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The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
3. The Professor and the "A" Treatment
The three men were all part of the same Navy team, traveling together to Germany. Their trip was so sensitive that they had been ordered to ignore each other, even as they waited in the terminal at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington on a sweltering August morning in 1952. Just the month before, Gary Cooper had opened in High Noon, and the notion of showdownwhether with outlaws or communistswas in the air. With war still raging in Korea, security consciousness was high. Even so, the secrecy surrounding this Navy mission went well beyond ordinary TOP SECRET restrictions, for the team was slated to link up in Frankfurt with a contingent from the most hush-hush agency of all, the CIA. Then the combined group was going to perform dangerous experiments on human subjects. Both Navy and CIA officials believed that any disclosure about these tests would cause grave harm to the American national interest.
The Navy team sweated out a two-hour delay at Andrews before the four-engine military transport finally took off. Not until the plane touched down at the American field in the Azores did one of the group, a representative of Naval intelligence, flash a prearranged signal indicating that they were not being watched and they could talk. "It was all this cloak-and-dagger crap," recalls another participant, Dr. Samuel Thompson, a psychiatrist, physiologist, and pharmacologist who was also a Navy commander.
The third man in the party was G. Richard Wendt, chairman of the Psychology Department at the University of Rochester and a part-time Navy contractor. A small 46-yearold man with graying blond hair and a fair-sized paunch, Wendt had been the only one with companionship during the hours of decreed silence. He had brought along his attractive young assistant, ostensibly to help him with the experiments. She was not well received by the Navy men, nor would she be appreciated by the CIA operators in Frankfurt. The behavior-control field was very much a man's world, except when women subjects were used. The professor's relationship with this particular lady was destined to become a source of friction with his fellow experimenters, and, eventually, a topic of official CIA reporting.
In theory, Professor Wendt worked under Dr. Thompson's supervision in a highly classified Navy program called Project CHATTER, but the strong-minded psychologist did not take anyone's orders easily. Very much an independent spirit, Wendt ironically, had accepted CHATTER's goal of weakening, if not eliminating, free will in others. The Navy program, which had started in 1947, was aimed at developing a truth drug that would force people to reveal their innermost secrets.
Thompson, who inherited Wendt and CHATTER in 1951 when he became head of psychiatric research at the Naval Medical Research Institute, remembers Naval intelligence telling him of the need for a truth drug in case "someone planted an A-bomb in one of our cities and we had twelve hours to find out from a person where it was. What could we do to make him talk?" Thompson concedes he was always "negative" about the possibility that such a drug could ever exist, but he cites the fear that the Russians might develop their own miracle potion as reason enough to justify the program. Also, Thompson and the other U.S. officials could not resist looking for a pill or panacea that would somehow make their side all-knowing or all-powerful.
Professor Wendt had experimented with drugs for the Navy before he became involved in the search for a truth serum. His earlier work had been on the use of Dramamine and other methods to prevent motion sickness, and now that he was doing more sensitive research, the Navy hid it under the cover of continuing his "motion sickness" study. At the end of 1950, the Navy gave Wendt a $300,000 contract to study such substances as barbiturates, amphetamines, alcohol, and heroin. To preserve secrecy, which often reached fetish proportions in mind-control research, the money flowed to him not through Navy channels but out of the Secretary of Defense's contingency fund. For those drugs that were not available from pharmaceutical companies, Navy officials went to the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The Commissioner of Narcotics personally signed the papers, and special couriers carried pouches of illegal drugs through Washington streets and then up to the professor at Rochester. Receipts show that the Bureau sent the Navy 30 grams of pure heroin and 11 pounds of "Mexican grown" marijuana, among other drugs.
