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Mind Control
and the Secret State


By Daniel Brandt

Last September [1995] the CIA confirmed the existence of a 20-year, $20 million research program in “remote viewing,” a subvariety of extrasensory perception. On October 29, a Jack Anderson column added more details, and Ted Koppel of ABC’s Nightline weighed in with a program on November 28, by which time many newspapers and wire services had picked up the story. By December, a number of pundits began lamenting this additional evidence of the CIA’s protean power to waste taxpayers’ money.

Curiously, “remote viewing” was an old story, first reported by Anderson himself on 23 April 1984. Other Anderson columns of U.S. and Soviet interest in psychic research date back to 1981. Anderson’s October 29 update reported that this project, which for a time was contracted out to the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), had been scaled back and put under Pentagon sponsorship, but nevertheless continued. Although the results of these experiments were reportedly mixed, the project retains its defenders in Congress: Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and Rep. Charlie Rose (D-NC). By 1995, Anderson didn’t have an opinion on the merits of this research, but his 1984 column was supportive. On Nightline, former CIA director Robert Gates implied that pressure from members of Congress drove the CIA’s original involvement.

Another of Ted Koppel’s CIA guests, identified only as “Norm,” was a technical advisor for CIA deputy director John McMahon and, until 1984, a coordinator for the SRI tests. “Norm” did mention the “eight-martini” results from some experiments; this was an in-house term for remote-viewing results so uncannily successful that observers needed eight martinis to recover. Still, the general impression from Koppel’s show was dismissive. Only about “fifteen percent” of the experiments, panelists repeated, produced accurate results. Gates argued that such research, if undertaken at all, belongs in the academy.

Not for the first time, however, there’s more to this story than Ted Koppel acknowledges.

Ingo Swann, who was involved in the SRI project from 1972-1988, is upset with the media’s droll treatment of this revived story. Swann points out that the original motivation behind the “remote viewing” project was the fear that the Soviets were investing significant resources in applied psychic research, and might be making advances. At the time, at least, such a rationale would have been considered a plausible one to justify such a small expenditure of intelligence money. Nevertheless, almost all mention of this element of the story, which had figured prominently in the first wave of stories on “remote viewing,” was dropped in 1995.

Furthermore, Swann claims, the “fifteen percent” figure, established early in the SRI project, represented the baseline accuracy for non-gifted and untrained persons. U.S. intelligence wanted sixty-five percent accuracy, and in the later stages of the project, Swann claims, “this accuracy level was achieved and often consistently exceeded.” According to Swann, the key players in the project, and the documentation supporting the real story, remain under the strictest security constraints.

However this may be, Anderson’s October 29 story reminds us that ESP is very much alive as an object of intelligence-community interest. In addition to “remote viewing” (seeing people, places, and events at a distance in space and time), another area of interest is the supposed power of “micro psycho-kinesis” or “Micro-PK” - the ability to affect small objects, such as electrical systems, by using the mind. Micro-PK is one step away from outright telekinesis, and its supposed power has obvious attractions for the CIA. Imagine being able to erase a computer tape from a block away, or interfere with the avionics of a jet fighter, or detonate a warhead.

Based on the evidence that’s on the public record, the dream of harnessing such power, or even of establishing its existence, may be somewhat optimistic.

But this fact hasn’t stopped a strange band of specialists, many of whom have government connections, from staking out careers at the intersection of, so to speak, ESP, the Pentagon, and the CIA: where people interested in parapsychology work with those interested in weapons research and mind control. These would-be psi-spooks turn up occasionally on talk shows and at conferences on “nonlethal defense.” Their ranks include companies like PSI-TECH in Albuquerque, founded by Maj. Edward A. Dames, and figures such as Col. John B. Alexander of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was featured in the February 1995 issue of Wired magazine. Dames and Alexander and a dozen more blend in with spookier types who shun publicity but who show up at UFO and New Age gatherings. One is ex-Naval Intelligence officer C.B. Scott Jones, a former aide to Sen. Claiborne Pell.

