While the firey debates surrounding Wikileaks continue to move from content of cables to personal dramas surrounding founder Julian Assange, hyperbolic accusations of “high tech terrorism” and promises of retribution, the website Cryptome continues to publish its own archives of suppressed information. On Christmas, Cryptome released two documents from the mid-1950’s which briefly highlight the CIA’s interest in using hypnotism as a covert weapon (via Mother Jones) in the cold war against Communism.
The first document, titled “The Military Application of Hypntism (sic),” details two “practical applications” for hypnotism. The first would be using a subject as a courier. A hypothetical colonel would be given a message in deep hypnosis, would have no memory of being hypnotized, the nature or contents of the message. When the hypothetical colonel reached the intended recipient of the message, its recipient would retrieve it via another hypnosis session. The second application would be used on a subject to “establish in them through the use of hypnotism the condition of split personality.” Unconsciously, the hypnotized would remain loyal to the red, white and blue – but on the outside, the subject would be redder than Lenin’s ghost. The author of the document claims “I can, demonstrate all my particular contentions to the satisfaction of the government agencies and request the opportunity to do so.” The author also suggests that Russian literature on the subject of hypnosis is hard to acquire.
The second document, a memo on “Hypnotism and Covert Operations,” outlines what hypnosis is, steps for inducing hypnosis and discusses some test cases and the effectiveness of the method in covert ops. The author of the report states “…I am unable to see that any covert hypnotic technique requires operational experimentation. The possibilities are not only interesting, they are frightening. A kind of double-think Orwellian world of hypnosis, while unlikely, is not utterly fantastic. One thing is clear: we really do not know within what limits ‘belief’ may be changed by hypnosis.” Afterwards, a test case from 1939 is described where a campus atheist was hypnotized into being a devout believer. Before he was restored to his former beliefs, “the subject had for over two weeks given every sign of being a dedicated religious convert.” The experimenters wondered if the new set of beliefs could become permanent.
These two little memos, likely part of Project Artichoke, are barely a drop in the bucket of the CIA’s experiments in thought control. What we modern Americans believe is either Hollywood hooey or fantastical conspiracy theory has firm roots in real events. Anyone who questions the importance or necessity of watchdogs keeping an eye out for information on nefarious deeds need only spend some time asking what the long term effects of experiments like Artichoke have on a society. If anything, As Spencer Akerman at Danger Room points out – in case more definitive proof that the U.S. Government has always been interested in cowing the population doesn’t seem like a big deal, who’s to say that we all aren’t subjects of mental conditioning?