Like most serious drug researchers, Wendt sampled everything first before testing on assistants and students. The drug that took up the most space in his first progress report was heroin. He had became his own prime subject. At weekly intervals, he told the Navy, the psychologist gave himself heroin injections and then wrote down his reactions as he moved through the "full range" of his life: driving, shopping, recreation, manual work, family relations, and sexual activity. He noted in himself "slight euphoria . . . heightened aesthetic appreciation . . . absentminded behavior . . . lack of desire to operate at full speed . . . lack of desire for alcohol . . . possibly reduced sex interest . . . feeling of physical well-being." He concluded in his report that heroin could have "some, but slight value for interrogation" if used on someone "worked on for a long period of time."
Wendt never had any trouble getting student volunteers. He simply posted a notice on a campus bulletin board, and he wound up with a long waiting list. He chose only men subjects over 21, and he paid everyone accepted after a long interview $1.00 an hour. With so much government money to spend, he hired over 20 staff assistants, and he built a whole new testing facility in the attic of the school library. Wendt was cautious with his students, and he apparently did not share the hard drugs with them. He usually tested subjects in small groupsfour to eight at a time. He and his associates watched through a two-way mirror and wrote down the subjects' reactions. He always used both placebos (inert substances) and drugs; the students never knew whatif anythingthey were taking. According to Dr. Thompson, to have alerted them in advance and thus given themselves a chance to steel themselves up "would have spoiled the experiment."
Nonetheless, Wendt's procedure was a far cry from true unwitting testing. Any drug that was powerful enough to break through an enemy's resistance could have a traumatic effect on the person taking itparticularly if the subject was totally unaware of what was happening. The Navy research plan was to do preliminary studies on subjects like Wendt's students, and then, as soon as the drug showed promise, to try it under field conditions. Under normal scientific research, the operational tests would not have been run before the basic work was finished. But the Navy could not wait. The drugs were to be tested on involuntary subjects. Thompson readily admits that this procedure was "unethical," but he says, "We felt we had to do it for the good of country."
During the summer of 1952, Professor Wendt announced that he had found a concoction "so special" that it would be "the answer" to the truth-drug problem, as Thompson recalls it. "I thought it would be a good idea to call the Agency," says Thompson. "I thought they might have someone with something to spill." Wendt was adamant on one point: He would not tell anyone in the Navy or the CIA what his potion contained. He would only demonstrate. Neither the CHATTER nor ARTICHOKE teams could resist the bait. The Navy had no source of subjects for terminal experiments, but the CIA men agreed to furnish the human beingsin Germanyeven though they had no idea what Wendt had in store for his guinea pigs. The CIA named the operation CASTIGATE.
After settling into a Frankfurt hotel, Wendt, Thompson, and the Naval Intelligence man set out to meet the ARTICHOKE crew at the local CIA headquarters. It was located in the huge, elongated building that had housed the I. G. Farben industrial complex until the end of the war. The frantic bustle of a U.S. military installation provided ideal cover for this CIA base, and the arrival of a few new Americans attracted no special attention. The Navy group passed quickly through the lobby and rode up the elevator. At the CIA outer office, the team members had to show identification, and Thompson says they were frisked. The Naval Intelligence man had to check his revolver.
A secretary ushered the Navy group in to meet the ARTICHOKE contingent, which had arrived earlier from Washington. The party included team leader Morse Allen, his boss in the Office of Security, Paul Gaynor, and a prominent Washington psychiatrist who regularly left his private practice to fly off on special missions for the Agency. Also present were case officers from the CIA's Frankfurt base who had taken care of the support arrangementsthe most important of which was supplying the subjects.
Everyone at the meeting wanted to know what drugs Wendt was going to use on the five selected subjects, who included one known double agent, one suspected double, and the three defectors. The professor still was not talking. Dr. Thompson asked what would happen if something went wrong and the subject died. He recalls one of the Frankfurt CIA men replying, "Disposal of the body would be no problem."
