The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
3. The Professor and the
The three men were all part of the same Navy team, traveling together
to Germany. Their trip was so sensitive that they had been ordered
to ignore each other, even as they waited in the terminal at Andrews
Air Force Base outside Washington on a sweltering August morning
in 1952. Just the month before, Gary Cooper had opened in High
Noon, and the notion of showdownwhether with outlaws or
communistswas in the air. With war still raging in Korea, security
consciousness was high. Even so, the secrecy surrounding this
Navy mission went well beyond ordinary TOP SECRET restrictions,
for the team was slated to link up in Frankfurt with a contingent
from the most hush-hush agency of all, the CIA. Then the combined
group was going to perform dangerous experiments on human subjects.
Both Navy and CIA officials believed that any disclosure about
these tests would cause grave harm to the American national interest.
The Navy team sweated out a two-hour delay at Andrews before the
four-engine military transport finally took off. Not until the
plane touched down at the American field in the Azores did one
of the group, a representative of Naval intelligence, flash a
prearranged signal indicating that they were not being watched
and they could talk. "It was all this cloak-and-dagger crap,"
recalls another participant, Dr. Samuel Thompson, a psychiatrist,
physiologist, and pharmacologist who was also a Navy commander.
The third man in the party was G. Richard Wendt, chairman of the
Psychology Department at the University of Rochester and a part-time
Navy contractor. A small 46-yearold man with graying blond hair
and a fair-sized paunch, Wendt had been the only one with companionship
during the hours of decreed silence. He had brought along his
attractive young assistant, ostensibly to help him with the experiments.
She was not well received by the Navy men, nor would she be appreciated
by the CIA operators in Frankfurt. The behavior-control field
was very much a man's world, except when women subjects were used.
The professor's relationship with this particular lady was destined
to become a source of friction with his fellow experimenters,
and, eventually, a topic of official CIA reporting.
In theory, Professor Wendt worked under Dr. Thompson's supervision
in a highly classified Navy program called Project CHATTER, but
the strong-minded psychologist did not take anyone's orders easily.
Very much an independent spirit, Wendt ironically, had accepted
CHATTER's goal of weakening, if not eliminating, free will in
others. The Navy program, which had started in 1947, was aimed
at developing a truth drug that would force people to reveal their
Thompson, who inherited Wendt and CHATTER in 1951 when he became
head of psychiatric research at the Naval Medical Research Institute,
remembers Naval intelligence telling him of the need for a truth
drug in case "someone planted an A-bomb in one of our cities
and we had twelve hours to find out from a person where it was.
What could we do to make him talk?" Thompson concedes he
was always "negative" about the possibility that such
a drug could ever exist, but he cites the fear that the Russians
might develop their own miracle potion as reason enough to justify
the program. Also, Thompson and the other U.S. officials could
not resist looking for a pill or panacea that would somehow make
their side all-knowing or all-powerful.
Professor Wendt had experimented with drugs for the Navy before
he became involved in the search for a truth serum. His earlier
work had been on the use of Dramamine and other methods to prevent
motion sickness, and now that he was doing more sensitive research,
the Navy hid it under the cover of continuing his "motion
sickness" study. At the end of 1950, the Navy gave Wendt
a $300,000 contract to study such substances as barbiturates,
amphetamines, alcohol, and heroin. To preserve secrecy, which
often reached fetish proportions in mind-control research, the
money flowed to him not through Navy channels but out of the Secretary
of Defense's contingency fund. For those drugs that were not available
from pharmaceutical companies, Navy officials went to the Federal
Bureau of Narcotics. The Commissioner of Narcotics personally
signed the papers, and special couriers carried pouches of illegal
drugs through Washington streets and then up to the professor
at Rochester. Receipts show that the Bureau sent the Navy 30 grams
of pure heroin and 11 pounds of "Mexican grown" marijuana,
among other drugs.
