In the wake of Gary Webbís articles, nothing more enraged the
defenders than the charges that in its dealings with crack
entrepreneurs the Agency might have deliberately targeted poor black
and Latino communities in the inner cities as a covert attempt at
social control. As we have seen, CIA director John Deutch traveled
to South Central Los Angeles to face a furious black audience and
deny in the strongest terms any such suggestion. Some of the most
effective attacks on Webb were couched not in substantive challenges
to his account, but in imputations that he was cynically fanning
"black paranoia" and engaging in irresponsible conspiracy-mongering.
The bleak truth is that a careful review of the activities of the
CIA and the organizations from which it sprang reveals an intense
preoccupation with the development of techniques of behavior
control, brainwashing, and covert medical and psychic
experimentation on unwitting subjects including religious sects,
ethnic minorities, prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and the
terminally ill. The rationale for such activities, the techniques
and indeed the human subjects chosen show an extraordinary and
chilling similarity to Nazi experiments. This similarity becomes
less surprising when we trace the determined and often successful
efforts of US intelligence officers to acquire the records of Nazi
experiments, and in many cases to recruit the Nazi researchers
themselves and put them to work, transferring the laboratories from
Dachau, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute,
Auschwitz and Buchenwald to
Edgewood Arsenal, Fort Detrick, Huntsville Air Force Base, Ohio
State, and the University of Washington.
As Allied forces crossed the English Channel during the D-Day
invasion of June 1944, some 10,000 intelligence officers known as
T-Forces were right behind the advance battalions. Their mission:
seize munitions experts, technicians, German scientists and their
research materials, along with French scientists who had
collaborated with the Nazis. Soon a substantial number of such
scientists had been picked up and placed in an internment camp known
as the Dustbin. In the original planning for the mission a prime
factor was the view that German military equipment - tanks, jets,
rocketry and so forth - was technically superior and that captured
scientists, technicians and engineers could be swiftly debriefed in
an effort by the Allies to catch up.
Then, in December 1944, Bill Donovan, head of the OSS, and
Dulles, OSS head of intelligence operations in Europe operating out
of Switzerland, strongly urged FDR to approve a plan allowing Nazi
intelligence officers, scientists and industrialists to be,
permission for entry into the United States after the war and the
placing of their earnings on deposit in an American bank and the
FDR swiftly turned the proposal down, saying,
"We expect that
the number of Germans who are anxious to save their skins and
property will rapidly increase. Among them may be some who should
properly be tried for war crimes, or at least arrested for active
participation in Nazi activities. Even with the necessary controls
you mention, I am not prepared to authorize the giving of
But this presidential veto was a dead letter even as it was being
formulated. Operation Overcast was certainly under way by July 1945,
approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to bring into the US 350
German scientists, including Werner Von Braun and his V2 rocket
team, chemical weapons designers, and artillery and submarine
engineers. There had been some theoretical ban on Nazis being
imported, but this was as empty as FDRís edict. The Overcast
shipment included such notorious Nazis and SS officers as
Dr. Herbert Axster, Dr. Arthur Rudolph and Georg Richkey.
Von Braunís team had used slave labor from the Dora concentration
camp and had worked prisoners to death in the Mitteiwerk complex:
more than 20,000 had died from exhaustion and starvation. The
supervising slavemaster was Richkey. In retaliation against sabotage
in the missile plant - prisoners would urinate on electrical
equipment, causing spectacular malfunctions - Richkey would hang
them twelve at a time from factory cranes, with wooden sticks shoved
into their mouths to muffle their cries. In the Dora camp itself he
regarded children as useless mouths and instructed the SS guards to
club them to death, which they did.