Once again, it’s likely that Ted Koppel doesn’t have the whole story. It’s also likely that he wouldn’t be cleared to report it if he did. Still, the piddling pool of dollars so far devoted to this research strongly implies that, if the figure is accurate, intelligence-funded parapsychological research has been a bust.

The uncounted millions the CIA has spent on mind control suggest just the opposite. As with “remote viewing,” the attraction of a successful mind control program to the CIA is obvious, and has long been explicitly acknowledged as such. The “Manchurian Candidate” scenario - in which a programmed zombie-assassin responds to a post-hypnotic trigger, performs the act, and does not remember it later - is one ideal type of successful mind control. A reliable truth serum, long the object of a CIA quest, would be another. Both of these are operational uses of mind control, its so-called “second front.”

This term comes from former CIA director Allen Dulles. In 1953, Dulles, speaking before a national meeting of Princeton alumni, distinguished two fronts in the then-current “battle for men’s minds”: a “first front” of mass indoctrination through censorship and propaganda, and a “second front” of individual “brainwashing” and “brain changing.” Before an audience of fellow Ivy Leaguers, Dulles skipped the usual pieties about democracy. The same year, Dulles approved the CIA’s notorious MKULTRA project, and exempted it from normal CIA financial controls.

The distinction between Dulles’s “two fronts” eventually becomes difficult to sustain, like the distinction between, say, sociology and psychology. Still, this distinction can be useful in roughing out a spectrum of known mind-control techniques.

For example, one powerful tool for inducing ideological and behavioral change is social pressure in a controlled environment. The “brainwashing” employed during the Korean War did not involve the use drugs or hypnosis. The Chinese merely used the same techniques that they employed on the population at large, but with more intensity, greater control, and additional rewards and punishments such as food and sleep deprivation. Yet this frighteningly simple program was enough to crank up the brainwashing scare in the U.S. Some researchers now suspect that this hysterical episode had its origins in CIA-generated propaganda, designed to give the CIA the political space needed to research more sophisticated mind-control techniques.

Many undergraduates learn about the experiments conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s, which demonstrated that expressed opinions can be easily manipulated by social pressure, even in obvious cases, such as whether Line A is longer than Line B on a particular card. And Stanley Milgram showed that many unwitting research subjects would administer a series of escalating electric shocks to another, even to the point of an apparent heart attack, simply because a white-coated lab assistant asked them to continue. Milgram’s research suggests that a “Manchurian Candidate” already exists in many of us, and that all that’s required to bring him out may be a bit of propaganda. The historical evidence for blind human obedience that could be cited here is very familiar, and very depressing.

Still, there’s evidence that Pentagon planners are uneasy about potential unruliness among the mass populations Dulles identified as mind control’s “first front.” Princeton alumni may perhaps follow and accept arguments that U.S. interests are at stake in Bosnia, but their sons are unlikely to be on the scene defending those supposed interests. The urban or Appalachian infantryman, and the family he comes from, may have other ideas.

Elite unease on this point may lie behind Pentagon enthusiasm for the new wrinkle in military force that goes by the name “nonlethal” or “less-than-lethal.” Its very claim to embody a “humanitarian” form of warfare is a weapon in Dulles’s “battle for men’s minds.”

Nonlethal technology becomes important in a discussion of mind control, as it involves something very close to it, in a form which might be used to control large populations. The propaganda aspect of “humanitarian warfare” is merely a sideshow; it’s the technology itself that enlists the enthusiasm of Pentagon planners and law enforcement officials. Much of this “friendly force” technology involves electromagnetic fields and directed-energy radiation, and ultrasound or infrasound weapons - the same technology that’s currently of interest in brain-stimulation and mind-control research.

A partial list of aggressive promoters of this new technology includes Oak Ridge National Lab, Sandia National Laboratories, Science Applications International Corporation, MITRE Corporation, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In the 1996 defense authorization bill, Congress earmarked $37.2 million to investigate nonlethal technologies. And this money looks like a mere ante in the game.

