The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
10. The Gittinger
With one exception, the CIA's behavioral researchwhether on
LSD or on electroshockseems to have had more impact on the
outside world than on Agency operations. That exception grew out
of the work of the MKULTRA program's resident genius, psychologist
John Gittinger. While on the CIA payroll, toiling to find ways
to manipulate people, Gittinger created a unique system for assessing
personality and predicting future behavior. He called his methodappropriatelythe
Personality Assessment System (PAS). Top Agency officials have
been so impressed that they have given the Gittinger system a
place in most agent-connected activities. To be sure, most CIA
operators would not go nearly so far as a former Gittinger aide
who says, "The PAS was the key to the whole clandestine business."
Still, after most of the touted mind controllers had given up
or been sent back home, it was Gittinger, the staff psychologist,
who sold his PAS system to cynical, anti-gimmick case officers
in the Agency's Clandestine Services. And during the Cuban missile
crisis, it was Gittinger who was summoned to the White House to
give his advice on how Khrushchev would react to American pressure.
A heavy-set, goateed native of Oklahoma who in his later years
came to resemble actor Walter Slezak, Gittinger looked much more
like someone's kindly grandfather than a calculating theoretician.
He had an almost insatiable curiosity about personality, and he
spent most of his waking hours tinkering with and trying to perfect
his system. So obsessed did he become that he always had the feeling
even after other researchers had verified large chunks of the
PAS and after the CIA had put it into operational usethat the
whole thing was "a kind of paranoid delusion."
Gittinger started working on his system even before he joined
the CIA in 1950. Prior to that, he had been director of psychological
services at the state hospital in Norman, Oklahoma. His high-sounding
title did not reflect the fact that he was the only psychologist
on the staff. A former high school guidance counselor and Naval
lieutenant commander during World War II, he was starting out
at age 30 with a master's degree. Every day he saw several hundred
patients whose mental problems included virtually everything in
the clinical textbooks.
Numerous tramps and other itinerants, heading West in search of
the good life in California, got stuck in Oklahoma during the
cold winter months and managed to get themselves admitted to Gittinger's
hospital. In warmer seasons of the year, quite a few of them worked,
when they had to, as cooks or dishwashers in the short-order hamburger
stands that dotted the highways in the days before fast food.
They functioned perfectly well in these jobs until freezing nights
drove them from their outdoor beds. The hospital staff usually
called them "seasonal schizophrenics" and gave them
shelter until spring. Gittinger included them in the psychological
tests he was so fond of running on his patients.
As he measured the itinerants on the Wechsler intelligence scale,
a standard IQ test with 11 parts,
Gittinger made a chance observation that became, he says, the
"bedrock" of his whole system. He noticed that the short-order
cooks tended to do well on the digit-span subtest which rated
their ability to remember numbers. The dishwashers, in contrast,
had a poor memory for digits. Since the cooks had to keep track
of many complex orderswith countless variations of medium rare,
onions, and hold-the-mayotheir retentive quality served them
Gittinger also noticed that the cooks had different personality
traits than the dishwashers. The cooks seemed able to maintain
a high degree of efficiency in a distracting environment while
customers were constantly barking new orders at them. They kept
their composure by falling back on their internal resources and
generally shutting themselves off from the commotion around them.
Gittinger dubbed this personality type, which was basically inner-directed,
an "Internalizer" (abbreviated "I"). The dishwashers,
on the other hand, did not have the ability to separate themselves
from the external world. In order to perform their jobs, they
had to be placed off in some far corner of the kitchen with their
dirty pots and pans, or else all the tumult of the place diverted
them from their duty. Gittinger called the dishwasher type an
"Externalizer" (E). He found that if he measured a high
digit span in any personnot just a short-order cookhe could
make a basic judgment about personality.
From observation, Gittinger concluded that babies were born with
distinct personalities which then were modified by environmental
factors. The Internalizedor Ibaby was caught up in himself
and tended to be seen as a passive child; hence, the world usually
called him a "good baby." The E tot was more interested
in outside stimuli and attention, and thus was more likely to
cause his parents problems by making demands. Gittinger believed
that the way parents and other authority figures reacted to the
child helped to shape his personality. Adults often pressured
or directed the I child to become more outgoing and the E one
to become more self-sufficient. Gittinger found he could measure
the compensations, or adjustments, the child made on another Wechsler
subtest, the one that rated arithmetic ability. He noticed that
in later life, when the person was subject to stress, these compensations
tended to disappear, and the person reverted to his original personality
type. Gittinger wrote that his system "makes possible the
assessment of fundamental discrepancies between the surface personality
and the underlying personality structurediscrepancies that
produce tension, conflict, and anxiety."
