Mind Control & Propaganda

1977 Senate Hearing on MKUltra

C. Covert Testing On Human Subjects By Military Intelligence Groups: Material Testing Program EA 1729, Project Third Change, and Project Derby Hat

EA 1729 is the designator used in the Army drug testing program for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Interest in LSD was originally aroused at the Army's Chemical Warfare Laboratories by open literature on the unusual effects of the compound. [99] The positive intelligence and counterintelligence potential envisioned for compounds like LSD, and suspected Soviet interest in such materials, [100] supported the development of an American military capability and resulted in experiments conducted jointly by the U.S. Army Intelligence Board and the Chemical Warfare Laboratories.

These experiments, designed to evaluate potential intelligence uses of LSD, were known collectively as "Material Testing Program EA 1729." Two projects of particular interest conducted as part of these experiments, "THIRD CHANCE" and "DERBY HAT", involved the administration of LSD to unwitting subjects in Europe and the Far East.

In many respects, the Army's testing programs duplicated research which had already been conducted by the CIA. They certainly involved the risks inherent in the early phases of drug testing. In the Army's tests, as with those of the CIA, individual rights were also subordinated to national security considerations; informed consent and followup examinations of subjects were neglected in efforts to maintain the secrecy of the tests. Finally, the command and control problems which were apparent in the CIA's programs are paralleled by a lack of clear authorization and supervision in the Army's programs.

Generally accepted Soviet methods and counterintelligence concerns were also strong motivating factors in the initiation of this research:

"A primary justification for field experimentation in intelligence with EA 1729 is the counter-intelligence or defense implication. We know that the enemy philosophy condones any kind of coercion or violence for intelligence purposes. There is proof that his intelligence service has used drugs in the past. There is strong evidence of keen interest in EA 1729 by him. If for no other purpose than to know what to expect from enemy intelligence use of the material and to, thus, be prepared to counter it, field experimentation is justified. (Ibid, p. 34)

1. Scope of Testing

Between 1955 and 1958 research was initiated by the Army Chemical Corps to evaluate the potential for LSD as a chemical warfare incapacitating agent. In the course of this research, LSD was administered to more than 1,000 American volunteers who then participated in a series of tests designed to ascertain the effects of the drug on their ability to function as soldiers. With the exception of one set of tests at Fort Bragg, these and subsequent laboratory experiments to evaluate chemical warfare potential were conducted at the Army Chemical Warfare Laboratories, Edgewood, Maryland.

In 1958 a new series of laboratory tests were initiated at Edgewood. These experiments were conducted as the initial phase of Material Testing Program EA 1729 to evaluate the intelligence potential of LSD, and included LSD tests on 95 volunteers. [101] As part of these tests, three structured experiments were conducted:

1. LSD was administered surreptitiously at a simulated social reception to volunteer subjects who were unaware of the purpose or nature of the tests in which they were participating;

2. LSD was administered to volunteers who were subsequently polygraphed; and

3. LSD was administered to volunteers who were then confined to "isolation chambers".

These structured experiments were designed to evaluate the validity of the traditional security training all subjects had undergone in the face of unconventional, drug enhanced, interrogations.

At the conclusion of the laboratory test phase of Material Testing Program EA 1729 in 1960, the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI) authorized operational field testing of LSD. The first field tests were conducted in Europe by an Army Special Purpose Team (SPT) during the period from May to August of 1961. These tests were known as Project THIRD CHANCE and involved eleven separate interrogations of ten subjects. None of the subjects were volunteers and none were aware that they were to receive LSD. All but one subject, a U.S. soldier implicated in the theft of classified documents, were alleged to be foreign intelligence sources or agents. While interrogations of these individuals were only moderately successful, at least one subject (the U.S. soldier) exhibited symptoms of severe paranoia while under the influence of the drug.

