In a rare exchange of memos (1953) between the two men Dulles reaffirmed his support for utilizing psychiatry’s “applied medical science” for torture. And in his memo to Dulles (April 13, 1953) Helms (then chief, CIA Office of Special Operations) proposed a program for the “covert use of biological and chemical materials” both for its “offensive potential” to “give us thorough knowledge of the enemy’s theoretical potential.” He recommended shielding the program under extreme secrecy: “Even internally in CIA, as few individuals as possible should be aware of our interest in these fields and of the identity of those who are working for us.” And he recommended Sidney Gottlieb to head its operations.
Gottlieb was CIA’s Director of its Chemical Division of Technical Service Staff (TSS, the “dirty tricks department”) whose expertise included lethal poisons and creative methods of assassination; some have referred to Gottlieb as the CIA’s sorcerer who attempted to raise assassination of political opponents to an art form. Out of his labs came a poisoned handkerchief designed to do in a Libyan colonel, a bacteriological agent for a Congolese leader and debilitating potions intended for Cuba’s Fidel Castro who escaped dozens of futile assassination attempts.
Sidney Gottlieb personified CIA’s immoral universe; a universe where there was nothing, however evil, pointless or even lunatic, that this unaccountable intelligence agency will not engage in, in the pursuit of its secret wars. These included the frenzied search for “truth serum” drugs for use in interrogating spies; mind control techniques to create unwitting double agents or robot assassins; sought out Nazi scientists who applied their state of the art torture methods for breaking human will, an art perfected on concentration camp victims. * Paperclip Gottlieb is reputed to be the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s bizarre and evil “Dr. Strangelove” character played by Peter Sellers in 1964.
Dulles agreed, naming this “ultra-sensitive” clandestine project, MK-ULTRA, which he exempted from normal CIA financial controls, authorizing Gottlieb to start projects “without signing the usual contracts or other written agreements.” (Manchurian Candidate, Chapter 4) The aim of MK-ULTRA was to develop methods for controlling human behavior through psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs, electroshock, radiation, graphology, paramilitary techniques, and various psychological/sociological/anthropological methods. It has been described as “a vast open-field of mind experimentation trying anything that might work, legal or otherwise on willing and unwitting subjects.” (Lendman. MK-ULTRA — the CIA’s Mind Control Program, 2010)