Besides the E-I dimensions, Gittinger identified two other fundamental
sets of personality characteristics that he could measure with
still other Wechsler subtests. Depending on how a subject did
on the block design subtest, Gittinger could tell if he were Regulated
(R) or Flexible (F). The Regulated person had no trouble learning
by rote but usually did not understand what he learned. The Flexible
individual, on the other hand, had to understand something before
he learned it. Gittinger noted that R children could learn to
play the piano moderately well with comparatively little effort.
The F child most often hated the drudgery of piano lessons, but
Gittinger observed that the great concert pianists tended to be
Fs who had persevered and mastered the instrument.
Other psychologists had thought up personality dimensions similar
to Gittinger's E and I, R and F. even if they defined them somewhat
differently. Gittinger's most original contribution came in a
third personality dimension, which revealed how well people were
able to adapt their social behavior to the demands of the culture
they lived in. Gittinger found he could measure this dimension
with the picture arrangement Wechsler subtest, and he called it
the Role Adaptive (A) or Role Uniform (U). It corresponded to
"charisma," since other people were naturally attracted
to the A person while they tended to ignore the U.
All this became immensely more complicated as Gittinger measured
compensations and modifications with other Wechsler subtests.
This complexity alone worked against the acceptance of his system
by the outside world, as did the fact that he based much of it
on ideas that ran contrary to accepted psychological doctrinesuch
as his heretical notion that genetic differences existed. It did
not help, either, that Gittinger was a non-Ph.D. whose theory
sprang from the kitchen habits of vagrants in Oklahoma.
Any one of these drawbacks might have stifled Gittinger in the
academic world, but to the pragmatists in the CIA, they were irrelevant.
Gittinger's strange ideas seemed to work. With uncanny accuracy,
he could look at nothing more than a subject's Wechsler numbers,
pinpoint his weaknesses, and show how to turn him into an Agency
spy. Once Gittinger's boss, Sid Gottlieb, and other high CIA officials
realized how Gittinger's PAS could be used to help case officers
handle agents, they gave the psychologist both the time and money
to improve his system under the auspices of the Human Ecology
Although he was a full-time CIA employee, Gittinger worked under
Human Ecology cover through the 1950s. Agency officials considered
the PAS to be one of the Society's greatest triumphs, definitely
worth continuing after the Society was phased out. In 1962 Gittinger
and his co-workers moved their base of operations from the Human
Ecology headquarters in New York to a CIA proprietary company,
set up especially for them in Washington and called Psychological
Assessment Associates. Gittinger served as president of the company,
whose cover was to provide psychological services to American
firms overseas. He personally opened a branch office in Tokyo
(later moved to Hong Kong) to service CIA stations in the Far
East. The Washington staff, which grew to about 15 professionals
during the 1960s, handled the rest of the world by sending assessment
specialists off for temporary visits.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in Human Ecology grants and then
even more money in Psychological Assessment contractsall CIA
fundsflowed out to verify and expand the PAS. For example,
the Society gave about $140,000 to David Saunders of the Educational
Testing Service, the company that prepares the College Board exams.
Saunders, who knew about the Agency's involvement, found a correlation
between brain (EEG) patterns and results on the digit-span test,
and he helped Gittinger apply the system to other countries. In
this regard, Gittinger and his colleagues understood that the
Wechsler battery of subtests had a cultural bias and that a Japanese
E had a very different personality from, say, a Russian E. To
compensate, they worked out localized versions of the PAS for
various nations around the world.
While at the Human Ecology group, Gittinger supervised much of
the Society's other research in the behavioral sciences, and he
always tried to interest Society grantees in his system. He looked
for ways to mesh their research with his theoriesand vice versa.
Some, like Carl Rogers and Charles Osgood, listened politely and
did not follow up. Yet Gittinger would always learn something
from their work that he could apply to the PAS. A charming man
and a skillful raconteur, Gittinger convinced quite a few of the
other grantees of the validity of his theories and the importance
of his ideas. Careful not to threaten the egos of his fellow professionals,
he never projected an air of superiority. Often he would leave
people even the skepticalopenmouthed in awe as he painted unnervingly
accurate personality portraits of people he had never met. Indeed,
people frequently accused him of somehow having cheated by knowing
the subject in advance or peeking at his file.