The second series of field tests, Project DERBY HAT, were conducted by an Army SPT in the Far East during the period from August to November of 1962. Seven subjects were interrogated under DERBY HAT, all of whom were foreign nationals either suspected of dealing in narcotics or implicated in foreign intelligence operations. The purpose of this second set of experiments was to collect additional data on the utility of LSD in field interrogations, and to evaluate any different effects the drug might have on "Orientals."

2. Inadequate Coordination Among Intelligence Agencies

On October 15, 1959, the U.S. Army Intelligence Center prepared a lengthy staff study on Material Testing Program EA 1729. The stated purpose of the staff study was: "to determine the desirability of EA 1729 on non-US subjects in selected actual operations under controlled conditions. [102] It was on the basis of this study that operational field tests were later conducted.

After noting that the Chemical Warfare Laboratories began experiments with LSD on humans in 1955 and had administered the drug to over 1,000 volunteers, the "background" section of the study concluded:

There has not been a single case of residual ill effect. Study of the prolific scientific literature on LSD-25 and personal communication between U.S. Army Chemical Corps personnel and other researchers in this field have failed to disclose an authenticated instance of irreversible change being produced in normal humans by the drug. [103]

This conclusion was reached despite an awareness that there were inherent medical dangers in such experimentation. In the body of this same study it is noted that:

The view has been expressed that EA 1729 is a potentially dangerous drug, whose pharmaceutical actions are not fully understood and there has been cited the possibility of the continuance of a chemically induced psychosis in chronic form, particularly if a latent schizophrenic were a subject, with consequent claim or representation against the U.S. Government. [104]

An attempt was made to minimize potential medical hazards by careful selection of subjects prior to field tests. Rejecting evidence that the drug might be hazardous, the study continued:

The claim of possible permanent damage caused by EA 1729 is an unproven hypothesis based on the characteristic effect of the material. While the added stress of a real situation may increase the probability of permanent adverse effect, the resulting risk is deemed to be slight by the medical research personnel of the Chemical Warfare Laboratories. To prevent even such a slight risk, the proposed plan for field experimentation calls for overt, if possible, or contrived-through-ruse, if necessary, physical and mental examination of any real situation subject prior to employment of the subject. [105]

This conclusion was drawn six years after one death had occurred which could be attributed, at least in part, to the effects of the very drug the Army was proposing to field test. The USAINTC staff, however, was apparently unaware of the circumstances surrounding Dr. Olson's death. This lack of knowledge is indicative of the general lack of interagency communication on drug related research. As the October 1959 study noted, "there has been no coordination with other intelligence agencies up to the present." [106]

On December 7, 1959, the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (ACSI, apparently a General Willems) was briefed on the proposed operational use of LSD by USAINTC Project Officer Jacobson, in preparation for Project THIRD CHANCE. General Willems expressed concern that the project had not been coordinated with the FBI and the CIA. He is quoted as saying "that if this project is going to be worth anything, it [LSD] should be used on higher types of non-U.S. subjects" in other words "staffers." He indicated this could be accomplished if the CIA were brought in. The summary of the briefing prepared by Major Mehovsky continues: "Of particular note is that ACSI did not direct coordination with CIA and the FBI but only mentioned it for consideration by the planners." [107]

After the briefing, four colonels, two lieutenant colonels and Major Mehovsky met to discuss interagency cooperation with CIA and FBI. The group consensus was to postpone efforts toward coordination:

Lt. Col. Jacobson commented that before we coordinate with CIA we should have more factual findings from field experimentation with counterintelligence cases that will strengthen our position and proposal for cooperation. This approach red to by the conferees. [108]

Had such coordination been achieved, the safety of these experiments might have been viewed differently and the tests themselves might have been seen as unnecessary.

3. Subordination of Individual Rights to National Security Considerations

Just as many of these experiments may have been unnecessary, the nature of the operational tests (polygraph-assisted interrogations of drugged suspects) reflects a basic disregard for the fundamental human rights of the subjects. The interrogation of an American soldier as part of the THIRD CHANCE 1961 tests is an example of this disregard.

