Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part Three: MKUltra: When The CIA Tried to Destroy Free Will

Part Three: MKUltra: When The CIA Tried to Destroy Free Will

Tue, 18 Oct 2022 10:00

Robert is joined again by Jason Pargin for part three of our series on Project MKUltra.

Join Robert Evans, Christopher Wong, Shereen Lani Younes, Garrison Davis, James Stout and Sophie Lichterman for a live episode of It Could Happen Here and Q&A. Upon purchasing your ticket, you’ll be redirected to the show screen where there will be a prompt for you to submit a question to the hosts. Questions are picked at random, but be sure to get yours in as it may be featured in the live episode!

See for privacy information.

Listen to Episode

Copyright © 2022 iHeartPodcasts

Read Episode Transcript

In the next 30 seconds, one sweltering beach bomb will decide, It's just too hot. And want to move somewhere milder. And Essie's dreaming of a brisk outdoor jog, cracking up in a window, and the comfort of throwing on a light layer. He'll realize, I've got to sell the house and fix it and stage it and show it. Or skip the hassles, sell directly to Open Door, and move on to the things that matter, like that cool breeze. Get your free offer at slash new move. Eligibility and offer price may vary. Open Door is represented by Open Door Procreation license 02061130 in California, and Open Door Procreation LLC in its other markets. Hey there, I'm Scott Rank, host of the podcast History Unplugged. Now it really is a dream come true to get paid to talk about history, without all the stress, while still being able to make a living. And I did it with speaker from I Heart. Not only did they make it super easy to monetize my podcast, but ad revenue is three to four times higher with speaker than with any other host I've worked with. So if you want to turn your passion into a podcast and give this a try, visit That's Get paid to talk about the things you love. Welcome back to week two of the Behind the Bastards MK Ultra episodes. I'm Robert Evans. I am the normal host of this show, unless you're part of a CIA mind control experiment that is deep-attern to you, and cause you to forget the real host of this show. But that probably hasn't happened. And to explain why that probably hasn't happened, here's our guest, Jason Pargin. Hello, for those of you that did not listen to Parts One, two, I am frequent podcast host. And off their Jason Pargin, it needs to be Evans boss back in the days where I was executive editor for 13 years from 2007 till until 2020 during what I like to think of as the gory years. Maybe other people think those were the bad years and that it was fine before and after that. Jason, I would think anyone who disagrees with you on that point has probably had their minds destroyed by the CIA. Either that or they like Buzzfeed. Yeah, but I have a novel and it's called, if this book exists, you're in the wrong universe that is coming out right around the time you're listening to this. Anywhere books are sold in any format ebook, audiobook. It is one of the John Dyes at the end books. If you know what that means, you are very excited if not then that was just a nonsense string of words that I just said there. There's a somewhat famous book and movie called John Dyes at the end of the movie you can find on streaming. But it is a New York Times bestselling book series and this book is one of them. If you've not read any of them, you can start in this one if you want. It is that would be a very expensive way to start a series considering the other ones are probably like 99 cents on Kindle at this point. But by all means, please buy the $30 hardcover. I that will be good for me if you do that. Yeah, buy a G-s book. Yeah, it's worth it. It's like taking a little bit of LSD and then not having the CIA electro-shock you until your brain gets depattered. It's like the good parts of that experience. It's like what Sydney got Leib's doing as opposed to what G-s doing to everyone else. Yeah, exactly. It's fun. You know, there's one of the things that you can do if you want to have a good time is you can find old CIA reports about their drug trips. I'm looking at one from 1983 right now where they're talking about like the gateway experience and like the kind of basically they're talking about like, hey, is it possible that we're communicating with aliens while we're all doing drugs? And kind of the conclusion is that it's scary and they don't know because again, these are to be fair. These are the kind of things that happen to you when you're on drugs. It's like that I just talked to some sort of like being from outside of time and space. And it's it is, I don't know, comforting is the wrong word. But it's funny to note that the CIA has had the same experiences. Okay, and I have to, maybe this is a spoiler for the remaining episode or episodes in this in the series, but between now from the beginning to the end of this, like obviously they did record a ton of data. They did do a ton of what they're calling experiments. Did they learn anything useful that wasn't learned elsewhere or that other people didn't already know? Was there any good that came from this? No, in short, Jason, I mean, the good that comes from it, the stint that good comes from it is that LSD gets out and becomes incredibly popular among a generation of musicians and artists and philosophers and thinkers. And it gets out largely because of guys who are working with most of the people who spread LSD into the actual like the civilian populace in a way that's not horribly abusive. Are also these guys who are like contracting their doctors, their psychiatrists who have practices. They're working with the CIA for extra money. And part of that is that they're drugging people and nightmare experiments. But also they have free acid. And so they take it and they give it to their friends, some of whom wind up writing very influential books in becoming like these members of the 60s, like that generation of people who tune in and drop out. So we get a lot of cool music from that period of time. There's a lot of interesting thinkers who are influenced by the experiences they have on acid. And a lot of that is positive. And I guess you could say that came inadvertently through as a result of MK Ultra. That's not what they were trying to do. And it was not because they were drugging people and those people wrote great albums. It's more that like, well, we were giving out acid for free to the same guys who were torturing people and some of them gave that acid to people who then gave it to people who wound up writing pretty, pretty rad albums who became Jerry Garcia. You know, it certainly was not anything to do with what they intended. In fact, I assumed that the CIA very much did not like the cultural pivot that occurred in the 1960s. I think Gottlieb was probably cool with it because he is kind of a hippie. But yeah, most of these guys were horrified by what was happening. We'll be talking about that when we get to the Charles Manson portions of these episodes, Jason. So as we kind of left off here, you know, we talked about Dr. you and Cameron over in Canada, deep patterning people, all of this nightmare work. While Cameron is doing this horrible shit, Sydney Gottlieb and his friends are continuing to go buck fucking wild with their own personal LSD experiments. Conscientious guided trips and consensual random dozens had given away to a culture of surprise acid trips for anybody who happened to be near scientists from the MK Ultra program. At the end of 1954, the problem had gotten so bad that the CIA's Office of Security sent out a memo to all of the agents at the CIA warning that certain officers were testing LSD on their colleagues and that it could quote, produce serious insanity for periods of eight to 18 hours and possibly longer. Due to the risk of being drugged, they recommended employees not drink from the punch bowl at the upcoming Christmas party. Like that's a memo you get at the CIA. Don't drink from the punch this year. Somebody's probably going to put acid in it. Like, can you deliver acid that way in a punch bowl? Oh, absolutely. I had no idea. You can put it in any liquid. Yeah. Yeah. You don't notice it. It doesn't really have a flavor. So a lot of people like sticking orange juice apparently like potentiates some of the effects. So people take it in OJ a lot if you're just getting it liquid. Most people get it as like it's like a little piece of paper that has had to drop on it or something and they take it that way. But you know, all of the information you would need if you were really doing this as an experiment about in terms of like what are what other medications are these people on? What else could they have that could be counteracting it or could be you know, let me interact with it. You know, or any of these people, you know, how many of them have been drinking alcohol? What's the what's the you know, the average weight or do they have preexisting conditions? Do they have preexisting mental health problems? And all the things you would like if you're going to do a study today to see like what they're if they somehow allowed you to test like we're going to do somebody's food or random. They don't know what it's coming. We're going to study the response. There's a battery of data you would need on that person to know what you were looking at in their response. And why was different from individual to individual, right? And it sounds like they were doing any of this. It was so sloppy and unscientific. Yeah. What is the scientific value of putting LSD in a punch bowl and seeing what happens at a work party? Like how do you actually turn that into into usable data? Because you're not. You're just having fun. If it turned into an orgy or if it turned into a riot or if it turned into nothing, that doesn't mean anything unless you know all of the other complicated factors like the mood was something that was going to happen anyway. Is that unique to people of this particular age or the particular mindset that work in this agency? Like you don't have any of the information that you would need to know, okay, this same thing will happen if we try this in Moscow at a party there. You know, we're trying to destabilize their government. Like that tells you nothing. No, it's completely it's completely useless from a scientific standpoint. And I think honestly, I'm sure Sydney would have had an excuse, but he's not doing this for science. You're not some of this he's probably doing for he believes he's doing for science, but you're not dosing the punch bowl at the CIA Christmas party for science. You're doing it because it's fun. Like because you think it's funny, right? Like that's why this is happening. And yeah, it's it's pretty pretty cool that this is just this we've just this man has been set loose. He's been given a massive portion of the CIA's budget during the period of time in which the CIA is the most powerful it will ever be. And no one can tell them no. So he's just doing whatever the fuck he wants. Now Sydney seems to handle this pretty well. The stress of managing this like international drugging and torturing ring. Some of his colleagues though are more haunted by what the CIA was doing than their boss. One of these men was Frank Olson who he mentioned a little earlier. He's a US Army biochemist and a biological weapons researcher. One of the first things that like Olson will do in this project is he sits in at these black sites when they're torturing prisoners to death with LSD and masculine and he takes notes, right? Like that's one of his early jobs and what becomes in K ultra. Now according to reports from other men in the program, Olson gets on is not happy with this. He doesn't feel good about doing this job like sitting in the chair and watching people go mad and then be executed kind of like fucks him up a little bit. He's like the most human person at the CIA we're going to hear from right now I guess. So and again, all of this is debated. There are some people who say no that's not what it was. He didn't have an issue with you were doing it was something else, but according to the people who say that he had an ethical issue with like what they were doing, they say that he spoke up about it. And he started to talk about quitting the agency. And this starts to cause like a lot of talk in the higher levels of the CIA of like what are we going to do about Frank Olson, right? His doubts are supercharged when in May of 1953, he goes to Britain. They're doing another series of like tests on chemical weapons and he's not just the acid guy. He's got like, you know, he's a biological weapon specialist and he watches a servant, a seren nerve gas test go wrong and a 20-year old volunteer soldier dies and agonizing death as a result of it. And this is at least what Kinser kind of writes Stephen Kinser kind of says this is the inciting incident that gets Olson to decide he's actually going to leave the agency. Kinser writes quote, a month later, Olson was back in Germany while he was there according to records that were later declassified. A suspected Soviet agent codenamed patient number two was subjected to an intense interrogation somewhere near Frankfurt. On that same trip according to a later reconstruction of his travels, Olson visited a CIA safehouse near Stuttgart where he saw men dying often in agony from the weapons that he had made. After stops in Scandinavia and Paris, he went to Britain and visited William Sargent for a second time. Immediately after their meeting, Sargent wrote a report saying that Olson was deeply disturbed over what he had seen in CIA safehouses in Germany and displayed symptoms of not wanting to keep secret what he had witnessed. He sent his report to superiors with the understanding that they would forward it to the CIA. And Sargent is like a British kind of liaison. So you see what's kind of happening here. This is at least the way that kind of Kinser depicts it. You've got this scientist who is traveling around the world, watching these weapons. He's helping to develop kill people, watching people be tortured, watching people have weapons tested on them. And it just starts to break him. There is evidence that Frank had already started to talk about some of his top secret research with one of his friends who later claimed in an interview, quote, he said, norm, you would be stunned by the techniques that they used. They made people talk. They brainwashed people. They used all kinds of drugs. They used all kinds of torture. They were using Nazis. They were using prisoners. They were using Russians and they didn't care whether whether they got out of that or not. So he talks about this to an extent. And he seems to think about that. About that litany right there is that the only part that's not true is that it worked. Yeah. Because he lists like, well, they're using Nazis. They're killing people doing this. They're doing that. And they're they've got ways to get truth out of people. It's like, we'll see that's the thing. That's the one thing they did. That's the one that, yeah, the part where you thought it was actually effective at accomplishing something for the cause is where you were wrong. All the rest of us true. They're not sees all that. Yeah. It's so this guy has friend, Norm claims that like he basically bears his guts to him says like, you know, I watch them torture people to death. They're doing all these horrible things. They're carrying out this nightmare research. And I can't take it anymore. I'm going to leave. And Norm says that Frank Olsen tells him I'm getting out of the CIA period. So near the end of 1953, not long after this conversation, Frank is invited to a work retreat with several others CIA men, including Gottlieb's deputy and Sydney Gottlieb. After the dinner, all of them are dozed without their consent with LSD. We don't know how much they're given because as far as we can tell, nobody's taking notes about that sort of thing on a regular basis. But Sydney reacts badly. To the huge dose of surprise acid he's given after like watching a bunch of men die horribly. And days later, he still has not recovered. So he gets taken away by several colleagues to New York City to speak with a psychiatrist who was friendly with the agency. It's Abramsen, I believe, the guy who gave Gottlieb his first dose. And during that trip, while he's in the hotel room with like a colleague, Frank jumps from an 11 store or a 10 story window out of the window and dies on impact. That is the official report that while he's in this hotel room with another CIA agent, he jumps of his own accord out of the window and he dies on impact. Now, are you think anybody's going to doubt the official narrative on this one, Jason? Yeah, the people who know even a little about about him culture, the moment this guy came into the story, they knew this is the famous. This is one of the figures along with Gottlieb. This is one of the figures that the people that have kind of a cursory knowledge of in-culture like me. Yeah, these are, this is one of the guys that they already knew because this is like movie said been made about this. Yeah, and for the record, when it comes to like conspiracy theories, this is almost certainly like a true one because like, so they they exume Frank Olsen's body in 1994 and they find specific cranial injuries in his remains that suggest that he was unconscious when he started to fall. Now, it's not impossible that something else happened, especially like if he was dozed with a drug or something, but it's pretty likely he was murdered by the CIA, right? That's not an unreasonable conclusion to draw based on the extent evidence. You know, we don't know exactly what happened. It's also, yeah. They have earned the doubt. Yeah, the people express here. Like, I, I, again, I'm very big on, I'm not in favor of people who take the true things we know about in-culture and then try to expand them into very weird fiction because I think that discredits everything. In this case, you know, in the case of this man dying in the way they said he did, it is not weird. Like them throwing him out of a window would be the least weird part of the story. Yeah. It is not at all out of line with the things these people have shown themselves as willing to do morally. It makes sense from a logical standpoint. Now, it's also possible that like the CIA killed Frank Olson and they didn't do it by having him thrown, but instead like drugging him at different points and kind of like breaking him until he wound up killing himself. Not out of the question, but yeah, it seems like there's, I mean, based on sort of the exhumation and what gets found when they, when they do this, the second autopsy, it definitely seems like there's a pretty strong odds. He was just straight up murdered. But we'll never know precisely what happened. Frank Olson's death, whatever the exact details of it, was not quieted up. Obviously, this is like the thing people tend to know about in-culture. It's probably the single most famous moment of the entire program. Even though it's not the most fucked, obviously, the fact that they murdered a guy who had been helping them torture people is not nearly the worst thing that happens as a result of this. But it's just such a like Cold War story, right? This like mysterious suicide of a CIA doctor and I don't know, for whatever reason it's the thing that people latch on to. This is controversial. Whatever happens is like causes problems within the CIA. Frank Olson had been a prominent and a well-liked member of the team. The CIA's General Counsel, Lawrence Houston, starts to like, does an investigation. He spends two weeks investigating the suicide. And Houston is the guy who wrote, helped write the law that created the CIA. It is, again, obviously, yeah, the CIA is investigating itself. I wonder what they found. But it is worth noting, basically, no one knows exactly what Gottlieb's doing. He doesn't have to report to anyone, right? So it's not entirely unlikely that Houston learns a lot of things that he had not known about MK Ultra in the process of investigating this. Whatever the reality there, he summarizes his findings after this investigation, thusly. It is my conclusion that the death of Dr. Olson is the result of circumstances arising out of an experiment undertaken in the course of his official duties for the US government. And that there is, therefore, a direct causal connection between that accident and his death. I am not happy with what seems to me to be a very casual attitude on the part of TSS representatives. That's the part of the CIA that Gottlieb runs. To the way this experiment was conducted and to the remarks that this is just one of the risks running with scientific experimentation, a death occurred which might have been prevented and the agency as a whole, particularly the director, were caught completely by surprise in a most embarrassing manner. So that's kind of the official sort of chastisement that Gottlieb gets over this. It's something else. I mean, I don't even have a joke for that because. Yeah, what do you say? He's writing about it the way that it's like you crash a company car because you're not paying enough attention or something. There's such a bureaucratic problem. I mean, and obviously, I'm not surprised that the CIA's findings aren't we murdered a guy, but like, yeah, it's just, I don't know, seeing it that way is for whatever reason, like the kind of the contrast between the way they write about all this in a very like almost corporate manner and what's actually going on is always one of the more unsettling pieces of delving an MK Ultra. It well, and also true of basically every government sponsored horror and history when you see the actual bureaucracy behind it in the records they kept and it's all it's all just memos and yeah. Yep. Well, Jason, you know what who loves memos and corporate speak is our sponsors who write stuff just like this, but not about murdering their own team. So, if you yeah, that probably probably could have been framed better. Let's just let's just roll ads right now before I say anything else. We're back. Oh, Jason. How's your head, dude? This is like a, like, just kind of like a fucking, I don't know, getting all of this at once. We're reading all of this in a marathon session. So it's just sort of like hitting like a like a series of bricks. And then I'm pausing intermittently and being like, all right, Jason, time to make a joke now. Where's your joke, Jason? The, well, the, to kind of pull back here as a listener, I think most people came into this with about the same amount of information about MK Ultra as I had. And I think most people have heard of it. They knew that it was a CIA program that had something to do with mind control. They know that it's been in a million thrillers and spy movies that any kind of movie that involves like Manchurian candidates, remind control, anything like that. They will always mention, well, this is all goes back to MK Ultra. So the thing that I wanted to know coming into this listening to you as a listener and I think the same thing they want to know probably is at one point is any of the most outlandish conspiracy stuff true as in did they have even partial success creating any Manchurian candidate? Did they have even partial success in trying to make someone do something other than what they wanted to do? Not make someone piss their pants and vomit and control will be, it's like, well, they didn't want to do that. But we need the thing that they once they abandon this as a truth serum, which again, we also know really doesn't exist. You can kind of get somebody drunk and get them talking, but something that makes somebody tell the truth is that's not a real thing at all. Not a real thing. So I think what people kind of listen to for is like, was this all just people fooling themselves in creating horror stories and leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them. Like what's the weirdest thing they actually accomplish? I'm not trying to spoil the rest of the episodes we have coming up, but I think when we're trying to separate fact from fiction, what I said earlier was that the fiction is assuming that everything they wanted to do, they actually did. The fact is that everything they wanted to do was fantasy and what they actually did was they just ruined a bunch of people's lives and accidentally started the psychedelic 60s movement. What I will say is if you're asking, did they succeed in implanting false memories in people into some extent? The actual answer is we don't know and we'll be getting to them maybe there kind of later on. But certainly, there is no evidence of success, right? There is no hard evidence during this period at all of anything actually working. And there's never been any evidence that they actually manchurian candidate and someone and got them to do spice it. Like that has never happened as far as we know. There is some evidence that they get further on this than is entirely settling to think about and we will be chatting about that in a bit. But as regards Frank Olson, this guy who has been probably murdered, there's more investigations in the end. Alan Dolas is forced to write a letter to Gottlieb and tell him that he'd exercised poor judgment. That is the extent of the actual discipline that Gottlieb faces. So by the mid 1950s, after this has happened, there are no longer any barriers at all as to what Sydney can do. For a time after he's given this massive budget and put in charge of this thing, he is constrained by the fact that only Sandos chemical makes LSD. The agency had bought out the entire world supply, but that was just tens of thousands of doses, Jason. Sydney wanted a hell of a lot more. And as 1954 ended, Eli Lilly figures out the recipe and the CIA becomes their primary customer, paying $400,000 for probably millions of doses of LSD. This is effectively enough of the drug that they could now dose anyone and everyone, which is what they proceed to do. The man Gottlieb picked to run this program is a cool dude named George White. George White is the platonic ideal, basically, of a hard-boiled corrupt G-man. He had worked as a captain for the OSS during World War II, and then he was an Arcotx bureau agent, that's the precursor to the DEA. So he's a fed. He's supposed to be fighting drug trafficking. He is famous among his fellow feds for being heavily addicted to basically every drug imaginable. He is stealing everything from the dealers he arrests, and he's doing them, right? And this is a thing that he's like, he has more experience with this than Gottlieb. In 1943, he's giving concentrated marijuana to New York mobsters as part of a truth serum test. And George White is the guy that like, hey, we need someone to secretly dose mobsters with pot to see if it makes them tell the truth. Do you know any mobsters who you can drug? George White doesn't even think before he's like, oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I can do that in a minute. Just give me some fucking weed. I got this. Yeah. He is actually a really fun character. He's a terrible person, but just entertaining. So starting in the early 50s, the CIA has White run two safe houses for LSD testing in Greenwich Village in New York City. The men that he tested CIA drugs on were considered quote, expendable, because they were drug addicts and otherwise marginalized people. And they wouldn't be missed if they died or went insane. And if they go to like, if they find out what's happening to them, and they go to the cops and are like, the CIA has dosed me with LSD. Well, the cops are not going to follow up that investigation, right? That's part of the genius of them. I'm really confused here. This man they put in charge of these experiments. What was his background, his scientific background? He's a fed. He's a federal agent. He is a federal agent whose specialty is that he looks and sounds exactly like a mobster. So he's really good at hanging out with drug dealers and doing drugs with him. Okay. But it does not have a background in biochemistry or neurology or science or the guy whose day job is stealing heroin from drug dealers and then doing that heroin does not have a medical to create. Okay. He has he has no kind of scientist. So one of the reasons why he gets this job is that like, because Gottlieb when he's looking for a guy, he goes to the Bureau of Narcotics and he's like, Hey, I'm looking for someone to like help run this program where we're going to be giving LSD to unsuspecting people. And they advise George White. And when he meets White, Gottlieb kind of falls in love with him. All of the CIA. So again, the people running this for the technical division are all big nerds, right? Gottlieb and his fellow scientists through these academics, they mostly grown up middle class. White is like the kind of character you read about in a Pope fiction novel. You know, he's always got multiple weapons on him. He's got like several guns at any given time. Brass knuckles knives. He talks luridly about all these shootouts and fights he's been in. And he's like, he's this hard character who's been like fucking in the streets fight like doing horrible cop shits in the 20s. So they treat him like he's like they've run into Dick Tracy, right? Like they kind of are spellbound by him. And that's part of why he gets this job, right? He takes them on right along. So show them his guns and talk about this stuff. And they just like, I think he's really good at manipulating the CIA doctors actually. And that's part of why this works for him. So initially, when they first start setting up these safe houses to drug men, George White is going to be the actual guy who draws them in like for testing, who's the lure. And I'm going to quote now from Poisoner and Chief. He posed alternatingly as a merchant seaman or a bohemian artist and consorted with a vast array of underworld characters, all of whom were involved in vice, including drugs, prostitution, gambling and pornography. It was under this assumed bohemian artist persona that White would entrap most of his MK ultra victims. White regularly dost women at parties or who he just encountered in the world, leaving vague notes in his diary like Gloria gets horror Janet sky high. At one point, one of his victims escapes and she makes it to Linux Hill hospital where she reports George White for drugging her against her will. But the CIA had an arrangement with the medical department of the NYPD. So the NYPD tells this woman she's mistaken. Nothing's happened to her and she's sent home. And again, easy for us to look back and criticize now. But at the time, there was no way to know that this could have happened. Well, I mean, the NYPD guys know we have been told by our contacts that are the feds not to pursue this, right? They call this woman down and send her away, right? So there is some degree that the NYPD doesn't know the CIA is running like an acid warehouse, right? And like drugging people. They just know the CIA said, hey, don't do anything with this case. And this is a thing that's going to happen a lot, right? And this is also, I have to say, this is not like this is the way things work sometimes with like the FBI and cops, right? Sometimes the cops will arrest a guy like with contraband or something with drugs. And it'll turn out he's an FBI informant. And so the cops will release him because the FBI is like, hey, we don't want to don't blow this up for us, right? We need this guy. That is, you can think what you want about law enforcement, but that's like a thing that happens. The CIA is not a domestic agency. They are not supposed to be working on American soil. At no point is what they're doing in the United States legal. This is not a thing where it's normal and like within legal limits for the CIA to like have a secret program set up where they work with the NYPD to like get their assets. Let go. That's not supposed to be happening. So I do want to note here, it's kind of minor like to be like when the CIA was breaking the law by working on American soil when they're what they're doing is so much crazier, but like they're not supposed to be working in the United States at all. Yeah, if we didn't, if we hadn't previously made that clear. Yeah, this is on top of being insane. What they're doing is at this point, extremely illegal. In fact, they run into conflict with the FBI a bunch because the FBI is like, you guys are running a drug house and like, you're the CIA and the FBI and the CIA are always competing from money. So they're not super friendly with each other and they're like, what the fuck is going on here? Like, why are you guys allowed to do this? This isn't, we're supposed to be fucking with people here, you know? So George White is very good at his job. To the extent that his job is to drug random people, he does it a lot. But the CIA is hunger for test subjects cannot be sated by one man dosing strangers and bars and at house parties. In 1955, the program expanded. White and Gotleib hit upon the idea to hire sex workers and use them to draw in men who could be drugged and then observed secretly in a brothel. And I'm going to quote from a write up in the San Francisco Chronicle now. In 1955, White was transferred to San Francisco where he had worked as a journalist and rented out an apartment on Telegraph Hill to give his pad the desired French whorehouse look, White furnished it with Toulouse-Retrek posters, a picture of a French can-can dancer and kinky photos of women in bondage and domination photos. It was supposed to look rich an narcotics agent who regularly visited, said, but it was furnished like crap. White installed bugging equipment in a two-way mirror behind which he would sit on a portable toilet, quaffing a martini from the picture he kept in the refrigerator and observe the proceedings. The prostitutes who staffed the operation were paid in part with chits, which they could use for favors such as getting out of jail. So to put this picture in your head, Jason, there is a secret brothel where people CIA paid prostitutes who have get out of jail free cards, take Johns, dose them against their will with LSD, for quote unquote scientific purposes. And the only person evaluating what's going on in these studies is George White who is watching them while actively shitting and drinking martinis. Now I would love to go back in time and after however many months or years the separation went on, just sit Mr. White down and say, okay, can you explain to me? Why on a toilet? I would have several hundred questions, but the one question I'd be interested if he can answer like, do you even remember what this was for? Well, what was it? The law firm Cold War Gold, like in terms of national security. Do you know what you're trying to accomplish here? Because I strongly suspect he himself had probably lost track by that point. I don't think he ever is thinking about it, right? Like is he's not sitting down and being like, this is bringing us one step closer to my mind control, Sarah, that'll let us beat the Soviets. He is, he is pooping and drinking martinis while he watches strangers have sex, which he does for years, for hours every week. So this has kind of gone unspoken for three episodes listeners, but you may have noticed we're doing a series on the CIA's misguided attempt to find a mind control serum. And about once every five minutes, we stumble across a much better, more reliable method of mind control, like just learning men back with sexy women works. Again, a number of things have been shown to work in terms of mind control money. Yeah, this guy has gotten the government to pay for his little sex dungeon. Like just let him teach a class on how to manipulate people. Like he got, like, look at what he did. He's so good at this. Yeah, like this guy is living a different life than any of us. Like he's just his ability to get the authorities and everyone else to just cater to his whims and his weird kinks and all on the taxpayer dime. Like just ask him, just ask him how to do it. He already knows of all of the things that we've talked about. The detail about this that sticks out to me most is that his office seat is also a toilet. That's who's running this program. Like when we talk about the most secret and like terrifying thing the CIA ever did. Like this is what a lot of it boiled down to. It's just, what a thing to have happened. So over time George White learned that drugging men, because again, he's experimenting with a bunch of stuff. He learns that the best way is to drug them after they've orgasmed. That that gets you better data at like getting to listen to them talk and stuff while they're tripping, I guess. He said quote, the men expected the hookers to hurry off and became emotionally vulnerable when the women said they wanted to stay a few more hours. And again, this is as close to you get as like actual usable data. There's like, oh, you can manipulate men by making them think women like them. Like that is the most useful piece of information. This is the entire MK Ultra program hasn't covered so far. Something about their mindset seems to shift after the semen has left their body. There's there's a sort of clarity that seems to come over their their brains. George White, you've done it again. Give this man another bucket of LSD. It's it's something else. So do you know what they call this Jason? Have you read the name they give this this program? I can't wait to find out. It's operation midnight climax. Okay. So again, their whole thing of we we carefully disguised these operations. They've given that up randomized because this is just a straight up Pornow name like MK Ultra. That's that's the name of like an anime series. If you make a Pornow about the CIA drugging people in a brothel, that's what you call it. It's yeah. It'd be so redundant to make a Pornow out of this. Like that's all it was a guy watching this throw two of one way mirror. Yeah, it was already that. It is one of the things that's interesting about this to me is that like we started this series talking about that time. The army poisoned the entire city of San Francisco just to see what would happen. It's weird to me. They keep that like that keeps being their base of operations. Like all of these experiments, they everything keeps winding up back in San Francisco. Maybe it's just that the weather's nice and it's where people would prefer to be than the east coast a lot of the time. But it's it is weird that yeah, San Francisco's where this all of these programs keep ending the fuck up. So using the operation midnight climax starts as they've got this brothel and they're doing the experiments in the brothel. But eventually they decide to expand out and just use the entire city as a base. So George White does a lot of this himself, but he also has agents, some of whom are stationed there, some of whom just fly in to like try experiments. And they'll just dose random people at restaurants and bars in San Francisco. They fan out across the city and just like give LSD to people. And not just LSD. One source with the agency later told a journalist quote, if we were scared enough of a drug not to try it out on ourselves, we sent it to San Francisco. And the CIA would just give it to people and see what happens. One thing I will say for George White that that maybe a mark in his favor morally, anytime he gets some new weird drug from the CIA, he always tries it on himself first. So that is the most honorable thing we've heard of yet. In these episodes. No, I will I will bravely throw myself on this grenade. Yeah. Because what if it turns out this gets you more high than anything else that's ever been made? It's better that I is better that I check. I will bravely, bravely sacrifice myself. Yeah, these are what the heroes of the CIA are doing for us. Jumping on that grenade. You know who will jump on a grenade for you, Jason? It's some sort of a monthly mattress service. Yeah, listen to a mattress in the mail every month. If you had to have a product jump on a grenade for you, you could do a lot worse than a mattress. And they can ship those to you in a box, you know, they'll get it to you in just a couple of days. Biomatrous. Ah, we're back. Speaking of mattresses, George White is buying a lot of them because he opens the second safe house in Marin County, which is, I don't know if you've ever been to the Bay Area. It's like a very, very wealthy, very beautiful area kind of outside of San Francisco. And because it's like number one, it's kind of high income, they're able to get like this bigger place that has more space to allow for more elaborate experiments. The CIA tests things like stink bombs and itching powder there in addition to stuff like specially designed hypodermic needles that could inject poison into a wine cork, got leave even tried out an aerosolized LSD bomb on a party they hosted there, but it didn't work due to the humidity that particular day. Now, I think it's worth emphasizing that while White is doing all of this, he's also a highly placed officer with the Bureau of Narcotics. Like he's one of the top men at what becomes the DEA. And he's the guy who's like, yeah, I'll do any drug. I don't give a shit. Like I'll take it, you know, I'll give it to people, I'll poop and I'll watch him. He is reported to have regularly used the CIA's brothels to host parties for his fellow narcotics officers. One survey of his career claims, quote, sometimes after a tough day on the beat, he invited his narco buddies up to one of the safehouses for a little R&R. Occasionally, they unzipped their inhibitions and parties on the premises, much to the chagrin of the neighbors who began to complain about men with guns and shoulders traps chasing after women in various states of undress. Needless to say, there was always plenty of dope around and the fed sampled everything from Hoshish to LSD. White had quite a scene going on for a while. By day, he fought to keep drugs out of circulation and by night, he dispensed them to strangers. But who better knew the danger of these substances than a man that had been at the front line? Yeah. Like, it's like, we've got to remind ourselves what we're trying to stop. Like imagine if everybody lived like this. Yeah. What what problems we would have if everyone lived the way that narcotics bureau officers do. We're just doing these drugs to keep them out of circulation. So yeah, again, we keep harping on this, but it is kind of impossible to see how George White, who is the guy running their experiments on LSD, how he could possibly have conducted experiments that provided useful data. He is nothing but a career drug addict and thug and he's just like, yeah, pooping and watching them have hallucinations. That's the science. There are no doctors or other health professionals on hand at any of these brothels in case an experiment goes wrong and things did go wrong often. In one particularly disastrous example, a federal martial named Wayne Richie was dosed with LSD at the federal building in San Francisco. He flipped out, grabbed two guns and immediately robbed a bar in the film or district. Now, Richie did not know it was happening to him, right? He drinks like some water or some shit and then he is hallucinating and he robs a fucking store. I don't know what else is going on with Richie because I don't think a normal response to LSD is to rob a fucking bar. But also he's a federal martial who knows what kind of shit he's had happened in his life. But he gets off basically like because he's a fed and he has a clean record. He doesn't do any prison time, but he never knows that he doesn't know that he's been drugged. And so for the next 22 years, he kind of assumes that he's lost his mind, his career collapses, his life falls apart. And he just has no idea what has happened to him until 22 years later, Sydney got leave dies and Richie reads his obituary, which Minson mentions MK Ultra because a lot of this has come out since then. And Richie's like, oh fuck, is that what happened to me? Like, is this what occurred? And we obviously we can't confirm 100% whether or not Richie is someone who got dosed as part of MK Ultra. But white second in command for Operation Midnight climax did admit to drugging strangers around town. And said in an interview, quote, I didn't do any follow up. It just wasn't a very good thing to go and say, how do you feel today? You don't give them a tip. You just back away and let them worry like this knit wit Richie. So I'm going to say his his his his theory that he may have been dosed is credible. Yeah. And again, no effort actually collect data, observe a month down the line, six months down the line. No, no, like the question of what were they even trying to accomplish? Again, I don't there's a point where I think the people on the scene themselves could not have told you. No, just a thing they were doing. Yeah, it's just it's it's got its momentum now. And obviously like these are all the questions you want to answer is like, do they care about learning anything? Is there something more here? We're missing because spoiler a lot of the information that they gather is destroyed later. Like what is happening in the heads of these people? And obviously we can't answer that and maybe they couldn't either. But to provide some context for what that answer might be, I do want to read another response that white second and command a guy named Feldman gave to an interviewer about like what was happening at the time. Quote. Several times Sydney got lead came out. I met got lead at the pad and at white's office. Sydney was a nice guy. He was a fucking nut. They were all nuts. I says, you're a good Jewish boy from Brooklyn like me. What are you doing with these crazy cock suckers? He had this black bag with him. He says, this is my bag of dirty tricks. He had all kinds of crap in that bag. We took a drive over to mirror woods out by Stinson Ranch. Sydney says, stop the car. He pulls out a dart gun and he shoots this big eucalyptus tree with a dart. Then he tells me, come back in two days and check on this tree. So we go back in two days. The tree was completely dead. Not a leaf left on it. I went back and I was so white. He says to me, what do you think of Sydney? I said, I think he's a fucking nut. White says, well, they may be a nut, but this is the program. This is what we do. So I would like you to contrast that with Hollywood's favorite trope of the group of secret agents who are not governed by any kind of oversight like Tom Cruise's mission and possible force. Hollywood loves this thing. Well, here's this guy. If we had to go through all the bureaucracy and permission, we wouldn't get the bad guys to really get the bad guys. We need a Jack Ryan. We need whatever. It's a whole genre of the super bad ass who operates off the books. If you get caught, we will deny. We know you don't be no oversight. You're not reporting to the government. You're the mission impossible team and you're going to be working completely. We're going to fund you, give you all the gear, all the gadgets, all the mask making stuff. And we're going to trust you without oversight. You're going to get the job done. You're going to go get the new. You're going to stop it. In reality, when you give a bunch of dudes a blank check to do whatever under the guys of, hey, your work is so important. We're not going to ask you what you're doing. This is what you get. Like more often than not. Can you imagine a situation in which it would be useful to have this tree killing dart? Like Sydney, we can already kill trees, man. Like, I don't think you really accomplished much here by murdering a random tree with this dart gun. Like it's it's baffling. One of the things that's interesting, he is working on like terrible poisons. Like one of the things he does figure out by like, laboriously collecting more of a specific kind of shellfish venom than it had ever been collected as he makes like a perfect suicide drug. Like just this, I the ideal way to kill yourself if you're captured with like a minimum of pain as quickly as possible can't be reversed. Like he figures it out and they put it in, they have a couple of different devices for dispensing it to people. They give it to like pilots on these, you know, these spy planes that we have flying over the Soviet Union. They'll give them these like suicide drugs to take so that if they're captured, they could kill themselves. A bunch of these guys crash with Sydney's poison on it. None of them ever use it. Because it turns out it's not really like it's it's kind of hard to go from like doing my day job to committing suicide on a die. Yeah. It's yeah. That's the part of the equation that a guy like him would not consider. Yeah. You know, maybe they don't. I mean, it's it's it's all it's so weird. I do love the degree to which this guy felled. Men like is just yeah, man, I'm like a criminal fucked up guy. So of course, I'm willing to do this. But like all these people are crazy. They're not like they're they're all just lunatics. But this is money, you know, and that's what white says, right? This is what we do. So that's all good. Now in his book, Stephen Kinser continues, quote, got leaps visit to San Francisco were not for purely business purposes. Operation midnight climax gave him ready access to prostitutes. According to Ira Feldman, he took full advantage of this prerequisite. He was cock crazy. Feldman said while free associating about got leap during a legal deposition near the end of his life, he recalled complaining to George Hunter White. All he wants me to do is get him laid. Anytime that fuck came to San Francisco, get me a girl. Feldman said he always needed a girl. I know that some listeners are asking, are these real people like how was everyone involved in this as a cartoonish parody of a human being? I think it just worked out that way. Yeah, it was the 50s, you know. Now are we still in the 50s? It's yeah, yeah. Okay. We're in the mid to late 1950s when this is all going on, right? This is like the mid 50s is kind of when they move to San Francisco. And so this is kind of all throughout the end of that decade. Yeah. And this whole thing is descended into a nasty just orgy operation. Yeah. With incredibly quickly, like there's take a lot of time. Yeah, from the genesis of the project where it's just a it's just a sex dungeon. They're running where the sky jerks off on a toilet. We'll talk about, you know, there's conspiracy theories about like, did they make the unibomber, right? Did they make Charles Manson? My favorite conspiracy theory is like, hey, did Sydney gotly realize in like 1954 that none of this was ever going to do anything, but he had an excuse to like have the CIA pay for a brothel and all of the drugs he wanted to do and free trips to San Francisco to party and get laid. And that's more or less most of what was happening here. That's not impossible. Yeah. And in fact, it's yeah, I'm not even sure that to conspiracy theory. That may just be what yeah. It's not much of a conspiracy theory. But you know what? Is a conspiracy theory, Jason? Is your fiction career a conspiracy? Oh, have we arrived at the end of the episode? I think we have. I think it's time for blokes. Yeah. I'm sorry. What I was sitting here thinking about when the guy did the whole event with the tree, which I can't get out of my head. We made incredible car. Absolutely amazing. He shot the tree with a tree tree shooting. Dark gun. He had it in his jacket. He just held him. I says, come back in a couple of days. And if if I witnessed that happening and the guy told me come back in a couple of days, if all I found was that the tree had died, I would be so crushingly disappointed because what else could like a big deal? I can kill I can go to a hardware store and get stuff that will kill this tree in a couple of days. I thought I was going to come back and find out that it had gotten up and walked across the street. Speaking now. Yeah. It was like the weird wood trees in Game of Thrones. And you could commune with the gods. He's built some sort of just fern galee gun. It's just dead. Is that all you were? Is this what you were trying to do? Or is this one of the failed attempts to use your tree, your magic tree? Yeah. Was it supposed to do something else? Gottlieb was hoping it would be talking. Damn it. Another failure. Yeah. The book is called, if this book exists, you're in the wrong universe. It has a lime green cover. You cannot miss it on the shelf. If you go buy it in a physical bookstore, which virtually none of you will do. So if you do what most people do and just google that title on Amazon, it will come up. Also, they have the audio book and ebook, whatever, all of the books. But please, if you can support a local physical bookstore, if you still have one, please, they've been hurting over the course of the pandemic like everybody else. Buy it off the shelf if it's all the same deal. Yeah. Find a good bookstore. Go to Also, I think that's the, I'm going to double check this. Yes. As a network of all the, the indie bookstores. Yes. You can order from the store close to you. They will make it so happy. I think it's because that took me to a sketchy website. A lot of them will, they will ship just no different form or information from Amazon. It may be very, slightly more expensive, but gosh, they will appreciate it. Yes. Find Jason's book there. You can also find my book there after the revolution if you're looking to get two books. Why not? You know, treat yourself. You deserve it. You've listened to all this horrible shit about the CA. Why not buy two books? Behind the bastards is a production of Cool Zone Media. For more from Cool Zone Media, visit our website or check us out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hey there. I'm Scott Rank, host of the podcast History Unplugged. Now it really is a dream come true to get paid to talk about history without all the stress while still being able to make a living. And I did it with Speaker from iHeart. Not only do they make it super easy to monetize my podcast, but ad revenue is three to four times higher with Speaker than with any other host I've worked with. So if you want to turn your passion into a podcast and give this a try, visit That's Get paid to talk about the things you love.