Supply and Demand
Chapter 9 from
Father, Son and CIA
by Harvey Weinstein

I now had a fairly complete understanding of what Ewen Cameron was trying to do, and I even had some sense of what his motivations might have been. But there remained a piece of the puzzle yet to be fixed in place. How was it that a psychiatrist in Canada was chosen by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States to receive money for research? Clearly, a commonality of interest had emerged; it was this relationship that I needed to explore.

The seeds of the relationship lie in the growth in intelligence work beginning in the Second World War. Much of this work has been well described elsewhere, but a brief history of the evolution of the American intelligence community will reveal the fertile ground which promoted the growth of mind-control experimentation.

In 1940, President Roosevelt sent William J. Donovan, a New York attorney and the First World War general, on a fact-finding mission to Europe. The United States had not yet developed an intelligence-gathering capacity similar to that of many of the European nations. With the fast-moving events of the Second World War and the sudden involvement of the United States in the world arena, there was much to be learned, and quickly. Donovan returned with a proposal to establish a centralized intelligence unit to be called the Office of Coordinator of Information, with himself as director. It had two divisions: the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Office of War Information. The OSS quickly developed relationships with members of the scientific community of the United States who offered their expertise in a variety of fields, from the use of chemical and biological substances to the use of hypnosis. Richard Helms, the future director of the CIA was an early recruit to this work.

In 1946, President Truman established the National Intelligence Authority (NIA), which was similar to the presentday National Security Council. Within this agency, a Central Intelligence Group was formed to oversee the gathering of data. Momentum increased, and in 1947 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was established through the National Security Act. Truman was clearly ambivalent about the establishment of the CIA; as noted in Merle Miller's biography, he said: "Secrecy and a free, democratic government don't mix."

The history of officially sanctioned mind-control experimentation in the U.S. began in 1950, when the Director of Central Intelligence approved the establishment of a project, code-named Bluebird. Its objectives were as follows:

Subsequently, a fifth objective was added:

In 1951, the CIA decided to coordinate efforts with the army, navy and air force, and Project Artichoke was born. A 1952 memorandum describes its mission as follows:

Work was to include in-house experiments on interrogation techniques as well as interrogation of individuals overseas who had been apprehended by the CIA. The idea was to utilize these newer techniques such as drugs and hypnosis to facilitate the extracting of information from foreign nationals. A remarkably wide variety of substances were examined, including narcotics, mushrooms, truth sera, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, nitrous oxide and many others.

In 1953, Project Artichoke evolved into Project MKULTRA, the major CIA programme of research on substances designed to influence behaviour, a programme which was to last for almost twenty years. Richard Helms has been described as the driving force behind this endeavour, and in a 1953 memo he noted that part of its function was "implanting suggestions and other forms of mental control." MKULTRA was to move from laboratory testing on animals to testing on human volunteers (although the individuals were not necessarily to know what substance they were ingesting) and to the use of experimental drugs on totally unknowing citizens. The range of experiments that the CIA developed to test these materials is both horrifying and fascinating. At least one death can be attributed to the work; more may have occurred. Many lives were touched, and some subjects live on with the effects of MKULTRA disturbing their ability to think.

All this remained hidden from the general public until Tuesday, August 2, 1977, when the New York Times published a front page article with the headline "Private Institutions Used In CIA Effort To Control Behavior." I still find it difficult to believe that I heard nothing about this report until two years later, when I came across the review of John Marks's book [The Manchurian Candidate]. In the midst of a job change, my attentions were obviously elsewhere.

The Times piece described a secret twenty-five year and twenty-five million dollar project — MKULTRA — designed to investigate methods to influence memory, thought, attitude, motivation, and ultimately human behaviour. Several prominent psychiatrists were associated with these projects — one of them was Ewen Cameron. The article described CIA and U.S. armed services attempts at new methods of interrogation and brainwashing, and revealed that CIA money had been laundered through at least three funding conduits: the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, founded at Cornell University, the Geschicter Foundation For Medical Research and the Josiah Macy Foundation. Cameron's work was labelled brainwashing, and an interview with Leonard Rubenstein, Cameron's assistant, was included. Rubenstein noted: "They had investigated brainwashing among soldiers who had been in Korea. We in Montreal started to use some [of these] techniques, brainwashing patients instead of [using] drugs." He went on to describe experiments in sensory deprivation.