After the session ended, Thompson took Wendt aside and pointed out that since the professor, unlike Thompson, was neither a psychiatrist nor a pharmacologist, he was acting irresponsibly in not having a qualified physician standing by with antidotes in case of trouble. Wendt finally relented and confided in Thompson that he was going to slip the subjects a combination of the depressant Seconal, the stimulant Dexedrine, and tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. Thompson was dumbfounded. He remembers wanting to shoot Wendt on the spot. These were all well-known drugs that had been thoroughly tested. Indeed, even the idea of mixing Seconal and Dexedrine was not original: The combined drug already had its own brand nameDexamyl (and it would eventually have a street name, "the goofball"). Thompson quickly passed on to the CIA men what Wendt had in mind. They, too, were more than a little disappointed.
Nevertheless, there was never any thought of stopping the experiments. The ARTICHOKE team had its own methods to try, even if Wendt's proved a failure, and the whole affair had developed its own momentum. Since this was one of the early ARTICHOKE trips into the field, the team was still working to perfect the logistics of testing. It had reserved two CIA "safehouses" in the countryside not far from Frankfurt, and Americans had been assigned to guard the experimental sites. Agency managers had already completed the paperwork for the installation of hidden microphones and two-way mirrors, so all the team members could monitor the interrogations.
The first safehouse proved to be a solid old farmhouse set picturesquely in the middle of green fields, far from the nearest dwelling. The ARTICHOKE and CHATTER groups drove up just as the CIA's carpenters were cleaning up the mess they had made in ripping a hole through the building's thick walls. The house had existed for several hundred years without an observation glass peering in on the sitting room, and it had put up some structural resistance to the workmen.
Subject #1 arrived in the early afternoon, delivered in a CIA sedan by armed operators, who had handcuffed him, shackled his feet, and made him lie down on the floor of the back seat. Agency officials described him as a suspected Russian agent, about 40 years old, who had a "Don Juan complex." One can only imagine how the subject must have reacted to these rather inconsistent Americans who only a few hours earlier had literally grabbed him out of confinement, harshly bound him, and sat more or less on top of him as they wandered through idyllic German farm country, and who now were telling him to relax as they engaged him in friendly conversation and offered him a beer. He had no way of knowing that it would be the last unspiked drink he would have for quite some time.
On the following morning, the testing started in earnest. Wendt put 20 mg. of Seconal in the subject's breakfast and then followed up with 50 mg. of Dexedrine in each of his two morning cups of coffee. Wendt gave him a second dose of Seconal in his luncheon beer. The subject was obviously not his normal selfwhatever that was. What was clear was that Wendt was in way over his head, and even the little professor seemed to realize it. "I don't know how to deal with these people," he told the CIA psychiatric consultant. Wendt flatly refused to examine the subject, leaving the interrogation to the consultant. For his part, the consultant had little success in extracting information not already known to the CIA.
The third day was more of the same: Seconal with breakfast, Dexedrine and marijuana in a glass of water afterwards. The only break from the previous day's routine came at 10:10 A.M. when the subject was allowed to play a short poker game. Then he was given more of Wendt's drugs in two red capsules that were, he was told, "a prescription for his nerves." By 2:40 P.M., Wendt declared that this subject was not the right personality type for his treatment. He explained to his disgusted colleagues that if someone is determined to lie, these drugs will only make him a better liar. He said that the marijuana extract produced a feeling of not wanting to hold anything back and that it worked best on people who wanted to tell the truth but were afraid to. OSS had discovered the same thing almost a decade earlier.