U.S. interest in this “less-than-lethal” technology dates back to the early 1960s, when the State Department became aware of low-energy microwave radiation directed at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. Under the name “Project Pandora,” secret research into the Moscow radiation continued for ten years - before embassy employees were informed that they were on the receiving end. Researchers initially assumed that the microwaves were designed to activate bugging devices. But when a large number of illnesses were reported at the embassy, a review of Soviet scientific journals revealed that the Soviets believed microwaves affected cell membranes and increased the excitability of nerve cells.

Officially, the incidence of illness at the embassy was ultimately blamed on the U.S. shortwave transmitting antenna on the embassy roof, which leaked energy and contributed to the unhealthy environment. Still, the secrecy surrounding Project Pandora encouraged further speculation within the U.S. intelligence community and elsewhere. For instance, researchers knew that a low-energy microwave beam could be modulated with an “audiogram,” and actually convey a recognizable message into an irradiated brain. This led some U.S. spooks to suspect that the Soviets had been attempting to practice mind control on the embassy staff.

Such history brings us back to the situation of the restless public in our own jittery, pre-millennial U.S. Today, there seems to be a dramatic increase in the number of “wavies,” those who feel they are being harassed by non-ionizing radiation such as radio or sound waves. Nevertheless, there is little evidence to support their belief that the secret state, despite its obvious interest in nonlethal technology, is supporting applied research on unsuspecting average citizens. Several alternative explanations suggest themselves.

First of all, the treatment of mental illness over the past few decades has changed dramatically - from an institutional approach, to an out-patient, community-based system that relies on prescription drugs to control symptoms and behavior. Greater numbers of sufferers of paranoia, freed from institutions, are also free to exercise their First Amendment rights. Furthermore, the power to express oneself has been enhanced by technology - everything from personal photocopying machines and desktop publishing, to fax machines and now the Internet. And on the Internet, almost everyone can find soulmates.

And “wavies” can make the case that they deserve the benefit of a doubt. Revelations about the Cold War secret state, from the CIA documents released in the 1970s to last year’s Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments (which investigated ionizing radiation only), have produced a social environment in which it can seem difficult to rule out anyone’s claim, no matter how paranoid-sounding. Finally, there is the modern problem of “pollution” in the broadest sense: from electromagnetic and chemical, and including simple noise. Human reactions to this pollution, which is a new phenomenon in the history of our species, apparently vary by orders of magnitude. Those who are ultra-sensitive may feel harassed, even if no one is intentionally targeting them.

To a disinterested observer, the claims of the “wavies” are perhaps no more bizarre than the claims of those who have experienced profound religious conversions. The point is not to belittle anyone’s beliefs, but rather to establish that social factors often determine what we consider to be credible. For thousands of years societies have found it useful to allow sufficient space for religion. Only recently has social space opened up for the claims of “wavies.” The increase in their numbers is thus predictable, irrespective of whether the secret state is behind their problems or not. (It isn’t, in my opinion.)

This brings us to the “second front” mentioned by Allen Dulles in 1953: the technology of mind control applied on an individual level. Whereas non-ionizing radiation can be “broadcast” to large populations, techniques such as psychosurgery, implants, and electronic stimulation of the brain (ESB) are administered on a case-by-case basis. More exotic techniques, whose scientific status and potential effectiveness remain uncertain, include radio hypnotic intra-cerebral control and hypnotic dissolution of memory (RHIC-EDOM), and the use of induced “screen memory” and multiple personality disorder (MPD) for cover purposes.

The closest parallel to the “wavies” within this second front include those who feel that implants were forced on them, sometimes during childhood. Such beliefs obviously tap deep fears in the popular psyche. The season premier of “The X Files” showed FBI agent Scully discovering that someone had planted a microchip near the base of her skull. And accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh apparently claims that an implant was inserted under his skin, for tracking purposes, during the Gulf War.