Like most serious drug researchers, Wendt sampled everything first
before testing on assistants and students. The drug that took
up the most space in his first progress report was heroin. He
had became his own prime subject. At weekly intervals, he told
the Navy, the psychologist gave himself heroin injections and
then wrote down his reactions as he moved through the "full
range" of his life: driving, shopping, recreation, manual
work, family relations, and sexual activity. He noted in himself
"slight euphoria . . . heightened aesthetic appreciation
. . . absentminded behavior . . . lack of desire to operate at
full speed . . . lack of desire for alcohol . . . possibly reduced
sex interest . . . feeling of physical well-being." He concluded
in his report that heroin could have "some, but slight value
for interrogation" if used on someone "worked on for
a long period of time."
Wendt never had any trouble getting student volunteers. He simply
posted a notice on a campus bulletin board, and he wound up with
a long waiting list. He chose only men subjects over 21, and he
paid everyone accepted after a long interview $1.00 an hour. With
so much government money to spend, he hired over 20 staff assistants,
and he built a whole new testing facility in the attic of the
school library. Wendt was cautious with his students, and he apparently
did not share the hard drugs with them. He usually tested subjects
in small groupsfour to eight at a time. He and his associates
watched through a two-way mirror and wrote down the subjects'
reactions. He always used both placebos (inert substances) and
drugs; the students never knew whatif anythingthey were
taking. According to Dr. Thompson, to have alerted them in advance
and thus given themselves a chance to steel themselves up "would
have spoiled the experiment."
Nonetheless, Wendt's procedure was a far cry from true unwitting
testing. Any drug that was powerful enough to break through an
enemy's resistance could have a traumatic effect on the person
taking itparticularly if the subject was totally unaware of
what was happening. The Navy research plan was to do preliminary
studies on subjects like Wendt's students, and then, as soon as
the drug showed promise, to try it under field conditions. Under
normal scientific research, the operational tests would not have
been run before the basic work was finished. But the Navy could
not wait. The drugs were to be tested on involuntary subjects.
Thompson readily admits that this procedure was "unethical,"
but he says, "We felt we had to do it for the good of country."
During the summer of 1952, Professor Wendt announced that he had
found a concoction "so special" that it would be "the
answer" to the truth-drug problem, as Thompson recalls it.
"I thought it would be a good idea to call the Agency,"
says Thompson. "I thought they might have someone with something
to spill." Wendt was adamant on one point: He would not tell
anyone in the Navy or the CIA what his potion contained. He would
only demonstrate. Neither the CHATTER nor ARTICHOKE teams could
resist the bait. The Navy had no source of subjects for terminal
experiments, but the CIA men agreed to furnish the human beingsin
Germanyeven though they had no idea what Wendt had in store
for his guinea pigs. The CIA named the operation CASTIGATE.
After settling into a Frankfurt hotel, Wendt, Thompson, and the
Naval Intelligence man set out to meet the ARTICHOKE crew at the
local CIA headquarters. It was located in the huge, elongated
building that had housed the I. G. Farben industrial complex until
the end of the war. The frantic bustle of a U.S. military installation
provided ideal cover for this CIA base, and the arrival of a few
new Americans attracted no special attention. The Navy group passed
quickly through the lobby and rode up the elevator. At the CIA
outer office, the team members had to show identification, and
Thompson says they were frisked. The Naval Intelligence man had
to check his revolver.
A secretary ushered the Navy group in to meet the ARTICHOKE contingent,
which had arrived earlier from Washington. The party included
team leader Morse Allen, his boss in the Office of Security, Paul
Gaynor, and a prominent Washington psychiatrist who regularly
left his private practice to fly off on special missions for the
Agency. Also present were case officers from the CIA's Frankfurt
base who had taken care of the support arrangementsthe most
important of which was supplying the subjects.
Everyone at the meeting wanted to know what drugs Wendt was going
to use on the five selected subjects, who included one known double
agent, one suspected double, and the three defectors. The professor
still was not talking. Dr. Thompson asked what would happen if
something went wrong and the subject died. He recalls one of the
Frankfurt CIA men replying, "Disposal of the body would be
After the session ended, Thompson took Wendt aside and pointed
out that since the professor, unlike Thompson, was neither a psychiatrist
nor a pharmacologist, he was acting irresponsibly in not having
a qualified physician standing by with antidotes in case of trouble.