Gittinger patiently and carefully taught his system to his colleagues,
who all seem to have views of him that range from great respect
to pure idolatry. For all his willingness to share the PAS, Gittinger
was never able to show anyone how to use the system as skillfully
as he did. Not that he did not try; he simply was a more talented
natural assessor than any of the others. Moreover, his system
was full of interrelations and variables that he instinctively
understood but had not bothered to articulate. As a result, he
could look at Wechsler scores and pick out behavior patterns which
would be valid and which no one else had seen. Even after Agency
officials spent a small fortune trying to computerize the PAS,
they found, as one psychologist puts it, the machine "couldn't
tie down all the variables" that Gittinger was carrying around
in his head.
Some Human Ecology grantees, like psychiatrist Robert Hyde, were
so impressed with Gittinger's system that they made the PAS a
major part of their own research. Hyde routinely gave Wechslers
to his subjects before plying them with liquor, as part of the
Agency's efforts to find out how people react to alcohol. In 1957
Hyde moved his research team from Boston Psychopathic Hospital,
where he had been America's first LSD tripper, to Butler Health
Center in Providence. There, with Agency funds, Hyde built an
experimental party room in the hospital, complete with pinball
machine, dartboard, and bamboo bar stools. From behind a two-way
mirror, psychologists watched the subjects get tipsy and made
careful notes on their reaction to alcohol. Not surprisingly,
the observers found that pure Internalizers became more withdrawn
after several drinks, and that uncompensated Es were more likely
to become garrulousin essence, sloppy drunks. Thus Gittinger
was able to make generalizations about the different ways an I
or an E responded to alcohol.
Simply by knowing how people scored on the Wechsler digit-span
test, he could predict how they would react to liquor. Hyde and
Harold Abramson at Mount Sinai Hospital made the same kind of
observations for LSD finding, among other things, that an E was
more likely than an I to have a bad trip. (Apparently, an I is
more accustomed than an E to "being into his own head"
and losing touch with external reality.)
At Gittinger's urging, other Human Ecology grantees gave the Wechsler
battery to their experimental subjects and sent him the scores.
He was building a unique data base on all phases of human behavior,
and he needed samples of as many distinct groups as possible.
By getting the scores of actors, he could make generalizations
about what sort of people made good role-players. Martin Orne
at Harvard sent in scores of hypnosis subjects, so Gittinger could
separate the personality patterns of those who easily went into
a trance from those who could not be hypnotized. Gittinger collected
Wechslers of businessmen, students, high-priced fashion models,
doctors, and just about any other discrete group he could find
a way to have tested. In huge numbers, the Wechslers came flowing
in29,000 sets in all by the early 1970seach one accompanied
by biographic data. With the 10 subtests he used and at least
10 possible scores on each of those, no two Wechsler results in
the whole sample ever looked exactly the same. Gittinger kept
a computer printout of all 29,000 on his desk, and he would fiddle
with them almost every daylooking constantly for new truths
that could be drawn out of them.
John Gittinger was interested in all facets of personality, but
because he worked for the CIA, he emphasized deviant forms. He
particularly sought out Wechslers of people who had rejected the
values of their society or who had some vicehidden or otherwisethat
caused others to reject them. By studying the scores of the defectors
who had come over to the West, Gittinger hoped to identify common
characteristics of men who had become traitors to their governments.
If there were identifiable traits, Agency operators could look
for them in prospective spies. Harris Isbell, who ran the MKULTRA
drug-testing program at the Lexington, Kentucky detention hospital,
sent in the scores of heroin addicts. Gittinger wanted to know
what to look for in people susceptible to drugs. The Human Ecology
project at Ionia State Hospital in Michigan furnished Wechslers
of sexual psychopaths. These scores showed that people with uncontrollable
urges have different personality patterns than so-called normals.
Gittinger himself journeyed to the West Coast to test homosexuals,
lesbians, and the prostitutes he interviewed under George White's
auspices in the San Francisco safehouse. With each group, he separated
out the telltale signs that might be a future indicator of their
sexual preference in others. Gittinger understood that simply
by looking at the Wechsler scores of someone newly tested, he
could pick out patterns that corresponded to behavior of people
in the data base.
The Gittinger system worked best when the TSS staff had a subject's
Wechsler scores to analyze, but Agency officials could not very
well ask a Russian diplomat or any other foreign target to sit
down and take the tests. During World War II, OSS chief William
Donovan had faced a similar problem in trying to find out about
Adolf Hitler's personality, and Donovan had commissioned psychoanalyst
Walter Langer to make a long-distance psychiatric profile of the
German leader. Langer had sifted through all the available data
on the Führer, and that was exactly what Gittinger's TSS
assessments staff did when they lacked direct contact (and when
they had it, too). They pored over all the intelligence gathered
by operators, agents, bugs, and taps and looked at samples of
a man's handwriting.
