When I first heard that the CIA was about to release
several hundred pages of previously classified
material that would shed light on its various
operations, I laughed hard enough to scare the clown
next to me into a career as a mime. I'd seen
declassified material before. Most of it involved
pages with vast swaths of black redaction clouding any
seriously useful information. Between the blackness
were little glimpses of wretched wrongness that no one
in their right mind would take credit for having
engineered, funded, imagined, and/or perpetrated.
Somehow, the thought of the Bush/Cheney White House
permitting a whole new, potentially more incriminating
disgorgement from the CIA was not only implausible but
However, there's an old smuggler's trick that this
administration also knows well: show a little, get
away with a lot.
This week's CIA declassified document release has been
played in the media just the way Hunter Thompson would
have predicted: make a sexy link to the Mafia and the
public will forget that the Agency drugged unwitting
citizens for several years. The state of modern
journalism makes this way easier than in decades past.
A search through Google News threads shows why: it's
the same Associated Press story making up 80 percent
of the postings contained thereon. Even when the L.A.
Times or USNWR did their own homework, the resulting
story was still largely the same: frontload and
emphasize the Mafia connection, then give lip service
to domestic surveillance on dissent groups and
journalists. "But, Mr. President, what about the
Yeah, yeah, okay, so using the mob to whack a foreign
leader and spying on Brit Hume are repulsive,
repugnant, and just downright un-American. It's all
so very Sopranos and Fox Newsian. Woo-woo. Far
worse, though, were things like LSD experiments,
forced opiate addiction, and speed-induced murder of
unknowing and unconsenting individuals. These acts
were committed by licensed American physicians and
psychiatrists who worked for the CIA and whose goal
was controlling the human mind for various purposes.
The most common purpose was information extraction,
though desirable secondary purposes included induced
delusions and mania to discredit the recipient,
personality alteration to induce dependency on another
individual, memory wipes, and mass pacification of
undesirable populations. The CIA had big plans for a
Brave New World through chemicals and electroshock.
And they did lots and lots of clinical research, too.
So much that the former CIA Director, Richard Helms,
ordered destruction of all such records regarding the
150 various mind manipulation projects. Despite the
little hints spread through the latest CIA document
release, the public will never know the breath and
depth of what really happened under projects MKULTRA,
BLUEBIRD, or ARTICHOKE, or to the subjects of them.
Broken minds and people, families and communities—all
vanished into the shredder and incinerator that are
the ultimate DELETE key along with the identities of
the doctors and personnel who made it all happen.
But really, who cares? "MY GOD, MAN—THEY WERE
FOLLOWING BRIT HUME! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS?"
Hey, look! "THEIR OPERATIVES HELPED NIXON'S GOONS
BREAK INTO THE WATERGATE!"
And for my next trick, "DISSIDENTS AS OPERATIVES!"
"Thank you all for coming to the CIA's latest No-Show
Sideshow! It's been a pleasure to mislead and confuse
you once again with things that are not only old news,
but no news. Be thankful that we give you this news
because without it you'd still be just as fucking
stupid, ignorant and scared as we want you to be. No
Somewhere—probably way too close to every single one
of us—is the legacy of those MKULTRA experiments.
Like advertising. Like public relations. Like
entertainment. It's really hard to know just where
the CIA stopped and Corporate America began or
continues. Especially when Ivy League institutions
pretty much corner the market on spooks and
By the way—this week's document release of HUNDREDS of
pages took fifteen years to pry from the Agency using
FOIA. According to the new director, these HUNDREDS
of ancient pages symbolize the new protections of "law
and review" that the CIA uses to protect Americans
from the Agency's horrific misdeeds. Really. Now that
we've seen the old smuggler's trick in action, one has
to wonder how much more the CIA has done after
catching this tiny glimpse into HUNDREDS of pages from
DECADES of Company activities.