Wendt retired temporarily from the scene, and the others concluded it would be a shame to waste a good subject. They decided to give him the "A" (for ARTICHOKE) treatment. This, too, was not very original. It had been used during the war to interrogate prisoners and treat shell-shocked soldiers. As practiced on the suspected Russian agent, it consisted of injecting enough sodium pentothal into the vein of his arm to knock him out and then, twenty minutes later, stimulating him back to semiconsciousness with a shot of Benzedrine. In this case, the benzedrine did not revive the subject enough to suit the psychiatric consultant and he told Dr. Thompson to give the subject another 10 mg. ten minutes later. This put the subject into a state somewhere between waking and sleepingalmost comatose and yet bug-eyed. In hypnotic tones that had to be translated into Russian by an interpreter, the consultant used the technique of "regression" to convince the subject he was talking to his wife Eva at some earlier time in his life. This was no easy trick, since a male interpreter was playing Eva. Nevertheless, the consultant states he could "create any fantasy" with 60 to 70 percent of his patients, using narcotherapy (as in this case) or hypnosis. For roughly an hour, the subject seemed to have no idea he was not speaking with his wife but with CIA operatives trying to find out about his relationship with Soviet intelligence. When the subject started to doze, the consultant had Thompson give him a doubled jolt of Benzedrine. A half hour later, the subject began to weep violently. The consultant decided to end the session, and in his most soothing voice, he urged the subject to fall asleep. As the subject calmed down, the consultant suggested, with friendly and soothing words, that the subject would remember nothing of the experience when he woke up.
Inducing amnesia was an important Agency goal. "From the ARTICHOKE point of view," states a 1952 document, "the greater the amnesia produced, the more effective the results." Obviously if a victim remembered the "A" treatment, it would stop being a closely guarded ARTICHOKE secret. Presumably, some subject who really did work for the Russians would tell them how the Americans had worked him over. This reality made "disposal" of ARTICHOKE subjects a particular problem. Killing them seems to have been ruled out, but Agency officials made sure that some stayed in foreign prisons for long periods of time. While in numerous specific cases, ARTICHOKE team members claimed success in making their subjects forget, their outside consultants had told them "that short of cutting a subject's throat, a true amnesia cannot be guaranteed." As early as 1950, the Agency had put out a contract to a private researcher to find a memory-destroying drug, but to no apparent avail. In any case, it would be unreasonable to assume that over the years at least one ARTICHOKE subject did not shake off the amnesic commands and tell the Russians what happened to him. As was so often the case with CIA operations, the enemy probably had a much better idea of the Agency's activities than the folks back home.
Back at the safehouse, Wendt was far from through. Four more subjects would be brought to him. The next one was an alleged double agent whom the CIA had code-named EXPLOSIVE. Agency documents describe him as a Russian "professional agent type" and "a hard-boiled individual who apparently has the ability to lie consistently but not very effectively." He was no stranger to ARTICHOKE team members who, a few months before, had plied him with a mixture of drugs and hypnosis under the cover of a "psychiatric-medical" exam. At that time, a professional hypnotist had accompanied the team, and he had given his commands through an elaborate intercom system to an interpreter who, in turn, was apparently able to put EXPLOSIVE under. Afterward, the team reported to the CIA's Director that EXPLOSIVE had revealed "extremely valuable" information and that he had been made to forget his interrogation through a hypnotically induced amnesia. Since that time EXPLOSIVE had been kept in custody. Now he was being brought out to give Professor Wendt a crack at him with the Seconal-Dexedrine-marijuana combination.
This time, Wendt gave the subject all three drugs together in one beer, delivered at the cocktail hour. Next came Seconal in a dinner beer and then all three once more in a postprandial beer. There were little, if any, positive results. Wendt ended the session after midnight and commented, "At least we learned one thing from this experiment. The people you have to deal with here are different from American college students."
During the next week, the CIA men brought Wendt three more subjects, with little success. The general attitude toward Wendt became, in Thompson's words, "hostile as all hell." Both the Agency and the Navy groups questioned his competence. With one subject, the professor declared he had given too strong a dose; with the next, too weak. While he had advertised his drugs as tasteless, the subjects realized they had swallowed something. As one subject in the next room was being interrogated in Russian that no one was bothering to translate, Wendt took to playing the same pattern on the piano over and over for a half hour. While the final subject was being questioned, Wendt and his female assistant got a little tipsy on beer. Wendt became so distracted during this experiment that he finally admitted, "My thoughts are elsewhere." His assistant began to giggle. Her presence had become like an open sorewhich was made more painful when Mrs. Wendt showed up in Frankfurt and the professor threatened to jump off a church tower, Thompson recalls.