The CIA men took the process of "indirect assessment"
one step further than Langer had, however. They observed the target's
behavior and looked for revealing patterns that corresponded with
traits already recorded among the subjects of the 29,000 Wechsler
Along this line, Gittinger and his staff had a good idea how various
personality types acted after consuming a few drinks. Thus, they
reasoned, if they watched a guest at a cocktail party and he started
to behave in a recognizable wayby withdrawing, for instancethey
could make an educated guess about his personality typein this
case, that he was an I. In contrast, the drunken Russian diplomat
who became louder and began pinching every woman who passed by
probably was an E. Instead of using the test scores to predict
how a person would behave, the assessments staff was, in effect,
looking at behavior and working backward to predict how the person
would have scored if he had taken the test. The Gittinger staff
developed a whole checklist of 30 to 40 patterns that the skilled
observer could look for. Each of these traits reflected one of
the Wechsler subtests, and it corresponded to some insight picked
up from the 29,000 scores in the data base.
Was the target sloppy or neat? Did he relate to women stiffly
or easily? How did he hold a cigarette and put it into his mouth?
When he went through a receiving line, did he immediately repeat
the name of each person introduced to him? Taken as a whole, all
these observations allowed Gittinger to make a reasoned estimate
about a subject's personality, with emphasis on his vulnerabilities.
As Gittinger describes the system, "If you could get a sample
of several kinds of situations, you could begin to get some pretty
good information." Nevertheless, Gittinger had his doubts
about indirect assessment. "I never thought we were good
at this," he says.
The TSS assessment staff, along with the Agency's medical office
use the PAS indirectly to keep up the OSS tradition of making
psychological portraits of world leaders like Hitler. Combining
analytical techniques with gossipy intelligence, the assessors
tried to give high-level U.S. officials a better idea of what
moved the principal international political figures.
One such study of an American citizen spilled over into the legally
forbidden domestic area when in 1971 the medical office prepared
a profile of Daniel Ellsberg at the request of the White House.
To get raw data for the Agency assessors, John Ehrlichman authorized
a break-in at Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office in California.
John Gittinger vehemently denies that his staff played any role
in preparing this profile, which the White House plumbers intended
to use as a kind of psychological road map to compromise Ellsbergjust
as CIA operators regularly worked from such assessments to exploit
the weaknesses of foreigners.
Whether used directly or indirectly, the PAS gave Agency case
officers a tool to get a better reading of the people with whom
they dealt. CIA field stations overseas routinely sent all their
findings on a target, along with indirect assessment checklists,
back to Washington, so headquarters personnel could decide whether
or not to try recruitment. The TSS assessment staff contributed
to this process by attempting to predict what ploys would work
best on the man in the case officers' sights. "Our job was
to recommend what strategy to try," says a onetime Gittinger
colleague. This source states he had direct knowledge of cases
where TSS recommendations led to sexual entrapment operations,
both hetero- and homosexual. "We had women readycalled
them a stable," he says, and they found willing men when
they had to.
One CIA psychologist stresses that the PAS only provided "clues"
on how to compromise people. "If somebody's assessment came
in like the sexual psychopaths', it would raise red flags,"
he notes. But TSS staff assessors could only conclude that the
target had a potentially serious sex problem. They could by no
means guarantee that the target's defenses could be broken. Nevertheless,
the PAS helped dictate the best weapons for the attack. "I've
heard John [Gittinger] say there's always something that someone
wants," says another former Agency psychologist. "And
with the PAS you can find out what it is. It's not necessarily
sex or booze. Sometimes it's status or recognition or security."
Yet another Gittinger colleague describes this process as "looking
for soft spots." He states that after years of working with
the system, he still bridled at a few of the more fiendish ways
"to get at people" that his colleagues dreamed up He
stayed on until retirement, however, and he adds, "None of
this was personal. It was for national security reasons."
A few years ago, ex-CIA psychologist James Keehner told reporter
Maureen Orth that he personally went to New York in 1969 to give
Wechsler tests to an American nurse who had volunteered her body
for her country. "We wanted her to sleep with this Russian,"
explained Keehner. "Either the Russian would fall in love
with her and defect, or we'd blackmail him. I had to see if she
could sleep with him over a period of time and not get involved
emotionally. Boy, was she tough!" Keehner noted that he became
disgusted with entrapment techniques, especially after watching
a film of an agent in bed with a "recruitment target."
He pointed out that Agency case officers, many of whom "got
their jollies" from such work, used a hidden camera to get
their shots. The sexual technology developed in the MKULTRA safehouses
in New York and San Francisco had been put to work. The operation
worked no better in the 1960s, however, than TSS officials predicted
such activities would a decade earlier. "You don't really
recruit agents with sexual blackmail," Keehner concluded.