Wendt finally relented and confided in Thompson that he was going
to slip the subjects a combination of the depressant Seconal,
the stimulant Dexedrine, and tetrahydrocannabinol, the active
ingredient in marijuana. Thompson was dumbfounded. He remembers
wanting to shoot Wendt on the spot. These were all well-known
drugs that had been thoroughly tested. Indeed, even the idea of
mixing Seconal and Dexedrine was not original: The combined drug
already had its own brand nameDexamyl (and it would eventually
have a street name, "the goofball"). Thompson quickly
passed on to the CIA men what Wendt had in mind.
They, too, were more than a little disappointed.
Nevertheless, there was never any thought of stopping the experiments.
The ARTICHOKE team had its own methods to try, even if Wendt's
proved a failure, and the whole affair had developed its own momentum.
Since this was one of the early ARTICHOKE trips into the field,
the team was still working to perfect the logistics of testing.
It had reserved two CIA "safehouses" in the countryside
not far from Frankfurt, and Americans had been assigned to guard
the experimental sites. Agency managers had already completed
the paperwork for the installation of hidden microphones and two-way
mirrors, so all the team members could monitor the interrogations.
The first safehouse proved to be a solid old farmhouse set picturesquely
in the middle of green fields, far from the nearest dwelling.
The ARTICHOKE and CHATTER groups drove up just as the CIA's carpenters
were cleaning up the mess they had made in ripping a hole through
the building's thick walls. The house had existed for several
hundred years without an observation glass peering in on the sitting
room, and it had put up some structural resistance to the workmen.
Subject #1 arrived in the early afternoon, delivered in a CIA
sedan by armed operators, who had handcuffed him, shackled his
feet, and made him lie down on the floor of the back seat. Agency
officials described him as a suspected Russian agent, about 40
years old, who had a "Don Juan complex." One can only
imagine how the subject must have reacted to these rather inconsistent
Americans who only a few hours earlier had literally grabbed him
out of confinement, harshly bound him, and sat more or less on
top of him as they wandered through idyllic German farm country,
and who now were telling him to relax as they engaged him in friendly
conversation and offered him a beer. He had no way of knowing
that it would be the last unspiked drink he would have for quite
On the following morning, the testing started in earnest. Wendt
put 20 mg. of Seconal in the subject's breakfast and then followed
up with 50 mg. of Dexedrine in each of his two morning cups of
coffee. Wendt gave him a second dose of Seconal in his luncheon
beer. The subject was obviously not his normal selfwhatever
that was. What was clear was that Wendt was in way over his head,
and even the little professor seemed to realize it. "I don't
know how to deal with these people," he told the CIA psychiatric
consultant. Wendt flatly refused to examine the subject, leaving
the interrogation to the consultant. For his part, the consultant
had little success in extracting information not already known
to the CIA.
The third day was more of the same: Seconal with breakfast, Dexedrine
and marijuana in a glass of water afterwards. The only break from
the previous day's routine came at 10:10 A.M. when the subject
was allowed to play a short poker game. Then he was given more
of Wendt's drugs in two red capsules that were, he was told, "a
prescription for his nerves." By 2:40 P.M., Wendt declared
that this subject was not the right personality type for his treatment.
He explained to his disgusted colleagues that if someone is determined
to lie, these drugs will only make him a better liar. He said
that the marijuana extract produced a feeling of not wanting to
hold anything back and that it worked best on people who wanted
to tell the truth but were afraid to. OSS had discovered the same
thing almost a decade earlier.
