What Is Project MKUltra?


Quick Answer

Project MKUltra was a clandestine CIA program conducted from 1953 to 1973 to study mind control techniques. Much of the experimentation involved the use of LSD and other drugs, but experiments on human subjects were also conducted using hypnosis, electroshock therapy, isolation, sensory deprivation and torture.

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Full Answer

The MK in the name stood for the CIA's Technical Services Division, and Ultra was a top secret intelligence designation. CIA director Allen Dulles initiated the program in 1953 after the CIA acquired a large amount of LSD from a Swiss pharmaceutical firm. The CIA hoped to develop mind control drugs to use against prisoners and foreign leaders. The project became a vast undertaking involving millions of dollars and 80 participating institutions, including universities, colleges, prisons, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and other research facilities. Some subjects consented to participation, but others were forced to participate or were given drugs without their knowledge. CIA director Richard Helms shut down the project in 1973 in the wake of the Watergate investigation and ordered all documents pertaining to the program destroyed.

Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, who oversaw the program, ultimately deemed it a failure. A New York Times article in 1974 led to a Congressional investigation headed by senator Frank Church in 1975. Despite the destruction of many relevant documents, the Church Committee exposed the MKUltra program, initiating an executive order by President Gerald Ford banning any future experimentation with drugs on human subjects without consent.

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