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Thousands of new documents from Project MKUltra, the Central Intelligence Agency’s mid-century mind control program, will soon be released. The new records include 4,358 undisclosed pages regarding MKUltra’s “behavior modification” efforts.
John Greenewald, founder of The Black Vault, a site specializing in declassified government records obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, first uploaded MKUltra documents in 2004—tens of thousands of pages, spread over four CD-ROMs. The document index alone is 85 pages.
Still, the trove of MKUltra material available on The Black Vault represent only a small fraction of the material from the sprawling, multi-decade program, with the majority lost to history after CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MKUltra files destroyed in 1973. This makes the new documents crucial to expanding our narrow perspective on the CIA’s actions from the operation’s beginnings in 1953 through the cover-up twenty years later.
Project MKUltra was an illegal program of human experimentation undertaken by the CIA to discover methods, both pharmacological and psychological, for controlling the human mind, particularly in interrogation settings. Amphetamines, MDMA, scopolamine, cannabis, salvia, sodium pentothal, psilocybin and LSD were administered to thousands of unsuspecting people, throughout the United States and Canada. Others were subject to sensory deprivation, psychological abuse and rape, including the sexual abuse of children.
Frank Olson, a biological warfare scientist working with the CIA, plummeted to his death a little over a week after his supervisor covertly dosed him with LSD. Though his death was considered a suicide, the Netflix documentary miniseries Wormwood convincingly argues he was instead assassinated by the CIA after threatening to disclose his work, particularly the United States’ alleged use of biological weapons in the Korean War.
More than 80 colleges, prisons, pharma companies and hospitals collaborated in the program, including renowned psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron, who served president of the American Psychiatric Association and the World Psychiatric Association. The destruction of decades of documentation and subsequent CIA stonewalling has made Project MKUltra a central element of numerous conspiracy theories.
The existence of the previously unknown MKUltra pages was discovered in 2016, when a Black Vault user, Oscar Diggs, discovered irregularities in the collection the CIA disclosed to Greenewald. Diggs created a list of missing records and pages described in the index. The CIA refused to fill in the gaps in their original FOIA disclosure, claiming that extant MKUltra documents pertaining to “behavioral modification” were not the same as those pertaining to “mind control.” Greenewald is currently crowdfunding to cover the fees imposed by the CIA for the remaining 4,358 pages.