Wendt retired temporarily from the scene, and the others concluded
it would be a shame to waste a good subject. They decided to give
him the "A" (for ARTICHOKE) treatment. This, too, was
not very original. It had been used during the war to interrogate
prisoners and treat shell-shocked soldiers. As practiced on the
suspected Russian agent, it consisted of injecting enough sodium
pentothal into the vein of his arm to knock him out and then,
twenty minutes later, stimulating him back to semiconsciousness
with a shot of Benzedrine. In this case, the benzedrine did not
revive the subject enough to suit the psychiatric consultant and
he told Dr. Thompson to give the subject another 10 mg. ten minutes
later. This put the subject into a state somewhere between waking
and sleepingalmost comatose and yet bug-eyed. In hypnotic tones
that had to be translated into Russian by an interpreter, the
consultant used the technique of "regression" to convince
the subject he was talking to his wife Eva at some earlier time
in his life. This was no easy trick, since a male interpreter
was playing Eva. Nevertheless, the consultant states he could
"create any fantasy" with 60 to 70 percent of his patients,
using narcotherapy (as in this case) or hypnosis. For roughly
an hour, the subject seemed to have no idea he was not speaking
with his wife but with CIA operatives trying to find out about
his relationship with Soviet intelligence. When the subject started
to doze, the consultant had Thompson give him a doubled jolt of
Benzedrine. A half hour later, the subject began to weep violently.
The consultant decided to end the session, and in his most soothing
voice, he urged the subject to fall asleep. As the subject calmed
down, the consultant suggested, with friendly and soothing words,
that the subject would remember nothing of the experience when
he woke up.
Inducing amnesia was an important Agency goal. "From the
ARTICHOKE point of view," states a 1952 document, "the
greater the amnesia produced, the more effective the results."
Obviously if a victim remembered the "A" treatment,
it would stop being a closely guarded ARTICHOKE secret. Presumably,
some subject who really did work for the Russians would tell them
how the Americans had worked him over. This reality made "disposal"
of ARTICHOKE subjects a particular problem. Killing them seems
to have been ruled out, but Agency officials made sure that some
stayed in foreign prisons for long periods of time. While in numerous
specific cases, ARTICHOKE team members claimed success in making
their subjects forget, their outside consultants had told them
"that short of cutting a subject's throat, a true amnesia
cannot be guaranteed." As early as 1950, the Agency had put
out a contract to a private researcher to find a memory-destroying
drug, but to no apparent avail.
In any case, it would be unreasonable to assume that over the
years at least one ARTICHOKE subject did not shake off the amnesic
commands and tell the Russians what happened to him. As was so
often the case with CIA operations, the enemy probably had a much
better idea of the Agency's activities than the folks back home.
Back at the safehouse, Wendt was far from through. Four more subjects
would be brought to him. The next one was an alleged double agent
whom the CIA had code-named EXPLOSIVE. Agency documents describe
him as a Russian "professional agent type" and "a
hard-boiled individual who apparently has the ability to lie consistently
but not very effectively." He was no stranger to ARTICHOKE
team members who, a few months before, had plied him with a mixture
of drugs and hypnosis under the cover of a "psychiatric-medical"
exam. At that time, a professional hypnotist had accompanied the
team, and he had given his commands through an elaborate intercom
system to an interpreter who, in turn, was apparently able to
put EXPLOSIVE under.
Afterward, the team reported to the CIA's Director that EXPLOSIVE
had revealed "extremely valuable" information and that
he had been made to forget his interrogation through a hypnotically
induced amnesia. Since that time EXPLOSIVE had been kept in custody.
Now he was being brought out to give Professor Wendt a crack at
him with the Seconal-Dexedrine-marijuana combination.
This time, Wendt gave the subject all three drugs together in
one beer, delivered at the cocktail hour. Next came Seconal in
a dinner beer and then all three once more in a postprandial beer.
There were little, if any, positive results. Wendt ended the session
after midnight and commented, "At least we learned one thing
from this experiment. The people you have to deal with here are
different from American college students."
During the next week, the CIA men brought Wendt three more subjects,
with little success. The general attitude toward Wendt became,
in Thompson's words, "hostile as all hell." Both the
Agency and the Navy groups questioned his competence. With one
subject, the professor declared he had given too strong a dose;
with the next, too weak. While he had advertised his drugs as
tasteless, the subjects realized they had swallowed something.
As one subject in the next room was being interrogated in Russian
that no one was bothering to translate, Wendt took to playing
the same pattern on the piano over and over for a half hour. While
the final subject was being questioned, Wendt and his female assistant
got a little tipsy on beer. Wendt became so distracted during
this experiment that he finally admitted, "My thoughts are
elsewhere." His assistant began to giggle. Her presence had
become like an open sorewhich was made more painful when Mrs.