This record did not inhibit Richkeyís speedy transfer to the United
States, where he was deployed at Wright Field, an Army Air Corps
base near Dayton, Ohio. Richkey went to work overseeing security for
dozens of other Nazis now pursuing their researches for the United
States. He was also assigned the task of translating all of the
records from the Mitteiwerk factory. He thus had the opportunity,
which he used to the utmost, to destroy any material compromising to
his colleagues and himself. By 1947 there was enough public
disquiet, stimulated by the columnist Drew Pearson, to require a pro
forma war crimes trial for Richkey and a few others. Richkey was
sent back to West Germany and put through a secret trial supervised
by the US Army, which had every reason to clear Richkey since
conviction would disclose that the entire Mittelwerk team now in the
US had been accomplices in the use of slavery and the torture and
killing of prisoners of war, and thus were also guilty of war
crimes. The army therefore sabotaged Richkeyís trial by withholding
records now in the US and also by preventing any interrogation of
Von Braun and others from Dayton: Richkey was acquitted. Because
some of the trial materials implicated Rudolph, Von Braun and
Walter Domberger, however, the entire record was classified and held secret
for forty years, thus burying evidence that could have sent the
entire rocket team to the gallows.
Senior officers of the US Army knew the truth. Initially the
recruitment of German war criminals was justified as necessary to
the continuing war against Japan. Later, moral justification took
the form of invoking "intellectual reparations" or as the Joint
Chiefs of Staff put it, as "a form of exploitation of chosen rare
minds whose continuing intellectual productivity we wish to use."
Endorsement for this repellent posture came from a panel of the
National Academy of Sciences, which adopted the collegial position
that German scientists had somehow evaded the Nazi contagion by
being "an island of nonconformity in the Nazified body politic," a
statement that Von Braun, Richkey and the other slave drivers must
have deeply appreciated.
By 1946 a rationale based on Cold War strategy was becoming more
important. Nazis were needed in the struggle against
their capabilities certainly had to be withheld from the Soviets. In
September 1946 President Harry Truman approved the Dulles-inspired
Paperclip project, whose mission was to bring no less than 1,000
Nazi scientists to the United States. Among them were many of the
vilest criminals of the war: there were doctors from Dachau
concentration camp who had killed prisoners by putting them through
high altitude tests, who had frozen their victims and given them
massive doses of salt water to research the process of drowning.
There were the chemical weapons engineers such as Kurt Blome, who
had tested Sarin nerve gas on prisoners at Auschwitz. There were
doctors who instigated battlefield traumas by taking women prisoners
at Ravensbruck and filling their wounds with gangrene cultures,
sawdust, mustard gas, and glass, then sewing them up and treating
some with doses of sulfa drugs while timing others to see how long
it took for them to develop lethal cases of gangrene.
Among the targets of the Paperclip recruitment program were
Becker-Freyseng and Konrad Schaeffer, authors of the study "Thirst
and Thirst Quenching in Emergency Situations at Sea." The study was
designed to devise ways to prolong the survival of pilots downed
over water. To this end the two scientists asked Heinrich Himmler
for "forty healthy test subjects" from the SS chiefís network of
concentration camps, the only debate among the scientists being
whether the research victims should be Jews, gypsies or Communists.
The experiments took place at Dachau. These prisoners, most of them
Jews, had salt water forced down their throats through tubes. Others
had salt water injected directly into their veins. Half of the
subjects were given a drug called berkatit, which was supposed to
make salt water more palatable, though both scientists suspected
that the berkatit itself would prove fatally toxic within two weeks.
They were correct. During the tests the doctors used long needles to
extract liver tissue. No anesthetic was given. All the research
subjects died. Both Becker-Freyseng and Schaeffer received long-term
contracts under Paperclip; Schaeffer ended up in Texas, where he
continued his research into "thirst and desalinization of salt
Becker-Freyseng was given the responsibility of editing for the US
Air Force the massive store of aviation research conducted by his
fellow Nazis. By this time he had been tracked down and brought to
trial at Nuremberg. The multivolume work, entitled German Aviation
Medicine: World War II, was eventually published by the US Air
Force, complete with an introduction written by Becker-Freyseng from
his Nuremberg jail cell. The work neglected to mention the human
victims of the research, and praised the Nazi scientists as sincere
and honorable men "with a free and academic character" laboring
under the constraints of the Third Reich.
One of their prominent colleagues was Dr. Sigmund Rascher, also
assigned to Dachau. In 1941 Rascher informed Himmler of the vital
need to conduct high-altitude experiments on human subjects. Rascher,
who had developed a special low-pressure chamber during his tenure
at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, asked Dimmer for permission to have
delivered into his custody "two or three professional criminals," a
Nazi euphemism for Jews, Russian prisoners of war and members of the
Polish underground resistance. Himmler quickly assented and
Rascherís experiments were under way within a month.