Wendt is not alive to give his version of what happened, but both CIA and Navy sources are consistent in their description of him. ARTICHOKE team leader Morse Allen felt he had been the victim of "a fraud or at least a gross misinterpretation," and he described the trip as "a waste of time and money." A man who usually hid his feelings, Allen became livid when Wendt's assistant measured drugs out with a penknife. He recommended in his final report that those who develop drugs not be allowed to participate in future field testing. "This, of course, does not mean that experimental work is condemned by the ARTICHOKE team," he wrote, "but a common sense approach in this direction will preclude arguments, alibis, and complaints as in the recent situation." In keeping with this "common sense approach," he also recommended that as "an absolute rule," no women be allowed on ARTICHOKE missionsbecause of the possible danger and because "personal convenience, toilet facilities, etc., are complicated by the presence of women."
Morse Allen and his ARTICHOKE mates returned to the States still convinced that they could find ways to control human behavior, but the Navy men were shaken. Their primary contractor had turned out to be a tremendous embarrassment. Dr. Thompson stated he could never work with Wendt again. Navy officials soon summoned Wendt to Bethesda and told him they were canceling their support for his research. Adding insult to injury, they told him they expected refund of all unspent money. While the Navy managers made some effort to continue CHATTER at other institutions, the program never recovered from the Wendt fiasco. By the end of the next year, 1953, the Korean War had ended and the Navy abandoned CHATTER altogether.
Over the next two decades, the Navy would still sponsor large amounts of specialized behavioral research, and the Army would invest huge sums in schemes to incapacitate whole armies with powerful drugs. But the CIA clearly pulled far into the lead in mind control. In those areas in which military research continued, the Agency stayed way ahead. The CIA consistently was out on what was called the "cutting edge" of the research, sponsoring the lion's share of the most harrowing experiments. ARTICHOKE and its successor CIA programs became an enormous effort that harnessed the energies of hundreds of scientists.
The experience of the CIA psychiatric consultant provides a small personal glimpse of how it felt to be a soldier in the mind-control campaign. This psychiatrist, who insists on anonymity, estimates that he made between 125 and 150 trips overseas on Agency operations from 1952 through his retirement in 1966. "To be a psychiatrist chasing off to Europe instead of just seeing the same patients year after year, that was extraordinary," he reminisces. "I wish I was back in those days. I never got tired of it." He says his assignments called for "practicing psychiatry in an ideal way, which meant you didn't become involved with your patients. You weren't supposed to." Asked how he felt about using drugs on unwitting foreigners, he snaps, "Depends which side you were on. I never hurt anyone. . . . We were at war."
For the most part, the psychiatrist stopped giving the "A" treatment after the mid-1950s but he continued to use his professional skills to assess and manipulate agents and defectors. His job was to help find out if a subject was under another country's control and to recommend how the person could be switched to the CIA's. In this work, he was contributing to the mainstream of CIA activity that permeates its institutional existence from its operations to its internal politics to its social life: the notion of controlling people. Finding reliable ways to do that is a primary CIA goal, and the business is often a brutal one. As former CIA Director Richard Helms stated in Senate testimony, "The clandestine operator . . . is trained to believe you can't count on the honesty of your agent to do exactly what you want or to report accurately unless you own him body and soul."
Like all the world's secret services, the CIA sought to find the best methods of owning people and making sure they stayed owned. How could an operator be sure of an agent's loyalties? Refugees and defectors were flooding Western Europe, and the CIA wanted to exploit them. Which ones were telling the truth? Who was a deception agent or a provocateur. The Anglo-American secret invasion of Albania had failed miserably. Had they been betrayed? Whom could the CIA trust?
