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!