Rascherís victims were locked inside his low-pressure chamber, which
simulated altitudes of up to 68,000 feet. Eighty of the human guinea
pigs died after being kept inside for half an hour without oxygen.
Dozens of others were dragged semi-conscious from the chamber and
immediately drowned in vats of ice water. Rascher quickly sliced
open heir heads to examine how many blood vessels in the brain had
burst due to air embolisms. Rascher filmed these experiments and the
autopsies, sending the footage along with his meticulous notes back
"Some experiments gave men such pressure in their heads
that they would go mad and pull out their hair in an effort to
relieve such pressure," Rascher wrote. "They would tear at their
heads and faces with their hands and scream in an effort to relieve
pressure on their eardrums."
Rascherís records were scooped up by US
intelligence agents and delivered to the Air Force.
The US intelligence officials viewed the criticism of people like
Drew Pearson with disdain. Bosquet Wev, head of JOIA, dismissed the
scientistsí Nazi past as "a picayune detail"; continuing to condemn
them for their work for Hitler and Himmler was simply "beating a
dead horse." Playing on American fears about Stalinís intentions in
Europe, Wev argued that leaving the Nazi scientists in Germany,
"presents a far greater security threat to this country than any
former Nazi affiliation they may have had or even any Nazi
sympathies which they may still have."
A similar pragmatism was expressed by one of
Colonel Montie Cone, head of G-2ís exploitation division.
military point of view, we knew that these people were invaluable to
us," Cone said. "Just think what we have from their research all of
our satellites, jet aircraft, rockets, almost everything else."
The US intelligence agents were so entranced with their mission that
they went to extraordinary lengths to protect their recruits from
criminal investigators at the US Department of Justice. One of the
more despicable cases was that of Nazi aviation researcher Emil
Salmon, who during the war had helped set fire to a synagogue filled
with Jewish women and children. Salmon was sheltered by US officials
at Wright Air Force Base in Ohio after being convicted of crimes by
a denazification court in Germany.
Nazis were not the only scientists sought out by US intelligence
agents after the end of World War II. In Japan the US Army put on
its payroll Dr. Shiro Ishii, the head of the Japanese Imperial
Armyís bio warfare unit. Dr. Ishii had deployed a wide range of
biological and chemical agents against Chinese and Allied troops,
and had also operated a large research center in Manchuria, where he
conducted bio weapons experiments on Chinese, Russian and American
prisoners of war. Ishii infected prisoners with tetanus; gave them
typhoid-laced tomatoes; developed plague-infected fleas; infected
women with syphilis; and exploded germ bombs over dozens of POWs
tied to stakes. Among other atrocities, Ishiiís records show that he
often performed "autopsies" on live victims. In a deal hatched by
General Douglas MacArthur, Ishii turned over more than 10,000 pages
of his "research findings" to the US Army, avoided prosecution for
war crimes and was invited to lecture at Ft. Detrick,
the US Army
bio-weapons research center near Frederick, Maryland.
Under the terms of Paperclip there was fierce competition not only
between the wartime allies but also between the various US services
- always the most savage form of combat. Curtis LeMay saw his
new-minted US Air Force as certain to prompt the navyís virtual
extinction and thought this process would be speeded if he were able
to acquire as many German scientists and engineers as possible. For
its part, the US Navy was equally eager to snare its measure of war
criminals. One of the first men picked up by the navy was a Nazi
scientist named Theordore Benzinger. Benzinger was an expert on
battlefield wounds, expertise he gained through explosive
experiments conducted on human subjects during the waning stages of
World War II. Benzinger ended up with a lucrative government
contract working as a researcher at Bethesda Naval Hospital in
Through its Technical Mission in Europe, the navy was also hot on
the trail of state-of-the-art Nazi research into interrogation
techniques. The Navyís intelligence officers soon came across
research papers on truth serums, this research having been conducted
at Dachau concentration camp by Dr. Kurt Plotner.
Plotner had given
Jewish and Russian prisoners high doses of mescalin and had watched
them display schizophrenic behavior. The prisoners began to talk
openly of their hatred of their German captors, and to make
confessional statements about their psychological makeup.