One way to try to answer these questions is to use physical duressor torture. Aside from its ethical drawbacks, however, physical brutality simply does not work very well. As a senior counterintelligence official explains, "If you have a blowtorch up someone's ass, he'll give you tactical information." Yet he will not be willing or able to play the modern espionage game on the level desired by the CIA. One Agency document excludes the use of torture "because such inhuman treatment is not only out of keeping with the traditions of this country, but of dubious effectiveness as compared with various supplemental psychoanalytical techniques."
The second and most popular method to get answers is traditional spy tradecraft. Given enough time, a good interrogator can very often find out a person's secrets. He applies persuasion and mental seduction, mixed with psychological pressures of every descriptionemotional carrots and sticks. A successful covert operator uses the same sorts of techniques in recruiting agents and making sure they stay in line. While the rest of the population may dabble in this sort of manipulation, the professional operator does it for a living, and he operates mostly outside the system of restraints that normally govern personal relationships. "I never gave a thought to legality or morality," states a retired and quite cynical Agency case officer with over 20 years' experience. "Frankly, I did what worked."
The operator pursues people he can turn into "controlled sources"agents willing to do his bidding either in supplying intelligence or taking covert action. He seeks people in a position to do something useful for the Agencyor who someday might be in such a position, perhaps with CIA aid. Once he picks his target, he usually looks for a weakness or vulnerability he can play on. Like a good fisherman, the clever operator knows that the way to hook his prey is to choose an appropriate bait, which the target will think he is seizing because he wants to. The hook has to be firmly implanted; the agent sometimes tries to escape once he understands the implications of betraying his country. While the case officer might try to convince him he is acting for the good of his homeland, the agent must still face up to being branded a traitor.
Does every man have his price? Not exactly, states the senior counterintelligence man, but he believes a shrewd operator can usually find a way to reach anyone, particularly through his family. In developing countries, the Agency has caused family members to be arrested and mistreated by the local police, given or withheld medical care for a sick child, and, more prosaically, provided scholarships for a relative to study abroad. This kind of tactic does not work as well on a Russian or Western European, who does not live in a society where the CIA can exert pressure so easily.
Like a doctor's bedside manner or a lawyer's courtroom style, spy tradecraft is highly personalized. Different case officers swear by different approaches, and successful methods are carefully observed and copied. Most CIA operators seem to prefer using an ideological lure if they can. John Stockwell, who left the Agency in 1977 to write a book about CIA operations in Angola, believes his best agents were "people convinced they were doing the right thing . . . who disliked communists and felt the CIA was the right organization." Stockwell recalls his Agency instructors "hammering away at the positive aspect of recruitment. This was where they established the myth of CIA case officers being good guys. They said we didn't use negative control, and we always made the relationship so that both parties were better off for having worked together." More cynical operators, like the one quoted above, take a different view: "You can't create real motivation in a person by waving the flag or by saying this is for the future good of democracy. You've got to have a firmer hold than that.... His opinions can change." This ex-operator favors approaches based either on revenge or helping the agent advance his career:
Those are good motives because they can be created with the individual.... Maybe you start with a Communist party cell member and you help him become a district committee member by eliminating his competition, or you help him get a position where he can get even with someone. At the same time, he's giving you more and more information as he moves forward, and if you ever surface his reports, he's out of business. You've really got him wrapped up. You don't even have to tell him. He realizes it himself.
No matter what the approach to the prospective agent, the case officer tries to make money a factor in the relationship. Sometimes the whole recruiting pitch revolves around enrichment. In other instances, the case officer allows the target the illusion that he has sold out for higher motives. Always, however, the operator tries to use money to make the agent dependent. The situation can become sticky with money-minded agents when the case officer insists that part or all of the payments be placed in escrow, to prevent attracting undue attention. But even cash does not create control in the spy business. As the cynical case officer puts it, "Money is tenuous because somebody can always offer more."