"That's why I couldn't even take reading the files after
a while. I was sickened at seeing people take pleasure in other
people's inadequacies. First of all, I thought it was just dumb.
For all the money going out, nothing ever came back."
Keehner became disgusted by the picking-at-scabs aspect of TSS
assessment work. Once the PAS had identified a target as having
potential mental instabilities, staff members sometimes suggested
ways to break him down, reasoning that by using a ratchet-like
approach to put him under increased pressure, they might be able
to break the lines that tied him to his country, if not to his
sanity. Keehner stated, "I was sent to deal with the most
negative aspects of the human condition. It was planned destructiveness.
First, you'd check to see if you could destroy a man's marriage.
If you could, then that would be enough to put a lot of stress
on the individual, to break him down. Then you might start a minor
rumor campaign against him. Harass him constantly. Bump his car
in traffic. A lot of it is ridiculous, but it may have a cumulative
effect." Agency case officers might also use this same sort
of stress-producing campaign against a particularly effective
enemy intelligence officer whom they knew they could never recruit
but whom they hoped to neutralize.
Most operationsincluding most recruitmentsdid not rely on
such nasty methods. The case officer still benefited from the
TSS staffs assessment, but he usually wanted to minimize stress
rather than accentuate it. CIA operators tended to agree that
the best way to recruit an agent was to make the relationship
as productive and satisfying as possible for him, operating from
the old adage about catching more flies with honey than vinegar.
"You pick the thing most fearful to himthe things which
would cause him the most doubt," says the source. "If
his greatest fear is that he can't trust you to protect him and
his family, you overload your pitch with your ability to do it.
Other people need structure, so you tell them exactly what they
will need to do. If you leave it open-ended, they'll be scared
you'll ask them to do things they're incapable of."
Soon after the successful recruitment of a foreigner to spy for
the CIA, either a CIA staff member or a specially trained case
officer normally sat down with the new agent and gave him the
full battery of Wechsler subtestsa process that took several
hours. The tester never mentioned that the exercise had anything
to do with personality but called it an "aptitude" testwhich
it also is. The assessments office in Washington then analyzed
the results. As with the polygraph, the PAS helped tell if the
agent were lying. It could often delve deeper than surface concepts
of true and false. The PAS might show that the agent's motivations
were not in line with his behavior. In that case, if the gap were
too great, the case officer could expect to run up against considerable
deceptionresulting either from espionage motives or psychotic
The TSS staff assessors sent a report back to the field on the
best way to deal with the new agent and the most effective means
to exploit him. They would recommend whether his case officer
should treat him sternly or permissively. If the agent were an
Externalizer who needed considerable companionship, the assessors
might suggest that the case officer try to spend as much time
with him as possible.
They would probably recommend against sending this E agent on
a long mission into a hostile country, where he could not have
the friendly company he craved.
Without any help from John Gittinger or his system, covert operators
had long been deciding matters like these, which were, after all,
rooted in common sense. Most case officers prided themselves on
their ability to play their agents like a musical instrument,
at just the right tempo, and the Gittinger system did not shake
their belief that nothing could beat their own intuition. Former
CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline expresses a common view when he
says the PAS "was part of the systemkind of a check-and-balancea
supposedly scientific tool that was not weighed very heavily.
I never put as much weight on the psychological assessment reports
as on a case officer's view.... In the end, people went with their
own opinion." Former Director William Colby found the assessment
reports particularly useful in smoothing over that "traumatic"
period when a case officer had to pass on his agent to a replacement.
Understandably, the agent often saw the switch as a danger or
a hardship. "The new guy has to show some understanding and
sympathy," says Colby, who had 30 years of operational experience
himself, "but it doesn't work if these feelings are not real."
For those Agency officers who yearned to remove as much of the
human element as possible from agent operations, Gittinger's system
was a natural. It reduced behavior to a workable formula of shorthand
letters that, while not insightful in all respects, gave a reasonably
accurate description of a person. Like Social Security numbers,
such formulas fitted well with a computerized approach. While
not wanting to overemphasize the Agency's reliance on the PAS,
former Director Colby states that the system made dealing with
agents "more systematized, more professional."
In 1963 the CIA's Inspector General gave the TSS assessment staff
high marks and described how it fit into operations:
The [Clandestine Services] case officer is first and foremost,
perhaps, a practitioner of the art of assessing and exploiting
human personality and motivations for ulterior purposes. The ingredients
of advanced skill in this art are highly individualistic in nature,
including such qualities as perceptiveness and imagination. [The
PAS] seeks to enhance the case officer's skill by bringing the
methods and disciplines of psychology to bear.... The prime objectives
are control, exploitation, or neutralization. These objectives
are innately anti-ethical rather than therapeutic in their intent.
