By Tor Ormseth, Online Editor
In recent years, a topic of much debate has been about what the government can legally or ethically do to its citizens, especially in the case of surveillance and monitoring. Even recent developments, such as the National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden, however, pale in comparison to what the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was doing to Americans back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
In an effort to catch up to what our government thought the Russians and Chinese were capable of in terms of mind-controlling chemical warfare, the CIA drugged people without their knowledge with hallucinogens such as LSD. This project was known as MKUltra.
Hallucinogens are in general less harmful to one’s body than more addictive drugs, such as methamphetamines or heroin, but they can still be extremely dangerous — especially if one does not know they have been drugged. There are two prominent cases that the CIA has declassified in which the danger of these drugs were best demonstrated — those of Frank Olson and Wayne Ritchie.
Olson was attending a conference of 10 scientists, and after they had finished their drinks, a CIA operative informed them that they had been dosed with LSD, in order to study its effects on people. While the other nine scientists were fine after the effects had worn off, Olson was carted off to New York to be treated for paranoia and schizophrenia. The night before he reached a treatment center, he jumped out of a 10-story window to his death.
Ritchie was another victim of the CIA’s horrendous drugging scandal. He did not end up dying, although his experience ruined his career. Ritchie was a United States deputy marshal attending a holiday party when the hallucinogens took effect. He then attempted to rob the bar in order to buy plane tickets for him and his girlfriend, after which he was knocked out cold and awoke in police custody. He was then given five years probation and fired from his job.
The shift from poisoning U.S. citizens to merely spying on them should not be underplayed, and how far our government has come in terms of treatment of its citizens should be given consideration. However, this shows that the CIA, acting in what it believes to be the best manner for national security, is not always in the best interest of the common people.