On the day following the public revelations, Admiral Stansfield Turner, then Director of Central Intelligence, was called to testify before a joint hearing of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources of the United States Senate. For the first time, he revealed the contents of several thousand documents related to mind-control research that had recently been discovered in response to a Freedom of Information request by the author John Marks. The statistics were impressive: 185 nongovernment researchers in eighty institutions were involved. Forty-four colleges and universities, fifteen research foundations, twelve hospitals and clinics, and three penal institutions served as the sites where this work had been carried out. The projects were wide-ranging but were bound together by a common goal — the need to influence and gain control over memory and human behaviour. The projects included the following:

Examples were included in Turner's description of the projects. He noted that many of these experiments were carried out on human subjects — some of whom were volunteers, many of whom were not.

Enter Ewen Cameron. The origins of his association with MKULTRA can be traced early enough. Experimentation requires funding. Although Cameron's patients paid for their "treatment," their money was, of course, channelled to the hospital. Consequently, outside funding sources were a necessity for the work to continue. It is here that the tangled relationship between the Cold War of the 1950s and the work of Ewen Cameron becomes clear; the old adage "politics makes strange bedfellows" aptly describes this case. Cameron's first paper on psychic driving appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1956; its principal message was that behaviour could be affected by exposure to repetition of taped messages — and it brought him to the attention of the CIA. Why was the CIA so interested in this paper?

The answer lies in the subject of brainwashing, a term that was coined by a journalist, Edward Hunter, in an article that appeared in the Miami Daily News in 1950. Hunter's use of the term and his writings about its use in China blended well with the Cold War fears of Chinese and Russian abilities to influence attitude and behaviour. Hunter was an anti-communist who worked covertly for the CIA. His book, Brainwashing in Red China, served to fan the flames of anti-communist hysteria and thereby allowed the CIA and the U.S. armed services to embark on a twenty-year project designed to develop indoctrination techniques.

American interest in interrogation had begun during the Soviet "show trials" of the 1930s when stalwart party members publicly declared themselves to be traitors. In 1949 Cardinal Mindszenty's trial in Hungary revealed a man broken by some untoward experience, mouthing words that were entirely foreign to the person he was known to be. A later event — one that was to be of great consequence to the CIA — provided further impetus to brainwashing research. The American ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, came to Berlin from Moscow and, as Richard Helms describes it, made a series of extraordinary statements which were regarded by the people in the State Department as quite uncharacteristic. They suspected that he had been given something — possibly a drug — by the Russians.

The concern about brainwashing reached its peak during the Korean War. The Chinese were able not only to obtain signed confessions from American prisoners of war, but American pilots made seemingly uncoerced radio broadcasts accepting guilt for their war activities. Whether they actually took place is not entirely clear. What did happen is that brainwashing was sensationalized in the American media and used to heighten the American public's anti-communist feeling. It became a rationalization for chemical and psychological research into interrogation techniques.

As these concerns heated up, a working group was set up by the air force under the leadership of a man named Fred Williams. This group, the Air Force Psychological Warfare Division, was located at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and was part of a network attempting to understand the implications of the POW confessions. Among those associated with this group were Colonel James Monroe (who was later to join the CIA); Albert Biderman, a sociologist; air force psychiatrists Herman Sander and Robert J. Lifton; Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle at Cornell; and CIA psychologist John Gittinger. Wolff was a nationally known neurologist who had made the acquaintance of Allen Dulles, director of the CIA, when he treated Dulles's son for injuries suffered during the Korean war. It was Wolff and Hinkle who produced the major treatise on brainwashing that emerged during this period. Originally written as a report for the Technical Services Division of the CIA in 1956, it was published in a major psychiatric journal, the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, in the same year under the title, Communist Interrogation and Indoctrination of "Enemies of the State": Analysis of Methods Used by the Communist State Police (A Special Report).

The major contribution of this work lay in the revelation that it was not drugs or bizarre tortures that resulted in confession; the procedures rather made use of psychological knowledge and techniques that produced anxiety to such a degree that normal coping devices could not prevail. The role of the interrogator as friend and saviour grew out of the need on the part of the prisoner to escape from the disintegration of his personality. Solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, lack of information combined with skilful interrogation produced the desired outcome in almost every case. The Russians had initially developed this approach, and the Chinese had modified it by adding the element of group pressure. Conformity to a peer group's attitudes was of course part of the Chinese plan to convert its populace after they had taken control of Mainland China. This technique was ultimately to prove eminently successful with the American POWs.

