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MKUltra, science and ethics, and the "deep state."

I recently finished a book a couple of weeks ago by the esteemed journalist Stephen Kinzer. The book is entitled "Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control." Wikipedia summarizes the book as containing "untold stories of a Central Intelligence Agency chemist called Sidney Gottlieb who tried to 'find a way to control the human brain.' In 1953, CIA director Allen Dulles appointed Gottlieb to 'run the covert program.'" In "Poisoner in Chief," Kinzer explains that Gottlieb developed MKUltra and details how drugs like LSD helped the CIA to control the minds of it's perceived enemies. Kinzer uncovers in the book that Gottlieb was the chief chemist, helped the CIA with poison when they needed it, and the former prime minister Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was murdered by poison made by Gottlieb. Needless to say this was not a very good start for the CIA as an agency, in regards towards ethics, clandestine behavior, and nefarious activity.

During this time period the CIA imagined that communists discovered "some kind of a drug, or a potion, or a technique that would allow them to control human minds." It was thought at this time, by many movies and books, that mind control was possible, and that the CIA needed a way to find out how to control people's minds. The CIA started and ran the MKUltra program for roughly 10 years.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a horrendously unethical and immoral period in the history of CIA, and the United States government. MKUltra was done in the name of patriotic duty to America, and the dogged pursuit of furthering scientific progress to beat the USSR and communists. Science though needs to guided by ethics. Researchers studying human subjects must tell them that they have a right to refuse to participate in the research and human subjects must be fully informed of their role in this research. Gottlieb did experiments on American citizens and used techniques of torture and testing that were done by Nazi Germany. All of this to say the least was very immoral and without ethics, and made science can run amok in MKUltra.

Now the "deep state," is a very controversial topic, but I think one that needs to be addressed in light of the understanding of what MKUltra was and what was done in the name of the "science" of MKUltra. According to a definition by Wikipedia "the deep state is a type of governance made up of potentially secret and unauthorized networks of power operating independently of a state's political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals." MKUltra was in essence a covert and secret part of government, that got nearly unlimited funding, wasn't subject to ethical review boards, and acted as if they were above the law. The CIA might have acted like they were above the law because Sidney Gottlieb and his associates really were above the law. Gottlieb served no time in prison for his torturous regime and much of the files of MKULtra were shredded before anyone could read them.

According to "Poisoner in Chief" by Stephen Kinzer on page 67, "On November 4, 1952, Americans elected Dwight Eisenhower to the presidency. His victory ensured that Gottlieb would be free to do whatever he could imagine." I am not sure what else to call MKUltra but the "deep state." MKUltra was a part of my American government that was so powerful, so clandestine, and so lacking of any transparency, and ultimately so lacking of any ethics, that I think the word "deep state," is appropriate. Now that the Twitter Files has come out, I am not sure that the FBI and likely the CIA and NSA has changed much over the years, because of the recently uncovered meddling the FBI has been shown to be done on social media. Conservatives might sometimes over-broadly use the term"deep state," but that doesn't mean the deep state doesn't exist at all, just that the word and concept of the word needs to be applied more carefully.

Ultimately I want to leave my audience with two points from this blog. One is that science without ethics, cannot and shouldn't exist. MKUltra showed that without ethical considerations science can run wild. Lastly parts of government that are so powerful and so covert that they lack any accountability, like MKUltra, cannot happen in America. The human temptation to abuse power and have a part of government that acts like the "deep state," is too alluring to resist. We need more transparency in our government here in America, and without this, things like MKUltra and the Twitter Files are bound to still happen.

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Diane Johnston
Diane Johnston
04 янв. 2023 г.

The CIA’s operations show that ethics have rarely been a consideration. With the CIA, it’s always, the end justifies the means. Sadly the CIA has not owned up to their uncouth past, so is likely to follow an ethical path in the future. Thanks for the reminder.

05 янв. 2023 г.
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I totally agree Mom. :)

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