American intelligence officers took a professional interest in Dr. Plotnerís reports.
OSS, Naval Intelligence and security personnel on
the Manhattan Project had long been conducting their own
investigations into what was known as TD, or "truth drug." As will
be recalled from the description in Chapter 5 of OSS officer George
Hunter Whiteís use of THC on the Mafioso Augusto Del Gracio, they
had been experimenting with TDs beginning in 1942. Some of the first
subjects were people working on the Manhattan Project. The THC doses
were administered to targets within the Manhattan Project in varied
ways, with a liquid THC solution being injected into food and
drinks, or saturated on a paper tissue.
"TD appears to relax all
inhibitions and to deaden the areas of the brain which govern the
individualís discretion and caution" the Manhattan security team
excitedly reported in an internal memo. "It accentuates the senses
and makes manifest any strong characteristic of the individual."
But there was a problem. The doses of
THC made the subjects throw up
and the interrogators could never get the scientists to divulge any
information, even with extra concentrations of the drug.
Reading Dr. Plotnerís reports the US Naval Intelligence officers
discovered he had experimented with some success with mescalin as a
speech - and even truth-inducing drug, enabling interrogators to
extract "even the most intimate secrets from the subject when
questions were cleverly put." Plotner also reported researches into
mescalinís potential as an agent of behavioral modification or mind
This information was of particular interest to Boris Pash, one of
the more sinister figures in the CIA cast of characters in this
early phase. Pash was a Russian ťmigrť to the United States who had
gone through the revolutionary years at the birth of the Soviet
Union. In World War II he ended up working for OSS overseeing
security for the Manhattan Project, where, among other activities,
he supervised the investigation into Robert Oppenheimer and was the
prime interrogator of the famous atomic scientist when the latter
was under suspicion of helping leak secrets to the Soviet Union.
In his capacity as head of security Pash had supervised
George Hunter Whiteís use of THC on Manhattan Project scientists. In
1944 Pash was picked by Donovan to head up what was called the
Mission, designed to scoop up German scientists who had been
involved in atomic, chemical and biological weapons research. Pash
set up shop at the house of an old prewar friend, Dr. Eugene von Haagen, a professor at the University of Strasburg, where many Nazi
scientists had been faculty members. Pash had met von Haagen when
the doctor was on sabbatical at Rockefeller University in New York,
researching tropical viruses. When von Haagen returned to Germany in
the late 1930s he and Kurt Blome became joint heads of the Nazisí
biological weapons unit.
Von Haagen spent much of the war infecting Jewish inmates at the
Natzweiler concentration camp with diseases including spotted fever.
Undeterred by the wartime activities of his old friend, Pash
immediately put von Haagen into the Paperclip program, where he
worked for the US government for five years providing expertise in
germ weapons research. Von Haagen put Pash in touch with his former
colleague Blome, who was also speedily enlisted in the Paperclip
program. There was an inconvenient hiatus when Blome was arrested
and tried at Nuremberg for medical war crimes, including the
deliberate infecting of hundreds of prisoners from the Polish
underground with TB and bubonic plague. But fortunately for the Nazi
man of science, US Army Intelligence and the OSS withheld
incriminating documents they had acquired through their
interrogation. The evidence would not only have demonstrated Blomeís
guilt but also his supervising role in constructing a German CBW lab
to test chemical and biological weapons for use on Allied troops. Blome got off.
In 1954, two months after Blomeís acquittal, US intelligence
officers journeyed to Germany to interview him. In a memo to his
superiors, H. W. Batchelor described the purpose of this pilgrimage:
"We have friends in Germany, scientific friends, and this is an
opportunity to enjoy meeting them to discuss our various problems."
At the session Blome gave Batchelor a list of the biological weapons
researchers who had worked for him during the war and discussed
promising new avenues of re search into weapons of mass destruction.
Blome was soon signed to a new Paperclip contract for $6,000 a year
and flew to the United States, where he took up his duties at Camp
King, an army base outside Washington, D.C. In 1951 von Haagen was
picked up by the French authorities. Despite the tireless efforts of
his protectors in US intelligence, the doctor was convicted of war
crimes and sentenced to twenty years in prison.