The "trip report" for Project THIRD CHANCE, dated September 6, 1961, recounts the circumstances surrounding and the results of the tests as follows:

[The subject] was a U.S. soldier who had confessed to theft of classified documents. Conventional methods had failed to ascertain whether espionage intent was involved. A significant, new admission by subject that he told a fellow soldier of the theft while he still had the documents in his possession was obtained during the EA 1729 interrogation along with other variations of Subject's previous account. The interrogation results were deemed by the local operational authority satisfactory evidence of Subject's claim of innocence in regard to espionage intent. [109]

The subject apparently reacted very strongly to the drug, and the interrogation, while productive, was difficult. The trip report concluded:

(1) This case demonstrated the ability to interrogate a subject profitably throughout a highly sustained and almost incapacitating reaction to EA 1729.

(2) The apparent value of bringing a subject into the EA 1729 situation in a highly stressed state was indicated.

(3) The usefulness of employing as a duress factor the device of inviting the subject's attention to his EA 1729 influenced state and threatening to extend this state indefinitely even to a permanent condition of insanity, or to bring it to an end at the discretion of the interrogators was shown to be effective.

(4) The need for preplanned precautions against extreme paranoiac reaction to EA 1729 was indicated.

(5) It was brought to attention by this case that where subject has undergone extended intensive interrogation prior to the EA 1729 episode and has persisted in a version repeatedly during conventional interrogation, adherence to the same version while under EA 1729 influence, however extreme the reaction, may not necessarily be evidence of truth but merely the ability to adhere to a well rehearsed story. [110]

This strong reaction to the drug and the accompanying discomfort this individual suffered were exploited by the use of traditional interrogation techniques. While there is no evidence that physical violence or torture were employed in connection with this interrogation, physical and psychological techniques were used in the THIRD CHANCE experiments to exploit the subjects' altered mental state, and to maximize the stress situation. Jacobson described these methods in his trip report:

Stressing techniques employed included silent treatment before or after EA 1729 administration, sustained conventional interrogation prior to EA 1729 interrogation, deprivation of food, drink, sleep or bodily evacuation, sustained isolation prior to EA 1729 administration, hot-cold switches in approach, duress "pitches", verbal degradation and bodily discomfort, or dramatized threats to subject's life or mental health. [111]

Another gross violation of an individual's fundamental rights occurred in September 1962 as part of the Army's DERBY HAT tests in the Far East. A suspected Asian espionage agent was given 6 micrograms of LSD per kilogram of bodyweight. The administration of the drug was completed at 1035 that morning:

At 1120, sweating became evident, his pulse became thready. He was placed in a supine position. He began groaning with expiration and became semicomatose.[112]

For the next 28 minutes, the subject remained semicomatose.

At 1148, responses to painful stimuli were slightly improved.

At 1155, he was helped to a sitting position.

At 1200, he became shocky again and was returned to supine position.

At 1212, he was more alert and able to sit up with help.

At 1220, Subject was assisted to the interrogation table.

At 1230, he began moaning he wanted to die and usually ignored questions. Rarely he stated "he didn't know."

At 1250, his phasic alertness persisted. He frequently refocused his eyes with eyelid assistance. He frequently threw his head back with eyes closed.

At 1330, he was slightly more alert. He was forced-walked for 5 minutes. He physically would cooperate until he became shocky again (sweating, thready pulse, pale). [113]

For the next three hours the subject remained in about the same condition. Continued attempts at interrogation yielded no relevant answers. Six hours after receiving the drug, the subject began giving relevant answers to questions. Eight and one-half hours after the initial dosage, the subject was polygraphed. The interrogation continued for seventeen and one-half hours after the drug was administered.

