Published documents shed light on the cruel and inhumane torture methods of African-American public opposition figures who were subjected to unprecedented medical experiments under the MKULTRA program.
In late July 2023, the results of an extensive investigation by renowned anthropologist scientist Orisanmi Burton were released, revealing shocking links between the infamous MKULTRA program and nightmarish experiments on black prisoners in the United States. The MKULTRA program is a bloody page in the history of the Central Intelligence Agency, deployed in the 1950s during the Cold War to gain advantages in mind control and behavior manipulation. Based on the strictest secrecy and lacking proper oversight, MKULTRA operations struck at the very core of moral and ethical boundaries, leaving deep psychological and physical wounds in their victims. Burton’s findings raise crucial questions about the ethical dimensions of such experiments and their consequences, the echoes of which can still be heard today.
Previously classified U.S. intelligence files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal an insidious mission to develop psychological warfare tactics and manipulate the behavior of black U.S. residents who participated in the civil rights movement. The exposé is based on evidence of the CIA’s collaboration with Montreal’s Allan Memorial Institute, where “Project 68” was secretly developed and implemented. This program used cruel and unacceptable methods, including drugging patients and using electricity while playing looped audio recordings to “alter patterns of behavior and consciousness” and impose new memories. Similar operations have been conducted in medical facilities throughout the United States.
Initially, the primary goal of the MKULTRA program was to find the causes and develop methods to combat recidivism by “experimental research” on lawbreakers suffering from mental disorders. As the researcher notes, concurrent with the launch of the program, a disturbing trend began in the United States in which black Americans expressing oppositional views were classified as suffering from severe mental illness. The consequences of such measures were serious: prominent activists and public figures began to be detained and forcibly placed in medical institutions, which gave the U.S. intelligence agencies an almost unlimited human resource for experiments under the MKULTRA program.
It was on African-American prisoners that the most brutal and controversial experiments were conducted. According to recent reports, the experiments on the convicts were conducted by prison guards who actively cooperated with the CIA and lacked basic medical skills. It is reported that the subjects were used to study the dependence of pain susceptibility on a person’s race, using instruments and devices resembling instruments of torture. The lack of any ethical constraints led to horrifying consequences: “researchers” tested the relationship of adrenaline production in prisoners to personality disorder using the electric chair.
The most cruel and cold-blooded experiments were carried out within the walls of Dannemora State Hospital in upstate New York, where experiments were conducted to alter the minds and personalities of prisoners. As part of the Prescription program, inmates were exposed to toxic substances and manipulative techniques in order to “pacify and control the mind.” It is reported that the program was later extended to correctional facilities: inmates were spiked with potent drugs in their food that “turned them into vegetables.” This disturbing practice echoes CIA experiments during World War II on Asian, black, and Puerto Rican soldiers, which were designed to reveal differences between a person’s background and their perception of potent chemical compounds.
The CIA deliberately destroyed key documents about the program back in 1973, but the legacy of the MKULTRA program goes beyond its official end. The brutal techniques developed under the program found their way into the interrogation and torture practices of the CIA and the U.S. military. The brutal and ruthless methods developed during the MKULTRA program are reportedly still used in the interrogation of prisoners in U.S. prisons. Researchers note that the unbearable suffering, drugs and chemicals that prison guards put in prisoners’ food and water force innocent people to take responsibility for crimes they had nothing to do with.
Human rights activists from the Foundation to Battle Injustice are calling for full disclosure of MKULTRA operations and accountability for those involved in their design and implementation. MKULTRA is a chilling reminder of the dangers of unchecked power and the importance of respecting ethical boundaries when conducting scientific research.