Conspiracy Watch: The CIA’s Bad Flashback

Were GIs used as nerve-gas and mind-control guinea pigs?


THE CONSPIRACY: Between 1950 and 1975, the government conducted a series of risky top-secret experiments on American soldiers. The CIA and the military are thought to have tested as many as 400 chemical and biological substances including VX nerve agent, mustard gas, sarin, cyanide, LSD, and PCP on human guinea pigs—with frightening results.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: Six former GIs recently filed suit against the CIA and Pentagon, claiming they’ve been denied awards and health benefits promised to them when they volunteered for classified tests at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Now suffering from unexplained ailments, the men are also demanding full disclosure of what exactly was done to them. One recalls that he was given a powerful hallucinogen and “thought he was 3 feet tall, saw animals on the walls, thought he was being pursued by a 6-foot-tall white rabbit, heard people calling his name, thought that all his freckles were bugs under his skin, and used a razor to try to cut these bugs out.” If the suit, the largest of its kind, succeeds, it could win compensation for other test subjects—at least those who know they were experimented on.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: The ex-soldiers aren’t hallucinating. The Army’s secret testing program and a CIA mind-control project (known as MKULTRA) were exposed in the mid-’70s. In 1994, the General Accounting Office confirmed that the agency had tested “nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants” on GIs. Yet what really happened may never be known: Many of the records from these clandestine tests have been destroyed.

Kookiness Rating: A Conspiracy Watch first—zero tinfoil hats!

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.