MK-Ultra, or lies my government told me
I love a good horror story. Now, personally I prefer fiction, but sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. As the title of the post suggests, we’re talking MK-Ultra since I love the absolute absurdity of the story and frankly it’s a great illustration of how little the common person knows about what the government does in the dark.
This is probably a horrible time to dive into MK-Ultra given the conflict going on at the moment, or maybe it’s a perfect time since it highlights the fact that governments in general are corrupt, by design frankly. Now, the US has a long and time honored tradition of experimenting on its citizens with or without their consent. The thing that makes MK-Ultra noteworthy isn’t the fact that this was going on without any real oversight or consent, it’s the fact that we almost never even learned about it… paperwork, it gets you every time.
Sadly we don’t know the scope of MK-Ultra, but for those who have never heard of it or only know the name, MKUltra was born during the time of great fear and wasn’t TECHNICALLY speaking something the government even knew about, it was a CIA project and was started in the 50’s ish, give or take, again we don’t really know much about it and the people involved aren’t very forthcoming because that whole legality issue.
Okay first, what was MK-Ultra? Well, besides a great name for a band, project MK-Ultra was a CIA project aimed at mind control. Basically we thought the Russians were experimenting with all sorts of sci-fi tech, think psychic forces, spoons bending with the mind, remote viewing, stuff of that nature. So not to be outdone, we decided to dip our toe into the water and see if we could brainwash, mind control, implant false memories, stuff like that. Methods included (but were not limited to) electroshock, straight up torture, psychedelics (which a lot of people thought were the key to the whole thing), and because this is America and our elected officials are prudes in public, but fucking disgusting behind closed doors, sexual abuse.
So what’s in a name? Well the Ultra in MK-Ultra was its classification, as in super duper classified literally “ultra” classified in other words. The MK is just the sponsor, which was technical service staff, a fancy division that handled disguises, tech, etc for clandestine operations. MK-Ultra wasn’t the end of the project either, it spun out into MKDelta (without the dash for whatever reason) and MKNAOMI.
MKDelta was a subset of research from MK-Ultra looking at the psychedelics aspect of torturing people and interrogation (see: brainwash). MKNAOMI was an interesting spin-off because they were looking at drugs that could specifically kill/incapacitate people. Specifically they were looking at ways to transport materials and it’s all very hush, hush, they watched one too many spy movies kind of stuff. Were the drugs from MKNAOMI tested on civilians? We don’t know! Which brings me to the how the hell did we even find out about this stuff anyway portion of the story.
You would think this couldn’t get any weirder, human testing, raping unexpecting american citizens, drugging them, literally torturing them just to see what happens, but it does. See when watergate went down in the 70’s there was some serious panic because a lot of people were doing a lot of very illegal things and while they were okay with doing them, even the most unethical person wouldn’t want to go to jail for it.
Then CIA Director Richard Helms (who looks exactly like you would imagine a person who would be cool with all this to look) ordered all MKUltra files destroyed. Thus ending the story of MK-Ultra and we never found out about it. Except we did… because of paperwork. A large (or small, we don’t know!) chunk of records had been incorrectly stored in a financial records building (roughly 20,000 pages). Therefore going undetected and leaving a small, but damming, paper trail. In 1977 a FOIA request uncovered them and MK-Ultra became known to the public. FOIA or freedom of information act once again saves the day and we all should hurrass the government for documents, it’s always morally correct to bully the government, always.
MK-Ultra was, to the best of our knowledge, first started in 1953 and didn’t end until 1973, so while 20,000 sounds like a lot, that probably isn’t even the tip of the iceberg, the CIA can probably generate that in a day, but thankfully the 20,000 pages were not exactly chronological so we got a somewhat good insight into the project activities or at least that’s the story. More of these activities were uncovered when the government finally stepped in to investigate. Because what happens in the dark is fine, but once the people know they need to pretend to do something about it (emphasis on pretend, nothing really came out of the investigations partly because everyone has bad memory when committing crimes).
Some notable and wild things that happened during MK-Ultra, people were drugging each other just for the hell of it. Seriously, it became a game or at least that’s how the story goes, again we don’t really know. What we do know is that at least one person, Frank Olson, an army biological weapons researcher, was dosed with LSD and jumped from a 13th-story window in 1953 (supposedly that was the starting year of MK-Ultra keep in mind…). His was (probably) not the only death, but one of the few we know about.
We can’t talk about Frank Olson without talking about how he (probably?) died. Which leads me to Operation midnight climax. Which is such a cringe name I’m already debating about just calling it the prostitution experiments. This was an attempt by the CIA to use prostitutes to lure in people, drug them and experiment on them, then let them go. Of course you would never talk about it because you were looking for a hooker, so the CIA took advantage of it.
How does this relate to Frank? Well, the story goes (or one of the stories anyway) he drank a cocktail that had been secretly spiked with LSD while on a CIA retreat. Now his death, oh sorry “suicide” occurred in New York and OMC (don’t make me spell it out…) occurred in San Francisco, so while Frank probably had a hand in the experiments, the connection is somewhat tenuous. Still, I like to think there are no real coincidences in cases like this. Then let’s not forget, there were the secret detention camps where experiments were carried out similar to the Nazis, because of course (more), the experiments done in Canada (more), and all sorts of mystery surrounding the project in the general sense.
All this stuff and the only reason we know this even existed was because someone misfiled some of the paperwork. Imagine how much paperwork there must have been to misfile a whole ~20,000 documents. Unfortunately, my attempts to uncover the documents via the internet have turned up empty handed and I’m finding mixed answers to if they are still classified or if we can access them (in my opinion evidence of crimes shouldn’t be classified, but what do I know). However, there are a few documents floating around such as this MK-Ultra collection. I’m always fascinated by original documents, even if they are sometimes very dry and boring.
Which I guess brings me to the point of the post. It’s simply that the government, well all governments, do some really shitty things to people (operation sea-spray as another US example). We are lucky to even know that MK-Ultra was a thing, so indulge my inner conspiracy theorist for a second and think about all the projects we don’t know exist, won’t know exist, and the ramifications of all the things done in the dark.
The fact that people thought they could (and frankly did!) get away with these things is mind blowing. Add to that the fact that even when we did know, the people in charge got what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Think about the kind of confidence you would have knowing no one could touch you no matter how depraved and illegal the things you were doing got.
I’m not suggesting we can’t trust everything that comes from the government. After all there are hundreds if not thousands of people involved in a lot of projects which gives hundreds if not thousands of chances for a person to leak information. With the advent of the internet hiding, and more importantly destroying, documents is a lot harder too.
No, I’m not suggesting we can’t trust what the government is telling us. I’m more concerned about the things they aren’t telling us.
As a bonus for this very long post, here’s a little MK-Ultra video, seriously (…maybe?). But you can only watch it on youtube since there’s an “age restriction.” Technically we can’t say for sure it’s MK-Ultra, but this was CIA testing of LSD and the correct time for the project, so I would assume this fell under MK-Ultra and it’s a pretty safe assumption in my opinion.