Identification implants, which are passive devices that respond to an energy source and return an identification number, are similar to the bar codes at the checkout counter in a grocery store. Today’s pet owners can have these devices implanted in their pets. But anyone who confuses this simple technology with a chip that tells them what to do is already in trouble. Such a person should consider turning off the television, logging off the Internet, and checking out a few books from the local library. ID technology is ominous for those concerned with surveillance and privacy, but it has little to do with mind control.

Granted, there are experimental “stimoceiver” implants that can stimulate the brain through electrodes. Mind-control enthusiast Jose Delgado became briefly famous when he stopped a charging bull in its tracks with such a device in 1964. Even allowing for electronic miniaturization since then, or for the fact that finely-tuned microwaves can achieve the same results as implanted electrodes, ESB would still seem to be impractical as a mind-control device. At best it appears to stimulate various emotions, and might be used for behavioral conditioning in a controlled environment. This is still quite crude as a control device. It would be simpler and more reliable to arrange a fatal accident.

The combination of surveillance technology and implanted aversion therapy conjures up the vision of a society of victim-robots, with monitors on every utility pole and computers administering the conditioning. But the necessary infrastructure would be frightfully expensive.

And no doubt unnecessary. Sufficient control over the flow of information in society can yield results very similar to those that could be achieved by mind-control implants installed in every individual. Thus the flaw in the reasoning of many researchers: the mind-control techniques that have them so worried are usually the most difficult techniques one can possibly imagine. For those who would seek total control, plain, old-fashioned information control - leavened with a few fascist techniques - will do nicely, thank you.

In 1973, former MKULTRA researcher Louis Jolyon “Jolly” West, from the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA, convinced California and federal officials to sponsor a Violence Center. Governor Ronald Reagan mentioned the proposed Center in glowing terms in a speech on January 11, and the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) approved a $750,000 grant. By this time the federal government, through LEAA, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the Bureau of Prisons, and the CIA, was operating or funding numerous behavior modification programs in prisons, schools, and hospitals. In response to protests from UCLA students and faculty, the LEAA announced that it would ban the use of its funds for “psychosurgery, medical research, behavior modification - including aversion therapy - and chemotherapy.”

A year later Louis West was still hoping to obtain funds from NIMH, but by then it was too late for his proposal. Until the 1970s it was not unusual for mental health professionals to propose programs that would screen children for the purpose of early diagnosis and treatment of the potentially violent. But by the 1970s the trend was in the other direction, as some states enacted laws that made it more difficult to confine someone involuntarily as a mental patient. By the 1990s the shoe is securely on the other foot.

Twenty years ago it was fashionable for clinicians to blame urban unrest and similar phenomena on the behavior of individuals. Now, however, the individual can disclaim responsibility for his actions by blaming external agencies. Numerous persons have gone public with accusations of strange events during their childhood, suggesting that they were used as guinea pigs for mysterious men in white coats. Some of their evidence seems sufficiently solid to require further investigation, and more cases are emerging all the time.

On 15 March 1995, two patients of New Orleans therapist Valerie Wolf testified before the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. Although this was outside the purview of the Committee, they were permitted to testify because some of the names of CIA-connected researchers they mentioned were already familiar to the Committee. These two women remembered sessions when they were around eight years old that involved electric shocks, hypnosis, shots with needles, x-rays, sexual abuse, and even training in intelligence tradecraft. One case occurred from 1972-1976 and the other in 1958. This testimony was not covered by the media.

Although the recollections of the two women were spontaneous and did not involve regression therapy, there is also a cottage industry developing around memories of child abuse in general. For the most part these are not connected with government research, and perhaps many are the result of questionable techniques used by social workers, therapists, police and prosecutors to elicit testimony from children. Juries are becoming more skeptical of many of these cases. This issue has even assumed the dimensions of a religious crusade - Christian fundamentalists worry about evil in the New Age movement, and are on the lookout for cases of “sat-anic ritual abuse” of children. Others believe the CIA has turned children into split-personality sex slaves for operational use.