Although Wolff and Hinkle documented a process that was based on psychological understanding of the personality and group dynamics, they nevertheless concluded that there was "no evidence that psychologists, neurophysiologists, or other scientists participated in their development." Their revelations did, however, inspire the military and intelligence services to begin to formulate their own plans for the study of mind control. In 1954, Project QK-Hilltop was begun at Cornell Medical College under the direction of Harold Wolff — a spinoff from Monroe's group at Maxwell. Wolff had major interests in the area of stress, as well as in the interrelationships of man and his environment, a discipline that he called "human ecology." This approach, which integrated the interests of both behavioural and social scientists, could be used, he thought, not only to understand human behaviour but ultimately to influence it. Proposing to examine every known method of influence and control, he asked that the CIA provide him with all its information on interrogation and intimidation:

...including threats, coercion, imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, torture, "brainwashing," "black psychiatry," hypnosis and combinations of these, with or without chemical agents. We will assemble, collate, analyze and assimilate this information and will then undertake experimental investigations designed to develop new techniques of offensive/defensive intelligence use... Potentially useful secret drugs (and various brain damaging procedures) will be similarly tested in order to ascertain the fundamental effect upon human brain function and upon the subject's mood ....Where any of the studies involve potential harm to the subject, we expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of necessary experiments.

In other words, Wolff was not willing to expose his patients to harmful materials, but was willing to test them on other "suitable subjects."

In 1955 the CIA study group became the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology based at Cornell, and was destined to serve as a major funding conduit from the CIA to behavioural science researchers across the United States, Canada and Europe. The work that was undertaken has been well-described in Marks's book The Search For the Manchurian Candidate. In 1957 the Society severed its ties with Cornell, although Hinkle and Wolff remained on its board. Colonel James Monroe became executive secretary of the organization as the CIA took an even greater role in its functioning. Sidney Gottlieb, the man most responsible for MKULTRA and one of its major funding arms, the Society, states: "The Society would try to keep in touch with that part of the scientific research community which were in areas that we were interested in and try to — usually its mode was to find somebody that was working in an area in which we were interested and encourage him to continue in that area with some funding from us."

Even prior to the formation of the Society, the American intelligence services had been interested in work done at McGill. Donald Hebb was chairman of the Human Relations and Research Committee of the Canadian Defence Research Board in 1950-51. As such, he was invited to attend a meeting of representatives of the British, Canadian and American governments who at that time were concerned about the ability of the Soviet Union to elicit confessions from its own citizens. They conjectured that the Soviets were using some new psychological techniques. Shortly thereafter, Hebb began to wonder about the use of sensory deprivation as a tool for breaking people down. He subsequently received about $10,000 a year from the Canadian Defence Research Board to develop his work on sensory deprivation. Carried on by Hebb's students, the results were, as previously noted, quite startling: volunteer students placed in sensory isolation for over two to three days became depersonalized and unable to think, and they experienced hallucinations; they were then receptive to attitudinal change.

The work somehow came to the attention of members of Parliament who heard only that government money was being paid to students to lie around. Since the results had been classified, the work was quickly dropped. Hebb stated in an interview that the Defence Research Board stopped the funding either because of a loss of interest or because of a fear that it could be "trouble-making." Hebb also said in that interview that information on the work was "snatched immediately to some organization in the States." Although Hebb himself felt that the work was boring and moved quickly on to other areas of intellectual pursuit, there continued to be great interest in the subject of sensory deprivation — both in the United States and in Canada.

John Gittinger, the CIA psychologist who was a staff member of the Society, saw Ewen Cameron's article on psychic driving, and suggested to James Monroe that he contact Cameron. That same year Maitland Baldwin, a CIA-funded researcher in sensory deprivation, visited Cameron in Montreal "to discuss isolation techniques," and three months later a grant application was received by the Society from the Allan Memorial Institute.

The application was entitled "The Effects Upon Human Behavior of the Repetition of Verbal Signals." In it Cameron describes the procedures that he had developed at the Allan Memorial Institute:

  1. The breaking down of ongoing patterns of the patient's behaviour by means of particularly intensive electroshocks (depatterning).
  2. The intensive repetition ( 16 hours a day for 6-7 days) of the prearranged verbal signal.
  3. During this period of intensive repetition the patient is kept in partial sensory isolation.
  4. Repression of the driving period is carried out by putting the patient, after the conclusion of the period, into continuous sleep for 7-10 days.

