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Oliver Crangle
2013-11-09 04:10:45 UTC
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Mark Wheelis
Section of Microbiology
University of California
Davis, California

The New Biology

Biology is in the midst of what can only be described as a revolution. It began in the mid-1970’s with the development of recombinant DNA technology. Slowly at first, but with rapidly increasing speed, related technologies have been developed that have dramatically expanded the experimental capabilities of modern research biologists, and that are rapidly being adopted in applied biology, for instance for drug development. In addition to the foundational recombinant DNA technology, these include genomics, proteomics, microarray technology, high-throughput screening techniques, combinatorial methods in both chemistry and biology, site-specific mutagenesis, knock-out mice, and many others.[1] Collectively, these technologies are referred to as “genomic sciences,” or the “new biology.”
These technologies are supported by, and dependent upon, two other types of technology: high-speed computing, and an instrumentation industry. Computers increasing control the instrumentation that collects data, but more importantly computers are necessary to interpret the data. Most of these technologies are distinguished by the enormous amount of data that they generate. For instance, the sequencing of the human genome produced a data set with about 3 billion bits of information—the sequence of nucleotides in human DNA. If one sat down to write out that sequence, perhaps as a first step in locating genes, or to compare the human sequence to some other sequence, and if one wrote one base per second without any breaks, it would take about 100 years to complete the simple transcription task. Clearly, any analysis of this data requires very high-speed computational capabilities. Many other types of biological data besides genome sequences—proteomic data, microarray data, etc—are also typically extremely large data sets. An entirely new discipline, termed bioinformatics, has evolved to deal with the collection and analysis of these huge databases. In fact, our understanding is often limited more by the lack of bioinformatic tools to analyze data than by the collection of data in the first place.
The new biology is equally dependant on a sophisticated instrumentation industry. The equipment—DNA sequencers, microarray printers and readers, multiple sample screening equipment, etc—were all developed in research laboratories, but these prototypes were necessarily slow, crude, and required highly skilled operators. Part of the reason that the new biology is developing and disseminating so rapidly is that a new industry has grown up that has refined, manufactured, and is marketing and continuously upgrading the instrumentation for the new biology—high speed DNA sequencers, ultra-high throughput screening systems, high density microarray printers and readers, etc. Increasingly the instrumentation is controlled by computers, and operations are performed by robotics. The scale is rapidly decreasing, so that experiments that needed milliliters or milligrams of material a few years ago now require only microliters or micrograms, or less. Although highly sophisticated, this commercially-available equipment is reliable, increasingly affordable to individual laboratories, and operable by staff with minimal technical expertise.
Because of its power, the new biology is in a period of rapid expansion. By any measure—number of professional scientists, number of publications, new journals, funding level, etc—the growth of this field is exponential, with no sign of leveling off. This is leading to extremely rapid production of new knowledge, and a rapid dissemination of the knowledge and technologies worldwide.

Military Applications of the New Biology

Biotechnology will clearly be one of the defining technologies of the twenty-first century, probably by the middle of the century in combination with nonotechnology, artificial intelligence, and microrobotics to form a hybrid technology of enormous power. Even as a stand-alone technology, it will have great power for both peaceful and hostile uses.
The short- and medium-term potentials of biology and biotechnology stem from two intertwined developments. The first is the rapid development of a detailed understanding of the physiology of living organisms. Previously, attempts to manipulate natural processes, for instance to develop safe incapacitating chemicals, or to develop pathogens with enhanced virulence, were rarely successful because of the fiendish complexity of the physiological processes underlying organismic functioning. Attempts to manipulate systems that are imperfectly understood are only rarely, and fortuitously, successful. However, with the much more detailed understanding that is very rapidly emerging, rational manipulation becomes increasingly feasible.
The second development is a rapidly increasing understanding of receptor biology. A major component of our better understanding of physiological functioning is an increasingly detailed understanding of cellular communication systems. Multicellular organisms are characterized by immensely complicated systems that coordinate the functioning of their constituent cells. These systems are characterized by specialized receptor proteins that are embedded in the membranes of cells. Each cell in the body has many different receptor proteins, some of them common to most other cells, some specific to the particular tissue or organ in which the cell is located, and some specific to a group of cells within a specific tissue. Approximately one third of the 30-50,000 different proteins encoded by the human genome appear to be receptor proteins, an indication both of the great importance of this class of proteins in human physiology, as well as the great complexity of signaling systems.
Soluble molecules termed bioregulators bind with high specificity to receptor proteins. When a bioregulator binds to its cognate receptor protein, the protein undergoes a shift in its conformation that provokes a response of some kind within the cell—a nerve impulse may be propagated, a hormone secreted, a muscle cell may contract, etc. The bioregulators may be small molecules, like acetylcholine, serotonin, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, or they may be medium to large molecules, like endorphins. Most pharmaceuticals are analogs of these bioregulators, that mimic or oppose the action of the natural compounds.
With the tools of modern biology, receptor protein genes can often be recognized in genomic DNA sequences, their 3D structure predicted, their binding sites modeled, and synthetic chemical compounds designed that will bind to them. This capability, which is developing rapidly, will soon allow the rational design of new pharmaceutical agents, tailored to enhance or block specific physiological pathways. This will be a great boon for medicine, but will also allow the development of a wide range of novel chemical and biological weapons agents.
Two applications of the new biology have particular potential for military application: understanding the functioning of the nervous system, and understanding the mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis.

Understanding the Nervous System

Among the physiological systems of greatest interest to biologists is the nervous system. This interest is both because of its great intrinsic interest, and because there is a huge economic market for the development of new pharmaceutical compounds for the treatment of mental illness, pain, and other medically important problems. Anesthetics, analgesics, tranquilizers, stimulants, antidepressants, etc are all analogs of natural neurotransmitters (bioregulators that mediate communication within the nervous system). As we come to understand the detailed physiological pathways that underlie pain, depression, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, etc., and as we identify and characterize their specific receptor proteins (neuroreceptors), we will be able to design new medications that will offer much greater effectiveness and specificity than current ones, and that will have much reduced side effects. A combination of humanitarian and economic incentives insures that progress will be very rapid.
Of course, the capabilities that emerge will, like all advanced technologies, be capable of hostile as well as peaceful exploitation.[2] Hostile applications include:

· manipulation of humans to increase their effectiveness as soldiers
· novel weapons for combat use, including a range of non-lethal incapacitating biochemicals
· new agents for interrogation