Wendt showed up in Frankfurt and the professor threatened to jump
off a church tower, Thompson recalls.
Wendt is not alive to give his version of what happened, but both
CIA and Navy sources are consistent in their description of him.
ARTICHOKE team leader Morse Allen felt he had been the victim
of "a fraud or at least a gross misinterpretation,"
and he described the trip as "a waste of time and money."
A man who usually hid his feelings, Allen became livid when Wendt's
assistant measured drugs out with a penknife. He recommended in
his final report that those who develop drugs not be allowed to
participate in future field testing. "This, of course, does
not mean that experimental work is condemned by the ARTICHOKE
team," he wrote, "but a common sense approach in this
direction will preclude arguments, alibis, and complaints as in
the recent situation." In keeping with this "common
sense approach," he also recommended that as "an absolute
rule," no women be allowed on ARTICHOKE missionsbecause
of the possible danger and because "personal convenience,
toilet facilities, etc., are complicated by the presence of women."
Morse Allen and his ARTICHOKE mates returned to the States still
convinced that they could find ways to control human behavior,
but the Navy men were shaken. Their primary contractor had turned
out to be a tremendous embarrassment. Dr. Thompson stated he could
never work with Wendt again. Navy officials soon summoned Wendt
to Bethesda and told him they were canceling their support for
his research. Adding insult to injury, they told him they expected
refund of all unspent money. While the Navy managers made some
effort to continue CHATTER at other institutions, the program
never recovered from the Wendt fiasco. By the end of the next
year, 1953, the Korean War had ended and the Navy abandoned CHATTER
Over the next two decades, the Navy would still sponsor large
amounts of specialized behavioral research, and the Army would
invest huge sums in schemes to incapacitate whole armies with
powerful drugs. But the CIA clearly pulled far into the lead in
mind control. In those areas in which military research continued,
the Agency stayed way ahead. The CIA consistently was out on what
was called the "cutting edge" of the research, sponsoring
the lion's share of the most harrowing experiments. ARTICHOKE
and its successor CIA programs became an enormous effort that
harnessed the energies of hundreds of scientists.
The experience of the CIA psychiatric consultant provides a small
personal glimpse of how it felt to be a soldier in the mind-control
campaign. This psychiatrist, who insists on anonymity, estimates
that he made between 125 and 150 trips overseas on Agency operations
from 1952 through his retirement in 1966. "To be a psychiatrist
chasing off to Europe instead of just seeing the same patients
year after year, that was extraordinary," he reminisces.
"I wish I was back in those days. I never got tired of it."
He says his assignments called for "practicing psychiatry
in an ideal way, which meant you didn't become involved with your
patients. You weren't supposed to." Asked how he felt about
using drugs on unwitting foreigners, he snaps, "Depends which
side you were on. I never hurt anyone. . . . We were at war."
For the most part, the psychiatrist stopped giving the "A"
treatment after the mid-1950s but he continued to use his professional
skills to assess and manipulate agents and defectors. His job
was to help find out if a subject was under another country's
control and to recommend how the person could be switched to the
CIA's. In this work, he was contributing to the mainstream of
CIA activity that permeates its institutional existence from its
operations to its internal politics to its social life: the notion
of controlling people. Finding reliable ways to do that is a primary
CIA goal, and the business is often a brutal one. As former CIA
Director Richard Helms stated in Senate testimony, "The clandestine
operator . . . is trained to believe you can't count on the honesty
of your agent to do exactly what you want or to report accurately
unless you own him body and soul."
Like all the world's secret services, the CIA sought to find the
best methods of owning people and making sure they stayed owned.
How could an operator be sure of an agent's loyalties? Refugees
and defectors were flooding Western Europe, and the CIA wanted
to exploit them. Which ones were telling the truth? Who was a
deception agent or a provocateur. The Anglo-American secret invasion
of Albania had failed miserably. Had they been betrayed?
Whom could the CIA trust?