He then went on to describe the objectives of the proposal to the Society. The proposed study would find and test chemical agents that would serve "to break down ongoing patterns of behaviour more rapidly, more transitorily, and with less damage to the cognitive and perceptive capacities" of the patients. He would improve the recording mechanisms by using such techniques as multiple voices so as "to capitalize on the force of group decision and suggestion"; he planned to deactivate the patients and yet keep them at a higher activity level during driving by using such drugs as artane, curare, anectine, bulbocapnine, LSD 25 and similar agents. These were seen as potentially more effective than electroshock and sleep.

In 1977 Gittinger, testifying before the joint hearing of the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources of the United States Senate, stated: "By 1962 and 1963, the general idea we were able to come up with is that brainwashing was largely a process of isolating a human being, keeping him out of contact, putting him out of control, putting him under long stress in relationship to interviewing and interrogation, and that they could produce any change that way without having to resort to any kind of esoteric means." If Cameron's work is examined with this formulation in mind, we see some startling parallels both to the brainwashing techniques described by Hinkle and Wolff, and to Gittinger's description. In Cameron's system, patients were subjected to long periods of sensory isolation; staff was not permitted to tell them for how long they would be there; staff asked the patients on a regular basis to repeat what they had heard; patients were told to write down on a periodic basis all the thoughts associated with the verbal repetitions. As a result of either physical, chemical, or psychological treatments, patients were left confused, vulnerable, and open to hearing repeated messages. Several voices would be heard at once, simulating the pressure of a group. Cameron's work, therefore, appears to have been built on knowledge generated from research on brainwashing and sensory deprivation.

Albert Biderman, the CIA and air force sociologist described the techniques of "Communist Coercive Methods For Eliciting Individual Compliance" in a 1957 article in the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine; a similar report appeared in a paper prepared for the United States Air Force entitled "Communist Techniques of Coercive Interrogation." Biderman described eight general methods of coercion used on American POWs, their effects and their variations. The methods — which bear a striking resemblance to Cameron's techniques — were:

Although I could clearly see the parallels between the reports of Chinese Communist brainwashing procedures and Cameron's work, I was still unable to make a tight connection between the two. Cameron had made allusions in his papers to these reports, but such evidence was not sufficient. Once again, in 1986, I returned to the archives of the American Psychiatric Association, which had the only papers of Ewen Cameron that were available to me. I was determined to find some clue.

It was my last morning in Washington. I had one hour to look again. Wearily, I took down the boxes of materials and began once more to review their contents. I idly picked up a rather obscure paper titled "The Transition Neurosis," a paper that Cameron had given at the Fifth Annual Neuropsychiatric meeting in North Little Rock, Arkansas, in February 1953. As I leafed through the pages, my eyes caught one paragraph; my heart began to race as I read it more closely. This was it!

In the paper, Cameron discusses the theory that people can respond to any given stimulus with many patterns of response; he notes that usually one pattern dominates while the others become unconscious. He goes on:

We may suspect that in the extraordinary political conversions which we have seen, particularly in the iron curtain countries, advantage is being taken of this fact to bring into prominence alternative patternings of behavior actually carried by the individual but never previously suspected by him or others as being present. The stress required to bring this about, at least as far as the political conversions are concerned, is capable of being developed only behind the iron curtain. Sargent (1951) has described what little we know of the dynamics of these political and religious conversions and has attempted to duplicate them, but from what we gather, with somewhat limited success. He used depleting emetics. We have explored this proced ure in one case, using sleeplessness, disinhibiting agents, and hypnosis.

There it was in black and white. I was filled with excitement. I needed to obtain a copy of this page; I reached into my pocket but I had no change. The archivist had no change. My plane was due to leave. I became excited, anxious, worried. The archivist waved me off with a free copy of the document. I began to run down the street with the page in my hand, back to the lawyers' office. "I have the proof," I thought. I was so excited that I almost knocked over a woman as I crossed the road. I could see the headlines: "Mad psychiatrist attacks innocent woman on sidewalk." I tried to slow down but could barely contain myself. I reached the lawyers' building and found the office closed. But I knew where to find them — in the restaurant downstairs. And so I rushed in, making a grand entrance as I waved my page.