For at least half a century, militaries have used pharmaceutical compounds to enhance effectiveness of troops in certain situations; amphetamines as stimulants for pilots or soldiers on long missions is the primary example. In the future, we can anticipate that at least some countries would use forced medication to produce troops who are not only alert and energetic for days at a time, but who have heightened sensory awareness, enhanced aggressiveness, decreased fear, decreased sensitivity to pain, and a dulled moral sense. The beginnings of the understandings of the chemical bases of all of these is already emerging, and to anticipate such capabilities is not much of an extension. It might also be possible to make soldiers much stronger and quicker than normal; the “superhuman” strength conferred by some street drugs is a common experience among law enforcement personnel, and suggests that a biochemical basis for temporary enhancement of physical capabilities might emerge.
Many of the new analogs of bioregulators will be possible new biochemical weapons. It is worth remembering that the most potent existing chemical weapons, the nerve gases such as the V-agents, are analogs of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter used in a number of different neural and neuromuscular circuits. There is every reason to believe that newer, even more toxic, agents will become available, and some of these will have the other characteristics that make them attractive candidates for weaponization.
Of more significance, it will most likely be possible to develop a completely new range of non-lethal disabling chemical weapons. We have already seen the use of disabling chemicals in a hostage rescue situation, in the 2002 Moscow theater siege. Nearly 130 of the hostages in that situation died as a direct result of the agent used (an unidentified derivative of the anaesthetic fentanyl). However, much safer incapacitating agents will become available soon, and they will be very attractive to law enforcement and military forces. Nearly instantaneous, silent weapons that incapacitate might be of particular interest to special forces, police, and prison personnel. Incapacitation could involve unconsciousness, paralysis, delirium, or other derangements.
New pharmaceuticals could also be of great interest to interrogators who are willing to ignore legal limits on the bounds of interrogation. While a genuine “truth serum” may not be possible, many pharmaceuticals would substantially reduce the ability of a captive to resist providing information. Agents that cause submissiveness and eagerness to please are on the horizon, and would be effective for many captives. Pharmaceutical forms of torture could also be highly effective in reducing the ability of captives to retain secrets—regimes in which depression, euphoria, panic, submissiveness, etc, are manipulated would likely prove irresistible to most.

Understanding Pathogenesis

The interactions of pathogenic bacteria or viruses with their host organisms is highly complex. It involves mechanisms by which microbes are transferred from one host to another, mechanisms by which they initially colonize the new host, mechanisms by which they invade the host and localize in particular tissues, and mechanisms by which they evade or subvert host defenses. Very rapid progress is being made in understanding these processes, promising greatly enhanced public health and agricultural benefits.
The tools are rapidly becoming available to produce improved vaccines (more efficient, longer lasting, and safer), produce new antibiotics and anti-virals, enhance host defenses, and protect against damage from over-reaction of defensive systems. The same benefits may be realized in veterinary medicine, and better understanding of plant diseases can be expected to provide increased yields and improve nutritional quality.
However, as with neurobiology, hostile applications are equally enabled by a detailed understanding of pathogenesis. In the present and near term (10 years), possible military applications include:

· genetically engineered pathogens that evade diagnosis and treatment
· pathogens with exceptionally high lethality due to novel toxin combinations or to their ability to defeat host defenses
· pathogens that cause novel disabling symptoms
· pathogens with enhanced contagiousness
· pathogens with increased environmental stability

The first of these is nothing new. The ability to create antibiotic-resistant pathogens by selection or plasmid transfer predates the development of genetic engineering, and selection of mutants with altered surface antigens to confuse diagnosis is also not new. The new technologies, however, make the construction of such altered pathogens easier and faster, and provide a range of new options. Furthermore, one of the inhibiting factors has always been the probability of secondary effects of changes of pathogen properties—frequently a change in, for instance, surface antigens, would result not only in a pathogen harder to detect, but also in one of reduced virulence, since surface antigens often have roles in pathogenesis. Better understanding of pathogenesis allows such changes to be targeted to sites that will not compromise pathogenicity.
In nature, the virulence of pathogens is the result of a complex selective process which often limit virulence in favor of transmissibility: a pathogen that kills its host so quickly that it has little chance to transfer to a new host will quickly die out.[3] However, engineered strains that are perpetuated in the laboratory are free of such selection, and thus genetically engineered strains offer the potential of lethality that is exceptionally high and rapid compared to existing pathogens. There are many routes to the construction of such pathogens, such as the combination of novel toxins into a pathogen, or the incorporation of bioregulators that allow the pathogen to defeat host defenses. For the former, consider the possibility of a common virus that produces botulinum toxin; the latter has already been done: a benign mouse-pox virus with very low lethality become highly lethal when the gene for a bioregulator of the immune system was incorporated into its DNA. Many more such strategies could be developed by any medial microbiologist, and the options will increase rapidly.
Many bioregulators are proteins or peptides, and thus benign viruses could be engineered to produce them. Others are relatively simple chemical compounds, and viruses could be engineered to contain the enzymes for their synthesis, thus allowing the production of these bioregulators as well. In this way, viruses (or cells, for that matter) that are normally benign could be engineered to be lethal. Perhaps more disturbing, they could instead produce severe disabling effects, covering a wide range from mild disorientation to severe psychosis. Such viruses could be contagious, and could persist for years in the body (like herpes viruses and retroviruses), causing infectious, permanent mental or physical disability.
Many pathogens have limited capacity to transfer from host to host. The detailed reasons vary among pathogens, and from one mode of transmission to another (airborne, direct contact, fecal-oral, or vectored), but have to do generally with two properties. The first is the number of viable pathogens that are released from an infected host in respiratory droplets, secretions, or excrement, or that can be picked up by a vector. The other is the number of viable pathogens necessary to initiate an infection, a statistical requirement that has to do with the efficiency of early host defenses, and with the efficiency of early steps in pathogenicity. Both of these properties are amenable to engineered change, once their basis is clearly understood. It should thus be possible, at least for some pathogens, to create variants with increased (or decreased) contagiousness. Of course, this could be combined with increased lethality. For instance, a monkeypox virus, engineered to be contagious among humans, and incorporating human immune modulators to enhance lethality, could be a fearsome weapons, perhaps worse than wild-type smallpox.
One of the obstacles to making microbes into military weapons has always been the limited environmental persistence of many, sometimes measured in minutes in an aerosol exposed to sunlight. Limited persistence may be desirable in a military weapon to prevent continued reinfection, but persistence of many natural pathogens is so low as to prevent use as a weapon. Plague, for instance, has a fearsome lethality in the pneumonic form, but is transmissible only over very short distances (a few feet) because it is so short-lived in respiratory droplets. For this reason, it was not successfully weaponized by the US during its offensive BW program, although it is claimed that the Soviet Union did so. Better understanding of the reasons that some bacteria persist for long times while others do not will very likely allow the modification of pathogens to persist longer, and thus become candidates for easy weaponization.
In the longer term (20 years or so), options for all of the short-term capabilities can be expected to be dramatically broadened. In addition, new one will become possible. It is not possible to foresee in detail what will become feasible, but we can certainly guess with confidence at some of the likely developments. Our uncertainty lies more in our failure to anticipate important developments, rather than in the failure of ones we do anticipate to materialize. Likely capabilities include:

· synthetic prions and viruses
· synthetic cellular pathogens of exceptional virulence
· synthetic, non-replicating cell-like entities as vectors for biochemical agents
· stealth pathogens
· genotype-specific pathogens of crop plants and domestic animals
· ethnic-specific human pathogens
· pathogens that cause ethnic-specific autoimmune diseases with effects such as sterility

One of the most dramatic developments of the new biology is the impending capability to create synthetic living systems (living by the criterion of self-replication based on known life processes involving nucleic acids and proteins). Already synthetic replicas of existing viruses have been created chemically, and scientists are actively working on the synthetic creation of cellular life. It will not be very long before completely synthetic, designed-from-scratch viruses are produced. The capability to produce effective, synthetic new viral pathogens will follow. Such agents would have significant utility in biocontrol of pests (such as weeds, rodents, or insects), so their development is likely to be pursued vigorously, but the lessons learned will be easily transferable to the construction of synthetic human pathogens as weapons. Synthetic viruses could be designed to be contagious or noncontagious, lethal or disabling, acute or persistent, etc, and they could be engineered to lack the usual targets of antiviral therapy and to be invisible to the immune system. They would be very hard to diagnose on first use. Similarly, as understanding of the biology of the self-perpetuating prions (infectious protein agents) deepens, it may be possible to develop novel, synthetic prion agents.
Fully living synthetic cells will likely be made in the next decade; synthetic pathogens more effective than wild or genetically engineered natural pathogens will be possible sometime thereafter. Like synthetic viruses, such synthetic cellular pathogens could be designed to be contagious or noncontagious, lethal or disabling, acute or persistent, etc. They would lack the usual targets of antibiotic therapy, they would be invisible to the immune system, and they would be very hard to diagnose on first use.
It will also be possible to create novel, cell-like entities that could serve as sophisticated vectors for bioregulator analogs. These would be cell-like in the sense of having a bounding membrane with receptor and other proteins, motility systems that allow them to move, energy-generating systems to power that movement, tactic systems to direct the movement towards specific targets, and specific binding and fusion proteins in the membranes to catalyze the injection of the biochemical cargo into specific cells in specific tissues. Such entities would differ from living cells only by lacking the machinery for self-replication. They would have great utility in medicine by allowing pharmaceuticals to be targeted to specific tissues, but they would have equal potential for facilitating the delivery of weapons agents.
It might also be possible to engineer stealth pathogens. These would be pathogens (natural or synthetic) that are engineered to become latent after a period of mild or asymptomatic replication, but to be reactivated later for symptomatic replication in response to a particular stimulus. Such a pathogen would spread unnoticed through a susceptible population, and all infected people could at a later time be induced to display symptoms in response to, for instance, an otherwise benign chemical compound added to water supplies, imported food materials, etc. Symptoms could be lethal or disabling.
There has been much talk of “ethnic-specific” (more properly “genotype-specific”) biological weapons, and they are likely to become technically feasible in the future. Their development will be easiest for agricultural targets, due to the high level of genetic homogeneity of cultivated plants and animals. Such genotype-specific weapons could, for instance, specifically target a cultivar of corn widely planted in the US, but not in other countries. The rapidly increasing use of genetically engineered crop plants in the developed world provides genetic targets for such designed pathogens, or natural genetic sequences unique to specific cultivars could be targeted. Most domestic animals are more heterogeneous than crop plants, but they too tend to be highly inbred, and genotype-specific biological agents are likely to be feasible there too.
Engineering an ethnic-specific weapon targeting humans is much more difficult, as human genetic heterogeneity is very high, and the intra-ethnic heterogeneity is generally as high, and of the same nature, as the inter-ethnic. Nevertheless, it is possible to find combinations of traits, no one of which correlates highly with ethnicity, that together do. Using such combinations as a basis for pathogen specificity makes for a formidable problem in genetic engineering, but there is no reason to believe that it will not eventually be possible. If so, pathogens could be designed that are essentially restricted to one race or ethnic group, but which would only infect a limited proportion of that group (probably on the order of 10% or so of the targeted group).
If such weapons are ever contemplated, it is likely that one effect sought after will be sterility, mental illness, or other disability that is not obviously the result of biological attack. Mental illness could be produced by designing the pathogen to produce bioregulators, as described above. Sterility could be induced by causing autoimmune reactions to sperm or egg proteins, an approach that is already being actively pursued for biocontrol of pest animals. Such infectious sterility, if coupled with ethnic-specific targeting, could go undetected for a long time, as fertility rates in the target group gradually fell.

Policy Reponses to the Prospects of the New Biology

The preceding analysis has outlined some of the hostile applications of the revolution in the biological sciences. It is far from exhaustive; many other applications can be imagined, and many more that we cannot yet imagine will soon become possibilities. These are all natural applications of knowledge that will be acquired as the inevitable result of peaceful medical, veterinary, and agricultural efforts. There is no way to avoid the knowledge that will make new hostile applications possible while still enjoying the benefits of the peaceful applications; the knowledge is the same. Thus if we wish to enjoy the benefits and avoid the perils offered by new biological knowledge, a coherent policy of controlling the applications of this knowledge is necessary.
First, of course, it is necessary to decide whether the hostile applications outlined above, and others that will emerge in the future, are desirable or not. The creation of novel pathogens is clearly not in the interests of the United States. The US abandoned its offensive BW program over 30 years ago, and the wisdom of that policy decision is still widely respected. Like their natural predecessors, the biological weapons that will become possible in the future are more valuable to our enemies than to us; it is in our security interest to make sure that no-one creates them.
One class of weapon enabled by biological sciences has some appeal, however, and is under active investigation by several countries, including the US. These are the disabling biochemical compounds, currently taken from the existing pharmacoepia, and suffering from the problem of causing significant lethality along with disablement.[4] However, developments in pharmaceutical sciences will likely allow rapid development of disabling chemicals with very low lethality under conditions of use. Are these desirable?
Proponents of the “non-lethal,” or “less-than-lethal,” weapons argue that for conditions in which combatants and non-combatants are mixed, as in hostage situations, or urban combat, these weapons would offer valuable options. There is no doubt that there may be situations in which the use of disabling biochemicals would be the most humane and sensible option. However, the costs of world-wide development of these weapons may outweigh the advantages. Careful policy analysis, with due consideration to the long-term implications rather than just the immediate benefits, is warranted before any country embarks on the development of disabling biochemicals as weapons for law enforcement or military forces. In performing such an analysis, it would be wise to assume that if they are developed, they will become readily available to unfriendly nations, terrorists, and organized crime, and that protective measures will also be widely available. It will also be necessary to consider the threat to peace and democracy that they might pose in the hands of dictators, and the damage they might do to the ban chemical and biological weapons in general.[5]
Clearly it will be desirable to prevent many, perhaps all, of the hostile applications of the new biology. Many of the international legal tools are already in place, notably the Biological Weapons Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which together ban military use of all of the weapons imagined here. However, these may prove insufficient to prevent proliferation, and the US should not shy away from new international treaties as necessary. Foremost among the new treaties the US should consider, or reconsider, would include ones that would (1) add a verification regime to the Biological Weapons Convention; (2) make development, possession, or use of chemical or biological weapons a crimes over which nations may claim universal jurisdiction (like piracy, airline hijacking, torture, etc);[6] and (3) impose a single control regime over the possession and transfer of dangerous pathogens and toxins.[7]
However, no treaties by themselves, even with sustained political commitment to ensuring compliance, will be sufficient to prevent determined nations from secretly developing prohibited weapons. A variety of other means will need to supplement the international legal regime. Many of these are already in place, such as export controls. Others will be needed. Perhaps foremost would be a system of review and prior approval for potentially dangerous experiments, whose results might be readily applied to weapons development.[8] Such a system would usefully begin as national programs in the US and other countries with strong biomedical research communities, but would have to ultimately become international, or at least be widely implemented in a harmonized fashion, to truly contribute to addressing the problem.
One of the most significant contributors to interest in new weapons is always suspicion that other nations may be developing them. The development and production of chemical and biological weapons has an increasingly small footprint, and may become nearly invisible to national technical means of intelligence. It is thus increasingly difficult to have confidence in the compliance of many countries with the BWC and CWC. This problem will become worse as the technology becomes more sophisticated, production facilities decentralized, miniaturized, and robotically controlled, and the potential weapons more potent. For this reason, and others, serious consideration should be given to making transparency in biodefense and chemical defense a central component of US efforts in counterproliferation. This would allow the US to take a leadership role in encouraging other to be transparent, and to offer incentives to those that do and sanctions on those that do not. A world in which biology and chemistry are maximally transparent, without betraying important vulnerabilities or clues to offensive technology, is much more likely to deter proliferation of biological and chemical weapons, and to be able to detect when nations cheat, than one in which military biology and chemistry are shrouded in secrecy.