One way to try to answer these questions is to use physical duressor
torture. Aside from its ethical drawbacks, however, physical brutality
simply does not work very well. As a senior counterintelligence
official explains, "If you have a blowtorch up someone's
ass, he'll give you tactical information." Yet he will not
be willing or able to play the modern espionage game on the level
desired by the CIA. One Agency document excludes the use of torture
"because such inhuman treatment is not only out of keeping
with the traditions of this country, but of dubious effectiveness
as compared with various supplemental psychoanalytical techniques."
The second and most popular method to get answers is traditional
spy tradecraft. Given enough time, a good interrogator can very
often find out a person's secrets. He applies persuasion and mental
seduction, mixed with psychological pressures of every descriptionemotional
carrots and sticks. A successful covert operator uses the same
sorts of techniques in recruiting agents and making sure they
stay in line. While the rest of the population may dabble in this
sort of manipulation, the professional operator does it for a
living, and he operates mostly outside the system of restraints
that normally govern personal relationships. "I never gave
a thought to legality or morality," states a retired and
quite cynical Agency case officer with over 20 years' experience.
"Frankly, I did what worked."
The operator pursues people he can turn into "controlled
sources"agents willing to do his bidding either in supplying
intelligence or taking covert action. He seeks people in a position
to do something useful for the Agencyor who someday might be
in such a position, perhaps with CIA aid. Once he picks his target,
he usually looks for a weakness or vulnerability he can play on.
Like a good fisherman, the clever operator knows that the way
to hook his prey is to choose an appropriate bait, which the target
will think he is seizing because he wants to. The hook has to
be firmly implanted; the agent sometimes tries to escape once
he understands the implications of betraying his country. While
the case officer might try to convince him he is acting for the
good of his homeland, the agent must still face up to being branded
Does every man have his price? Not exactly, states the senior
counterintelligence man, but he believes a shrewd operator can
usually find a way to reach anyone, particularly through his family.
In developing countries, the Agency has caused family members
to be arrested and mistreated by the local police, given or withheld
medical care for a sick child, and, more prosaically, provided
scholarships for a relative to study abroad. This kind of tactic
does not work as well on a Russian or Western European, who does
not live in a society where the CIA can exert pressure so easily.
Like a doctor's bedside manner or a lawyer's courtroom style,
spy tradecraft is highly personalized. Different case officers
swear by different approaches, and successful methods are carefully
observed and copied. Most CIA operators seem to prefer using an
ideological lure if they can. John Stockwell, who left the Agency
in 1977 to write a book about CIA operations in Angola, believes
his best agents were "people convinced they were doing the
right thing . . . who disliked communists and felt the CIA was
the right organization." Stockwell recalls his Agency instructors
"hammering away at the positive aspect of recruitment. This
was where they established the myth of CIA case officers being
good guys. They said we didn't use negative control, and we always
made the relationship so that both parties were better off for
having worked together." More cynical operators, like the
one quoted above, take a different view: "You can't create
real motivation in a person by waving the flag or by saying this
is for the future good of democracy. You've got to have a firmer
hold than that.... His opinions can change." This ex-operator
favors approaches based either on revenge or helping the agent
advance his career:
Those are good motives because they can be created with the individual....
Maybe you start with a Communist party cell member and you help
him become a district committee member by eliminating his competition,
or you help him get a position where he can get even with someone.
At the same time, he's giving you more and more information as
he moves forward, and if you ever surface his reports, he's out
of business. You've really got him wrapped up. You don't even
have to tell him. He realizes it himself.
No matter what the approach to the prospective agent, the case
officer tries to make money a factor in the relationship. Sometimes
the whole recruiting pitch revolves around enrichment. In other
instances, the case officer allows the target the illusion that
he has sold out for higher motives. Always, however, the operator
tries to use money to make the agent dependent. The situation
can become sticky with money-minded agents when the case officer
insists that part or all of the payments be placed in escrow,
to prevent attracting undue attention. But even cash does not
create control in the spy business. As the cynical case officer
puts it, "Money is tenuous because somebody can always offer
Surprisingly, each of the CIA operators sampled agrees that overt
blackmail is a highly overrated form of control. The senior counterintelligence
man notes that while the Russians frequently use some variety
of entrapmentsexual or otherwisethe CIA rarely did. "Very
few [Agency] case officers were tough enough" to pull it
off and sustain it, he says. "Anytime an agent has been forced
to cooperate, you can take it for granted that he has two things
on his mind: he is looking for a way out and for revenge. Given
the slightest opportunity, he will hit you right between the eyes."
