Did Timothy Leary* either work for or actively collude with the CIA? There are various sources across the Internet that assert some variation of this.

While doing research for my book, Operation Mind Control (originally published in 1978), I'd come across a CIA document with Leary's name on it. The CIA memo directed agents to contact Leary and company, who were then operating an organization called International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF). The memo asked its agents to discover if any agency personnel were taking acid with this group. ... There were no follow-up documents to indicate whether the CIA had, or had not, made contact ... other documents indicated that Leary had received money channeled by the CIA through various government agencies. The files showed that, in all, there were eight government grants paid to Leary from 1953 to 1958, most of them paid through the National Institute of Mental Health, now known to have "fronted" for the CIA in the MKULTRA program. (Source)

One subject that I didn’t cover in my book was the accusation that Timothy Leary worked for the CIA. ... I’ve noticed the subject cropping up online quite a bit recently, and I’ve had two emails on the subject in the last week alone, so I guess it needs to be covered. As examples of the theory, see http://www.markriebling.com/leary.html, Or http://www.timboucher.com/journal/2005/07/12/more-leary-cia-stuff/ But in brief, it is bollocks. Much of the supporting facts that are used to support the idea are perfectly valid, of course. The CIA were all over psychedelic research in the 50s and 60s, and a memo has been released in which CIA operatives were asked to report any information or contact with Leary, Richard Alpert or anyone in their organisation (IF-IF). Leary did have an affair with Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was the ex-wife of the CIA’s Cord Meyer. There’s no doubt that the CIA were very interested in Timothy Leary. But all of this is very different to Leary actually working for the CIA. (Source)

* The American psychologist and writer known for advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions (Wikipedia).

  • Related: Was there a large, illegal CIA project called “MKULTRA”?
    – user22865
    Feb 23, 2017 at 10:41
  • 2
    "Received money from an organization now known to be a CIA front" is very different from "worked for the CIA". Front organizations are intended to prevent the recipient knowing where the money comes from. Feb 23, 2017 at 15:02
  • 1
    @DJClayworth - I'm quibbling a bit here, but they're often set up to mask the money trail, with the recipient knowing the true source, as well. In any case, your point about receiving money from a front not necessarily being the same as knowingly working for an organization is correct. Feb 23, 2017 at 19:36
  • Not necessarily. But my point was that even if you established that CIA front organisations paid Leary, that wouldn't mean he was 'working for the CIA'. Feb 23, 2017 at 21:11


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