From the Paperclip assignment, Pash, now in the new-born
on to become head of Program Branch/7, where his ongoing interest in
techniques of interrogation was given ample employment. The mission
of Program Branch/7, which came to light only in Senator Frank
Churchís 1976 hearings, was responsibility for CIA kidnappings,
interrogations and killings of suspected CIA double agents.
pored over the work of the Nazi doctors at Dachau for useful leads
in the most efficient methods of extracting information, including
speech-inducing drugs, electro-shock, hypnosis and psycho-surgery.
During the time Pash headed up PB/7 the CIA began pouring money into
Project Bluebird, an effort to duplicate and extend the Dachau
research. But instead of mescalin the CIA turned to
LSD, which had
been developed by the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman.
The first CIA Bluebird test of LSD was administered to twelve
subjects, the majority of whom were black, and, as the CIA
psychiatrist-emulators of the Nazis doctors at Dachau noted, "of not
too high mentality." The subjects were told they were being given a
new drug. In the words of a CIA Bluebird memo, CIA doctors, well
aware that LSD experiments had induced schizophrenia, assured them
that "nothing serious or dangerous would happen to them." The
doctors gave the twelve 150 micrograms of LSD and then subjected
them to hostile interrogation.
After these trial runs, the CIA and the US Army embarked on
widespread testing at the Edgewood Chemical Arsenal in Maiyland
starting in 1949 and extending over the next decade. More than 7,000
US soldiers were the unwitting objects of this medical
experimentation. The men would be ordered to ride exercise cycles
with oxygen masks on their faces, into which a variety of
hallucinogenic drugs had been sprayed, including LSD,
(a hallucinogen) and SNA (sernyl, a relative of PCP, otherwise known
on the Street as angel dust). One of the aims of this research was
to induce a state of total amnesia. This objective was attained in
the case of several subjects. More than one thousand of the soldiers
who enlisted in the experiments emerged with serious psychological
afflictions and epilepsy: dozens attempted suicide.
One such was Lloyd Gamble, a black man who had enlisted in the air
force. In 1957 Gamble was enticed to participate in a Department of
Defense/CIA drug-testing program. Gamble was led to believe that he
was testing new military clothing. As an inducement to participate
in the program he was offered extended leave, private living
quarters and more frequent conjugal visits. For three weeks Gamble
put on and took off different types of uniform and each day in the
midst of such exertions was given, on his recollection, two to three
glasses of water-like liquid, which was in fact LSD.
terrible hallucinations and tried to kill himself. He learned the
truth some nineteen years later when the Church hearings disclosed
the existence of the program. Even then the Department of Defense
denied that Gamble had been involved, and the coverup collapsed only
when an old Department of Defense public relations photograph
surfaced, proudly featuring Gamble and a dozen others as
"volunteering for a program that was in the highest national
Few examples of the readiness of US intelligence agencies to
experiment on unknowing subjects are more vivid than the foray of
the national security establishment into researches on the effects
of radiation exposure. There were three different types of
experiments. One involved thousands of American military personnel
and civilians who were directly exposed to radioactive fallout from
US nuclear testing in the American Southwest and South Pacific. Many
have heard of the black men who were the victims of four decadesí
worth of federally funded studies of syphilis in which some victims
were given placebos so that doctors could monitor the progress of
the disease. In the case of the Marshall Islanders, US scientists
first devised the H-test - a thousand times the strength of the
Hiroshima bomb - then failed to warn the inhabitants of the nearby
atoll of Rongelap of the dangers of the radiation and then, with
precisely the equanimity of the Nazi scientists (not surprising,
since Nazi veterans of the German radiation experiments rescued by
CIA officer Boris Pash were now on the US team), observed how they
Initially the Marshall Islanders were allowed to remain on their
atoll for two days, exposed to radiation. Then they were evacuated.
