L. Neil Smith's
Number 314, April 10, 2005

"Who's Crazy Now?"

We Have Ways of Making You Talk
by Fran Van Cleave
Fran SPLAT FranVanCleave SPLOT com

Special to TLE

In Term Limits, Vince Flynn's punch-pulling debut novel of political assassination, captive hero Michael O'Rourke is threatened by the sinister statist National Security Advisor, who brandishes a clear vial and a syringe.

"No secret is safe," the NSA declares with a smirk. "Some doctors claim to have administered the drug without causing permanent damage, but I'm not a doctor...."

Truth serum. Mind-control drugs. These semi-anonymous offspring of CIA research have become so well-known, they require little explanation in fiction. Those of us who grew up in the sixties have a vague idea that the CIA started with LSD, but the truth is a bit stranger than that. The mind-control industry started in World War II in three different places: Dachau, Manchuria, and the Manhattan Project.

Incredibly, while SS Hauptsturhmführer Dr. Plottner was spiking coffee with mescaline for his captive patients at Dachau, and the Japanese were torturing their Chinese prisoners with psychological warfare, officers in the CIA's precursor agency, the OSS, were dosing scientists in the Manhattan Project with concentrated liquid marijuana.

As documented in The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control, by John Marks, a former officer in the State Department, it was all about "eliminating the will of the person examined."

The scientists vomited up the marijuana concentrate, but enjoyed smoking tobacco-laced joints, revealing many personal details while high. However, they did not appear to relinquish their wills, which was a great disappointment to the OSS, despite the good luck they'd had "cleansing" the Army of suspected communists with dope-fueled confessions.

The CIA was chartered in 1947, with MK-Ultra (the 'MK' stood for mind-control) funded in 1953, and the Agency set out immediately to enlist both drug industry giants and major colleges in its quest for perfect control over humanity's minds.

Eli Lilly, Harvard University, the University of Illinois, the Massachusetts Institute of Mental Health, and Canada's McGill University all took CIA money to run ethically dubious LSD experiments on mental patients, college students, and drug addicts. The explosion of academic outrage that caused Dr. Timothy Leary to be fired from Harvard did not come about because of his use of LSD, but because of the way he used it—as a means of individual enlightenment, with a bit of anti-authoritarian nose-thumbing thrown in.

Of course, the CIA's own personnel were dropping acid regularly, tripping at Agency parties and slipping doses into other people's coffee. Hardened spooks laughed uproariously, broke down in tears babbling about the brotherhood of man, or overcome by (justifiable) paranoia, escaped into downtown D.C., their would-be interrogators in hot pursuit. After a number of bizarre incidents and a suicide, the CIA finally concluded that LSD was simply too unpredictable for its purposes. So it set out on a new program of experimentation, trying out hundreds of different chemicals in its search for the perfect agent of mind control.

While most of that research has been shrouded in secrecy, there is strong circumstantial evidence to show that at least one of those drugs was a benzodiazepine, a class of anti-anxiety agents (e.g. Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Restoril, and Dalmane, often sold as sleeping pills) that became the most widely prescribed medications worldwide in the 1970s.

Brain-wave studies have shown that in fact these cognitive depressants do not cause people to fall asleep quickly or stay asleep. Rather, according to Dr. Gregg Jacobs, a Senior Research Scientist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who founded the Behavioral Medicine Insomnia Program, these drugs caused the subjects to forget how long it took to fall asleep, and how many times they awakened during the night.

Versed, a benzodiazepine routinely given prior to surgery to both relax the subject and make him or her forget any part of the surgery they may become conscious of, works in a similar fashion. So it is not hard to believe that the CIA is currently in possession of a drug that causes the subject not only to babble unrestrained, but to forget everything he says while under the influence.

Fifty years of black research later, we're in the first decade of the twenty-first century and the news tells us that "Army intelligence" is ordering combat-weary Army boys and girls to use rape, lit cigarettes, Polaroids, and menstrual blood to make Iraqi prisoners talk. Talk radio fills the airwaves with blather about how a little frat-boy brutality is perfectly justified to prevent another 9/11.


What happened to the drugs? Why such crude methods when far more sophisticated tools are only a phone call away?

Maybe the intent isn't to "extract intelligence." Maybe it's all about the U.S. creating a reign of terror in the Middle East. Certainly the CIA is under enormous pressure to "engage in post-9/11 interagency cooperation," so the Agency would surely be offering Army intelligence all the drugs they want.

As the CIA's own motto goes, "the truth shall set you free."


Serenity, the FIREFLY movie
Serenity: The Official Movie Website

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