The CIA program referred to in my latest thriller, The Atlas Fracture, as “MK Ultra” did exist. It was, according to Wikipedia, “…the code name of a U.S. Government covert research operation experimenting in the behavioral engineering of humans (mind control) through the CIA’s Scientific Intelligence Division.” MK Ultra was an outgrowth of the Korean War, when U.S. POWs were subjected to attempts at psychological conditioning by their Communist jailers. When the POWs returned to the U.S. some officials feared that the Soviets had developed successful techniques of mind control — and that the U.S. was far behind. There was concern that the Soviets were capable of creating sleeper agents who could be “woken up” with key words and made to undertake missions. John Frankenheimer’s 1962 film, The Manchurian Candidate dramatized these fears of Communist assassins secretly seeded into the highest levels of American society.
CIA efforts to catch up with the suspected Soviet advantage included administering LSD to witting and unwitting test subjects as a method of mind control. In one famous incident in November 1953, Dr. Frank Olson, an army biochemist was given LSD without his knowledge. He died after falling 10 stories from a room in the Statler Hotel in New York City. The official NYPD investigation claimed Olson committed suicide. Some believe Olson planned to expose the CIA’s MK Ultra program and was murdered.
The use of LSD for mind control was only one aspect of MK Ultra, which reportedly included more than 150 research efforts. The CIA “officially” closed down the program in 1973. Was it really ended? I’ve always been fascinated by the program and have often wondered if it went “underground” after 1973, hidden from Congressional oversight and from the public.
In The Atlas Fracture, we learn that Dr. Taylor Crandee was working for the CIA on a new version of MK Ultra in the 1980s. This effort, using techniques of genetic engineering, went awry when Crandee went too far in New York City and killed some of his test subjects. Crandee is a firm believer that humans are “stuck” on a developmental plateau. He’s convinced he needs to get the human race onto the next level, to transform into a new, improved life form.
Yes, Dr. Crandee definitely has some serious issues!