September 5, 1977, Washington Post, page A1, The Diaries Of a CIA Operative, by John Jacobs, Staff Writer,
March 23, 2008, San Francisco Sentinel, Operating Midnight Climax – Weird and twisted tale from San Francisco Telegraph Hill,
September 5, 1977, Washington Post, page A1, The Diaries Of a CIA Operative, by John Jacobs, Staff Writer,
Free-Lance reporter Paul Avery contributed to this article.
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 4, 1977 -- He was a "rock-em, sock-em cop not overly carried away with playing spook," according to a friend who knew him at the time. But the diaries and personal papers of the Central Intelligence Agency operative who ran "safe houses" in San Francisco and New York in which drug-addicted prostitutes gave LSD and other drugs to unsuspecting visitors tell a different story.
The diaries were kept by Col. George H. White, Alias Morgan Hall, a colorful federal narcotics agent and CIA "consultant" who died two years ago. They reveal new details, including names and dates, about the safe house project, dubbed "Operation Midnight Climax," which was part of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program in the 1950s and 1960s to manipulate human behavior. Curiously, White's widow donated his papers to the Electronics Museum at Foothill Junior College, a two-year school set amidst the rolling Los Altes hills 40 miles south of San Francisco. The papers are a rare find for anyone interested in the espionage business and show White dashing about the world, busting up narcotics rings in South America, Texas and San Francisco's Chinatown.
They also provide documentary evidence that White met to discuss drugs and safe houses with such CIA luminaries as Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, head of the Chemical Division of the Technical Services Division and the man who ran MK-ULTRA, and Dr. Robert V. Lashbrook, a CIA chemist who worked with LSD. Other high-ranking CIA officials mentioned prominently include Jame Angleton, C. P. Cabell and Stanley Lovell. Gottlieb and Lashbrook have been subpoenaed to testify Sept. 20 before a Senate subcommittee investigating the MK-ULTRA project.
"Gottlieb proposes I be CIA consultant and I agree." White wrote in his diary June 9, 1952. A year later it was confirmed: "CIA - got final clearance and sign contract as 'consultant' - met Gottlieb . . . lunch Napoleon's - met Anslinger."
Harry C. Anslinger was White's boss and the No. 1 man in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. It could not be learned from the diaries whether Anslinger knew that one of his top narcotics agents also was working for the CIA, in fact, was tape-recording and observing men to whom prostitutes gave drugs after picking them up in bars. But a July 20, 1953, entry by White strongly suggests Anslinger knew: "Arrive Wash. - confer Anslinger and Gottlieb re CIA reimbursement for 3 men's services."
These entries fit in with a 1963 internal report by then-CIA Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick about the MK-ULTRA project. That report, made public in 1975, discussed the safe house operations and the connection to the Bureau of Narcotics:
"TSD (Technical Services Division) entered into an informal arrangement with certain cleared and witting individuals in the Bureau of Narcotics in 1955 which provided for the release of MK-ULTRA materials for such testing as those individuals deemed desirable and feasible."
The report added that while "covert testing" was being transferred to the bureau, its chief would disclaim any knowledge of it.
"The effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign," Kirkpatrick wrote, "is of great significance, and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories."
In 1953, White rented a house at 81 Bedford St. in New York City's Greenwich Village under the name of Morgan Hall, the same one he used several years later to set up the Telegraph Hill apartment at 225 Chestnut St. in San Francisco.
His diaries show that Gottlieb and Lashbrook met him at the Bedford Street apartment. A June 8, 1953, entry said: "Gottlieb brings $4,123.27 for 'Hall' - Deposit $3,400." A Sept. 16 entry added: "Lashbrook at 81 Bedford - Owen Winkle and LSD surprise - can wash."
In 1955, White moved the safe house to San Francisco, and he took over as regional head of tha Bueau of Narcotics. Apparently, the Chestnut Street duplex also was used by the bureau to lure narcotics dealers and then arrest them. In 1956, White and narcotics agent Ira C. Feldman, who posed as an East Cost mobster, arrested seven San. Franciscans as part of a heroin ring.
Leo Jones, a friend of White, owned the company that installed the bugging equipment at the apartment. The equipment included four DD4 microphones disguised as wall outlets. These were hooked up to two model F-301 tape recorders monitored by agents in a "listening post" adjacent to the apartment. Jones also sold White a "portable toilet for observation post."
It was an L-shaped apartment with a beautiful view of San Francisco Bay, and White, who kept pitchers of chilled martinis in the refrigerator, also had photos of manacled women being tortured and whipped.
"We were contacted by George White," Jones said in an interview. "It was a combined project of the CIA and Bureau of Narcotics . . . It was always referred to as the pad, never the apartment, and was modeled after Playboy magazine, 1955 . . . I heard about prostitutes. Feldman had acquired three or four to set himself up with cover."