Blackmail could backfire in unexpected ways. John Stockwell remembers
an agent in Southeast Asia who wanted to quit: "The case
officer leaned on the guy and said, 'Look, friend, we still need
your intelligence, and we have receipts you signed which we can
turn over to the local police.' The agent blew his brains out,
leaving a suicide note regretting his cooperation with the CIA
and telling how the Agency had tried to blackmail him. It caused
some problems with the local government."
The case officer always tries to weave an ever-tightening web
of control around his agent. His methods of doing so are so personal
and so basic that they often reveal more about the case officer
himself than the agent, reflecting his outlook and his personal
philosophy. The cynical operator describes his usual technique,
which turns out to be a form of false idealism: "You've got
to treat a man as an equal and convince him you're partners in
this thing. Even if he's a communist party member, you can't deal
with him like a crumb. You sit down with him and ask how are the
kids, and you remember that he told you last time that his son
was having trouble in school. You build personal rapport. If you
treat him like dirt or an object of use, eventually he'll turn
on you or drop off the bandwagon."
John Stockwell's approach relies on the power of imagination in
a humdrum world: "I always felt the real key was that you
were offering something speciala real secret lifesomething
that he and you only knew made him different from all the pedestrian
paper shufflers in a government office or a boring party cell
meeting. Everybody has a little of Walter Mitty in himwhat
a relief to know you really do work for the CIA in your spare
Sometimes a case officer wants to get the agent to do something
he does not think he wants to do. One former CIA operator uses
a highly charged metaphor to describe how he did it: "Sometimes
one partner in a relationship wants to get into deviations from
standard sex. If you have some control, you might be able to force
your partner to try different things, but it's much better to
lead her down the road a step at a time, to discuss it and fantasize
until eventually she's saying, 'Let's try this thing.' If her
inhibitions and moral reservations are eroded and she is turned
on, it's much more fun and there's less chance of blowback [exposure,
in spy talk].... It's the same with an agent."
All case officersand particularly counterintelligence menharbor
recurring fears that their agents will betray them. The suspicious
professional looks for telltale signs like lateness, nervousness,
or inconsistency. He relies on his intuition. "The more you've
been around agents, the more likely you are to sense that something
isn't what it should be," comments the senior counterintelligence
man. "It's like with children."
No matter how skillfully practiced, traditional spycraft provides
only incomplete answers to the nagging question of how much the
Agency can really trust an agent. All the sixth sense, digging,
and deductive reasoning in the world do not produce certainty
in a field that is based on deception and lies. Whereas the British,
who invented the game, have historically understood the need for
patience and a stiff upper lip, Americans tend to look for quick
answers, often by using the latest technology. "We were very
gimmick-prone," says the senior counterintelligence official.
Gimmicksmachines, drugs, technical trickscomprise the third
method of behavior control, after torture and tradecraft. Like
safecrackers who swear by the skill in their fingertips, most
of the Agency's mainstream operators disparage newfangled gadgets.
Many now claim that drugs, hypnosis, and other exotic methods
actually detract from good tradecraft because they make operators
careless and lazy.
Nevertheless, the operators and their high-level sponsors, like
Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, consistently pushed for the magic
techniquethe deus ex machinathat would solve their
problems. Caught in the muck and frustration of ordinary spywork,
operators hoped for a miracle tool. Faced with liars and deceivers,
they longed for a truth drug. Surrounded by people who knew too
much, they sought a way to create amnesia. They dreamed of finding
means to make unwilling people carry out specific tasks, such
as stealing documents, provoking a fight, killing someone, or
otherwise committing an antisocial act. Secret agents recruited
by more traditional appeals to idealism, greed, ambition, or fear
had always done such deeds, but
they usually gave their spymasters headaches in the process Sometimes
they balked. Moreover, first they had to agree to serve the CIA.
