January 18

1973: Richard Helms and Sid Gottlieb ordered all records Re: mind-control projects destroyed

In January 1973, as Helms was leaving the Agency and James Schlesinger was coming in, Project OFTEN was abruptly canceled. And he ordered all documents pertaining to the unconscionable behavior control experiments — ARTICHOKE, MONARCH, OFTEN, Operation Midnight Crisis (collectively referred to as MK-ULTRA) destroyed. The outgoing CIA director and his trusted protégé hoped, no doubt, to wipe out all traces of the abominable experiments and all traces of the thousands of human victims. In his congressional testimony, Helms tried to put an altruistic spin on the destruction of documents that more than anyone incriminated him and Sydney Gottlieb:

[Gottlieb] came to me and said that he was retiring and that I was retiring and he thought it would be a good idea if these files were destroyed. And I believe part of our reason for thinking this was advisable was there had been relationships with outsiders in government agencies and other organizations and that they would be sensitive in this kind of a thing but that since the program was over and finished and done with we thought we would just get rid of the files as well, so that anybody who has assisted us in the past would not be subject to follow up, or questions, embarrassment, if you will. (41, Richard Helms testimony, Sept. 11, 1975, p. 5)

However, as with most such institutional efforts at erasure, traces of evidence remained to be uncovered; some were uncovered within two years, others decades later. Helms’ successor as CIA Director, James Schlesinger sought to quell the ever escalating string of public scandals involving the CIA. He undertook a comprehensive organizational clean sweep and instructed current and former CIA staff to inform the Inspector General of any illegal or improper activities that were contrary to CIA’s charter. In so doing, he opened Pandora’s Box containing CIA’s numerous closet skeletons, known as, the “Family Jewels.” Those “Jewels” were kept in the vault of Schlesinger’s successor, CIA director, William Colby.


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