White's diaries indicate that Gottlieb continued to visit, flying out from Washington several times a year at least until 1961. Another visitor was John Gittinger, a CIA psychologist who testified last month before Senate investigative committees that he met with "Morgan Hall" on numerous occasions to interview prostitutes about their drug and sex habits.
White retired from the bureau in 1965 and became the fire marshal at Stinson Beach, a resort area in Marin County, north of San Francisco. Among his papers is a Sept. 30, 1970, letter to Dr. Harvey Powelson, then chief of the department of psychiatry at the University of California at Berkeley. He told Powelson that he had worked for a "rather obscure department of the government (that would like to remain obscure)."
That obscure department. White wrote, "was then interested in obtaining some factual information and data on the use and effect of various hallucinogens, including marijuana tetrahydrocannabinol and the then brandnew LSD. Tests were made under both clinical and nonclinical conditions on both witting and unwitting subjects."
White said in the letter to Powelson he was interested enough to try the drugs himself. "So far as I was concerned, 'clear thinking' was nonexistent while under the influence of any of these drugs," he wrote. "I did feel at times that I was having a 'mind-expanding experience,' but this vanished like a dream immediately after the session." He said the tests were observed by psychiatrists, psychologists and pharmacologists.
Not all of White's diary entries involved clandestine meetings with narcoties or CIA agents - or addicts and prostitutes, for that matter. He duly recorded that Eisenhower and Nixon won in 1952 and that the Brooklyn Dodgers took the National League baseball pennant in 1955.
And when his pet bird died, it hurt, he wrote. "Poor little bastard just couldn't make it," a 1952 entry says. "Tried hard. I don't know if I'll ever get another bird or pet. It's tough on everyone when they die."
White, born in 1906, started out as an itinerant journalist, working for newspapers in San Francisco and Los Angeles before becoming a narcotics agent in the early 1930s. During World War II he was in the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA. where he acquired the rank of lieutenant colonel and made future contacts. After that, he went back to his narcotics work, interrupting it in the early 1950s to become an investigator for the Senate committee headed by Sen. Estes Kefauver that looked into organized crime.
One interesting detail links White to the 1953 case of Dr. Frank Olson, an Army employee who was working with the CIA at Camp Detrick, Md. Olson had been given LSD without being told, and 10 days later jumped to his death from the 10th floor of a New York City hotel. At the time, Lashbrook was in the room with Olson, who had gone to New York to be treated by Dr. Harrold Abramson, a psychiatrist who had worked for the CIA.According to CIA documents, Lashbrook called Gottlieb, his supervisor at the time, and then went to the police station to identify the body. He was asked to "turn out his pockets."
He had written on a piece of white paper the initials "G. W." and "M.H." Lashbrook was asked to identify whose initials they were, but expunged CIA documents said he could not for security reasons. However, knowledgeable sources who have seen the CIA documents said Lashbrook identified "G. W." as George White and "M. H." as Morgan Hall, White's undercover name. The piece of paper also contained the address 81 Bedford St. which White's diary shows to be the New York safe house.
White apparently knew Abramson, because a Sept. 20, 1954, diary entry contained a reference to Gottlieb and Abramson.
March 1994, Spin Magazine, Altered States of America, by Richard Stratton
"You're all a bunch of thespians!" Olson shouted (while high on LSD)
"I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vinyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape, and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?"
—George Hunter White
In the early 195O’s the US chased the world’s LSD supply as just the first step in a debauched CIA program code-named MK-ULTRA. In an exclusive interview, Ike Feldman, one of the operation's kingpins, talks to Richard Stratton about deadly viruses, spy hookers, and bad trips.
The meeting was set for noon at a suitably anonymous bastion of corporate America, a sprawling Marriott Hotel and convention center on Long Island. Driving out of the city, I was tense and paranoid. For one thing, I was leaving Manhattan without permission from my parole officer, What was I going to tell him? "I want to travel to Long Island to interview a former narcotics agent who worked undercover for the CIA dosing people with LSD." My parole officer would have ordered a urine test on the spot.
Then there was the fact that previous run-ins with drug cops had usually resulted in criminal prosecutions. I spent most of the '80s in prison for smuggling marijuana. How would this ex-agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (BBN), forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) take to a retired outlaw writing a story about M K-ULTRA, the CIA's highly secretive mind-control and drug-testing program?
Ira "Ike" Feldman is the only person still alive who worked directly under the legendary George Hunter White in MK-ULTRA. The program began in 1953 amid growing fear of the Soviet Union's potential for developing alternative weaponry. The atomic bomb was a sinister threat, but more terrifying still were possible Soviet assaults on the mind and body from within — through drugs and disease. In an attempt to preempt foreign attacks and even wage its own assaults, the CIA funded a group of renegade agents to experiment with ways to derail a human being.
For years, Feldman had ducked reporters. He agreed to meet with me only after a private detective, a former New York cop who also did time for drugs. put in a good word. There was no guarantee Feldman would talk.