Two years later Dr. G. Faill, chair of the Atomic Energy
Commissionís committee on biology and medicine, requested that the
Rongelap Islanders be returned to their atoll "for a useful genetic
study of the effects on these people." His request was granted. In
1953 the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense
signed a directive bringing the US government into compliance with
the Nuremberg code on medical research. But that directive was
classified as top secret, and its existence was kept secret from
researchers, subjects and policy makers for twenty-two years. The
policy was succinctly summed up by the Atomic Energy Commissionís
Colonel 0. G. Haywood, who formalized his directive thus:
desired that no document be released which refers to experiments
with humans. This might have adverse effects on the public or result
in legal suits. Documents covering such fieldwork should be
Among such fieldwork thus classified as secret were five different
experiments overseen by the CIA, the Atomic Energy Commission and
the Department of Defense involving the injection of plutonium into
at least eighteen people, mainly black and poor, without informed
consent. There were thirteen deliberate releases of radioactive
material over US and Canadian cities between 1948 and 1952 to study
fallout patterns and the decay of radioactive particles. There were
dozens of experiments funded by the CIA and Atomic Energy
Commission, often conducted by scientists at UC Berkeley, the
University of Chicago, Vanderbilt and
MIT, which exposed more than
2,000 unknowing people to radiation scans.
The case of Elmer Allen is typical. In 1947 this 36-year-old black
railroad worker went to a hospital in Chicago with pains in his
legs. The doctors diagnosed his illness as apparently a case of bone
cancer. They injected his left leg with huge doses of plutonium over
the next two days. On the third day, the doctors amputated his leg
and sent it to the Atomic Energy Commissionís physiologist to
research how the plutonium had dispersed through the tissue.
Twenty-six years later, in 1973, they brought Allen back to the
Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago, where they gave him a
full body radiation scan, then took urine, fecal and blood samples
to assess the plutonium residue in his body from the 1947
In 1994 Patricia Durbin, who worked at the Lawrence Livermore labs
on plutonium experiments, recalled,
"We were always on the lookout
for somebody who had some kind of terminal disease who was going to
undergo an amputation. These things were not done to plague people
or make them sick or miserable. They were not done to kill people.
They were done to gain potentially valuable information. The fact
that they were injected and provided this valuable data should
almost be a sort of memorial rather than something to be ashamed of.
It doesnít bother me to talk about the plutonium injectees because
of the value of the information they provided."
The only problem
with this misty-eyed account is that Elmer Allen seems to have had
nothing seriously wrong with him when he went to the hospital with
leg pain and was never told of the researches conducted on his body.
In 1949 parents of mentally retarded boys at the Fernald School in
Massachusetts were asked to give consent for their children to join
the schoolís "science club." Those boys who did join the club were
unwitting objects of experiments in which the Atomic Energy
Commission in partnership with the Quaker Oats
company gave them
radioactive oatmeal. The researchers wanted to see if the chemical
preservatives in cereal prevented the body from absorbing vitamins
and minerals, with the radioactive materials acting as tracers. They
also wanted to assess the effects of radioactive materials on the
Aping the Nazisí methods, the covert medical experiments of the US
government sought out the most vulnerable and captive of subjects:
the mentally retarded, terminally ill, and, unsurprisingly,
prisoners. In 1963, 133 prisoners in Oregon and Washington had their
scrotums and testicles exposed to 600 roentgens of radiation. One of
the subjects was Harold Bibeau. These days heís a 55-year-old
draftsman who lives in Troutdale, Oregon. Since 1994 Bibeau has been
waging a one-man battle against the US Department of Energy, the
Oregon Department of Corrections, the Battelle Pacific Northwest
Labs and the Oregon Health Sciences University. Because heís an
ex-con he has not, thus far, obtained much satisfaction.
In 1963 Bibeau was convicted of killing a man who had tried to
molest him sexually. Bibeau got twelve years for voluntary
manslaughter. While in prison another inmate told him of a way he
might get some time knocked off his sentence and make a small amount
of money. Bibeau could do this by joining a medical research project
supposedly managed by the Oregon Health Sciences University, the
stateís medical school. Bibeau says that though he did sign an
agreement to be part of the research project, he was never told that
there might be dangerous consequences for his health. The
experiments on Bibeau and other in mates (all told, 133 prisoners in
Oregon and Washington) proved dam aging in the extreme. The research
involved the study of the effects of radiation on human sperm and
gonadal cell development.
Bibeau and his fellows were doused with 650 rads of radiation. This
is a very hefty dose. One chest X-ray today involves about 1 rad.