In 1992 the False Memory Syndrome Foundation began in Philadelphia. This organization criticizes the practice of regression therapy when it’s used to bring out memories of traumatic childhood experiences. FMSF considers these repressed memories of incest and sexual abuse to be objectively false, and devastating to family life in general. There’s a growing split over this issue among psychology professionals. To confuse the situation further, FMSF has some on their Board of Advisors who may want to cover up their own work. One is Louis West, another is Martin Orne, one of the key MKULTRA researchers in hypnosis, and a third is Michael Persinger, who did research on the effects of elec-tromagnetic radiation on the brain for a Pentagon weapons project.

Regression therapy could be a threat to the techniques the CIA may have secretly developed involving the use of hypnosis. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, George Estabrooks, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Colgate University, was called to Washington by the War Department. As one of the leading authorities on hypnosis, Estabrooks was asked to evaluate how it might be used by the enemy. In 1943 he wrote a book, expanded in a second edition fourteen years later, that included a discussion of the use of hypnotism in warfare. In his opinion, one in five adult humans are capable of being placed in a trance so deep that they will have no memory of it. They could be hypnotized secretly by using a disguised technique, and given a post-hypnotic suggestion. Estabrooks suggested that a dual personality could be constructed with hypnosis, thereby creating the perfect double agent with an unshakable cover.

Estabrooks’ theories regarding hypnosis are disputed by many experts today. Frequently the entire topic is dismissed with the notion, promoted by Martin Orne and others, that a hypnotist cannot induce a person to perform an act that this person would otherwise find objectionable. But this in itself appears to be a cover story; if the trance is deep enough, an imaginary social environment can be constructed through which an otherwise objectionable act becomes necessary and heroic. Murdering Hitler during wartime would not be considered criminal, for example. It may even be easier than this: in 1951 in Denmark, Palle Hardrup robbed a bank and killed a guard, and then claimed that hypnotist Bjorn Nielsen told him to do it. Nielsen eventually confessed that Hardrup was a test of his hypnotic techniques, which included telling Hardrup that the money from the robbery was a means to a noble end. Hardrup had become Nielsen’s robot, and Nielsen was convicted.

In 1976 a book by Donald Bain titled “The Control of Candy Jones” was published by Playboy Press. This one-of-a-kind book is the story of Candy Jones, who was America’s leading cover girl during the forties and fifties. In 1960 Jones fell on hard times and agreed to act as a courier for the CIA. An excellent subject for hypnosis, Jones became the plaything of a CIA psychiatrist who used her to exhibit his mastery of mind-control techniques. This psychiatrist used hypnosis and drugs to develop a second personality within Jones over a period of 12 years. This second personality took the form of a courier who could be triggered by telephone with particular sounds, and after the mission was completed and the normal personality resumed, did not remember anything.

These missions were elaborate, and frequently involved world travel to deliver messages. According to the book, Jones and other victims were once even subjected to torture at a seminar at CIA headquarters, as a means of demonstrating this psychiatrist’s control over his subjects.

Jones married New York radio talk-show host Long John Nebel in 1972. An amateur hypnotist, Nebel stumbled onto her secret personality, and began unravelling the story over many subsequent sessions. Author Donald Bain, a family friend, was invited to reconstruct the story from more than 200 hours of taped sessions between Jones and Nebel. Various researchers have confirmed some pieces of the story, but Bain did not name the major CIA psychiatrist involved, nor did he name a second psychiatrist who played a more marginal role. Researcher Martin Cannon recently identified this second psychiatrist as the late William Kroger, who was an associate of Louis West, Martin Orne, and another MK-ULTRA veteran, H.J. Eysenck. Whatever the truth is behind Candy Jones - and it’s difficult to see the book as an elaborate hoax - there’s no question that hypnotist George Estabrooks raised issues that the CIA took seriously in secret research for at least 25 years.