In other words, the PAS is directed toward the relationship between
the American case officer and his foreign agent, that lies at
the heart of espionage. In that sense, it amounts to its own academic
disciplinethe psychology of spyingcomplete with axioms and
reams of empirical data. The business of the PAS, like that of
the CIA, is control.
One former CIA psychologist, who still feels guilty about his
participation in certain Agency operations, believes that the
CIA's fixation on control and manipulation mirrors, in a more
virulent form, the way Americans deal with each other generally.
"I don't think the CIA is too far removed from the culture,"
he says. "It's just a matter of degree. If you put a lot
of money out there, there are many people who are lacking the
ethics even of the CIA. At least the Agency had an ideological
basis." This psychologist believes that the United States
has become an extremely control-oriented societyfrom the classroom
to politics to television advertising. Spying and the PAS techniques
are unique only in that they are more systematic and secret.
Another TSS scientist believes that the Agency's behavioral research
was a logical extension of the efforts of American psychologists,
psychiatrists, and sociologists to change behaviorwhich he
calls their "sole motivation." Such people manipulate
their subjects in trying to make mentally disturbed people well,
in turning criminals into law-abiding citizens, in improving the
work of students, and in pushing poor people to get off welfare.
The source cites all of these as examples of "behavior modification"
for socially acceptable reasons, which, like public attitudes
toward spying, change from time to time. "Don't get the idea
that all these behavioral scientists were nice and pure, that
they didn't want to change anything, and that they were detached
in their science," he warns. "They were up to their
necks in changing people. It just happened that the things they
were interested in were not always the same as what we were."
Perhaps the saving grace of the behavioral scientists is summed
up by longtime MKULTRA consultant Martin Orne: "We are sufficiently
ineffective so that our findings can be published." With
the PAS, CIA officials had a handy tool for social engineering.
The Gittinger staff found one use for it in the sensitive area
of selecting members of foreign police and intelligence agencies.
All over the globe, Agency operators have frequently maintained
intimate working relations with security services that have consistently
mistreated their own citizens. The assessments staff played a
key role in choosing members of the secret police in at least
two countries whose human-rights records are among the world's
In 1961, according to TSS psychologist John Winne, the CIA and
the Korean government worked together to establish the newly created
Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA). The American CIA station
in Seoul asked headquarters to send out an assessor to "select
the initial cadre" of the KCIA. Off went Winne on temporary
duty. "I set up an office with two translators," he
recalls, "and used a Korean version of the Wechsler."
The Agency psychologist gave the tests to 25 to 30 police and
military officers and wrote up a half-page report on each, listing
their strengths and weaknesses. Winne wanted to know about each
candidate's "ability to follow orders, creativity, lack of
personality disorders, motivationwhy he wanted out of his current
job. It was mostly for the money, especially with the civilians."
The test results went to the Korean authorities, whom Winne believes
made the personnel decisions "in conjunction with our operational
"We would do a job like this and never get feedback, so we
were never sure we'd done a good job," Winne complains. Sixteen
years after the end of his mission to Seoul and after news of
KCIA repression at home and bribes to American congressmen abroad,
Winne feels that his best efforts had "boomeranged."
He states that Tongsun Park was not one of the KCIA men he tested.
In 1966 CIA staffers, including Gittinger himself, took part in
selecting members of an equally controversial police unit in Uruguaythe
anti-terrorist section that fought the Tupamaro urban guerrillas.
According to John Cassidy, the CIA's deputy station chief there
at the time, Agency operators worked to set up this special force
together with the Agency for International Development's Public
Safety Mission (whose members included Dan Mitrione, later kidnapped
and killed by the Tupamaros). The CIA-assisted police claimed
they were in a life-and-death struggle against the guerrillas,
and they used incredibly brutal methods, including torture, to
stamp out most of the Uruguayan left along with the guerrillas.
While the special police were being organized, "John [Gittinger]
came down for three days to get the program underway," recalls
Cassidy. Then Hans Greiner, a Gittinger associate, ran Wechslers
on 20 Uruguayan candidates. One question on the information subtest
was "How many weeks in the year?" Eighteen of the 20
said it was 48, and only one man got the answer right. (Later
he was asked about his answer, and he said he had made a mistake;
he meant 48.) But when Greiner asked this same group of police
candidates, "Who wrote Faust?" 18 of the 20 knew
it was Goethe. "This tells you something about the culture,"
notes Cassidy, who served the Agency all over Latin America. It
also points up the difficulty Gittinger had in making the PAS
work across cultural lines.