The LSD, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Write this down. Espionage. Assassinations. The study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That’s what I was doing when I worked for the CIA.”
I recognized Feldman immediately when he waddled into the lobby of the Marriott. I had heard he was short, five three, and I’d read how George White used to dress him in a pinstriped zoot suit, blue suede shoes, a Bursalino hat with a turned-up brim, and a phony diamond ring, then send him onto the streets of San Francisco to pose as an East Coast heroin dealer. Now in his 70s, Feldman still looks and talks like Edward G. Robinson playing gangster Johnny Rocco in Key Largo.
Feldman leveled a cold, lizard-like gaze on me when we sat down for lunch. He wielded a fat unlit cigar like a baton, pulled out a wad of bills that could have gagged a drug dealer, slipped a 20 to the waitress and told her to take good care of us.
"What's this about?" Feldman demanded. "Who the fuck are you?"
I explained I was a writer researching George White. White, a world-class drinker known to polish off a bottle of gin at a sitting and get up and walk away, died of liver disease in 1975, two years before MK-ULTRA was first made public.
"Why do you want to write about White? I suppose it's this LSD shit."
No, I said, not just the LSD. George White deserved to have his story told..
"White was a son of a bitch," Feldman said. "But he was a great cop. He made that fruitcake Hoover look like Nancy Drew."
Again he gazed stonily at me. "Lots of writers asked me to tell my story. Why should I talk to you?"
I decided to come clean. "I used to be part of your world," I answered. "I did eight years for the Feds because I refused to rat when I got busted for pot."
Feldman stared at me for a long time. "I know," he said. "I checked you out. That's why I'm here. Now get out your pencil." He waved for the waitress and palmed her a 50 to cover the tab.
"The LSD," Feldman began, "that was just the tip of the iceberg. Write this down. Espionage. Assassinations. Dirty tricks. Drug experiments. Sexual encounters and the study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That's what I was doing when I worked for George White and the CIA."
For my next Interview with Feldman, I rented a day room at the Marriott and brought along a tape recorder. Feldman tottered in, pulled a small footballshaped clear plastic ampule out of his pocket and plunked it on the table. It was filled with pure Sandoz LSD-25. He also showed me a gun disguised as a fountain pen which could shoot a cartridge of nerve gas. "Some of the stuff George White and I tested," he explained.
"It all began because the CIA knew the Russians had this LSD shit and they were afraid the KGB was using it to brainwash agents," Feldman told me. "They were worried they might dump it in the water supply and drive everybody wacky. They wanted us to find out if we could actually use it as a truth serum."
Actually, it all began with a mistake. In 1951, Allen Dulles, later appointed director of Central Intelligence, received a report from military sources that the Russians had bought 50 million doses of a new drug from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland. A follow-up memo stated that Sandoz had an additional ten kilos - about 100 million doses - of the drug, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), available for sale on the open market
Dulles was alarmed. From the beginning, LSD was lauded by military and intelligence scientists working on chemical warfare compounds and mind-control experiments as the most potent mind-altering substance known to man. "Infinitesimally small amounts of LSD can completely destroy the sanity of a human being for considerable periods of time (or possibly permanently)," stated an October 1953 CIA memo. In the wrong hands, 100 million doses would be enough to sabotage a whole nation's mental equilibrium.
Dulles convened a high-level committee of CIA and Pentagon officials who agreed the agency should buy the entire Sandoz LSD supply lest the KGB acquire it first. Two agents were dispatched to Switzerland with a black bag containing $240,000.
In fact, Sandoz had produced only about 40 grams of LSD in the ten years since its psychoactive features were first discovered by Albert Hofmann. According to a 1975 CIA document, the U.S. Military attaché in Switzerland had miscalculated by a factor of one million in his CIA reports because he did not know the difference between a milligram (1 /1,000 of a gram) and a kilogram (1,000 grams).
Nevertheless, a deal was struck. The CIA would purchase all of Sandoz's potential output of LSD. (Later, when the Eli Lilly Company of Indianapolis perfected a process to synthesize LSD, agency officials insisted on a similar agreement.) An internal CIA memo to Dulles declared the agency would have access to “tonnage quantities.” All that remained was for agency heads to figure out what to do with it.
"The objectives were behavior control, behavior anomaly -production, and counter-measures for opposition application of similar substances," states a heavily redacted CIA document on MK-ULTRA released under a 1977 Freedom of Information Act request, The chill winds of the Cold War were howling across the land. Dulles was convinced that, as he told Princeton University's National Alumni Conference, Russian and Chinese Communists had secretly developed "brain perversion techniques ... so subtle and so abhorrent to our way of life that we have recoiled from facing up to them."
Pentagon strategists began to envision a day when battles would be fought on psychic terrain in wars without conventional weaponry. The terrifying specter of a secret army of “Manchurian Candidates,” outwardly normal operatives programmed to carry out political assassinations, was paraded before a gullible and easily manipulated public.