The MKULTRA implementing documents specified that “additional avenues to the control of human behavior” were to include “radiation, electroshock, various fields of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, graphology, harassment substances, and paramilitary devices and materials.” The word “radiation” gave the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments a reason to request a search of records on human experimentation from the CIA. Their final report, released last October, expressed dissatisfaction with the CIA’s response, and recommended that the CIA get their act together so that legitimate requests can be accommodated better in the future.

One problem is the compartmentation of the CIA’s record-keeping systems. Another is that the CIA immediately decided that the Committee’s purview was restricted only to ionizing radiation - the type of radiation of interest in nuclear testing, as opposed to the electromagnetic and sound waves that might be used for mind control. Finally, those documents that the CIA did release were heavily redacted. The Committee noted that they had “received numerous queries about MKULTRA and the other related programs from scholars, journalists, and citizens who have been unable to review the complete record.” In fact, most of the MKULTRA records were destroyed in 1973 by the order of Richard Helms, who waived an internal CIA regulation to do so. It was also the practice of MKULTRA to maintain as few records as possible.

If ESP, waves, implants, satanic ritual abuse and post-hypnotic robots aren’t sufficient, recently the subject of mind control has been intertwined with UFOs. Seemingly jealous of the credibility enjoyed by victims of alien abduction, researcher Julianne McKinney promotes the view that the entire UFO phenomenon was created by the secret state. A more thorough researcher, Martin Cannon, also promotes this view. In a long monograph titled “The Controllers,” he explains the UFO phenomenon as a “screen memory” cover story induced by U.S. intelligence to protect their own mind-control experiments.

On the other hand, the implicit assumption behind McKinney and Cannon that it must be either/or - either aliens from outer space or spooks with a bag of secret tricks - seems arbitrary. If the ethically-challenged U.S. intelligence community has proven anything during the last half-century, it’s that they would not find it objectionable to work on behalf of aliens from outer space, and against the interests of humankind.

Another possible scenario is that aliens are real, U.S. intelligence knows more than they are telling, and they send out disinformation agents to keep the issue at merely a low simmer. By muddying the waters with kook-biz, they keep it from becoming officially-credible spook-biz, at which point it might boil over into eschatology, mass hysteria, and vigilantism.

UFO researchers have recently become interested in the Aviary, a group of former and current U.S. spooks, along with some defense-contracting scientists, who may or may not have official status. Apparently the mission of this group is to discredit any serious research into UFOs. Its members include Col. John B. Alexander, Harold Puthoff from the remote viewing project, and Jack Vorona of the Defense Intelligence Agency (formerly the boss of Michael Persinger). The names of others are floating around the Internet as well.

Some Aviarians claim to be UFOlogists themselves, or are friendly and good-natured with other UFOlogists, and some genuine UFO researchers are quick to squabble with other researchers. This makes it nearly impossible to sort out who is disinforming whom, and difficult to distinguish the white hats from the black hats. Since he began looking into the Aviary, British researcher Armen Victorian has been burgled eight times, his car broken into three times, his telephone tapped, and a bug was discovered in his home. All this happened courtesy of British intelligence and police, reportedly as a favor for the CIA.

Something is going on here, and chances are excellent that it’s not happening merely for our general amusement. Whoever the men in black turn out to be, it’s not the casually-titillated viewer of “The X Files” that worries them. Instead, it’s the relentless researchers who track their careers and publicize their deeds, hoping that one day the state will have no secrets, and that those who live off of its impoverished taxpayers will, in the end, be held accountable.

Those involved in parapsychology, mind control, and UFOlogy who have government connections make up a small community; the same names reappear constantly. Ranged against them are the independent researchers - also a small community. Leaving aside Laurance Rockefeller, who is funding some activity in this area, presumably out of personal interest, there don’t appear to be mysterious sums of money floating around. That means the field is open for dedicated researchers with modest resources. And that’s the good news, because we need to be watching every move the psi-spooks make.

The above article appeared in
New Dawn No. 35, March-April 1996