The revolution in the biological sciences is making it possible for biology, especially medical and pharmaceutical sciences, to become fully-fledged military technologies. This raises the specter of a new generation of biological and chemical weapons, as well as a sophisticated capability to manipulate the physiology of human beings for military purposes. Designing and weaponizing these agents would require a substantial investment of time, expertise, and money; it is not a feasible option for terrorists, although with time, some terrorist groups might be able to develop some of the simpler alternatives. However, these new weapons will lie well within the capabilities of any country with a reasonably sophisticated biomedical research community, an increasingly large number of states that include many suspected of current and past interest in biological and chemical weapons. The implications for weapons proliferation are thus grave.
In the longer term these developments could transform the nature of combat in ways that we can now only glimpse faintly:

During the century ahead, as our ability to modify fundamental life processes continues its rapid advance, we will be able not only to devise additional ways to destroy life but will also become able to manipulate it—including the processes of cognition, development, reproduction, and inheritance. A world in which these capabilities are widely employed for hostile purposes would be a world in which the very nature of conflict had radically changed. Therein could lie unprecedented opportunities for violence, coercion, repression, or subjugation… At present we appear to be approaching a crossroads—a time that will test whether biotechnology, like all major predecessor technologies, will come to be intensively exploited for hostile purposes, or whether our species will find the collective wisdom to take a different course…[9]

Clearly such a prospect deserves careful analysis and wide-ranging debate. National and international security are not well-served by ignoring the issues and allowing the world to creep towards new biochemical and biological weapons, as departments of defense and justice in the developed world continue to explore their utility for short-term tactical goals. We owe it to the children of the world to consider carefully the course we elect, rather than thoughtlessly allowing momentum to carry us forward down one fork in the road ahead.

[1] For a brief discussion of some of these technologies, and their application to drug and weapon development, see Wheelis, Biotechnology and biochemical weapons. Nonproliferation Review, 9 No.1, 48-53. Available at http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/npr/vol09/91/91whee.htm
[2] For a discussion of some of the bioregulators with potential for hostile use, see Dando, The danger to the Chemical Weapons Convention from incapacitating chemicals, available at http://www.brad.ac.uk/acad/scwc/cwcrcp/cwcrcp_4.pdf
[3] An exception is pathogens that have alternative hosts. Ebola virus, for instance, with a very high human lethality and low human-to-human transmissibility, could not persist in nature without an alternative host in which its lethality is lower and its transmissibility higher.
[4] For an analysis of the relationship between incapacitation and lethality see Klotz et al, Beware the siren’s song: why “non-lethal” chemical agents are lethal (available at http://microbiology.ucdavis.edu/faculty/mwheelis/sirens_song.pdf).
[5] See Wheelis, “Non-lethal” chemical weapons: a Faustian bargain. Issues in Science and Technology Spring 2003, 74-78. Available at http://microbiology.ucdavis.edu/faculty/mwheelis/IST_paper.pdf; and “Non-lethal weapons, the CWC and the BWC. Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions Bulletin No. 61. September 2003. Available at http://fas-www.harvard.edu:80/~hsp/pdf.html.
[6] For a draft of such a treaty, see A draft convention to prohibit chemical and biological weapons under international law. Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions Bulletin No. 42, December 1998, 1-5. available at http://fas-www.harvard.edu:80/~hsp/bulletin/cbwcb42.pdf
[7] See Tucker, Preventing terrorist access to dangerous pathogens: the need for international biosecurity standards. Disarmament Diplomacy No. 66 (September 2002), 8-12. Available at http://www.acronym.org.uk/dd/dd66/66op2.htm
[8] See Fink et al, Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism. National Research Council, in press ; and Steinbrunner and Harris, . Issues in Science and Technology Spring 2003, 74-78. Available at http://search.nap.edu/issues/19.3/steinbruner.htm
[9] Meselson, “Averting the hostile exploitation of biotechnology,” Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions Bulletin 48, 16-19 (2000). Available at www.harvard.edu:80/~hsp/bulletin/cbwcb48.pdf

2015-09-24 03:49:41 UTC
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2015-12-11 16:52:47 UTC
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2017-02-22 19:08:16 UTC
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Excerpt From:

