John Vance, RIP


Who was John Vance? He was the guy who, while working for the CIA Inspector General's office in 1963, discovered that the spy agency was feeding LSD to Americans without them knowing it, in order to experiment with mind control. He wrote a report slamming the program, and it was eventually discontinued. Here's more about the Executive Branch's acid dreams, from the Vance obit in the Washington Post:

Code-named MKULTRA (and pronounced m-k-ultra), the project Mr. Vance uncovered was the brainchild of CIA Director Allen Dulles, who was intrigued by reports of mind-control techniques allegedly conducted by Soviet, Chinese and North Korean agents on U.S. prisoners of war during the Korean War. The CIA wanted to use similar techniques on its own POWs and perhaps use LSD or other mind-bending substances on foreign leaders, including Cuba's Fidel Castro a few years after the project got underway in 1953.

Heading MKULTRA was a CIA chemist named Sidney Gottlieb. In congressional testimony, Gottlieb, who died in 1999, acknowledged that the agency had administered LSD to as many as 40 unwitting subjects, including prison inmates and patrons of brothels set up and run by the agency. At least one participant died when he jumped out of a 10th-floor window in a hotel; others claimed to have suffered serious psychological damage.

Is there a topical angle to this story? Sure. MKULTRA was made public in 1977, by the Church Commission hearings about flagrant abuses by the CIA, to which Vance supplied much crucial information. That very commission has been targeted by both the Bush Administration and its supporters as a key culprit in the intelligence failures leading to the Sept. 11 massacre. As we saw during the 9/11 Commission, the president always resists non-Executive Branch scrutiny, and his pro-war allies will obediently leap down the throats of anyone who attempts or even requests it. If the country was run entirely according to their desires, we'd never find out that the CIA was feeding us LSD in the first place.