Ike Feldman remembers that time well. A Brooklyn boy, he was drafted into the Army in 1941. Army tests showed he had an unusual facility for language, so he was enrolled in a special school in Germany where he learned fluent Russian, By the end of the war, Feldman was a lieutenant colonel with a background in Military Intelligence. The Army sent him to another language school, this time in Monterey, California, where he added Mandarin Chinese:to his repertoire.
While with Military Intelligence in Europe, Feldman first heard of George White. “White was with the OSS [Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA]. I heard stories about him. Donovan [William “Wild Bill” Donovan, founder of the OSS] loved White. White supposedly killed some Japanese spy with his bare hands while he was on assignment in Calcutta. He used to keep a picture of the bloody corpse on the wall in his office."
In the early '50s, after a stint in Korea working for the CIA under Army auspices, Feldman decided he’d had enough of military life. He settled in California. "I always wanted chickens," Feldman recalled, "so I bought a chicken ranch. In the meantime, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do with chickens.
"Before long, I got a call—this time from White," Feldman continued. "We understand you're back in the States,” he says.“I want you to come in to the Bureau of Narcotics." This was '54 to '55, White was District Supervisor [of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics] in San Francisco. I went in. I go to room 144 of the Federal Building, and this is the first time I met George White. He was a big, powerful man with a completely bald head. Not tall, but big. Fat. He shaved his head and had the most beautiful blue eyes you've ever seen. "Ike," he says, "we want you as an agent. We know you've been a hell of an agent with Intelligence. The CIA knows it. You speak all these languages. We want you to work as an under cover agent in San Francisco."
What Feldman didn't know at the time was that George White was still working for the CIA. White's particular area of expertise was the testing of drugs on unwitting human guinea pigs. During the war, one of White’s projects for the OSS was the quest for a "truth drug," a serum that could be administered to prisoners of war or captured spies during interrogations. After trying and rejecting several substances the OSS scientists settled on a highly concentrated liquid extract of cannabis indica, a particularly potent strain of marijuana. Never one to shrink from the call of duty, White first tried the drug on himself. He downed a full vial of the clear, viscous liquid and soon passed out without revealing any secrets.
Meanwhile, at the CIA's Technical Services Staff (TSS), the department specializing in unconventional weaponry such as poisons, biological warfare, psychoactive substances, and mind control, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb was searching for a candidate to head MK-ULTRA. Gottlieb, a club-footed scientist who overcame a pronounced stutter in his rise to head the TSS, had discovered White's name while perusing old OSS files on the Truth Drug Experiments. White's credentials were impeccable: A former crime reporter on the West Coast before he joined the narcotics bureau, White had soon become one of the top international undercover agents under Harry Anslinger, the grandfather of America's war on drugs.
After meeting with Gottlieb, White noted his initiation into the world of psychedelics in his diary: "Gottlieb proposes I be CIA consultant and I agree."
Moonlighting for the CIA, with funds disbursed by Gottlieb, White rented two adjoining apartment safe houses at 81 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village. Using the alias Morgan Hall, he constructed an elaborate alter-identity as a seaman and artist in the Jack London mode. By night, CIA spy Morgan Hall metamorphosed into a drug-eating denizen of the bohemian coffeehouse scene. With a head full of acid and gin, White prowled downtown clubs and bars. He struck up conversations with strangers, then lured them back to the pad where he served drinks spiked with Sandoz’s finest.
"Gloria gets the horrors ... Janet sky high," White dutifully recorded in his diary. In another entry, he proudly noted, "Lashbrook at 81 Bedford Street—Owen Winkle and the LSD surprise—can wash." In recognition of the often bizarre behavior brought on by the drug, White assigned LSD the codename "Stormy."
Photos of Allen Dulles, George White, and Harry Anslinger
Secret agent man: Allen Dulles (top), the former director of the CIA, who authorized the purchase of Sandoz LSD; George White (middle) examines opium pipes as he takes over as head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Boston in 1951; Harry Anslinger (bottom), circa 1954, then head of FBN.
According to an agency memo, the CIA feared KGB agents might employ psychedelics “to produce anxiety or terror in medically unsophisticated subjects unable to distinguish drug-induced psychosis from actual insanity.” In an effort to school “enlightened operatives” for that eventuality, Dulles and Gottlieb instructed high-ranking agency personnel, including Gottlieb’s entire staff at TSS, to take LSD themselves and administer it to their colleagues.
"There was an extensive amount of self-experimentation for the reason that we felt that a firsthand knowledge of the subjective effects of these drugs [was] important to those of us who were involved in the program," Gottlieb explained at a Senate Subcommittee hearing years later. In truth, CIA spooks and scientists alike were tripping their brains out. "I didn't want to leave it," one CIA agent said of his first LSD trip "I felt I would be going back to a place where I wouldn't be able to hold on to this kind of beauty."