But this wasnít all. Over the next few years in prison Bibeau says
he was subjected to numerous injections of other drugs, of a nature
unknown to him. He had biopsies and other surgeries. He claims that
after he was released from prison he was never contacted again for
The Oregon experiments were done for the Atomic Energy Commission,
with the CIA as a cooperating agency. In charge of the Oregon tests
was Dr. Carl Heller. But the actual X-rays on Bibeau and the other
prisoners were done by entirely unqualified people, in the form of
other prison inmates. Bibeau got no time off his sentence and was
paid $5 a month and $25 for each biopsy performed on his testicles.
Many of the prisoners in the experiments in the Oregon and
Washington state prisons were given vasectomies or were surgically
castrated. The doctor who performed the sterilization operations
told the prisoners the sterilizations were necessary to "keep from
contaminating the general population with radiation-induced
In defending the sterilization experiments, Dr. Victor Bond, a
physician at the Brookhaven nuclear lab, said,
"Itís useful to know
what dose of radiation sterilizes. Itís useful to know what
different doses of radiation will do to human beings."
One of Bondís
colleagues, Dr. Joseph Hamilton of the University of California
Medical School in San Francisco, said more candidly that the
radiation experiments (which he had helped oversee) "had a little of
the Buchenwald touch."
From 1960 to 1971 Dr. Eugene Sanger and his colleagues at the
University of Cincinnati performed "whole body radiation
experiments" on 88 subjects who were black, poor and suffering from
cancer and other diseases. The subjects were exposed to 100 rads of
radiation the equivalent of 7,500 chest X-rays. The experiments
often caused intense pain, vomiting and bleeding from the nose and
ears. All but one of the patients died. In the mid-1970s a
congressional committee discovered that Sanger had forged consent
forms for these experiments. Between 1946 and 1963 more than 200,000
US soldiers were forced to observe, at dangerously close range,
atmospheric nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada. One such
participant, a US Army private named Jim OíConnor, recalled in 1994,
"There was a guy with a mannequin look, who had apparently crawled
behind a bunker. Something like wires were attached to his arms, and
his face was bloody. I smelled an odor like burning flesh. The
rotary camera Iíd seen was going zoom zoom zoom and the guy kept
trying to get up."
OíConnor himself fled the blast area but was
picked up by the Atomic Energy Commission patrols and given
prolonged tests to measure his exposure. OíConnor said in 1994 that
ever since the test he had experienced many health problems.
Up in the state of Washington, at the nuclear reservation at
Hanford, the Atomic Energy Commission engaged in the largest
intentional release of radioactive chemicals to date in December
1949. The test did not involve a nuclear explosion but the emission
of thousands of curies of radioactive iodine in a plume that
extended hundreds of miles south and west as far as Seattle,
Portland and the California-Oregon border, irradiating hundreds of
thousands of people. So far from being alerted to the test at the
time, the civilian population learned of it only in the late 1970s,
although there had been persistent suspicions because of the
clusters of thyroid cancers occurring among the communities
In 1997 the National Cancer Institute found that millions of
American children had been exposed to high-levels of radioactive
iodine known to cause thyroid cancer. Most of this exposure was due
to drinking milk contaminated with fallout from above-ground nuclear
testing carried out between 1951 and 1962. The institute
conservatively estimated that this was enough radiation to cause
50,000 thyroid cancers. The total releases of radiation were
estimated to be ten times larger than those released by the
explosion in the Soviet Chernobyl reactor in 1986.
A presidential commission in 1995 began looking into radiation
experiments on humans and requested the CIA to turn over all of its
records. The Agency responded with a terse claim that "it had no
records or other information on such experiments." One reason the
CIA may have felt confidence in this brusque stonewalling was that
in 1973, CIA director Richard Helms had used the last moments before
he retired to order that all records of CIA experiments on humans be
destroyed. A 1963 report from the CIAís Inspector General indicates
that for more than a decade previously the Agency had been engaged
in "research and development of chemical, biological and
radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine
operations to control human behavior." The 1963 report went on to say
that CIA director Allen Dulles had approved various forms of human
experimentation as "avenues to the control of human behavior"
including "radiation, electroshock, various fields of psychology,
sociology and anthropology, graphology, harassment studies and
paramilitary devices and materials."