Surprisingly, each of the CIA operators sampled agrees that overt blackmail is a highly overrated form of control. The senior counterintelligence man notes that while the Russians frequently use some variety of entrapmentsexual or otherwisethe CIA rarely did. "Very few [Agency] case officers were tough enough" to pull it off and sustain it, he says. "Anytime an agent has been forced to cooperate, you can take it for granted that he has two things on his mind: he is looking for a way out and for revenge. Given the slightest opportunity, he will hit you right between the eyes." Blackmail could backfire in unexpected ways. John Stockwell remembers an agent in Southeast Asia who wanted to quit: "The case officer leaned on the guy and said, 'Look, friend, we still need your intelligence, and we have receipts you signed which we can turn over to the local police.' The agent blew his brains out, leaving a suicide note regretting his cooperation with the CIA and telling how the Agency had tried to blackmail him. It caused some problems with the local government."
The case officer always tries to weave an ever-tightening web of control around his agent. His methods of doing so are so personal and so basic that they often reveal more about the case officer himself than the agent, reflecting his outlook and his personal philosophy. The cynical operator describes his usual technique, which turns out to be a form of false idealism: "You've got to treat a man as an equal and convince him you're partners in this thing. Even if he's a communist party member, you can't deal with him like a crumb. You sit down with him and ask how are the kids, and you remember that he told you last time that his son was having trouble in school. You build personal rapport. If you treat him like dirt or an object of use, eventually he'll turn on you or drop off the bandwagon."
John Stockwell's approach relies on the power of imagination in a humdrum world: "I always felt the real key was that you were offering something speciala real secret lifesomething that he and you only knew made him different from all the pedestrian paper shufflers in a government office or a boring party cell meeting. Everybody has a little of Walter Mitty in himwhat a relief to know you really do work for the CIA in your spare time."
Sometimes a case officer wants to get the agent to do something he does not think he wants to do. One former CIA operator uses a highly charged metaphor to describe how he did it: "Sometimes one partner in a relationship wants to get into deviations from standard sex. If you have some control, you might be able to force your partner to try different things, but it's much better to lead her down the road a step at a time, to discuss it and fantasize until eventually she's saying, 'Let's try this thing.' If her inhibitions and moral reservations are eroded and she is turned on, it's much more fun and there's less chance of blowback [exposure, in spy talk].... It's the same with an agent."
All case officersand particularly counterintelligence menharbor recurring fears that their agents will betray them. The suspicious professional looks for telltale signs like lateness, nervousness, or inconsistency. He relies on his intuition. "The more you've been around agents, the more likely you are to sense that something isn't what it should be," comments the senior counterintelligence man. "It's like with children."
No matter how skillfully practiced, traditional spycraft provides only incomplete answers to the nagging question of how much the Agency can really trust an agent. All the sixth sense, digging, and deductive reasoning in the world do not produce certainty in a field that is based on deception and lies. Whereas the British, who invented the game, have historically understood the need for patience and a stiff upper lip, Americans tend to look for quick answers, often by using the latest technology. "We were very gimmick-prone," says the senior counterintelligence official. Gimmicksmachines, drugs, technical trickscomprise the third method of behavior control, after torture and tradecraft. Like safecrackers who swear by the skill in their fingertips, most of the Agency's mainstream operators disparage newfangled gadgets. Many now claim that drugs, hypnosis, and other exotic methods actually detract from good tradecraft because they make operators careless and lazy.
Nevertheless, the operators and their high-level sponsors, like Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, consistently pushed for the magic techniquethe deus ex machinathat would solve their problems. Caught in the muck and frustration of ordinary spywork, operators hoped for a miracle tool. Faced with liars and deceivers, they longed for a truth drug. Surrounded by people who knew too much, they sought a way to create amnesia. They dreamed of finding means to make unwilling people carry out specific tasks, such as stealing documents, provoking a fight, killing someone, or otherwise committing an antisocial act. Secret agents recruited by more traditional appeals to idealism, greed, ambition, or fear had always done such deeds, but
they usually gave their spymasters headaches in the process Sometimes they balked. Moreover, first they had to agree to serve the CIA. The best tradecraft in the world seldom works against a well-motivated target. (The cynical operator recalls offering the head of Cuban intelligence $1,000,00~in 1966 at a Madrid hotelonly to receive a flat rejection.) Plagued by the unsureness, Agency officials hoped to take the randomness indeed, the free willout of agent handling. As one psychologist who worked on behavior control describes it, "The problem of every intelligence operation is how do you remove the human element? The operators would come to us and ask for the human element to be removed." Thus the impetus toward mind-control research came not only from the lure of science and the fantasies of science fiction, it also came from the heart of the spy business.
