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1977 Senate Hearing on MKUltra

4. Monitoring and Control of the Testing and Use of Chemical and Biological Agents by the CIA

The Select Committee found numerous failures in the monitoring and control of the testing and use of chemical and biological agents within the CIA. [74] An analysis of the failures can be divided into four sections: (a) the waiver of normal regulations or requirements; (b) the problems in authorization procedures; (c) the failure of internal review mechanisms such as the Office of General Counsel, the Inspector General, and the Audit Staff; and (d) the effect of compartmentation and competition within the CIA.

a. The Waiver of Administrative Controls. -- The internal controls within any agency rest on: (1) clear and coherent regulations; (2) clear lines of authority; and (3) clear rewards for those who conduct themselves in accord with agency regulations and understandable and immediate sanctions against those who do not. In the case of the testing and use of chemical and biological agents, normal CIA administrative controls were waived. The destruction of the documents on the largest CIA program in this area constituted a prominent example of the waiver of normal Agency procedures by the Director.

These documents were destroyed in early 1973 at the order of then DCI Richard Helms. According to Helms, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, then Director of TSD:

... came to me and said that he was retiring and that I was retiring and he thought it would be a good idea if these files were destroyed. And I also believe part of the reason for our thinking this was advisable was there had been relationships with outsiders in government agencies and other organizations and that these would be sensitive in this kind of a thing but that since the program was over and finished and done with, we thought we would just get rid of the files as well, so that anybody who assisted us in the past would not be subject to follow-up or questions, embarrassment, if you will. [75]

The destruction was based on a waiver of an internal CIA regulation, CSI 70-10, which regulated the "retirement of inactive records." As Thomas Karamessines, then Deputy Director of Plans, wrote in regulation CSI-70-10: "Retirement is not a matter of convenience or of storage but of conscious judgment in the application of the rules modified by knowledge of individual component needs. The heart of this judgment is to ensure that the complete story can be reconstructed in later years and by people who may be unfamiliar with the events." [76]

The destruction of the MKULTRA documents made it impossible for the Select Committee to determine the full range and extent of the largest CIA research program involving chemical and biological agents. The destruction also prevented the CIA from locating and providing medical assistance to the individuals who were subjects in the program. Finally, it prevented the Committee from determining the full extent of the operations which made use of materials developed in the MKULTRA program. [77]

From the inception of MKULTRA normal Agency procedures were waived. In 1953, Mr. Helms, then Assistant Deputy Director for Plans, proposed the establishment of MKULTRA. Under the proposal six percent of the research and development budget of TSD would be expended "without the establishment of formal contractual relations" because contracts would reveal government interest. Helms also voted that qualified individuals in the field "are most reluctant to enter into signed agreements of any sort which connect them with this activity since such a connection would jeopardize their professional reputations". [78]

Other Agency procedures, i.e., the forwarding of document, in support of invoices and the provision for regular audit procedures, were also to be waived. On April 13, 1953, then DCI Allen Dulles approved MKULTRA, noting that security considerations precluded handling the project through usual contractual agreements.

Ten years later investigations of MKULTRA by both the Inspector General and the Audit Staff noted substantial deficiencies which resulted from the waivers. Because TSD had not reserved the right to audit the books of contractors in MKULTRA, the CIA had been unable to verify the use of Agency grants by a contractor. Another firm had failed to establish controls and safeguards which would assure "proper accountability" in use of government funds with the result that "funds have been used for purposes not contemplated by grants or allowable under usual contract relationship." [79] The entire MKULTRA arrangement was condemned for having administrative lines which were unclear, overly permissive controls, and irresponsible supervision.

The head of the Audit Branch noted that inspections and audits: led us to see MKULTRA as frequently having provided a device to escape normal administrative controls for research that is not especially sensitive, as having allowed practices that produce gross administrative failures, as having permitted the establishment of special relationships with unreliable organizations on an unacceptable basis, and as having produced, on at least one occasion, a. cavalier treatment of a bona fide contracting organization.

While admitting that there may be a need for special mechanisms for handling sensitive projects, the Chief of the Audit Branch wrote that "both the terms of reference and the ground rules for handling such special projects should be spelled out in advance so that diversion from normal channels does not mean abandonment of controls.

Special procedures may be necessary to ensure the security of highly sensitive operations. To prevent the erosion of normal internal control mechanisms, such waivers should not be extended to less sensitive operations. Moreover, only those regulations which would endanger security should be waived; to waive regulations generally would result in highly sensitive and controversial projects having looser rather than stricter administrative controls. MKNAOMI, the Fort Detrick CIA project for research and development of chemical and biological agents, provides another example where efforts to protect the security of agency activities overwhelmed administrative controls. No written records of the transfer of agents such as anthrax or shellfish toxin were kept, "because of the sensitivity of the area and the desire to keep any possible use of materials like this recordless." [81] The result was that the Agency had no way of determining what materials were on hand, and could not be certain whether delivery systems such as dart guns, or deadly substances such as cobra venom had been issued to the field.

b. Authorization. -- The destruction of the documents regarding MKULTRA made it difficult to determine at what level specific projects in the program were authorized. This problem is not solely a result of the document destruction, however. Even at the height of MKULTRA the IG noted that, at least with respect to the surreptitious administration of LSD, the "present practice is to maintain no records of the planning and approval of test programs." [82]

While it is clear that Allen Dulles authorized MKULTRA, the record is unclear as to who authorized specific projects such as that involving the surreptitious administration of LSD to unwitting nonvolunteer human subjects. Even given the sensitive and controversial nature of the project, there is no evidence that when John McCone replaced Allen Dulles as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency he was briefed on the details of this project and asked whether it should be continued . [83] Even during the 1963 discussions on the propriety of unwitting testing, the DDP questioned whether it was "necessary to brief General Carter", the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and the Director's "alter ago," because CIA officers felt it necessary to keep details of the project restricted to an absolute minimum number of people. [84]

In May of 1963, DDP Helms told the Inspector General that the covert testing program was authorized because he had gone to the Director, briefed him on it and "the Director indicated no disagreement and therefore the testing will continue." [85] Such authorization even for noncontroversial matters is clearly less desirable than explicit authorization; in areas such as the surreptitious administration of drugs, it is particularly undesirable. Yet according to testimony before the Committee, authorization through lack of agreement is even more prevalent in sensitive situations. [86]

The unauthorized retention of shellfish toxin by Dr. Nathan Gordon and his subordinates, in violation of a Presidential Directive, may have resulted from the failure of the Director to issue written instructions to Agency officials. The retention was not authorized by senior officials in the Agency. The Director, Mr. Helms, had instructed Mr. Karamessines, the Deputy Director of Plans, and Dr. Gottlieb, the Chief of Technical Services Division, to relinquish control to the Army of any chemical or biological agents being retained for the CIA at Fort Detrick. Dr. Gottlieb passed this instruction on to Dr. Gordon. While orders may be disregarded in any organization, one of the reasons that Dr. Gordon used to defend the retention was the fact that he had not received written instructions forbidding it. [87]

In some situations the existence of written instructions did not prevent unauthorized actions. According to an investigation by the CIA's Inspector General TSD officers had been informed orally that Mr. Helms was to be "advised at all times" when LSD was to be used. In addition TSD had received a memo advising the staff that LSD was not to be used without the permission of the DDP, Frank Wisner. The experiment involving Dr. Olson went ahead without notification of either Mr. Wisner or Mr. Helms. The absence of clear and immediate punishment for that act must undercut the force of other internal instructions and regulations.

One last issue must be raised about authorization procedures within the Agency. Chemical agents were used abroad until 1959 for discrediting or disabling operations, or for the purpose of interrogations with the approval of the Chief of Operations of the DDP. Later the approval of the Deputy Director for Plans was required for such operations. Although the medical staff sought to be part of the approval process for these operations, they were excluded because, as the Inspector General wrote in 1957:

Operational determinations are the responsibility of the DDP and it is he who should advise the DCI in these respects just as it is he who is responsible for the results. It is completely unrealistic to consider assigning to the Chief Medical Staff, (what, in effect, would be authority over clandestine operations.) [88]

Given the expertise and training of physicians, participation of the Medical Staff might well have been useful.

Questions about authorization also exist in regard to those, agencies which assisted the CIA. For instance, the project involving the surreptitious administration of LSD to unwitting non-volunteer human subjects was conducted in coordination with the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. There is some question as to the Commissioner of Narcotics' knowledge about the project.

In 1963, the Inspector General noted that the head of the BNDD had been briefed about the project, but the IG's report did not indicate the level of detail provided to him. Dr. Gottlieb testified that "I remember meeting Mr. Anslinger and had the general feeling that he was aware." [89] Another CIA officer did not recall any discussion of testing on unwitting subjects when he and Dr. Gottlieb met with Commissioner Anslinger.

In a memorandum for the record in 1967 Dr. Gottlieb stated that Harry Giordano, who replaced Mr. Anslinger, told Dr. Gottlieb that when he became Commissioner he was "only generally briefed on the arrangements, gave it his general blessing, and said he didn't want to know the details." The same memorandum states, however, that there were several comments which indicated to Dr. Gottlieb that Mr. Giordano was aware of the substance of the project. It is possible that the Commissioner provided a general authorization for the arrangement without understanding what it entailed or considering its propriety. A reluctance to seek detailed information from the CIA, and the CIA's hesitancy to volunteer it, has been found in a number of instances during the Select Committee's investigations. This problem is not confined to the executive branch but has also marked congressional relationships with the Agency.

c. Internal Review. -- The waiver of regulations and the absence of documentation make it difficult to determine now who authorized which activities. More importantly, they made internal Agency review mechanisms much less effective. [90] Controversial and highly sensitive projects which should have been subject to the most rigorous inspection lacked effective internal review.

Given the role of the General Counsel and his reaction to the surreptitious administration of LSD to Dr. Olson, it would have seemed likely that he would be asked about the legality or propriety of any subsequent projects involving such administration. This was not done. He did not learn about this testing until the 1970's. Nor was the General Counsel's opinion sought on other MKULTRA projects, though these had been characterized by the Inspector General in the 1957 Report on TSD as "unethical and illicit." [91]

There is no mention in the report of the 1957 Inspector General's survey of TSD of the project involving the surreptitious administration of LSD. That project was apparently not brought to the attention of the survey team. The Inspector who discovered it during the IG's 1963 survey of TSD recalls coming upon evidence of it inadvertently, rather than its having been called to his attention as an especially sensitive project. [92]

Thus both the General Counsel and the Inspector General, the principal internal mechanisms for the control of possibly improper actions, were excluded from regular reviews of the project. When the project was discovered the Executive Director Comptroller voiced strong opposition to it; it is possible that the project would have been terminated in 1957 if it had been called to his attention when he then served as Inspector General.

The Audit Staff, which also serves an internal review function through the examination of Agency expenditures, also encountered substantial difficulty with MKULTRA. When MKULTRA was first proposed the Audit Staff was to be excluded from any function. This was soon changed. However, the waiver of normal "contractual procedures" in MKULTRA increased the likelihood of "irregularities" as well as the difficulty in detecting them. The head of the Audit Branch characterized the MKULTRA procedures as "having allowed practices that produced gross administrative failures," including a lack of controls within outside contractors which would "assure proper accountability in use of government funds." It also diminished the CIA's capacity to verify the accountings provided by outside firms.

d. Compartmentation and Jurisdictional Conflict Within the Agency. -- As has been noted, the testing and use of chemical and biological agents was treated as a highly sensitive activity within the CIA. This resulted in a high degree of compartmentation. At the same time substantial jurisdictional conflict existed within the Agency between the Technical Services Division, and the Office of Medical Services and the Office of Security.

This compartmentation and jurisdictional conflict may well have led to duplication of effort within the CIA and to Agency policymakers being deprived of useful information.

During the early 1950's first the BLUEBIRD Committee and then the ARTICHOKE Committee were instituted to bring together representatives of the Agency components which had a legitimate interest in the area of the alteration of human behavior. By 1957 both these committees had fallen into disuse. No information went to the Technical Services Division (a component supposedly represented on the ARTICHOKE Committee) about ARTICHOKE operations being conducted by the Office of Security and the Office of Medical Services. The Technical Services Division which was providing support to the Clandestine Services in the use of chemical and biological agents, but provided little or no information to either the Office of Security or the Office of Medical Services. As one TSD officer involved in these programs testified: "Although we were acquainted, we certainly didn't share experiences." [93]

QKHILLTOP, another group designed to coordinate research in this area also had little success. The group met infrequently -- only twice a year -- and little specific information was exchanged. [94]

Concern over security obviously played some role in the failure to share information, [95] but this appears not to be the only reason. A TSD officer stated that the Office, of Medical Services simply wasn't "particularly interested in what we were doing" and never sought such information. [96] On the other hand, a representative of the Office of Medical Services consistently sought to have medical personnel participate in the use of chemical and biological agents suggested that TSD did not inform the Office of Medical Services in order to prevent their involvement.

Jurisdictional conflict was constant in this area. The Office of Security, which had been assigned responsibility for direction of ARTICHOKE, consistently sought to bring TSD operations involving psychochemicals under the ARTICHOKE umbrella. The Office of Medical Services sought to have OMS physicians advise and participate in the operational use of drugs. As the Inspector General described it in 1957, "the basic issue is concerned with the extent of authority that should be exercised by the Chief, Medical Staff, over the activities of TSD which encroach upon or enter into the medical field," and which are conducted by TSD "without seeking the prior approval of the Chief, Medical Staff, and often without informing him of their nature and extent." [91]

As was noted previously, because the projects and programs of TSD stemmed directly from operational needs controlled by the DDP, the IG recommended no further supervision of these activities by the Medical Staff:

It is completely unrealistic to consider assigning to the Chief, Medical Staff, what, in effect, would be authority over clandestine operations. Furthermore, some of the activities of Chemical Division are not only unorthodox but unethical and sometimes illegal. The DDP is in a better position to evaluate the justification for such operations than the Chief, Medical Staff. [98] [Emphasis added.]

Because the advice of the Director of Security was needed for "evaluating the risks involved" in the programs and because the knowledge that the CIA was "engaging in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions in political and diplomatic circles," the IG recommended that the Director of Security be fully advised of TSD's activities in these areas.

Even after the Inspector General's Report of 1957, the compartmentation and jurisdictional conflict continued. They may have had a substantial negative impact on policymaking in the Agency. As the Deputy Chief of the Counterintelligence Staff noted in 1958, due to the different positions taken by TSS, the Office of Security, and the Office of Medical Services, on the use of chemical or biological agents, it was possible that the individual who authorized the use of a chemical or biological agent could be presented with "incomplete facts upon which to make a decision relevant to its use." Even a committee set up by the DDP in 1958 to attempt to rationalize Agency policy did not have access to records of testing and use. This was due, in part, to excessive compartmentation, and jurisdictional conflict.

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