MKULTRA: Who Controls Your Mind?

Project MK-Ultra, or simply MK-Ultra, was a series of illegal scientific experiments conducted on Canadian and American citizens from 1953 until 1973 by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Canadian government. The aim was to find a method using electroshock, LSD, and other drugs to manipulate or alter people’s minds. These experiments were mostly conducted on universities, hospitals, and prisons with over hundreds of victims.


It was started in response to the fear of communist infiltration at end of Korean War when veterans returned and showed sympathy toward their communist enemies. The government suspected that these veterans were brainwashed by the communists during captivity, so it started the project to counter the alleged mind controlling techniques used by communist enemies. Veterans were the primary targets of the experiments, and then the program expanded to average citizens who never consented to the experiment.


In 1974, the New York Times shocked the public with report of the clandestine activities of CIA on American citizens. It immediately prompted the formation of Church Committee led by Senator Frank Church and Rockefeller Commission led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to investigate project MK-Ultra and other experiments conducted by CIA. Because most files were ordered to be destroyed by the CIA director Richard Helms prior to the investigation, it made the full investigation more difficult. In 1975, it was finally affirmed from the investigation that CIA had conducted unethical experiments on human subjects without their consent.


One notable victim of the tragedy was Frank Olson who was a warfare bacteriologist working for the CIA. His supervisor secretly dosed him with LSD which led him to jump off a window from a ten-story hotel. At first, the tragedy was ruled as a suicide, while many of his family objected and insisted that it was a murder. Later, while more details from the experiment was exposed, the government finally resumed responsibility and admitted to using Olson as a testing subject without his consent. While his family was compensated for the tragedy, many victims today are still not compensated because they could not prove that they or their family members were medically tortured. Experiment involved more than 80 institutions including McGill University which is renowned for its psychology program, Atlanta federal penitentiary, and many other institutions.

Impact on society

The incident inspired pop culture to produce a television show called The Sleep Room showing the imaginary details of the procedures during these experiments. Patients were bombarded by recorded tapes during their sleep and injected various drugs to control their behaviors. It is still used as a reference in today’s pop culture media. Due to the incident, people began to be more skeptical toward government institutions until today and contributed to the rise of conspiracy theories involving the CIA.


Although the official narrative insists that the program has been halted due to moral issues, many suspects that it is still operating under different names. Government is allegedly still using the same techniques in their interrogation process on federal criminals.

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