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Was there an illegal CIA project called MKULTRA, and if-so what did it involve and when did it end? Did it involve, as suggested in a quote from Ted Kennedy, a massive conspiracy involving dozens of universities and institutions to perform tests that would probably be considered illegal? From the Wikipedia article on MKULTRA:

On the Senate floor in 1977, Senator Ted Kennedy said:

The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over thirty universities and institutions were involved in an "extensive testing and experimentation" program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens "at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign." Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to "unwitting subjects in social situations." At least one death, that of Dr. Olson, resulted from these activities. The Agency itself acknowledged that these tests made little scientific sense. The agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific observers.

If this project did exist, were all of the documents "deliberately destroyed in 1973 by order of then CIA Director Richard Helms" as the article suggests?

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The Kennedy quote you supplied is probably from a 1977 Congressional Joint Hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence (and a couple other committees). There doesn't seem to have been any disagreement from the CIA witnesses at that hearing that MKULTRA had been a real program, that it was larger than previously thought, and that most of the records had been destroyed in 1973. You can read the entire hearing here. Here's the passage that most directly answers your question.

Intelligence Committee Report

This is another quote from Ted Kennedy, but a few minutes later the then current director of the CIA, Adm. Stansfield Turner, verifies that Kennedy's account of the destruction is correct.

admiral agrees

With no one disputing the essential facts given, I see no reason to assume they're aren't true. In this particular case there really was a conspiracy at the highest levels of the CIA to cover up uncomfortable truths.

  • Great answer, Scott. Is there any basis for thinking that the files weren't destroyed in 1973? (because if you say "no", I'll mark this as the correct answer :o)) – Brian M. Hunt Apr 19 '11 at 18:21
  • @Brian Do you mean is there any reason to think that destruction of the files ordered by Helms didn't take place? No, I think it's safe to say it did. Helms left the agency the year of the purge, and I can only assume he felt as if couldn't trust his successor to keep these records that reflected badly on him under wraps. (Though if anyone knows another reason why Helms ordered the purge, I'd love to hear it. It's always been a vague point in my reading on the subject.) – Scott Hamilton Apr 19 '11 at 18:45
  • @Scott: Fascinating; this also answers my question, unless someone else pipes up. I'd love to know more about the reason Helms ordered the purge, too. – Brian M. Hunt Apr 19 '11 at 18:50

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