Plants - Drugs Mind - Spirit Freedom - Law Arts - Culture Library  
by Erowid
1916 Scopolamine is observed to promote unguarded speech by obstetrician Robert E. House. It will eventually be explored as a possible truth serum. 1  
1931 Research on the barbiturate sodium pentothal (the proverbial "truth serum") begins. 1   [Details]
1942 Franklin Delano Roosevelt orders the creation of a US intelligence service, designated the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), under the direction of General William "Wild Bill" Donovan.   
ca. 1942-43 The OSS "truth drug" committee experiments with barbiturates, scopolamine, and Cannabis indica as possible truth serums.    [Details]
1942 British Special Operations Executive (SOE) begins Project SACCHARINE, investigating the use of various drugs to aid troops in combat. They evaluate several amphetamines as sources of emergency energy. 1  
Oct 1942 The OSS is charged with investigating the use of truth drugs to interrogate prisoners of war.   
ca. 1943 Nazi doctors experiment with mescaline as a truth serum at Dachau and Auschwitz.   
Jan 30, 1943 OSS unsuccessfully tests a mescaline and scopolamine cocktail as a truth drug on two volunteers at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. 1  
May 1943 OSS unsuccessfully tests THC as a truth serum. 1  
1945 The French Medico-Legal Society determines that confessions extracted under sodium pentothal are too unreliable to be used as evidence in court. Its conclusion was accepted by legal systems around the world. 1  
Sep 20, 1945 OSS is disbanded by Harry Truman. Planning immediately commences for the formation of a non-wartime intelligence service.   
1946 The Nuremberg Code is written after Nazi experiments on concentration camp inmates come to light during the Nuremberg Trials. The Code states that researchers must obtain full voluntary consent from all subjects, which is official US policy to this day.    [More Info]
1946 US military intelligence concludes after exploring a number of compounds that the most effective truth drugs available are cannabis, followed closely by a combination of alcohol and caffeine. 1  
Jan 1946 The Central Intelligence Group, a precursor to the CIA, is founded.   
1947 The National Security Act creates the CIA and the National Security Structure.   
1947 The US Navy begins Project CHATTER, a "truth extraction method" research program. The project begins investigating possible truth serums.   
1949 Hungary tries Cardinal Josef Mindszenty, who publicly confesses to crimes he clearly did not commit. The CIA fears that he has been brainwashed by unknown means, reigniting US intelligence interest in mind control.   
early 1950s The US Army Edgewood Arsenal begins investigating MDA (designated EA 1298) and MDMA (EA 1475) for possible use as interrogation tools. Toxicity studies are conducted on animals. 2   [More Info]
1950 The term "brainwashing" appears for the first time in a Miami news article written by Edward Hunter, a CIA covert propaganda operator.   
Apr 20, 1950 CIA director Richard Hillenkoetter authorizes CIA Project BLUEBIRD, charged to investigate through scientific means various forms of mind control including interrogation techniques, brainwashing, and other behavioral research. The Nazi Dachau experiments are scrutinized, but are determined to be too saturated with sadism to be useful.   
Jul 1950 Project BLUEBIRD operatives experiment with interrogation techniques on a suspected double agent in Japan. They investigate debilitating heat, combinations of benzedrine and sodium amytal, and picrotoxin. Details are scarce, but the operation is considered a success.   
Dec 1950 Project BLUEBIRD begins experiments in applying electricity to the brain to effect mind control.   
late 1950 Psychology professor G. Richard Wendt receives $300K from Project CHATTER, along with 30 grams of pure heroin and 11 pounds of cannabis from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Student volunteers are administered drugs in double-blind studies. Volunteers are never told what they had been given.   
1951 Sidney Gottlieb becomes director of the CIA Technical Services Staff.   
late 1951 Project BLUEBIRD concludes that electroshock treatments can produce amnesia, though it also causes excruciating pain and sometimes reduces subject to a vegetative state.   
1951 Project BLUEBIRD is renamed Project ARTICHOKE and becomes a joint operation between the CIA and the US Army, Navy, and Air Force.   
1952 Project ARTICHOKE investigates neurosurgery as a tool for behavior modification.   
1952 Robert Hyde at Boston Psychopathic Hospital begins overseeing $40K a year in CIA funds for LSD research.   
spring, 1952 Harvard professor Henry Beecher alerts the British Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) to LSD. 1  
summer, 1952 CIA Operation CASTIGATE, directed by US Navy Project CHATTER personnel, conducts experiments on a truth serum in Germany. The operation is an embarrassing failure for the Navy, and Project CHATTER never recovers. The CIA now has primary ownership of mind control research. 3   [Details]
1952 Morse Allen, head of Project ARTICHOKE, hears rumors of psychoactive mushrooms, and begins the CIA search for them.   
Apr 13, 1953 CIA director Allen Dulles authorizes Project MKULTRA under the direction of Sidney Gottlieb. Gottlieb later testifies that MKULTRA's mission was "to investigate whether and how it was possible to modify an individual's behavior by covert means." 3   [Details]
1953 MKULTRA focuses its attention strongly on LSD.    [Details]
May 1953 MKULTRA hires former Narcotics Bureau officer George White to run a safe house in New York City. In an operation that will come to be called Midnight Climax, the safe house is used to surreptitiously slip drugs to civilians so their responses can be monitored.   
1953 Under the direction of MKULTRA, Dr. Harris Isbell, director of the Addiction Research Center, begins performing drug tests on his inmate population.    [Details]
1953 The Sandoz patent on LSD expires, allowing US companies to legally manufacture LSD for the CIA for the first time.   
Sep 1953 The CIA negotiates a deal with Sandoz not to sell LSD to the Soviet Union. 1  
late 1953 CIA operatives regularly dose one another unawares with LSD as an ongoing operational experiment. Some agents have extremely negative reactions.   
late 1953 British intelligence administers LSD to Royal Air Force volunteers. They eventually conclude that 'Research is desirable into the use of LSD-25 as a possible effective agent for use in interrogation.' 1  
late 1953 CIA director Dulles commissions Dr. Harold Wolff to conduct a study on communist brainwashing techniques. After conducting an exhaustive study, Wolff concludes that the Chinese and Soviets use a combination of coercion, stress, and pressure, and have no machines, pills, or rays.   
Nov 19, 1953 Sidney Gottlieb doses Frank Olson and several other US Army Special Operations Division officers at a CIA/Army joint retreat. Olson responds badly, and falls into lasting depression, vacillating between apparent normalcy and severe paranoia and depression. 3   [Details]
Nov 28, 1953 Frank Olson falls from a hotel window to his death. The event is described as a suicide, though serious questions are later raised about this explanation (see 1994 below).    [Details]
1954 US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly develops an entirely-synthetic fabrication procedure for LSD. No longer constrained by limited ergot supplies, Eli Lilly produces LSD in quantity for the CIA.   
1955 CIA agent Morse Allen and Dr. Maitland Baldwin of the NIH propose extreme sensory deprivation experiments. The proposal is shot down during review by CIA medical agents, who suggest that the experimenters consider "volunteer[ing] their heads for use in Dr. Baldwin's 'noble' project." 3  
early 1955 George White opens additional safe houses in San Francisco and Marin, and oversees them along with the New York safe house. Prostitutes are paid to surreptitiously dose their customers with LSD, while being monitored by CIA operatives. This operation is now referred to as Operation Midnight Climax.   
Jun 29, 1955 R. Gordon Wasson participates in a psilocybin mushroom velada in Mexico. A few months later he is contacted by Professor James Moore, who asks to accompany Wasson on his next expedition the following summer, and offers to underwrite the trip with a $2K grant from the Geschickter Fund. Unbeknownst to Wasson, Moore is a CIA agent, and the Geschickter Fund is an MKULTRA conduit.   
1956 Dr. Ewen Cameron tests LSD in conjunction with "depatterning" experiments designed to reprogram personalities. His research soon comes to the attention of the CIA.   
summer, 1956 CIA operative James Moore accompanies Wasson and Robert Heim to Mexico and brings back samples of psilocybin mushrooms. CIA agents are unable to isolate the active principle.   
1957 A CIA report states that six psychoactive drugs have been moved out of the experimental stage and into operational use.   
1957 The CIA begins issuing sizable grants to Dr. Ewen Cameron to support his "depatterning" research. Cameron also begins studying sensory deprivation in this year.   
Nov 1957 The CIA Intelligence Center at Fort Holabird and the Chemical Warfare Laboratories at Edgewood begin working together. Thrity to thirty-five volunteers are administered LSD, some of them as many as twenty times in a two-year period 4  
1958 John Lilly resigns from NIH, in part because of fears that the military will use his consciousness research in unethical ways.   
1958 Under US Army contract, Dr. Gerald Klee administers LSD to volunteers in doses as large as 1200 ug.   
1959 Albert Hofmann publishes the synthesis of psilocybin, which the CIA has been unable to identify. Dr. Harry Isbell soon procures a quantity and orders it injected into nine inmates at his facility.   
late 1950s US Army doctor Van Sim and his colleagues covertly dose Edgewood Arsenal volunteers with LSD.   
late 1950s Five civilian volunteers at Edgewood Arsenal are given PCP in a search for incapacitating agents. Experiments are discontinued after one subject ends up in the hospital for six weeks with paranoid psychosis.   
Apr 15, 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion ends in disaster. President Kennedy vows to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces". CIA Director Dulles and Deputy CIA Director Charles Cabell are forced to resign. John McCrone is appointed the new Director and is instructed to clean house. 3  
1963 Newly-appointed CIA Inspector General John Earman urges CIA director John McCrone to close the Operation Midnight Climax safe houses. 3   [Details]
1964 Project MKULTRA becomes Project MKSEARCH.    [Details]
1965 The CIA closes the San Francisco Midnight Climax safe house.   
1966 The CIA closes the New York City Midnight Climax safe house.   
1966 The CIA continues drug-assisted interrogations until at least this year.   
1966 MKSEARCH funds the Amazon Natural Drug Company to investigate plant-based toxins and drugs. The group researches yage/ayahuasca and numerous other psychoactive substances.   
1967 The Geschickter Fund is discontinued as a CIA conduit.   
1968 CIA Project OFTEN begins at the US Army Edgewood Arsenal to investigate the effects of various drugs on animals and humans.   
1972 Gottlieb ends MKSEARCH, observing "It has become increasingly obvious over the last several years that this general area has less and less relevance to current clandestine operations." 3  
1972 Richard Nixon purges CIA director Richard Helms for reasons that are unclear. James Schlesinger is named head of the Agency.   
1972 Helms and Gottlieb order destruction of all MKULTRA records. As a result of a clerical error, seven boxes of documents are spared.   
1972 In the aftermath of Watergate, CIA director Schlesinger orders all CIA employees to inform him of illegal actions they have conducted in their operations, and he learns of Frank Olson's death. Part of the resulting report is leaked to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.   
1973 Project OFTEN is canceled.   
May 1974 Seymour Hersh writes an article for the New York Times detailing criminal CIA domestic operations, creating an uproar. President Ford appoints committee chaired by VP Nelson Rockefeller to investigate intelligence improprieties.   
Jun 1974 President Ford's Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Dick Cheney advocate prosecuting Hersh for revealing classified information. The matter is referred to the Justice Department.    [More Info]
1974 Senator Frank Church heads a Senate committee investigation of CIA malfeasance.   
1975 Senator Edward Kennedy's Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research holds public hearings on MKULTRA. The investigation is something of a showboating opportunity. The Subcommittee does not pursue any of the numerous, obvious perjuries.    [More Info]
1975 Harry Isbell tells a Senate Subcommittee "The ethical codes were not so highly developed, and there was a great need to know in order to protect the public in assessing the potential uses of narcotics ... I personally think we did a very excellent job." 3  
Jul 1975 The Olson family learns that Frank was surreptitiously dosed with LSD, after decades of denial by the CIA that there were any unusual circumstances to his death. Frank's widow describes Gottlieb as "despicable".   
Aug 1975 The US Army discloses its role in Harold Blauer's 1953 death (see above). His daughter initiates a series of lawsuits and is eventually awarded more than $700K in damages.    [More Info]
Feb 18, 1976 President Ford signs Executive Order 11905, stating that "Foreign intelligence agencies shall not engage in experimentation with drugs on human subjects, except with the informed consent...".    [More Info]
1977 John Marks files a FOIA request, eventually obtaining redacted versions of the surviving seven boxes of MKULTRA records. He begins the research that leads to the publication of his book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate.   
1977 Sidney Gottlieb is granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for senate testimony. He is now 59 years old.   
Dec 4, 1981 Ronald Reagan signs Executive Order 12333. All human subjects experiments conducted by the Intelligence Community must meet DHS requirements, including informed consent.    [More Info]
1993 The Chemical Weapons Convention is presented to the United Nations. The United States ratifies it, accepting its provisions in banning chemical weapons research.   
1994 James Starrs, a George Washington University forensic pathologist, examines Frank Olson's exhumed corpse and calls the evidence "rankly and starkly suggestive of homicide." He describes clear evidence of blunt force trauma to the head prior to Olson's fall. 3   [More Info]

  1.   Streatfeild, D. Brainwash. St. Martin's Press. 2007.
  2.   Grob CS, Polond RE. "MDMA". In: Lowlinson JH, Ruiz P, Millman RB, Langrod JG (Eds). Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook. Williams & Wilkins. 1997. pp. 269-275.
  3.   Marks J. The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. W. W. Norton & Co, 1979.
  4.   Ketchum JS. Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten. James S. Ketchum, 2006.