The Search for the Manchurian Candidate

John Marks

12. The Search for the Truth



Leaving this broader sort of program out of the new structure, Gottlieb regrouped the most sensitive behavioral activities under the MKSEARCH umbrella. He chose to continue seven projects, and the ones he picked give a good indication of those parts of MKULTRA that Gottlieb considered important enough to save. These included none of the sociological studies, nor the search for a truth drug. Gottlieb put the emphasis on chemical and biological substances—not because he thought these could be used to turn men into robots, but because he valued them for their predictable ability to disorient, discredit, injure, or kill people. He kept active two private labs to produce such substances, funded consultants who had secure ways to test them and ready access to subjects, and maintained a funding conduit to pass money on to these other contractors. Here are the seven surviving MKSEARCH subprojects:
First on the TSS list was the safehouse program for drug testing run by George White and others in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Even in 1964, Gottlieb and Helms had not given up hope that unwitting experiments could be resumed, and the Agency paid out $30,000 that year to keep the safehouses open. In the meantime, something was going on at the "pad"—or at least George White kept on sending the CIA vouchers for unorthodox expenses—$1,100 worth in February 1965 alone under the old euphemism for prostitutes, "undercover agents for operations." What White was doing with or to these agents cannot be said, but he kept the San Francisco operation active right up until the time it finally closed in June. Gottlieb did not give up on the New York safehouse until the following year.[3]
MKSEARCH Subproject #2 involved continuing a $150,000a-year contract with a Baltimore biological laboratory This lab, run by at least one former CIA germ expert, gave TSS "a quick-delivery capability to meet anticipated future operational needs," according to an Agency document. Among other things, it provided a private place for "large-scale production of microorganisms." The Agency was paying the Army Biological Laboratory at Fort Detrick about $100,000 a year for the same services. With its more complete facilities, Fort Detrick could be used to create and package more esoteric bacteria, but Gottlieb seems to have kept the Baltimore facility going in order to have a way of producing biological weapons without the Army's germ warriors knowing about it. This secrecy-within-secrecy was not unusual when TSS men were dealing with subjects as sensitive as infecting targets with diseases. Except on the most general level, no written records were kept on the subject. Whenever an operational unit in the Agency asked TSS about obtaining a biological weapon, Gottlieb or his aides automatically turned down the request unless the head of the Clandestine Services had given his prior approval. Gottlieb handled these operational needs personally, and during the early 1960s (when CIA assassination attempts probably were at their peak) even Gottlieb's boss, the TSS chief, was not told what was happening.
With his biological arsenal assured, Gottlieb also secured his chemical flank in MKSEARCH. Another subproject continued a relationship set up in 1959 with a prominent industrialist who headed a complex of companies, including one that custom-manufactured rare chemicals for pharmaceutical producers. This man, whom on several occasions CIA officials gave $100 bills to pay for his products, was able to perform specific lab jobs for the Agency without consulting with his board of directors. In 1960 he supplied the Agency with 3 kilos (6.6 pounds) of a deadly carbamate—the same poison OSS's Stanley Lovell tried to use against Hitler. [4] This company president also was useful to the Agency because he was a ready source of information on what was going on in the chemical world. The chemical services he offered, coupled with his biological counterpart, gave the CIA the means to wage "instant" chemical and biological attacks—a capability that was frequently used, judging by the large numbers of receipts and invoices that the CIA released under the Freedom of Information Act.
With new chemicals and drugs constantly coming to their attention through their continuing relations with the major pharmaceutical companies, TSS officials needed places to test them, particularly after the safehouses closed. Dr. James Hamilton, the San Francisco psychiatrist who worked with George White in the original OSS marijuana days, provided a way. He became MKSEARCH Subproject #3.
Hamilton had joined MKULTRA in its earliest days and had been used as a West Coast supervisor for Gottlieb and company. Hamilton was one of the renaissance men of the program, working on everything from psychochemicals to kinky sex to carbon-dioxide inhalation. By the early 1960s, he had arranged to get access to prisoners at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville. [5] Hamilton worked through a nonprofit research institute connected to the Facility to carry out, as a document puts it, "clinical testing of behavioral control materials" on inmates. Hamilton's job was to provide "answers to specific questions and solutions to specific problems of direct interest to the Agency." In a six-month span in 1967 and 1968, the psychiatrist spent over $10,000 in CIA funds simply to pay volunteers— which at normal rates meant he experimented on between 400 to 1,000 inmates in that time period alone.
Another MKSEARCH subproject provided $20,000 to $25,000 a year to Dr. Carl Pfeiffer. Pfeiflfer's Agency connection went back to 1951, when he headed the Pharmacology Department at the University of Illinois Medical School. He then moved to Emory University and tested LSD and other drugs on inmates of the Federal penitentiary in Atlanta. From there, he moved to New Jersey, where he continued drug experiments on the prisoners at the Bordentown reformatory. An internationally known pharmacologist, Pfeiffer provided the MKSEARCH program with data on the preparation, use, and effect of drugs. He was readily available if Gottlieb or a colleague wanted a study made of the properties of a particular substance, and like most of TSS's contractors, he also was an intelligence source. Pfeiffer was useful in this last capacity during the latter part of the 1960s because he sat on the Food and Drug Administration committee that allocated LSD for scientific research in the United States. By this time, LSD was so widely available on the black market that the Federal Government had replaced the CIA's informal controls of the 1950s with laws and procedures forbidding all but the most strictly regulated research. With Pfeiffer on the governing committee, the CIA could keep up its traditional role of monitoring above-ground LSD experimentation around the United States.
To cover some of the more exotic behavioral fields, another MKSEARCH program continued TSS's relationship with Dr. Maitland Baldwin, the brain surgeon at the National Institutes of Health who had been so willing in 1955 to perform "terminal experiments" in sensory deprivation for Morse Allen and the ARTICHOKE program. After Allen was pushed aside by the men from MKULTRA, the new TSS team hired Baldwin as a consultant According to one of them, he was full of bright ideas on how to control behavior, but they were wary of him because he was such an "eager beaver" with an obvious streak of "craziness." Under TSS auspices, Baldwin performed lobotomies on apes and then put these simian subjects into sensory deprivation—presumably in the same "box" he had built himself at NIH and then had to repair after a desperate soldier kicked his way out. There is no information available on whether Baldwin extended this work to humans, although he did discuss with an outside consultant how lobotomized patients reacted to prolonged isolation. Like Hamilton, Baldwin was a jack-of-all trades who in one experiment beamed radio frequency energy directly at the brain of a chimpanzee and in another cut off one monkey's head and tried to transplant it to the decapitated body of another monkey. Baldwin used $250 in Agency money to buy his own electroshock machine, and he did some kind of unspecified work at a TSS safehouse that caused the CIA to shell out $1450 to renovate and repair the place.
The last MKSEARCH subproject covered the work of Dr. Charles Geschickter, who served TSS both as researcher and funding conduit. CIA documents show that Geschickter tested powerful drugs on mental defectives and terminal cancer patients, apparently at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. In all, the Agency put $655,000 into Geschickter's research on knockout drugs, stress-producing chemicals, and mind-altering substances. Nevertheless, the doctor's principal service to TSS officials seems to have been putting his family foundation at the disposal of the CIA—both to channel funds and to serve as a source of cover to Agency operators. About $2.1 million flowed through this tightly controlled foundation to other researchers.[6] Under MKSEARCH, Geschickter continued to provide TSS with a means to assess drugs rapidly, and he branched out into trying to knock out monkeys with radar waves to the head (a technique which worked but risked frying vital parts of the brain). The Geschickter Fund for Medical Research remained available as a conduit until 1967. [7]
As part of the effort to keep finding new substances to test within MKSEARCH, Agency officials continued their search for magic mushrooms, leaves, roots, and barks. In 1966, with considerable CIA backing, J. C. King, the former head of the Agency's Western Hemisphere Division who was eased out after the Bay of Pigs, formed an ostensibly private firm called Amazon Natural Drug Company. King, who loved to float down jungle rivers on the deck of his houseboat with a glass of scotch in hand, searched the backwaters of South America for plants of interest to the Agency and/or medical science. To do the work, he hired Amazon men and women, plus at least two CIA paramilitary operators who worked out of Amazon offices in Iquitos, Peru. They shipped back to the United States finds that included Chondodendron toxicoferum, a paralytic agent which is "absolutely lethal in high doses," according to Dr. Timothy Plowman, a Harvard botanist who like most of the staff was unwitting of the CIA involvement. Another plant that was collected and grown by Amazon employees was the hallucinogen known as yage, which author William Burroughs has described as "the final fix."
MKSEARCH went on through the 1960s and into the early 1970s, but with a steadily decreasing budget. In 1964 it cost the Agency about $250,000. In 1972 it was down to four subprojects and $110,000. Gottlieb was a very busy man by then, having taken over all TSS in 1967 when his patron, Richard Helms finally made it to the top of the Agency. In June 1972 Gottlieb decided to end MKSEARCH, thus bringing down the curtain on the quest he himself had started two decades before. He wrote this epitaph for the program:
As a final commentary, I would like to point out that, by means of Project MKSEARCH, the Clandestine Service has been able to maintain contact with the leading edge of developments in the field of biological and chemical control of human behavior. It has become increasingly obvious over the last several years that this general area had less and less relevance to current clandestine operations. The reasons for this are many and complex, but two of them are perhaps worth mentioning briefly. On the scientific side, it has become very clear that these materials and techniques are too unpredictable in their effect on individual human beings, under specific circumstances, to be operationally useful. Our operations officers, particularly the emerging group of new senior operations officers, have shown a discerning and perhaps commendable distaste for utilizing these materials and techniques. They seem to realize that, in addition to moral and ethical considerations, the extreme sensitivity and security constraints of such operations effectively rule them out.

