The covert convergence between CIA and cognitive scientists — psychiatrists and psychologists — who provided the patina of legitimate science to CIA’s outrageous — even depraved — psychological torture experiments. CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” experiments were at first interwoven with chemical and biological weapons tests and radiation experiments; they were conducted on (mostly) involuntary soldiers and prisoners. Beginning in 1950, and lasting to the mid-1970s, the scope of the experiments vastly expanded and so did the human pool of subjects; thousands of unwitting American civilians, including children and pregnant women were victimized.
The inhumane experiments involved not merely powerful psychoactive drugs; they involved brainwashing through the use of isolation, sensory deprivation, psychological torture, and indoctrination in an effort to break the human will. The experiments were designed to develop “psychological warfare” technology and “enhanced interrogation” techniques. The victims were subjected to massive electroshock, psychosurgery, implanted electrodes in the brain, electro-magnetic brain stimulation, remote control radio beams, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, aversive behavioral modification. And they were bombarded with microwaves to erase memory, alter brain functions and disrupt individual behavior patterns.
These sadistic diabolical medical atrocities were conducted by prominent academic-based medical doctors and clinical psychologists who violated the essential moral standards of civilized medical research — decreed by the Nuremberg Code; they did so with impunity under CIA’s iron tight seal of secrecy. None of the collaborators in evil were ever brought to account. These brutal and inhumane brain-damaging experiments sought to destroy the human soul; they led to the codification of extreme forms of psychological torture. None of these atrocities served any medical, scientific or therapeutic purpose. The techniques of psychological torture that were tested and developed during the Cold War era continue to be deployed in covert interrogations to the present day.
In his article “Science in Dachau’s Shadow” (2007) Alfred McCoy, a distinguished professor of history who has fearlessly documented the CIA’s involvement in global drug trafficking (The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,1972) and CIA’s use of torture in several seminal books, the most recent, Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation (2012) states:
“The Nazi role in the CIA’s research was more than mere metaphor or analogue. Just as the U.S. space program later benefited from the work of Werner von Braun’s rocket scientists at Peenemunde and the Luftwaffe’s medical experiments at Dachau, so this CIA psychological effort continued the research of the Nazi doctors, both their specific scientific findings and innovative use of human subjects.”
(McCoy, Science in Dachau’s Shadow, p. 403)
Nazi medical atrocities shattered long-standing clinical standards and ethical research. However, the impact of the revelations at Nuremberg had contradictory effects. Whereas the world community was horrified and repulsed by the inhumanity at Dachau, Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen; laying the foundation for explicit ethical standards and restraints — as embodied in the 1947 Nuremberg Code; U.S. intelligence officials and medical scientists were eager to learn the methods and results of those heinous experiments. They were in fact motivated to exploit and expand upon the knowledge gained. Indeed, as former U.S. State Department officer, John Marks wrote in his landmark book, The Manchurian Candidate (1979), “even before the [Nuremberg] verdicts were in, special U.S. teams were sifting through the experimental records at Dachau for information of military value.” (Ch. 1)
“Consequently, Washington’s postwar [ ] research was soon infected by the Dachau model, whose methods it mimed across a broad spectrum of Cold War experiments on, literally, tens of thousands of unwitting human subjects — from atomic, chemical, and biological warfare to psychological torture.” (McCoy. Science in Dachau’s Shadow 2007)
“The professional burden of the memory of what transpired during the Nazi Era by the hands of members of the psychiatry profession is great. . .this requires us to grapple with the intrinsic guilt of the profession, and to take responsibility to fix fundamental flaws in how we view patients and their management. A dark side to medicine exists: psychiatry, academia, and science played a key role in the establishment of National Socialism and all that ensued. The experience of psychiatry during the Nazi era provides an example of how science can be perverted by politics and therefore can become vulnerable to misuse and abuse. . . [Yet] little has been published on the subject in mainstream psychiatry journals and even less is part of the formal education process for medical students and psychiatry residents.”
(Rael Strous, MD, Dept. of Psychiatry, Tel Aviv University. Annals of General Psychiatry, 2007)
The Nazi German experience graphically demonstrated in excruciating detail, how an alliance between government and academic medical professionals who engage in covert operations seamlessly devolves into medical atrocities, medical torture and medical murder. The torture experiments at Dachau were the catalyst for CIA’s variously code-named diabolical experiments that sought to subjugate and gain control over human mental and behavioral functions. The guinea pigs in these secret immoral experiments have included prisoners, soldiers, mental patients, handicapped children, deaf and blind people, homosexuals, single women, the elderly in nursing homes, school children, and any group of people considered “marginal” by the elite experimenters.
Recent books shed new light on the CIA’s covert forays aimed at subjugation and total control:
John Loftus, a former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor and Army intelligence officer (America’s Nazi Secret: An Insider’s History, 2013);
Stephen Kinzer, a Pulitzer Prize Winner and veteran New York Times foreign correspondent (The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War, 2013);
Karen Wetmore, an extraordinary documented account by a victim (Surviving Evil: CIA Mind Control Experiments in Vermont, 2014);
Alfred McCoy, distinguished historian, author of several books about the CIA (Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, 2012);
James Risen, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The New York Times (Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, 2014).
This book documents the collusion of the American Psychological Association with the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House, bending the profession’s rules of ethics to permit torture.
In Sept. 2012, McGill University’s Daily student newspaper acknowledged its infamous role as:
“the cradle of modern torture. . . To the patients. . .our university was the site of months of seemingly unending torture disguised as medical experimentation — an experimentation that destroyed their lives and changed the course of psychological torture forever.”
“The experiments done at McGill were part of the larger MK-ULTRA project led by Sidney Gottlieb of the CIA. In 1963. . . the CIA compiled all the research into a torture manual called the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation Handbook. Yes, a “torture manual” that would eventually define the agency’s interrogation methods and training programs throughout the developing world.”
“The psychological paradigm taken by the CIA would not have been possible without [Dr. Donald] Hebb and [Dr. Donald Ewen] Cameron’s research on sensory deprivation and psychic driving.” (How McGill Pioneered Psychological Torture, McGill Daily (2012)