The best tradecraft in the world seldom works against a well-motivated
target. (The cynical operator recalls offering the head of Cuban
intelligence $1,000,00~in 1966 at a Madrid hotelonly to receive
a flat rejection.) Plagued by the unsureness, Agency officials
hoped to take the randomness indeed, the free willout of
agent handling. As one psychologist who worked on behavior control
describes it, "The problem of every intelligence operation
is how do you remove the human element? The operators would come
to us and ask for the human element to be removed." Thus
the impetus toward mind-control research came not only from the
lure of science and the fantasies of science fiction, it also
came from the heart of the spy business.
The primary sources for the material on Professor Wendt's trip
to Frankfurt were Dr. Samuel V. Thompson then of the Navy, the
CIA psychiatric consultant, several of Wendt's former associates,
as well as three CIA documents that described the testing: Document
# 168, 19 September 1952, Subject: "Project LGQ"; Document
# 168, 18 September 1952, Subject: Field Trip of ARTICHOKE team,20
August-September 1952; and #A/B, II, 33/21, undated, Subject:
Information on the Navy's Project CHATTER came from the Church
Committee Report, Book I, pp. 337-38. Declassified Navy Documents
N-23, February 13, 1951, Subject: Procurement of Certain Drugs;
N-27, undated, Subject: Project CHATTER; N-29, undated, Subject:
Status Report: Studies of Motion Sickness, Vestibular Function,
and Effects of Drugs; N-35, October 27, 1951, Interim Report;
N-38, 30 September, 1952, Memorandum for File; and N-39, 28 October,
1952, Memorandum for File.
The information on the heroin found in Wendt's safe comes from
the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 2, 1977 and
considerable background on Wendt's Rochester testing program was
found in the Rochester Times-Union, January 28, 1955. The
CIA quote on heroin came from May 15,1952 OSI Memorandum to the
Deputy Director, CIA, Subject: Special Interrogation.
Information on the Agency's interest in amnesia came from 14 January
1952 memo, Subject: BLUEBIRD/ARTICHOKE, Proposed Research; 7 March
1951, Subject: Informal Discussion with Chief [deleted] Regarding
"Disposal"; 1 May 1951, Subject: Recommendation for
Disposal of Maximum Custody Defectors; and #A/B, I, 75/13, undated,
The quote from Homer on nepenthe was found in Sidney Cohen's The
Beyond Within: The LSD Story (New York: Atheneum, 1972).
The section on control came from interviews with John Stockwell
and several other former CIA men.
1. What Wendt appears to have been getting
atnamely, that repeated shots of heroin might have an effect
on interrogationwas stated explicitly in a 1952 CIA document
which declared the drug "can be useful in reverse because
of the stresses produced when . . . withdrawn from those addicted."
Wendt's interest in heroin seems to have lasted to his death in
1977, long after his experiments had stopped. The woman who cleaned
out his safe at that time told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
she found a quantity of the white powder, along with syringes
and a good many other drugs. (back)
2. Being good undercover operators, the CIA
men never let on to Wendt that they knew his secret, and Wendt
was not about to give it away. Toward the end of the trip, he
told the consultant he would feel "unpatriotic" if he
were to share his secret because the ARTICHOKE team was "not
competent" to use the drugs. (back)
3. Homer reported the ancient Greeks had such
a substancenepenthe"a drug to lull all pain and anger,
and bring forgetfulness of every sorrow." (back)
4. Neither Morse Allen nor anyone else on
the ARTICHOKE teams spoke any foreign languages. Allen believed
that the difficulty in communicating with the guinea pigs hampered
ARTICHOKE research. (back)
5. The answer was yes, in the sense that Soviet
agent Harold "Kim" Philby, working as British intelligence's
liaison with the CIA apparently informed his spymasters of specific
plans to set up anticommunist resistance movements in Albania
and all over Eastern Europe. The Russians almost certainly learned
about CIA plans to overthrow communist rule in Eastern Europe
and in the Soviet Union itself. Knowing of such operations presumably
increased Soviet hostility. (back)
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