NotesThe primary sources for the material on Professor Wendt's trip to Frankfurt were Dr. Samuel V. Thompson then of the Navy, the CIA psychiatric consultant, several of Wendt's former associates, as well as three CIA documents that described the testing: Document # 168, 19 September 1952, Subject: "Project LGQ"; Document # 168, 18 September 1952, Subject: Field Trip of ARTICHOKE team,20 August-September 1952; and #A/B, II, 33/21, undated, Subject: Special Comments.
Information on the Navy's Project CHATTER came from the Church Committee Report, Book I, pp. 337-38. Declassified Navy Documents N-23, February 13, 1951, Subject: Procurement of Certain Drugs; N-27, undated, Subject: Project CHATTER; N-29, undated, Subject: Status Report: Studies of Motion Sickness, Vestibular Function, and Effects of Drugs; N-35, October 27, 1951, Interim Report; N-38, 30 September, 1952, Memorandum for File; and N-39, 28 October, 1952, Memorandum for File.
The information on the heroin found in Wendt's safe comes from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 2, 1977 and considerable background on Wendt's Rochester testing program was found in the Rochester Times-Union, January 28, 1955. The CIA quote on heroin came from May 15,1952 OSI Memorandum to the Deputy Director, CIA, Subject: Special Interrogation.
Information on the Agency's interest in amnesia came from 14 January 1952 memo, Subject: BLUEBIRD/ARTICHOKE, Proposed Research; 7 March 1951, Subject: Informal Discussion with Chief [deleted] Regarding "Disposal"; 1 May 1951, Subject: Recommendation for Disposal of Maximum Custody Defectors; and #A/B, I, 75/13, undated, Subject: Amnesia.
The quote from Homer on nepenthe was found in Sidney Cohen's The Beyond Within: The LSD Story (New York: Atheneum, 1972).
The section on control came from interviews with John Stockwell and several other former CIA men.
Footnotes1. What Wendt appears to have been getting atnamely, that repeated shots of heroin might have an effect on interrogationwas stated explicitly in a 1952 CIA document which declared the drug "can be useful in reverse because of the stresses produced when . . . withdrawn from those addicted." Wendt's interest in heroin seems to have lasted to his death in 1977, long after his experiments had stopped. The woman who cleaned out his safe at that time told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle she found a quantity of the white powder, along with syringes and a good many other drugs. (back)
2. Being good undercover operators, the CIA men never let on to Wendt that they knew his secret, and Wendt was not about to give it away. Toward the end of the trip, he told the consultant he would feel "unpatriotic" if he were to share his secret because the ARTICHOKE team was "not competent" to use the drugs. (back)
3. Homer reported the ancient Greeks had such a substancenepenthe"a drug to lull all pain and anger, and bring forgetfulness of every sorrow." (back)
4. Neither Morse Allen nor anyone else on the ARTICHOKE teams spoke any foreign languages. Allen believed that the difficulty in communicating with the guinea pigs hampered ARTICHOKE research. (back)
5. The answer was yes, in the sense that Soviet agent Harold "Kim" Philby, working as British intelligence's liaison with the CIA apparently informed his spymasters of specific plans to set up anticommunist resistance movements in Albania and all over Eastern Europe. The Russians almost certainly learned about CIA plans to overthrow communist rule in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself. Knowing of such operations presumably increased Soviet hostility. (back)
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