About the time Gottlieb wrote these words, the Watergate break-in occurred, setting in train forces that would alter his life and that of Richard Helms. A few months later, Richard Nixon was reselected. Soon after the election, Nixon, for reasons that have never been explained, decided to purge Helms. Before leaving to become Ambassador to Iran, Helms presided over a wholesale destruction of documents and tapes—presumably to minimize information that might later be used against him. Sid Gottlieb decided to follow Helms into retirement, and the two men mutually agreed to get rid of all the documentary traces of MKULTRA. They had never kept files on the safehouse testing or similarly sensitive operations in the first place, but they were determined to erase the existing records of their search to control human behavior. Gottlieb later told a Senate committee that he wanted to get rid of the material because of a "burgeoning paper problem" within the Agency, because the files were of "no constructive use" and might be "misunderstood," and because he wanted to protect the reputations of the researchers with whom he had collaborated on the assurance of secrecy. Gottlieb got in touch with the men who had physical custody of the records, the Agency's archivists, who proceeded to destroy what he and Helms thought were the only traces of the program. They made a mistake, however—or the archivists did. Seven boxes of substantive records and reports were incinerated, but seven more containing invoices and financial records survived—apparently due to misfiling.
Nixon named James Schlesinger to be the new head of the Agency, a post in which he stayed only a few months before the increasingly beleaguered President moved him over to be Secretary of Defense at the height of Watergate. During his short stop at CIA, Schlesinger sent an order to all Agency employees asking them to let his office know about any instances where Agency officials might have carried out any improper or illegal actions. Somebody mentioned Frank Olson's suicide, and it was duly included in the many hundreds of pages of misdeeds reported which became known within the CIA as the "family jewels."
Schlesinger, an outsider to the career CIA operators, had opened a Pandora's box that the professionals never managed to shut again. Samples of the "family jewels" were slipped out to New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh, who created a national furor in December 1974 when he wrote about the CIA's illegal spying on domestic dissidents during the Johnson and Nixon years. President Gerald Ford appointed a commission headed by Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller to investigate the past CIA abuses—and to limit the damage. Included in the final Rockefeller report was a section on how an unnamed Department of the Army employee had jumped out of a New York hotel window after Agency men had slipped him LSD. That revelation made headlines around the country. The press seized upon the sensational details and virtually ignored two even more revealing sentences buried in the Rockefeller text: "The drug program was part of a much larger CIA program to study possible means for controlling human behavior. Other studies explored the effects of radiation, electric-shock, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and harassment substances."
At this point, I entered the story. I was intrigued by those two sentences, and I filed a Freedom of Information request with the CIA to obtain all the documents the Agency had furnished the Rockefeller Commission on behavior control. Although the law requires a government agency to respond within 10 days, it took the Agency more than a year to send me the first 50 documents on the subject, which turned out to be heavily censored.
In the meantime, the committee headed by Senator Frank Church was looking into the CIA, and it called in Sid Gottlieb, who was then spending his retirement working as a volunteer in a hospital in India. Gottlieb secretly testified about CIA assassination programs. (In describing his role in its final report, the Church Committee used a false name, "Victor Scheider.") Asked about the behavioral-control programs, Gottlieb apparently could not—or would not—remember most of the details. The committee had almost no documents to work with, since the main records had been destroyed in 1973 and the financial files had not yet been found.
The issue lay dormant until 1977, when, about June 1, CIA officials notified my lawyers that they had found the 7 boxes of MKULTRA financial records and that they would send me the releasable portions over the following months. As I waited, CIA Director Stansfield Turner notified President Carter and then the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that an Agency official had located the 7 boxes. Admiral Turner publicly described MKULTRA as only a program of drug experimentation and not one aimed at behavior control. On July 20 I held a press conference at which I criticized Admiral Turner for his several distortions in describing the MKULTRA program. To prove my various points, I released to the reporters a score of the CIA documents that had already come to me and that gave the flavor of the behavioral efforts. Perhaps it was a slow news day, or perhaps people simply were interested in government attempts to tamper with the mind. In any event, the documents set off a media bandwagon that had the story reported on all three network television news shows and practically everywhere else.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senator Edward Kennedy's Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research soon announced they would hold public hearings on the subject. Both panels had looked into the secret research in 1975 but had been hampered by the lack of documents and forthcoming witnesses. At first the two committees agreed to work together, and they held one joint hearing. Then, Senator Barry Goldwater brought behind-the-scenes pressure to get the Intelligence panel, of which he was vice-chairman, to drop out of the proceedings. He claimed, among other things, that the committee was just rehashing old programs and that the time had come to stop dumping on the CIA. Senator Kennedy plowed ahead anyway. He was limited, however, by the small size of the staff he assigned to the investigation, and his people were literally buried in paper by CIA officials, who released 8,000 pages of documents in the weeks before the hearings. As the hearings started, the staff still not had read everything—let alone put it all in context.
As Kennedy's staff prepared for the public sessions, the former men from MKULTRA also got ready. According to one of them, they agreed among themselves to "keep the inquiry within bounds that would satisfy the committee." Specifically, he says that meant volunteering no more information than the Kennedy panel already had. Charles Siragusa, the narcotics agent who ran the New York safehouse, reports he got a telephone call during this period from Ray Treichler, the Stanford Ph.D. who specialized in chemical warfare for the MKULTRA program. "He wanted me to deny knowing about the safehouse," says Siragusa. "He didn't want me to admit that he was the guy.... I said there was no way I could do that." Whether any other ex-TSS men also suborned perjury cannot be said, but several of them appear to have committed perjury at the hearings. [8] As previously noted, Robert Lashbrook denied firsthand knowledge of the safehouse operation when, in fact, he had supervised one of the "pads" and been present, according to George White's diary, at the time of an "LSD surprise" experiment. Dr. Charles Geschickter testified he had not tested stress-producing drugs on human subjects while both his own 1960 proposal to the Agency and the CIA's documents indicate the opposite.