"He had tried it!" I shouted. "Here it is — on paper!" When I returned home to California, I followed up Cameron's allusion to the work of William Sargent. In his book, Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brain-washing, Sargent describes the processes by which religious conversion may occur:

By increasing or prolonging stresses in various ways, or inducing physical debilitation, a more thorough alteration of the person's thinking processes may be achieved....If the stress or the physical debilitation, or both, are carried one stage further, it may happen that patterns of thought and behavior, especially those of recent acquisition, become disrupted. New patterns can then be substituted, or suppressed patterns allowed to reassert themselves; or the subject may begin to think or act in ways that precisely contradict his former ones.

More specifically with respect to brainwashing, he notes:

If a complete sudden collapse can be produced by prolonging or intensifying emotional stress the cortical slate may be wiped clean temporarily of its more recently implanted patterns of behavior, perhaps allowing others to be substituted more easily.

The parallel with Cameron's theory of differential amnesia is striking, and the relationship to brainwashing is abundantly clear. So by 1953 Cameron had begun to try his hand at brainwashing; the process that he had tentatively started in the early 1950s was to blossom into a wholesale attempt to erase minds and reprogramme them. With the assistance of the CIA through its MKULTRA project, Cameron's assault on the personality developed unchecked by any ethical or moral concerns. Under the guise of treatment, innocent patients became victims of brainwashing research.

Why did Cameron commit himself to this work? If one considers the impact of the Nuremberg trials on him, some clues emerge. It appears that in the late 1940s and early l950s, he became obsessed with a need to control social deviance and to prevent the transmission of negative traits and attitudes from parents to children. Did his later attempts to change human behaviour represent his response to this concern? Cameron's presidential address to the American Psychiatric Association in 1953 suggests his involvement in the Cold War and his concerns about communism. Although he also used the opportunity to express his concerns about McCarthyism, Cameron held to a now familiar position — our best hope for a new world order and without hysteria, one without the totalitarianism of either the right or left, lies in science. With behavioural scientists as leaders, order would emerge from chaos. Were these attitudes a factor in his determination to change behaviour? It seems likely.

The CIA had a ready ally in Ewen Cameron. With the aid of an American working in Canada, caught up in Cold War concerns, wanting to change society and with tremendous power and access to an almost unlimited supply of subjects, the CIA funded brainwashing experiments from 1957 to 1960.

The work continued until 1963. At least one hundred patients went through brainwashing procedures, obediently following the prescriptions of Canada's "most eminent" psychiatrist. In 1967, three years after Cameron's departure from the Allan Memorial Institute, a study by Alex Schwartzman and Paul Termansen was published by the Institute. This paper reviewed the results of the depatterning programme, and was commissioned by Cleghorn, Cameron's immediate successor. It looked at seventy-nine patients who had been hospitalized from 1956-63 and who had reached the third stage of depatterning. The findings were both interesting and troubling. Of these patients, 24 per cent relapsed following depatterning while still in the hospital; physical complications ranging from "mild" to "severe" were associated with treatment in 23 per cent of the cases; there were severe complications in 6 per cent.

Most important, these researchers found that a pattern of frequent electroshock treatment during hospitalization was associated with poor clinical outcome, and the shorter the interval between the ECTs, the greater was the current memory impairment on a standardized test of measurement, the Wechsler Memory Scale. Of the twenty-seven patients tested on memory function, 63 per cent depended on others for recall of past events. There was persisting amnesia for periods ranging from six months to ten years in 60 per cent of these people. And so, the final study indicated permanent brain damage in a high proportion of these patients.

Why had this study not been done earlier? How had almost ten years of ever-increasing and intrusive experimentation gone by with no one intervening? Given Cameron's published concerns, was this, ironically, just a recapitulation of what had happened in Nazi Germany — a man with great power is not stopped by his underlings? Or did his colleagues simply not know what was taking place? The experiment ended, but for the victims and those who loved them, the pain continues.

The last word is from Sidney Gottlieb, under whom MKULTRA flourished. When asked why he had suggested to Richard Helms that the papers relating to MKULTRA and mind control research be destroyed, he commented: "It was clear to me, and I have been deposed on this before, that the project, the project MKULTRA had not yielded any results of real positive value to the Agency...."

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