The Inspector Generalís report emerged in congressional hearings in
1975 in a highly edited form. It remains classified to this day. In
1976 the CIA told the Church committee that it had never used
radiation. But this claim was undercut in 1991 when documents were
unearthed on the Agencyís ARTICHOKE program. A CIA summary of
ARTICHOKE says that,
"in addition to hypnosis, chemical and
psychiatric research, the following fields have been explored ...
Other physical manifestations including heat, cold, atmospheric
The 1994 presidential commission, set up by
Department of Energy
secretary Hazel OíLeary, followed this trail of evidence and reached
the conclusion that the CIA did explore radiation as a possibility
for the defensive and offensive use of brainwashing and other
interrogation techniques. The commissionís final report cites CIA
records showing that the Agency secretly funded the construction of
a wing of George town University Hospital in the 1950s. This was to
become a haven for CIA-sponsored research on chemical and biological
programs. The CIAís money for this went via a pass-through to
Charles F. Geschickter, who ran the Geschickter Fund for Medical
Research. The doctor was a Georgetown cancer researcher who made his
name experimenting with high doses of radiation. In 1977 Dr. Geschickter testified that the
CIA paid for his radio-isotope lab
and equipment and closely monitored his research.
The CIA was a major player in a whole series of inter-agency
government panels on human experimentation. For example, three
officers served on the Defense Departmentís committee on medical
sciences and these same officers were also key members on the joint
panel on medical aspects of atomic warfare. This is the government
committee that planned, funded and reviewed most human radiation
experiments, including the placement of US troops in proximity to
nuclear tests con ducted in the 1940s and 1950s.
The CIA was also part of the armed forcesí medical intelligence
organization, created in 1948, where the Agency was put in charge of
"foreign, atomic, biological, and chemical intelligence, from
medical scienceís point of view." Among the more bizarre chapters in
this mission was the dispatch of a team of agents to engage in a
form of body-snatching, as they tried to collect tissue and bone
samples from corpses to determine levels of fallout after nuclear
tests. To this end they sliced tissue from some 1,500 bodies -
without the knowledge or consent of the relatives of the deceased.
Further evidence of the Agencyís central role was its lead part in
the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Commit tee, the clearing house
for intelligence on foreign nuclear programs. The CIA chaired the
Scientific Intelligence Committee and its subsidiary, the Joint
Medical Science Intelligence Committee. Both these bodies planned
the radiation and human experimentation research for the Department
This was by no means the full extent of the Agencyís role in
experimenting on living people. As noted, in 1973 Richard Helms
officially discontinued such work by the Agency and ordered all
records destroyed, saying that he did not want the Agencyís
associates in such work to be "embarrassed." Thus officially ended
the prolongation by the US Central Intelligence Agency
of the labors
of such Nazi "scientists" as Becker-Freyseng and
The story of the recruitment of Nazi scientists and warfare
technicians by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency is
told in two excellent but unjustly neglected books: Tom Bowerís
The Paperclip Conspiracy
and Linda Huntís
reporting, in particular, is first rate. Using the Freedom of
Information Act, she has opened up thousands of pages of documents
from the Pentagon, State Department and
CIA that should keep
researchers occupied for years to come. The history of the
experiments of the Nazi doctors comes largely from the trial record
of the medical cases at the Nuremberg tribunal, Alexander Mitscherlich and
Fred Mielkeís Doctors of Infamy, and Robert
Proctorís frightening account in Racial Hygiene. The US governmentís
research into biological warfare is admirably profiled in Jeanne
McDermottís book, The Killing winds. The best account of the US
governmentís role in developing and deploying chemical warfare
agents remains Seymour Hershís book Chemical and Biological Warfare
from the late 1960s. In an attempt to track down the cause of Gulf
War Syndrome, Senator Jay Rockefeller held a series of remarkable
hearings on human experimentation by the US government. The hearing
record provided much of the information for the sections of this
chapter dealing with unwitting experimentation on US citizens by the
CIA and the US Army. Information on human radiation testing by the
Atomic Energy Commission and cooperating agencies (including the
CIA) comes largely from several GAO studies, from the massive report
compiled by the Department of Energy in 1994 and from author
interviews with four of the victims of the plutonium and
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