"Canadian patients believed that they were part of a CIA project called MKUltra. A research project so secret, that even the Canadian government was not informed that the agency was funding activities in this country. The CIA was seeking a new weapon, aimed not at the body, but at the mind."- The Fifth Estate
Project MKUltra, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects, at times illegal, designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
Between 1953 and 1966, the Central Intelligence Agency financed a wide-ranging project, code-named MKULTRA, concerned with the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.
The Agency poured millions of dollars into studies examining methods of influencing and controlling the mind, and of enhancing their ability to extract information from resistant subjects during interrogation.
One 1955 MKUltra document gives an indication of the size and range of the effort; this document refers to the study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:
- Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public. - Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception. - Materials which will cause the victim to age faster/slower in maturity. - Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol. - Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc. - Materials which will cause temporary/permanent brain damage and loss of memory. - Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called "brain-washing". - Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use. - Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use. - Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc. - Substances which will produce a chemical that can cause blisters. - Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced. - A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning. - Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts. - Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects. - A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis. - A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a person to perform physical activity.
The experiments were exported to Canada when the CIA recruited Scottish psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron, creator of the "psychic driving" concept, which the CIA found particularly interesting. Cameron had been hoping to correct schizophrenia by erasing existing memories and reprogramming the psyche. He commuted from Albany, New York, to Montreal every week to work at the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University and was paid $69,000 from 1957 to 1964 ($603,580 in 2017 dollars) to carry out MKUltra experiments there.
His experiments were typically carried out on patients who had entered the institute for minor problems such as anxiety disorders and postpartum depression, many of whom suffered permanently from his actions. His treatments resulted in victims' incontinence, amnesia, forgetting how to talk, forgetting their parents, and thinking their interrogators were their parents.
In the 1980s, several of Cameron's former patients sued the CIA for damages, which was documented by the Canadian news program The Fifth Estate.