In any case, CIA man Cassidy found the assessment process most
useful for showing how to train the anti-terrorist section. "According
to the results, these men were shown to have very dependent psychologies
and they needs d strong direction," recalls the now-retired
operator. Cassidy was quite pleased with the contribution Gittinger
and Greiner made. "For years I had been dealing with Latin
Americans," says Cassidy, "and here, largely by psychological
tests, one of [Gittinger's] men was able to analyze people he
had no experience with and give me some insight into them....
Ordinarily, we would have just selected the men and gone to work
In helping countries like South Korea and Uruguay pick their secret
police, TSS staff members often inserted a devilish twist with
the PAS. They could not only choose candidates who would make
good investigators, interrogators, or whatever, but they could
also spot those who were most likely to succumb to future CIA
blandishments. "Certain types were more recruitable,"
states a former assessor. "I looked for them when I wrote
my reports.... Anytime the Company [the CIA] spent money for training
a foreigner, the object was that he would ultimately serve our
control purposes." Thus, CIA officials were not content simply
to work closely with these foreign intelligence agencies; they
insisted on penetrating them, and the PAS provided a useful aid.
In 1973 John Gittinger and his longtime associate John Winne,
who picked KCIA men, published a basic description of the PAS
in a professional journal. Although others had written publicly
about the system, this article apparently disturbed some of the
Agency's powers, who were then cutting back on the number of CIA
employees at the order of short-time Director James Schlesinger.
Shortly thereafter, Gittinger, then 56, stopped being president
of Psychological Assessment Associates but stayed on as a consultant.
In 1974 I wrote about Gittinger's work, albeit incompletely, in
Rolling Stone magazine. Gittinger was disturbed that disclosure
of his CIA connection would hurt his professional reputation.
"Are we tarred by a brush because we worked for the CIA?"
he asked during one of several rather emotional exchanges. "I'm
proud of it." He saw no ethical problems in "looking
for people's weaknesses" if it helped the CIA obtain information,
and he declared that for many years most Americans thought this
was a useful process. At first, he offered to give me the Wechsler
tests and prepare a personality assessment to explain the system,
but Agency officials prohibited his doing so. "I was given
no explanation," said the obviously disappointed Gittinger.
"I'm very proud of my professional work, and I had looked
forward to being able to explain it."
In August 1977 Gittinger publicly testified in Senate hearings.
While he obviously would have preferred talking about his psychological
research, his most persistent questioner, Senator Edward Kennedy,
was much more interested in bringing out sensational details about
prostitutes and drug testing. A proud man, Gittinger felt "humiliated"
by the experience, which ended with him looking foolish on national
television. The next month, the testimony of his former associate,
David Rhodes, further bruised Gittinger. Rhodes told the Kennedy
subcommittee about Gittinger's role in leading the "Gang
that Couldn't Spray Straight" in an abortive attempt to test
LSD in aerosol cans on unwitting subjects. Gittinger does not
want his place in history to be determined by this kind of activity.
He would like to see his Personality Assessment System accepted
as an important contribution to science.
Tired of the controversy and worn down by trying to explain the
PAS, Gittinger has moved back to his native Oklahoma. He took
a copy of the 29,000 Wechsler results with him, but he has lost
his ardor for working with them. A handful of psychologists around
the country still swear by the system and try to pass it on to
others. One, who uses it in private practice, says that in therapy
it saves six months in understanding the patient. This psychologist
takes a full reading of his patient's personality with the PAS,
and then he varies his treatment to fit the person's problems.
He believes that most American psychologists and psychiatrists
treat their patients the same whereas the PAS is designed to identify
the differences between people. Gittinger very much hopes that
others will accept this view and move his system into the mainstream.
"It means nothing unless I can get someone else to work on
it," he declares. Given the preconceptions of the psychological
community, the inevitable taint arising from the CIA's role in
developing the system, and Gittinger's lack of academic credentials
and energy, his wish will probably not be fulfilled.
The material on the Gittinger Personality Assessment System (PAS)
comes from "An Introduction to the Personality Assessment
System" by John Winne and John Gittinger, Monograph Supplement
No. 38, Clinical Psychology Publishing Co., Inc. 1973; an interview
with John Winne; interviews with three other former CIA psychologists;
1974 interviews with John Gittinger by the author; and an extended
interview with Gittinger by Dr. Patricia Greenfield, Associate
Professor of Psychology at UCLA. Some of the material was used
first in a Rolling Stone article, July 18, 1974, "The
CIA Won't Quite Go Public." Robert Hyde's alcohol research
at Butler Health Center was MKULTRA Subproject 66. See especially
66-17, 27 August, 1958. Subject: Proposed Alcohol Study1958-1959
and 66-5. undated, Subject: EquipmentEcology Laboratory.