But as covert LSD experiments proliferated, things down at CIA headquarters began to get out of hand. "LSD favors the prepared mind," wrote Dr. Oscar Janiger, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and early LSD devotee. Non-drug factors such as set and setting—a person's mental state going into the experience and the surroundings in which the drug is taken-—can make all the difference in reactions to a dose of LSD.
Frank Olson was a civilian biochemist working for the Army Chemical Corps' Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. In another sub-project of MK-ULTRA code-named MK-NAOMI, the CIA had bankrolled SOD to produce and maintain vicious mutant germ strains capable of killing or incapacitating would-be victims. Olson's specialty at Fort Detrick was delivering deadly diseases in sprays and aerosol emulsions.
Just before Thanksgiving in 1953, at a CIA retreat for a conference on biological warfare, Gottlieb slipped Olson a huge dose of LSD in an after-dinner liqueur. When Gottlieb revealed to the uproarious group that he'd laced the Cointreau, Olson suffered a psychotic snap. "You're all a bunch of thespians!" Olson shouted at his fellow acid trippers, then spent a long night wandering around babbling to himself.
Back at Fort Detrick, Olson lapsed in and out of depression, began to have grave misgivings about his work, and believed the agency was out to get him Ten days later, he crashed through the tenth-floor window of the Statler Hotel in New York and plummeted to his death on the sidewalk below.
"White had been testing the stuff in New York when that guy Olson went out the window and died," Feldman said. "I don't know if he jumped or he was pushed. They say he jumped. Anyway, that's when they shut down the New York operation and moved it to San Francisco." The Olson affair was successfully covered up by the CIA for over 20 years. White, who had been instrumental in the cover-up, was promoted to district supervisor.
"I don't know if [Olson] jumped or he was pushed. They say he jumped..."
Unfazed by the suicide of their colleague, the CIA's acid enthusiasts were, in fact, more convinced of the value of their experiments. They would now focus on LSD as a potent new agent for offensive unconven-tional warfare. The drug-testing program resumed in the Bay Area under the cryptonyrn Operation Mid-night Climax. It was then that White hired Feldman.
Posing as Joe Capone, junk dealer and pimp, Feldman infiltrated the seamy North Beach criminal demimonde. "I always wanted to be a gangster," Feldman told me. "So I was good at it. Before long, I had half a dozen girls working for me. One day, White calls me into his office. 'Ike,' he says, 'you've been doing one hell of a job as an undercover man. Now I'm gonna give you another assignment. We want you to test these mind-bending drugs.' I said, 'Why the hell do you want to test mind-bending drugs?' He said, 'Have you ever heard of The Manchurian Candidate?' I know about The Manchurian Candidate. In fact, I read the book. 'Well,' White said, 'that's why we have to test these drugs, to find out if they can be used to brainwash people.' He says, 'If we can find out just how good this stuff works, you'll be doing a great deal for your country.'"
These days, Feldman takes offense at how his work has been characterized by former cops who knew him. "I was no pimp," Feldman insisted. Yet he freely admitted that his role in Midnight Climax was to supply whores. "These cunts all thought I was a racketeer," Feldman explained. He paid girls $50 to $100 a night to lure johns to a safe house apartment that White had set up on Telegraph Hill with funds provided by the CIA. Unsuspecting clients were served cocktails laced with powerful doses of LSD and other concoctions the CIA sent out to be tested.
"As George White once told me, 'Ike, your best information outside comes from the whores and the junkies. If you treat a whore nice, she'll treat you nice. If you treat a junkie nice, he'll treat you nice.' But sometimes, when people had information, there was only one way you could get it, If it was a girl, you put her tits in a drawer and slammed the drawer. If it was a guy, you took his cock and you hit it with a hammer. And they would talk to you. Now, with these drugs, you could get information without having to abuse people."
The "pad," as White called the CIA safe house, resembled a playboy's lair, circa 1955. The walls were covered with Toulouse-Lautrec posters of French cancan dancers. In the cabinets were sex toys and photos of manacled women in black fishnet stockings and studded leather halters. White outfitted the place with elaborate bugging equipment, including four microphones disguised as electrical outlets that were connected to tape recorders hidden behind a false wall. While Feldman's hookers served mind-altering cocktails and frolicked with the johns, White sat on a portable toilet behind the two-way mirror, sipping martinis, watching the experiments, and scribbling notes for his reports to the CIA.
"We tested this stuff they call the Sextender," Feldman went on. "There was this Russian ship in the harbor. I had a couple of my girls pick up these Russian sailors and bring 'em back to the pad. White wanted to know all kinds of crap, but they weren't talking. So we had the girls slip 'em this sex drug. It gets your dick up like a rat. Stays up for two hours. These guys went crazy. They fucked these poor girls until they couldn't walk straight. The girls were complaining they couldn't take any more screwing. But White found out what he wanted to know. Now this drug, what they call the Sextender, I understand it's being sold to guys who can't get a hard-on."
One such drug, called papavarine, is injected directly into the penis with a half-inch needle containing about two raindrops’ worth of the medicine. "I tell [the men] to thrust it in like a bullfighter finishing off the bull," said a San Antonio urologist in a recent report on the new therapies used to treat male impotence. "Dangers include injecting too much drug, so that an erection can last dangerously long and kill penile tissue." The potions are not administered orally, as they were by the CIA, because the drug must affect only the penis and not the rest of the body. Drug companies are now working on a cream that can be rubbed directly into the penis before intercourse. Feldman claims we have the CIA to thank for these medical breakthroughs.
“White always wanted to try everything himself,” Feldman remembered. “Whatever drugs they sent out, it didn't matter, he wanted to see how they worked on him before he tried them on anyone else. He always said he never felt a goddamn thing. He thought it was all bullshit. White drank so much booze, he couldn’t feel his fucking cock.
“This thing” — Feldman held up the fountain pen gas gun — “the boys in Washington sent it out and told us to test the gas. White says to me,’C’mon, Ike. Let’s go outside. I’ll shoot you with it, then you shoot me.” ‘Fuck that,’I said.‘You ain’t gonna shoot me with that crap.’ So we went outside and I shot George White with the gas. He coughed, his face turned red, his eyes started watering. He was choking. Turned out, that stuffwas the prototype for Mace.”
I asked Feldman if he’d ever met Sidney Gottlieb, the elusive scientist who was the brains behind MK-ULTRA. “Several times Sidney Gottlieb came out,” Feldman assured me. “I met Gottlieb at the pad, and at White's office. White used to send me to the air-port to pick up Sidney and this other wacko, John Gittinger, the psychologist. Sidney was a nice guy. He was a fuckin’ nut. They were all nuts. I says, ‘You’re a good Jewish boy from Brooklyn, like me. What are you doing with these crazy cocksuckers? He had this black bag with him. He says, ‘This is my bag of dirty tricks.’ He had all kinds of crap in that bag. We took a drive over to Muir Woods out by Stinson Beach. Sidney says, ‘Stop the car.’ He pulls out a dart gun and shoots this big eucalyptus tree with a dart. Then he tells me, Come back in two days and check this tree.’ So we go back in two days, the tree was completely dead. Not a leaf left on it. Now that was the forerunner of Agent Orange.
“I went back and I saw White, and he says to me, ‘What do you think of Sidney?’ I said, ‘I think he's a fuckin’ nut.’ White says,'Well, he may be a nut, but this is the program. This is what we do.’ White thought they were all assholes. He said, ‘These guys are running our Intelligence?’ but they sent George $2,000 a month for the pad, and as long as they paid the bills, we went along with the program.” Gottlieb, who now lives in Virginia, refused to be interviewed for this article.
“Another time, I come back to the pad and the whole joint is littered with these pipe cleaners,” Feldman went on. “I said, ‘Who’s smokin' a pipe?’ Gittinger, one of those CIA nuts, was there with two of my girls. He had ’am explaining all these different sex acts, the different positions they knew for humping. Now he has them making these little figurines out of the pipe cleaners-men and women screwing in all these different positions. He was taking pictures of the figurines and writing a history of each one. These pipe cleaner histories were sent back to Washington.”
A stated goal of Project MK-ULTRA was to determine “if an individual can be trained to perform an act of attempted assassination involuntarily” while under the influence of various mind-control techniques, and then have no memory of the event later. Feldman told me that in the early ’60s, after the MK-ULTRA program had been around for over a decade, he was summoned to George White’s office. White and CIA director Allen Dulles were there.
"They wanted George to arrange to hit Fidel Castro," Feldman said. "They were gonna soak his cigars with LSD and drive him crazy. George called me in because I had this whore, one of my whores was this Cuban girl and we were gonna send her down to see Castro with a box of LSD-soaked cigars."
Dick Russell, author of a recent book on the Kennedy assassination titled The Man Who Knew Too Much,uncovers new evidence to support the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was a product of MK-ULTRA. One of the CIA’s overseas locations for LSD and mindcontrol experiments was Atsugi Naval Air base in Japan where Oswald served as a Marine radar technician. Russell says that after his book was published, a former CIA counter-intelligence expert called him and said Oswald had been “viewed by the CIA as fitting the psychological profile of someone they were looking for in their MK-ULTRA program,” and that he had been mind-conditioned to defect to the USSR.
Robert Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, while working as a horse trainer at the Santa Anita race track near Los Angeles, was introduced to hypnosis and the occult by a fellow groom with shadowy connections. Sirhan has always maintained he has no memory of the night he shot Kennedy,
One of the CIA’s mob contacts long suspected of involvement in John Kennedy's assassination was the Las Vegas capo mafioso John Roselli. Roselli had risen to prominence in the Mob by taking over the Annenberg-Ragen wire service at Santa Anita, where Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, sold a handicapper’s tip sheet. Ike Feldman told me Roselli was one of White’s many informants.
"On more than one occasion, White sent me to the airport to pick up John Roselli and bring him to the office,” said Feldman. Roselli was originally from Chicago, where White had served as District Supervisor of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1945 through 1947. Following a big opium smuggling bust in 1947, Jack Ruby was picked up and hauled in for interrogation, then later let off the hook by none other than White. Federal Bureau of Narcotics files indicate Jack Ruby was yet another of White’s legion stool pigeons.
The connections between MK-mind-control experiments, the proliferation of the drug culture, Mob/CIA assassination plots, and the emergence of new, lethal viruses go on and on. Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Frank Olson worked experimenting with viral strains (such as the deadly microbes Sidney Gottlieb personally carried to Africa in an aborted attempt to assassinate Patrice Lumumba), was recently the locale of a near disaster involving an outbreak of a newly emerged virus. The event was chronicled in a lengthy article published in the New Yorker.
Though the New Yorker writer did not make the connection between Fort Detrick, SOD, Frank Olson, and MK-NAOMI, he told of a number of monkeys who all died of a highly infectious virus known as Ebola that first appeared in 55 African villages in 1976, killing nine out of ten of its victims. Some epidemiologists believe AIDS originated in Africa. Feldman claimed the CIA used Africa as a staging ground to test germ warfare because “no one gave a goddamn about any of this crap over there.”
The MK-ULTRA program, the largest domestic operation ever mounted by the CIA, continued well into the ’70s. According to Feldman and other CIA experts, it is still continuing today under an alphabet soup of different cryptonyms. Indeed, one ex-agent told me it would be foolish to think that a program as fruitful as MK-ULTRA would be discontinued. When the agency comes under scrutiny, it simply changes the name of the program and continues unabated.
The public first learned of MK-ULTRA in 1977, with the disclosure of thousands of classified documents and CIA testimony before a Senate Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy. Ike Feldman was subpoenaed and appeared on a panel of witnesses, but the senators failed to ask him a single question. Sidney Gottlieb, complaining of a heart condition, testified at a special semi-public session. He delivered a prepared statement and admitted to having destroyed perhaps one set of files. Another set was turned over to Senate investigators. The full extent of the CIA's activities under the rubric of MK-ULTRA may never be known.
George White retired from the Narcotics Bureau in 1965. The last ten years of his life, he lived in Stinson Beach, California, where, known as Colonel White, he went on the wagon for a few years and became chief of the volunteer fire department. Local residents remember him once turning in four kids for smoking pot, and in another incident, spraying a preacher and his congregation with water at a beach picnic. He was also known to terrorize his wealthier neighbors by driving his jeep across their lawns. After White's death, his widow donated his papers, including diaries, to an electronic surveillance museum. As information on MK-ULTRA entered the public domain, people who had known White only in his official FBN capacity were stunned to learn of his undercover role as Morgan Hall.
Ike Feldman, kept alive by a pacemaker, lives with his wife in a quiet suburban Long Island community where he tends his garden and oversees a number of business interests. According to George Belk, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Agency in New York, Feldman quit the drug agency following a probe by the internal security division. “Feldman was the sort of guy who didn’t have too many scruples,” said Dan Casey, a retired FBN agent who worked with Feldman in San Francisco. “For him, the ends justified the means.” A DEA flack confirmed Feldman “resigned under a cloud” at a time when a number of agents came under suspicion for a variety of offenses, none having to do with secret drug-testing programs. Feldman asserts he still works for the CIA on a contract basis, mostly in the Far East and Korea.
On the day of our last interview, over lunch at a restaurant in Little Italy, Feldman told me the CIA had contacted him and asked him why he was talking to me.
"Fuck them," Feldman said. “I do what I want. I never signed any goddamn secrecy agreement.”
I asked him why he decided to talk with me. "There's too much bullshit in the world," Feldman said. "The world runs on bullshit.
"To make a long story short,” he said, using one of his favorite verbal segues, “I want the truth of this to be known so that people understand that what we did was good for the country.”
We ambled down the street to a Chinese grocer, where Feldman carried on a lengthy conversation with the owner in Chinese. A couple of young girls, tourists, wanted to have their picture taken with Feldman. “Are you a gangster?” they asked.
"No," Feldman replied with a wave of his cigar, "I'm a goddamn CIA agent."
As we walked on, I asked Feldman to explain how his work had been helpful to the country.
"I learned that most of this stuff was necessary for the United States,” he said, “and even though it may have hurt somebody in the beginning, in the long run it was important. As long as it did good for the country.”
I pressed him. "How so?"
"Well, look," Feldman gestured with his cigar, "We're goddamn free, aren't we?"
March 23, 2008, San Francisco Sentinel, Operating Midnight Climax – Weird and twisted tale from San Francisco Telegraph Hill,
Weird, twisted and bizarre tales about the San Francisco Bay Area are so numerous some merely make us yawn. But if any one story stands out for its sheer audacity, moral depravity and utter madness—this is it.
Years ago I came across a magazine article about something called Operation Midnight Climax. I knew it had to be a joke. The CIA, with the blessing and full cooperation of both the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the SFPD sets up and runs an LSD brothel in San Francisco for ten solid years? Who do you think you’re kidding? Still, I dutifully dug for corroborative facts concerning this alleged operation.
Turns out Operation Midnight Climax was no joke.
Its story is particularly timely in light of revelations concerning secret Bush Administration memos green-lighting CIA and Army Intelligence torture techniques supposedly designed to obtain information from “detainees” and “enemy combatants”.
Back in the 1950’s and ’60’s CIA experiments aimed at obtaining information and controlling human behavior gravitated to covertly dispensing numerous powerful psychotropic drugs. The CIA’s original charter prohibited it from engaging in any domestic operations. Yet many of these drugs were given to U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil without their knowledge or consent. Anyone interested in this unseemly labyrinth can trot down to the the library or just google MK-ULTRA. If ever there was a reason to inform ourselves and hold political feet to the fire concerning our inalienable rights it’s MK-ULTRA. Its many programs had no external oversight and no accounting. For years fully 6% of the CIA’s entire budget went into MK-ULTRA programs that even Congress knew nothing about.
But I’m wandering from the story at hand, namely:
Operation Midnight Climax—a Bay Area baby born of MK-ULTRA.
He was a tough, fat, bald guy—a character right out of Hollywood central casting. Back in the early 1950’s an itinerant San Francisco journalist, former OSS operative and then Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent named George Hunter White, aka Morgan Hall, was assigned by his boss Harry Anslinger to team up with the CIA. Together they created Operation Midnight Climax. White’s assignment: explore and record how a new drug called LSD affects behavior when consumed by unsuspecting male johns in the company of drug addicted hookers. A great comedy scenario, if it weren’t so damn perverse.
By day George Hunter White continued to work the streets of San Francisco, ferreting out drug deals and drug dealers, setting them up and taking them down. By night he’d repair to the portable toilet his friend Leo Jones had provided him behind the two way mirror set into a wall of “the pad’s” Telegraph Hill bedroom. The L-shaped Chestnut Street duplex featured fantastic views of the San Francisco Bay. It was festooned with Toulouse-Lautrec posters, hidden microphones, tape recorders and a refrigerator stocked with pitchers of martinis. White was a notorious booze hound. He’d knock back a quart or more of gin nightly perched on the seat of his toilet scribbling notes on concurrent activities in the adjacent bedroom.
But dosing unwitting johns produced, well, wildly inconsistent results. White observed innumerable men behave in ways that suggested insanity. So White gave LSD the pet name “Stormy”. It fit. The “psychedelic revolution” was still years away. We can hardly imagine how the varied socio/ethnic/economic group of philanderers who wound up at “the pad” must have reacted when dosed. Most had never heard of, much less consumed any hallucinogenic substance before.
Richard Stratton interviewed George White’s last living Operation Midnight Climax associate for Spin Magazine in 1994. According White lieutenant Ira “Ike” Feldman:
“White was a son of a bitch, but he was a great cop. He made that fruitcake Hoover look like Nancy Drew. The LSD, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Write this down. Espionage. Assassinations. Dirty tricks. Drug experiments. Sexual encounters and the study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That’s what I was doing when I worked for George White and the CIA.”
George Hunter White continued operating his Telegraph Hill LSD brothel until 1965, when he retired from the service. He moved to Stinson Beach. Locals came to know him as Colonel White. He became the Stinson Beach Fire Marshall—and, after a few years on the wagon White died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1975.
Upon his death White’s widow gifted the Electronic Museum at Foothills Junior College, forty miles south of San Francisco, with his diaries. According to a Washington Post article dated September 5, 1977 these diaries:
“provide documentary evidence that White met to discuss drugs and safe houses with such CIA luminaries as Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, head of the Chemical Division of the Technical Services Division and the man who ran MK-ULTRA, and Dr. Robert V. Lashbrook, a CIA chemist who worked with LSD. Other high-ranking CIA officials mentioned prominently include James Angleton, C. P. Cabell and Stanley Lovell. Gottleib and Lashbrook have been subpoenaed to testify Sept. 20 (1977) before a Senate subcommittee investigating the MK-ULTRA project.”
Upon retirement George Hunter White wrote to Harry Anslinger, his old boss at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, reflecting on White’s many years of service:
“I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape, and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?”
And so concludes yet another true San Francisco tale about your American taxpayer dollars working to protect you and yours.