Despite the presence of a key aide who constantly cued him during the hearings, Senator Kennedy was not prepared to deal with these and other inconsistencies. He took no action to follow up obviously perjured testimony, and he seemed content to win headlines with reports of "The Gang That Couldn't Spray Straight." Although that particular testimony had been set up in advance by a Kennedy staffer, the Senator still managed to act surprised when ex-MKULTRA official David Rhodes told of the ill-fated LSD experiment at the Marin County safehouse.
The Kennedy hearings added little to the general state of knowledge on the CIA's behavior-control programs. CIA officials, both past and present, took the position that basically nothing of substance was learned during the 25-odd years of research, the bulk of which had ended in 1963, and they were not challenged. That proposition is, on its face, ridiculous, but neither Senator Kennedy nor any other investigator has yet put any real pressure on the Agency to reveal the content of the research—what was actually learned—as opposed to the experimental means of carrying it out. In this book, I have tried to get at some of the substantive questions, but I have had access to neither the scientific records, which Gottlieb and Helms destroyed, nor the principal people involved. Gottlieb, for instance, who moved from India to Santa Cruz, California and then to parts unknown, turned down repeated requests to be interviewed. "I am interested in very different matters than the subject of your book these days," he wrote, "and do not have either the time or the inclination to reprocess matters that happened a long time ago."
Faced with these obstacles, I have tried to weave together a representative sample of what went on, but having dealt with a group of people who regularly incorporated lying into their daily work, I cannot be sure. I cannot be positive that they never found a technique to control people, despite my definite bias in favor of the idea that the human spirit defeated the manipulators. Only a congressional committee could compel truthful testimony from people who have so far refused to be forthcoming, and even Congress' record has not been good so far. A determined investigative committee at least could make sure that the people being probed do not determine the "bounds" of the inquiry.
A new investigation would probably not be worth the effort just to take another stab at MKULTRA and ARTICHOKE. Despite my belief that there are some skeletons hidden—literally —the public probably now knows the basic parameters of these programs. Thefact is, however, that CIA officials actively experimented with behavior-control methods for another decade after Sid Gottlieb and company lost the research action. The Directorate of Science and Technology—specifically its Office of Research and Development (ORDfdid not remain idle after Director McCone transferred the behavioral research function in 1962.
In ORD, Dr. Stephen Aldrich, a graduate of Amherst and Northwestern Medical School, took over the role that Morse Allen and then Sid Gottlieb had played before him. Aldrich had been the medical director of the Office of Scientific Intelligence back in the days when that office was jockeying with Morse Allen for control of ARTICHOKE, so he was no stranger to the programs. Under his leadership, ORD officials kept probing for ways to control human behavior, and they were doing so with space-age technology that made the days of MKULTRA look like the horse-and-buggy era. If man could get to the moon by the end of the 1960s, certainly the well-financed scientists of ORD could make a good shot at conquering inner space.
They brought their technology to bear on subjects like the electric stimulation of the brain. John Lilly had done extensive work in this field a decade earlier, before concluding that to maintain his integrity he must find another field. CIA men had no such qualms, however. They actively experimented with placing electrodes in the brain of animals and—probably— men. Then they used electric and radio signals to move their subjects around. The field went far beyond giving monkeys orgasms, as Lilly had done. In the CIA itself, Sid Gottlieb and the MKULTRA crew had made some preliminary studies of it. They started in 1960 by having a contractor search all the available literature, and then they had mapped out the parts of animals' brains that produced reactions when stimulated. By April 1961 the head of TSS was able to report "we now have a 'production capability' " in brain stimulation and "we are close to having debugged a prototype system whereby dogs can be guided along specific courses." Six months later, a CIA document noted, "The feasibility of remote control of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated.... Special investigations and evaluations will be conducted toward the application of selected elements of these techniques to man." Another six months later, TSS officials had found a use for electric stimulation: this time putting electrodes in the brains of cold-blooded animals—presumably reptiles. While much of the experimentation with dogs and cats was to find a way of wiring the animal and then directing it by remote control into, say, the office of the Soviet ambassador, this cold-blooded project was designed instead for the delivery of chemical and biological agents or for "executive action-type operations," according to a document. "Executive action" was the CIA's euphemism for assassination.
With the brain electrode technology at this level, Steve Aldrich and ORD took over the research function from TSS. What the ORD men found cannot be said, but the open literature would indicate that the field progressed considerably during the 1960s. Can the human brain be wired and controlled by a big enough computer? Aldrich certainly tried to find out.
Creating amnesia remained a "big goal" for the ORD researcher, states an ex-CIA man. Advances in brain surgery, such as the development of three-dimensional, "stereotaxic" techniques, made psychosurgery a much simpler matter and created the possibility that a precisely placed electrode probe could be used to cut the link between past memory and present recall. As for subjects to be used in behavioral experiments of this sort, the ex-CIA man states that ORD had access to prisoners in at least one American penal institution. A former Army doctor stationed at the Edgewood chemical laboratory states that the lab worked with CIA men todevelop a drug that could be used to help program in new memories into the mind of an amnesic subject. How far did the Agency take this research? I don't know.
The men from ORD tried to create their own latter-day version of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology. Located outside Boston, it was called the Scientific Engineering Institute, and Agency officials had set it up originally in 1956 as a proprietary company to do research on radar and other technical matters that had nothing to do with human behavior. Its president, who says he was a "figurehead," was Dr. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid. In the early 1960s, ORD officials decided to bring it into the behavioral field and built a new wing to the Institute's modernistic building for the "life sciences." They hired a group of behavioral and medical scientists who were allowed to carry on their own independent research as long as it met Institute standards. These scientists were available to consult with frequent visitors from Washington, and they were encouraged to take long lunches in the Institute's dining room where they mixed with the physical scientists and brainstormed about virtually everything. One veteran recalls a colleague joking, "If you could find the natural radio frequency of a person's sphincter, you could make him run out of the room real fast." Turning serious, the veteran states the technique was "plausible," and he notes that many of the crazy ideas bandied about at lunch developed into concrete projects.