The 1963 Inspector General's report on TSS, as first released
under the Freedom of Information Act, did not include the section
on personality assessment quoted from in the chapter. An undated,
untitled document, which was obviously this section, was made
available in one of the CIA's last releases.
MKULTRA subproject 83 dealt with graphology research, as did part
of Subproject 60, which covered the whole Human Ecology Society.
See especially 83-7, December 11, 1959, Subject: [deleted] Graphological
Review and 60-28, undated, Subject [deleted] Activities Report,
May, 1959-April, 1960.
Information on the psychological profile of Ferdinand Marcos came
from a U.S. Government source who had read it. Information on
the profile of the Shah of Iran came from a column by Jack Anderson
and Les Whitten "CIA Study Finds Shah Insecure," Washington
Post, July 11, 1975.
The quotes from James Keehner came from an article in New Times
by Maureen Orth, "Memoirs of a CIA Psychologist," June
For related reports on the CIA's role in training foreign police
and its activities in Uruguay, see an article by Taylor Branch
and John Marks, "Tracking the CIA," Harper's Weekly,
January 25, 1975 and Philip Agee's book, Inside the Company:
CIA Diary (London: Penguin; 1975).
The quote from Martin Orne was taken from Patricia Greenfield's
APA Monitor article cited in the last chapter's notes.
Gittinger's testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
and the Kennedy subcommittee on August 3, 1977 appeared on pages
50-63. David Rhodes' testimony on Gittinger's role in the abortive
San Francisco LSD spraying appeared in hearings before the Kennedy
subcommittee, September 20, 1977, pp. 100-110.
1. Developed by psychologist David Wechsler,
this testing system is called, in different versions, the Wechsler-Bellevue
and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale. As Gittinger worked
with it over the years, he made modifications that he incorporated
in what he named the Wechsler-Bellevue-G. For simplicity's sake,
it is simply referred to as the Wechsler system throughout the
2. As with most of the descriptions of the
PAS made in the book, this is an oversimplification of a more
complicated process. The system, as Gittinger used it, yielded
millions of distinct personality types. His observations on alcohol
were based on much more than a straight I and E comparison. For
the most complete description of the PAS in the open literature,
see the article by Gittinger and Winne cited in the chapter notes.
3. Graphology (handwriting analysis) appealed
to CIA officials as a way of supplementing PAS assessments or
making judgments when only a written letter was available. Graphology
was one of the seemingly arcane fields which the Human Ecology
Society had investigated and found operational uses for. The Society
wound up funding handwriting research and a publication in West
Germany where the subject was taken much more seriously than in
the United States, and it sponsored a study to compare handwriting
analyses with Wechsler scores of actors (including some homosexuals),
patients in psychotherapy, criminal psychopaths, and fashion models.
Gittinger went on to hire a resident graphologist who could do
the same sort of amazing things with handwriting as the Oklahoma
psychologist could do with Wechsler scores. One former colleague
recalls her spottingaccuratelya stomach ailment in a foreign
leader simply by reading one letter. Asked in an interview about
how the Agency used her work, she replied, "If they think
they can manipulate a person, that's none of my business. I don't
know what they do with it. My analysis was not done with that
intention.... Something I learned very early in government was
not to ask questions." (back)
4. A profile of Ferdinand Marcos found the
Filipino president's massive personal enrichment while in office
to be a natural outgrowth of his country's tradition of putting
loyalty to one's family and friends ahead of all other considerations.
Agency assessors found the Shah of Iran to be a brilliant but
dangerous megalomaniac whose problems resulted from an overbearing
father, the humiliation of having served as a puppet ruler, and
his inability for many years to produce a male heir. (back)
5. This source reports that case officers
usually used this sort of nonthreatening approach and switched
to the rougher stuff if the target decided he did not want to
spy for the CIA. In that case, says the ex-CIA man, "you
don't want the person to say no and run off and tattle. You lose
an asset that waynot in the sense of the case officer being
shot, but by being nullified." The spurned operator might
then offer not to reveal that the target was cheating on his wife
or had had a homosexual affair, in return for the target not disclosing
the recruitment attempt to his own intelligence service. (back)
6. While Agency officials might also have
used the PAS to select the right case officer to deal with the
E agentone who would be able to sustain the agent's need for
a close relationship over a long period of timethey almost
never used the system with this degree of precision. An Agency
office outside TSS did keep Wechslers and other test scores on
file for most case officers, but the Clandestine Services management
was not willing to turn over the selection of American personnel
to the psychologists. (back)
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