1953: ARTICHOKE expanded its reach to civilian public health hospitals and institutions

A memorandum from Paul Gaynor, CIA Security Research chief to ARTICHOKE director, Morse Allen states: “It is imperative that we move forward more aggressively on identifying and securing a more reliable ready group, or groups, of human research subjects for ongoing Artichoke work.” The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) was created that year, and the CIA found it remarkably easy to gain HEW’s approval for use of Federal medical facilities as fronts for covert drug and interrogation experiments using unwitting human subjects. Inevitably, nearly all those unwitting experimental subjects chosen for HEW-sponsored projects were African-Americans and persons from immigrant groups and what one Agency document referred to as the “lower classes.”

Additionally, Allen suggests to Gaynor in a memo titled “Artichoke Research Program”:

“There are some four thousand (4,000) American military men who are serving court martial sentences in the federal prisons at the present time. . .offer reduced sentences. . . Artichoke teams secretly working in the prisons could be passed off as “coming from nearby universities or research institutions.” (Kay and Albarelli. Cries from the Past: Torture’s Ugly Echoes, 2010)

About a week later, Morse Allen amended his September memo to include “federal hospitals and institutions under the control of the [U.S.] Public Health Service.” Within weeks, progress reports were sent to Gaynor about the experiments at three federal prisons, as well as a reformatory were submitted to Gaynor. Other experiments were conducted at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, at a VA hospital in Detroit, and at the Federal Center for Addiction Research in Lexington, KY which was run by Dr. Harris Isbell, a member of the FDA’s Advisory Committee on Abuse of Depressant and Stimulant Drugs. The Center was funded by the NIMH and U.S. Navy; the experiments were specifically targeted at African-American inmates, who were considered by Isbell to be inferior to white inmates at the facility.

“The problem exists of ascertaining whether effective and practical techniques exist, or could be developed, which could be utilized to render an individual subservient to an imposed will or control, thereby posing a potential threat to National Security. . .We need to also explore the ‘subtle’ means of making an individual say or do things he would normally not consider through the use of covertly administered drugs, ‘Black Psychiatry’, hypnosis, and brain damaging processes. Dr. Chadwell feels these processes may be tried but they are ‘elaborate, impractical and unnecessary.’” [Marshall Chadwell was CIA’s director of Scientific Intelligence]

Indeed, in their article “Cries from the Past: Torture’s Ugly Echoes“ investigative reporters Jeffrey Kaye and H.P. Albarelli report that a former CIA official explained the reference to “Black Psychiatry”:

“‘Black Psychiatry’ refers to psychiatric methods used by trained and licensed physicians on subjects. These methods may not be in the best interest of the subject’s mental well-being and health. There was no shortage of or problems recruiting psychologists in the 1950s and 1960s who would willfully, and sometimes enthusiastically, practice ‘Black Psychiatry.’”

They note that various methods of ‘Black Psychiatry’ were provided in a training setting in the 1950s through to at least the 1970s at the CIA’s Butler Health Center facility in Rhode Island, where many physicians, including Dr. Robert Hyde, worked for the Agency. Butler Center also served as CIA’s central site for exposing its own officials and agents to LSD and other drugs. (Kay and Albarelli. Cries Past, 2010)