There was some psychological and medical screening of the individuals tested within the United States, in Europe, and in Asia. The proposal for the field experimentation in fact called for such examinations. The fact of prescreening did not eliminate tile risk of injury; the availability of medical staff did, however, limit injury and may well have prevented the death of one or more of the subjects. As the medical corps member of the team which surreptitiously administered the LSD noted, "one subject... did collapse after the interrogation and the presence of the medical officer was not only of value to the subject but to the interrogation team who were thus assured that an unnecessary untoward result would not occur." [115]

In the October 15, 1959, USAINTC staff study, moral and legal ramifications of covert administration of LSD in field conditions were considered.

It was always a tenet of Army Intelligence that the basic American principle of the dignity and welfare of the individual will not be violated. A more meticulous regard for the prohibition against violence or duress is taken in practice when the suspect is a US citizen or ally as against an actual or potential enemy, in peace as against war, and in respect to the nature of the crime.... In intelligence, the stakes involved and the interests of national security may permit a more tolerant interpretation of moral-ethical values, but not legal limits, through necessity. Any claim against the US Government for alleged injury due to EA 1729 must be legally shown to have been due to the material. Proper security and appropriate operational techniques can protect the fact of employment of EA 1729. [116]

On the basis of this evaluation, the study concluded that in view of "the stakes involved and the interests of national security," the proposed plan for field testing should be approved.

The surreptitious administration of drugs to unwitting subjects by the Army raises serious constitutional and legal issues. The consideration given these issues by the Army was wholly insufficient. The character of the Army's volunteer testing program and the possibility that drugs were simply substituted for other forms of violence or duress in field interrogations raises serious doubts as to whether national security imperatives were properly interpreted. The "consent" forms which each American volunteer signed prior to the administration of LSD are a case in point. These forms contained no mention of the medical and psychological risks inherent in such testing, nor do they mention the nature of the psychotropic drug to be administered:

The general nature of the experiments in which I have volunteered have been explained to me from the standpoint of possible hazards to my health. It is my understanding that the experiments are so designed, based on the results of animals and previous human experimentation, that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment. I understand further that experiments will be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and medical suffering and injury, and that I will be at liberty to request that the experiments be terminated at any time if in my opinion I have reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiments becomes undesirable.

I recognize that in the pursuit of certain experiments transitory discomfort may occur. I recognize, also, that under these circumstances, I must rely upon the skill and wisdom of the physician supervising the experiment to institute whatever medical or surgical measures are indicated. [Emphasis added.] [118]

The exclusion of any specific discussion of the nature of LSD in these forms raises serious doubts as to their validity. An "understanding... that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment" without full knowledge of the nature of the experiment is an incomplete "understanding." Similarly, the nature of the experiment limited the ability of both the subject to request its request its termination and the experimenter to implement such a request. Finally, the euphemistic characterization of "transitory discomfort" and the agreement to "rely on the skill and wisdom of the physician" combine to conceal inherent risks in the experimentation and may be viewed as dissolving the experimenter of personal responsibility for damaging aftereffects. In summary, a "volunteer" program in which subjects are not fully informed of potential hazards to their persons is "volunteer" in name only.

This problem was compounded by the security statements signed by each volunteer before he participated in the testing. As part of this statement, potential subjects agreed that they would:

... not divulge or make available any information related to U.S. Army Intelligence Center interest or participation in the Department of the Army Medical Research Volunteer Program to any individual, nation, organization, business, association, or other group or entity, not officially authorized to receive such information.

I understand that any action contrary to the provisions of this statement will render me liable to punishment under the provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. [119]

Under these provisions, a volunteer experiencing aftereffects of the test might have been unable to seek immediate medical assistance.

This disregard for the well-being of subjects drug testing is inexcusable. Further, the absence of any comprehensive long-term medical assistance for the subjects of these experiments is not only unscientific; it is also unprofessional.

4. Lack of Normal Authorization and Supervision

It is apparent from documents supplied to the Committee that the Army's testing programs often operated under informal and nonroutine authorization. Potentially dangerous operations such as these testing programs are the very projects which ought to be subject to the closest internal scrutiny at the highest levels of the military command structure. There are numerous examples of inadequate review, partial consideration, and incomplete approval in the administration of these programs.

