1953: Dr. Wolff and Dr. Hinkle investigate Communist Brainwashing

Allen Dulles turned to Dr. Harold Wolff, a renowned neurologist, whose expertise was migraine headaches and pain; and, Dr. Lawrence Hinkle, a cardiologist both at Cornell University Medical College to investigate and prepare a report about Communist brainwashing techniques.

Their report (1956) invalidates CIA propaganda about Communists using secret psychoactive “truth drugs” or any advanced interrogation techniques; instead, the report indicates that communist interrogation methods rely on skillful, if brutal, application of police methods — isolation, sensory deprivation, interrupted sleep, and mind deadening routine — no drugs, no exotic mental ray-guns, or any other fanciful machines.

“In no case is there reliable evidence that neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists or other scientifically trained personnel have designed or participated in these police procedures. There is no evidence that drugs, hypnosis or other devices play any significant role in them.”

Wolff and Hinkle concluded that the Soviet technique rested on the cumulative effect of intense psychological pressure and human weakness. The Chinese sought to re-educate prisoners by applying group pressure and repetitive ideological arguments to convince prisoners to conform to the precepts of Marx and Mao. The Hinkle Wolf report (1956) remains the definitive U.S. government document on the subject of the massive political torture and re-education programs in China and the Soviet Union. (Marks. Manchurian Candidate, Ch. 8)

The findings pulled the rug out from those who claimed that the U.S. needed to defend its citizens from a Communist offensive using sophisticated “brainwashing” weapons. It would have been reasonable to assume that projects focused on finding a “magic” drug to elicit the truth, would have been dropped. That did not happen because both the CIA and academic researchers were heavily invested in keeping afloat a vast and elaborate nationwide, brainwashing program. They were deluded by the notion that American ingenuity will discover a “scientific breakthrough” for eliciting truth.

Wolff proposed a partnership with the CIA aimed at mastering the techniques for gaining control over human beings’ thought patterns and behavior patterns. Drs. Wolff and Hinkle obtained permission from Cornell’s President and high University officials to conduct these experiments at Cornell on behalf of the CIA. They continued to test “secret drugs and various brain damaging procedures” on unwitting patients. Wolff claimed sensory deprivation had a “valid medical rationale;” he offered to put it into operational use, claiming it could be part of a treatment that relieved migraine symptoms. Sensory deprivation, he said, made the patient “more receptive to the suggestions of the psychotherapist.” Drawing on the Stalinist method of breaking prisoner’s will, Wolff proposed depriving his patients of sensory stimulation until they “show an increased desire to talk and to escape from the procedure.”

Harold Wolff had absolutely no moral scruples; he even offered to advise the CIA on “terminal experiments” in which subjects were harmed or killed — as long as they were performed elsewhere:

“We expect the Agency to make available suitable subjects and a proper place for the performance of the necessary experiments.” Wolff and every medical professional who conducted behavior control and interrogation techniques for the CIA knew that without the CIA secrecy shield, any professional caught holding human beings prisoner, shooting them full of unwanted dangerous drugs, and subjecting them to torture with the possibility of permanent harm or even death, would be subject to criminal prosecution for kidnapping and aggravated assault. Furthermore, a professional caught in such activities would have been disgraced among his peers. But, “by performing the same experiments under the CIA’s banner, he had no worry from the law, [and] his colleagues could not censure him because they had no idea what he was doing. . . he could take pride in helping his country.” (John Marks. Manchurian Candidate, Ch. 2)

Wolff then requested that the Agency to give him access to all its files relating to “threats, coercion, imprisonment, isolation, deprivation, humiliation, torture, ‘brainwashing, “black psychiatry,” hypnosis, and combinations of these with or without chemical agents so that he could study and refine those methods.

Wolff set up CIA’s major front group — Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology — through which funds were funneled with himself as president, on instruction by Sid Gottlieb who sought to distance the CIA from the more abhorrent MK-ULTRA projects. Wolff had absolutely no moral scruples; which qualified him to be President of the NY Neurological Association; later President of the American Neurological Association, as well as editor-in-chief of the American Medical Association’s Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry.