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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/16/19

Our Invisible Government

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"I would venture to say that this hematoma is singular evidence of the possibility that Dr. Olson was struck a stunning blow to the head by some person or instrument prior to his exiting through the window of room 1018A," Starrs concluded.

Starrs was later more emphatic: "I think Frank Olson was intentionally, deliberately, with malice aforethought, thrown out of that window."

Gottlieb also oversaw the production of an array of poisons intended to be used on leaders and others deemed hostile to the United States, including Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro. He and the CIA pursued bizarre schemes, including finding a chemical that would make Castro's beard fall out, leaving the Cuban leader, in the minds of CIA operatives, open to ridicule that would result in his overthrow.

The CIA also experimented with implanting electrodes in brains to control behavior. "'An Agency team flew to Saigon in July 1968; among them were a neurosurgeon and a neurologist,'" Kinzer says in quoting a study of American intelligence. "'In a closed-off compound at Bien Hoa Hospital, the Agency team set to work. Three Vietcong prisoners had been selected by the local station. How or why they were chosen would remain uncertain. In turn each man was anaesthetized and, after he had hinged back a flap in their skulls, the neurosurgeon implanted tiny electrodes in each brain. When the prisoners regained consciousness, the behaviorists set to work. ... The prisoners were placed in a room and given knives. Pressing the control buttons on their handsets, the behaviorists tried to arouse their subjects to violence. Nothing happened. For a whole week the doctors tried to make the men attack each other. Baffled at their lack of success, the team flew back to Washington. As previously arranged in case of failure, while the physicians were still in the air, the prisoners were shot by Green Beret troopers and their bodies burned.'"

The depth of moral squalor and criminality that can be reached by those given unlimited resources, no oversight or public accountability and total secrecy is breathtaking. Gottlieb and the CIA lured clueless victims in New York City to a "safe house" on Bedford Street and gave them drinks laced with LSD. CIA operatives directed by the thuggish George Hunter White monitored the effects.

"[White] regularly used illegal drugs, keeping for himself a share of whatever he confiscated," Kinzer writes. "His consumption of alcohol -- often a full bottle of gin with dinner -- was legendary. His other appetite was sexual fetish, especially sadomasochism and high heels. He bought his second wife a closet full of boots, and patronized prostitutes who bound and whipped him. One of his few emotional bonds was with his pet canary. He loved to hold and stroke it. When the bird died, he was deeply pained. 'Poor little bastard just couldn't make it,' he wrote in his diary. 'I don't know if I'll ever get another bird or pet. It's tough on everyone when they die.'"

White, who as a narcotics officer had hounded and often framed jazz musicians including Billie Holiday, was later moved to a safe house in San Francisco that functioned as a CIA brothel. Gottlieb, Kinzer writes, "wanted to systematize the study of how sex, especially in combination with drugs, could loosen men's tongues." The prostituted women were hired by the CIA to lure clients to bedrooms, decorated with photos of manacled women in black stockings and studded leather collars, and lace their drinks with LSD and other drugs.

"While his prostitutes and their clients had sex, White would watch through a one-way mirror, sitting on his portable toilet," Kinzer writes. Gottlieb, on visits to the safe house, demanded the women have sex with him as if they were part of his personal harem.

White was given a second safe house in Marin County outside San Francisco where he used his prostituted women not only to drug men but test an array of Little-Shop-of-Horrors gadgets on his victims including stink bombs, itching powder, sneezing powder, diarrhea inducers, drug-laced swizzle sticks and aerosol cans filled with LSD.

After the long quest for a mind-control drug was abandoned, the CIA destroyed most of the records of its experiments. White, in a letter to Gottlieb thanking him for hiring him, wrote: "Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest? Pretty good stuff, Brudder!" That would make a far more honest motto for the CIA than the biblical passage from John 8:32 carved on the walls of its original headquarters at Langley, Va.: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Prisoners, the CIA eventually concluded, were best broken through extreme isolation and sensory deprivation. These techniques, pioneered by CIA-funded research at McGill University in Canada, were laid out in a 1964 manual titled "KUBARK Counter-Intelligence Interrogation." KUBARK is the CIA's cryptonym for itself. The 128-page manual was not fully declassified until 2014. It was the primary resource used by CIA interrogators in the 1960s, including in Vietnam, where at least 20,000 captured Vietnamese were killed, often after being tortured. An updated version of the manual called "Human Resources Exploitation Training Manual" came out in 1983. These forms of torture, which include shackling, sleep deprivation, electroshock, sexual and physical humiliation, prolonged cramped confinement, and hooding for disorientation and sensory deprivation, became routine after 9/11 in American intelligence black sites at home and abroad. CIA psychologists, like Gottlieb's earlier stable of mad scientists and torturers, monitor and perfect these techniques to ensure complete psychological collapse and a childlike dependence on the interrogator.

It would be naive to relegate the behavior of Gottlieb and the CIA to the past, especially since the invisible government has once again shrouded the activities of intelligence agencies from congressional oversight or public scrutiny and installed a proponent of torture, Gina Haspel, as the head of the agency.

When an intelligence service resorts to torture, it has failed. When it relies on sadists and thugs, it has failed. When it treats human beings, including its own citizens, as unwitting pawns to be experimented upon and murdered, it has failed. When it uses dirty tricks, provides billions of dollars in weapons to renegade militias and Islamic radicals, overthrows governments and assassinates leaders, leaving in its wake mayhem and disasters it did not foresee, it has failed.

Intelligence gathering, like investigative reporting, is a process that requires immense patience, trusted sources cultivated over long periods and a cultural, historical and linguistic literacy that is the result of years of study. It is not a summer camp for creeps who revel in human degradation, dirty tricks and murder. All countries need good intelligence officials and agents, not the buffoons, gangsters, sadists and killers who, in the name of national security, do us so much damage.

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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