When the first Army program to use LSD on American soldiers in "field stations" was authorized in May 1955, the Arm violated its own procedures in obtaining approval. Under Army Chief of Staff Memorandum 385, such proposals were to be personally approved by the Secretary of the Army. Although the plan was submitted to him on April 26, 1956, the Secretary issued no written authorization for the project, and there is no evidence that he either reviewed or approved the plan. Less than a month later, the Army Chief of Staff issued a memorandum authorizing the tests. [120]

Subsequent testing of LSD under Material Testing Program EA 1729 operated generally under this authorization. When the plans for this testing were originally discussed in early 1958 by officials of the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Holabird and representatives of the Chemical Warfare Center at Edgewood Arsenal, an informal proposal was formulated. This proposal was submitted to the Medical Research Directorate at Edgewood by the President of the Army Intelligence Board on June 3, 1958. There is no evidence that the plan was approved at any level higher than the President of the Intelligence Board or the Commanding General of Edgewood. The approval at Edgewood appears to have been issued by the Commander's Adjutant. The Medical Research Laboratories did not submit the plan to the Surgeon General for approval (a standard procedure) because the new program was ostensibly covered by the authorizations granted in May 1956. [121]

The two projects involving the operational use of LSD (THIRD CHANCE and DERBY HAT) were apparently approved by the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (General Willems) on December 7, 1960. [122] This verbal approval came in the course of a briefing on previous drug programs and on the planned field experimentation. There is no record of written approval being issued by the ACSI to authorize these specific projects until January 1961, and there is no record of any specific knowledge or approval by the Secretary of the Army.

On February 4, 1963, Major General C. F. Leonard, Army ACSI, forwarded a copy of the THIRD CHANCE Trip Report to Army Chief of Staff, General Earl Wheeler. [123] Wheeler had apparently requested a copy on February 2. The report was routed through a General Hamlett. While this report included background on the origins of the LSD tests, it appears that General Wheeler may only have read the conclusion and recommendations. [124] The office memorandum accompanying the Trip Report bears Wheeler's initials. [125]

5. Termination of Testing

On April 10, 1963, a briefing was held in the ACSIs office on the results of Projects THIRD CHANCE and DERBY HAT. Both SPT's concluded that more field testing was required before LSD could be utilized as an integral aid to counterintelligence interrogations. During the presentation of the DERBY HAT results, General Leonard (Deputy ACSI) directed that no further field testing be undertaken. [126] After this meeting the ACSI sent a letter to the Commanding General of the Army Combat Developments Command (CDC) requesting that he review THIRD CHANCE and DERBY HAT and "make a net evaluation concerning the adoption of EA 1729 for future use as an effective and profitable aid in counterintelligence interrogations." [127] On the same day the ACSI requested that the CDC Commander revise regulation FM 30-17 to read in part:

... in no instance will drugs be used as an aid to interrogations in counterintelligence or security operations without prior permission of the Department of the Army. Requests to use drugs as an investigative aid will be forwarded through intelligence channels to the ACSI, DA, for approval....

Medical research has established that information obtained through the use of these drugs is unreliable and invalid....

It is considered that DA [Army] approval must be a prerequisite for use of such drugs because of the moral, legal, medical and political problems inherent in their use for intelligence purposes. [128]

The subsequent adoption of this regulation marked the effective termination of field testing of LSD by the Army.

The official termination date of these testing Programs is rather unclear, but a later ACSI memo indicates that it may have occurred in September of 1963. On the 19th of that month a meeting was held between Dr. Van Sims (Edgewood Arsenal), Major Clovis (Chemical Research Laboratory), and ACSI representatives (General Deholm and Colonel Schmidt). "As a result of this conference a determination was made to suspend the program and any further activity pending a more profitable and suitable use." [129]

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