Some of these projects may have been worked on at the Institute's own several hundred-acre farm located in the Massachusetts countryside. But of the several dozen people contacted in an effort to find out what the Institute did, the most anyone would say about experiments at the farm was that one involved stimulating the pleasure centers of crows' brains in order to control their behavior. Presumably, ORD men did other things at their isolated rural lab.
Just as the MKULTRA program had been years ahead of the scientific community, ORD activities were similarly advanced. "We looked at the manipulation of genes," states one of the researchers. "We were interested in gene splintering. The rest of the world didn't ask until 1976 the type of questions we were facing in 1965.... Everybody was afraid of building the supersoldier who would take orders without questioning, like the kamikaze pilot. Creating a subservient society was not out of sight." Another Institute man describes the work of a colleague who bombarded bacteria with ultraviolet radiation in order to create deviant strains. ORD also sponsored work in parapsychology. Along with the military services, Agency officials wanted to know whether psychics could read minds or control them from afar (telepathy), if they could gain information about distant places or people (clairvoyance or remote viewing), if they could predict the future (precognition), or influence the movement of physical objects or even the human mind (photokinesis). The last could have incredibly destructive applications, if it worked. For instance, switches setting off nuclear bombs would have to be moved only a few inches to launch a holocaust. Or, enemy psychics, with minds honed to laser-beam sharpness, could launch attacks to burn out the brains of American nuclear scientists. Any or all of these techniques have numerous applications to the spy trade.
While ORD officials apparently left much of the drug work to Gottlieb, they could not keep their hands totally out of this field. In 1968 they set up a joint program, called Project OFTEN, with the Army Chemical Corps at Edgewood, Maryland to study the effects of various drugs on animals and humans. The Army helped the Agency put together a computerized data base for drug testing and supplied military volunteers for some of the experiments. In one case, with a particularly effective incapacitiating agent, the Army arranged for inmate volunteers at the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia. Project OFTEN had both offensive and defensive sides, according to an ORD man who described it in a memorandum. He cited as an example of what he and his coworkers hoped to find "a compound that could simulate a heart attack or a stroke in the targeted individual." In January 1973, just as Richard Helms was leaving the Agency and James Schlesinger was coming in, Project OFTEN was abruptly canceled.
What—if any—success the ORD men had in creating heart attacks or in any of their other behavioral experiments simply cannot be said. Like Sid Gottlieb, Steve Aldrich is not saying, and his colleagues seem even more closemouthed than Gottlieb's. In December 1977, having gotten wind of the ORD programs, I filed a Freedom of Information request for access to ORD files "on behavioral research, including but not limited to any research or operational activities related to bio-electrics, electric or radio stimulation of the brain, electronic destruction of memory, stereotaxic surgery, psychosurgery, hypnotism, parapsychology, radiation, microwaves, and ultrasonics." I also asked for documentation on behavioral testing in U.S. penal institutions, and I later added a request for all available files on amnesia. The Agency wrote back six months later that ORD had "identified 130 boxes (approximately 130 cubic feet) of material that are reasonably expected to contain behavioral research documents."
Considering that Admiral Turner and other CIA officials had tried to leave the impression with Congress and the public that behavioral research had almost all ended in 1963 with the phaseout of MKULTRA, this was an amazing admission. The sheer volume of material was staggering. This book is based on the 7 boxes of heavily censored MKULTRA financial records plus another 3 or so of ARTICHOKE documents, supplemented by interviews. It has taken me over a year, with significant research help, to digest this much smaller bulk. Clearly, greater resources than an individual writer can bring to bear will be needed to get to the bottom of the ORD programs.
A free society's best defense against unethical behavior modification is public disclosure and awareness. The more people understand consciousness-altering technology, the more likely they are to recognize its application, and the less likely it will be used. When behavioral research is carried out in secret, it can be turned against the government's enemies, both foreign and domestic. No matter how pure or defense-oriented the motives of the researchers, once the technology exists, the decision to use it is out of their hands. Who can doubt that if the Nixon administration or J. Edgar Hoover had had some foolproof way to control people, they would not have used the technique against their political foes, just as the CIA for years tried to use similar tactics overseas?
As with the Agency's secrets, it is now too late to put behavioral technology back in the box. Researchers are bound to keep making advances. The technology has already spread to our schools, prisons, and mental hospitals, not to mention the advertising community, and it has also been picked up by police forces around the world. Placing hoods over the heads of political prisoners—a modified form of sensory deprivation—has become a standard tactic around the world, from Northern Ireland to Chile. The Soviet Union has consistently used psychiatric treatment as an instrument of repression. Such methods violate basic human rights just as much as physical abuse, even if they leave no marks on the body.
Totalitarian regimes will probably continue, as they have in the past, to search secretly for ways to manipulate the mind, no matter what the United States does. The prospect of being able to control people seems too enticing for most tyrants to give up. Yet, we as a country can defend ourselves without sending our own scientists—mad or otherwise—into a hidden war that violates our basic ethical and constitutional principles. After all, we created the Nuremberg Code to show there were limits on scientific research and its application. Admittedly, American intelligence officials have violated our own standard, but the U.S. Government has now officially declared violations will no longer be permitted. The time has come for the United States to lead by example in voluntarily renouncing secret government behavioral research. Other countries might even follow suit, particularly if we were to propose an international agreement which provides them with a framework to do so.
Tampering with the mind is much too dangerous to be left to the spies. Nor should it be the exclusive province of the behavioral scientists, who have given us cause for suspicion. Take this statement by their most famous member, B. F. Skinner: "My image in some places is of a monster of some kind who wants to pull a string and manipulate people. Nothing could be further from the truth. People are manipulated; I just want them to be manipulated more effectively." Such notions are much more acceptable in prestigious circles than people tend to think: D. Ewen Cameron read papers about "depatterning" with electroshock before meetings of his fellow psychiatrists, and they elected him their president. Human behavior is so important that it must concern us all. The more vigilant we and our representatives are, the less chance we will be unwitting victims.