In the early 1950s, the CIA launched a top-secret program known as MK-ULTRA, which aimed to develop mind control techniques to use against enemy agents during the Cold War. However, MK-ULTRA was just the tip of the iceberg. Another, even more sinister program, known as MK-SEARCH, was launched in the late 1960s and continued well into the 1970s. MK-SEARCH involved the use of human and primate test subjects in experiments that were both unethical and inhumane. This article will examine the MK-SEARCH program and the disturbing experiments that were conducted under its umbrella.
MK-SEARCH was initiated in 1964, after the Kennedy administration became concerned that the Soviet Union was making significant progress in the development of mind control techniques. The program was designed to develop new and more effective techniques for creating "expendables," individuals whose death or disappearance would not arouse suspicion, and who could be used for espionage and other covert operations. MK-SEARCH was headed by the Technical Services Staff (TSS), a unit within the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology.
Lobotomies on Primates
One of the most horrific experiments carried out under MK-SEARCH was conducted by Dr. Maitland Baldwin at the National Institutes of Health. Baldwin performed lobotomies on apes and then placed them into sensory deprivation chambers, presumably in the same "box" he had built himself at the NIH.
There is no available information on whether Baldwin extended this work to humans, although he did discuss with an outside consultant how lobotomized patients reacted to prolonged isolation. Baldwin used Agency money to buy his own electroshock machine, and he did some kind of unspecified work at a TSS safe house that caused the CIA to shell out $1450 to renovate and repair the place.
Dr. Charles Geschickter served the CIA as both a researcher and a funding conduit. Geschickter tested powerful knockout drugs, stress-producing chemicals, and mind-altering substances on mental defectives and terminal cancer patients at the Georgetown University Hospital in Washington. He even branched out into trying to knock out monkeys with radar waves to the head, a technique that risked frying vital parts of the brain. Geschickter's principal service to TSS officials seems to have been putting his family foundation at the disposal of the CIA, both to channel funds and to serve as a source of cover to Agency operators. About $2.1 million flowed through this tightly controlled foundation to other researchers.
Safe Houses and Human Experimentation
Some of the MK-SEARCH experiments were carried out in CIA "safe houses" in Washington, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. These safe houses were used as secret laboratories where scientists could conduct their experiments without fear of exposure. The experiments conducted in these safe houses involved the use of sensory deprivation, powerful stress-producing chemicals, and mind-altering substances. The goal of these experiments was to create behavior disturbances and altered sex patterns in the test subjects. Some of these experiments were so severe that they caused long-term damage to the test subjects' mental and physical health.
The Legacy of MK-SEARCH
The MK-SEARCH program was finally shut down in the early 1970s, following the publication of a series of exposes on the CIA's secret programs in the mainstream media. However, the legacy of MK-SEARCH lives on to this day. The program served as a blueprint for the use of human experimentation in the pursuit of intelligence-gathering and other covert operations. The program also highlighted the dangers of unchecked government power and the need for ethical oversight and accountability in scientific research.
The Ethics of Human Experimentation
The MK-SEARCH experiments were conducted in a time when ethical guidelines for human experimentation were less well-defined. However, even by the standards of the time, the experiments conducted under MK-SEARCH were ethically dubious at best and outright immoral at worst. The test subjects were often marginalized individuals who lacked the ability to give informed consent, and the experiments were carried out without any regard for their safety or well-being.
Lessons Learned from MK-SEARCH
The MK-SEARCH program serves as a cautionary tale of what can happen when scientific research is conducted without ethical oversight or accountability. The program highlights the need for strong ethical guidelines and oversight in scientific research, particularly when it involves human subjects. The lessons learned from MK-SEARCH have informed the development of modern ethical guidelines for human experimentation, such as the Belmont Report and the Declaration of Helsinki.
The MK-SEARCH program was a dark chapter in the history of the CIA and the United States government. The experiments conducted under its umbrella were unethical, inhumane, and served no legitimate scientific or national security purpose. While the program has long since been disbanded, its legacy lives on as a warning of the dangers of unchecked government power and the need for ethical oversight and accountability in scientific research.
1. Was anyone held accountable for the unethical experiments conducted under MK-SEARCH?
There were some investigations and inquiries conducted into the MK-SEARCH program, but no one was ever held accountable for the unethical experiments conducted under its umbrella.
2. What was the ultimate goal of the MK-SEARCH program?
The goal of the MK-SEARCH program was to develop new and more effective techniques for creating "expendables," individuals whose death or disappearance would not arouse suspicion, and who could be used for espionage and other covert operations.
3. Are there any lasting effects on the test subjects of the MK-SEARCH experiments?
It is difficult to say for certain, as many of the test subjects have never been identified or studied. However, some of the experiments conducted under MK-SEARCH were so severe that they caused long-term damage to the test subjects' mental and physical health.
4. How has the legacy of MK-SEARCH influenced modern scientific research?
The legacy of MK-SEARCH has highlighted the need for strong ethical guidelines and oversight in scientific research, particularly when it involves human subjects. Modern ethical guidelines for human experimentation, such as the Belmont Report and the Declaration of Helsinki, have been developed in response to the ethical violations committed under MK-SEARCH.
5. Are there any current programs that resemble the MK-SEARCH program?
It is difficult to say for certain, as many government programs remain classified. However, there have been concerns raised about the ethical implications of some modern government programs, such as the use of torture and enhanced interrogation techniques. It is important for the public to remain vigilant and hold their government accountable for any unethical or immoral practices.