, the CIA sought help from John Lilly, a prominent researcher of the effects of sensory deprivation. (19) Lilly declined the offer of an MKULTRA contract, but one of his studies is cited in the interrogation manual nonetheless (see pp. 87-88).
Further evidence of the CIA's leading role in applying modern psychological research to interrogation is found in the manual's list of "other bibliographies" (p. 121). A 1960 report used to prepare the manual, "Brainwashing: A Guide to the Literature," was published by none other than the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology.
A prized product of the CIA's mind control research was the agency's Personality Assessment System (PAS), a means of measuring and classifying the mental makeup of individuals of interest to U.S. intelligence. Developed by CIA psychologist John Gittinger, the PAS was used to assess the intentions of foreign leaders and in selecting personnel for U.S.-backed security forces in countries including South Korea, Vietnam and Uruguay. (20)
An oblique reference in the interrogation manual suggests that the PAS, or a variant of the system, also had a role in the CIA's efforts to match interrogation methods with the particular psychological traits of interrogatees. The index of the manual lists a reference to an "Independent Assessment Program" on p. 30, but on that page all references to the program are deleted. The paragraph following the deleted portion begins with the words "Other psychological testing aids" -- suggesting that a PAS-like system is discussed in the text directly above. Given the manual's repeated instructions to probe and exploit the individual mindframe of the subject -- to place "a tap on the psychological jugular" -- it would not be surprising to find that yet another MKULTRA project, the PAS, was incorporated into CIA interrogation strategies.
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