A S. FRESH DETAILS EMERGE about the CIA's mind-control experiments, it becomes clear that the program reflected a sickness not just of one government agency but of a substantial sector of the soiety. For it is easy enough to "understand," while condemning, a secret agency's sponsorship of attempts to learn, first, if the Communists had discovered techniques to manipulate minds and, then, if the United States could discover such techniques. The CIA was, after all, charged with protecting the national security in an undeniably uncertain world.
If the CIA imitated the obnoxious and immoral practices commonly attributed to the enemy, it had to excuse, however lame. One need not accept that excuse now, but it does explain why it took the CIA come 15 years to conclude, in an internal report of 1963, that the program was widely considered "disasteful and unethical." MK-ULTRA appears to have been ended the following year.
But what about the 80-odd, mostly private institutions - universities, hospitals, research institutes - where work in the MK-ULTRA program took place? Some of the institutions were "unwitting" but certainly not the doctors and researchers who worked in them and in the "witting" ones. It seems that the CIA rarely encountered an experimenter who balked at trying to encourage, for instance, [WORD ILLEGIBLE] thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public" or a maximum of amnesia." Some subjects, of course, ied - some unaware they they had been used as uinea pigs.
There could scarcely have been a researcher of the period who did not know that, in the wake of the Nazi experiments, an international standard had been adopted: Experiments were to be conducted on humans beings only with their informed consent and only "for the good of humanity." Yet substantial numbers of researchers, many from the most prestigious institutions, acted in flagrant, cruel disregard of even minimum standards of decency. The tests went on, moreover, despite the relatively early and never-contradicted finding that no "useful" results were being produced.
The Director of Central Intelligence says: "Let me emphasize that the MK-ULTRA events are 12 to 15 years in the past. I assure you that the CIA is in no way engaged in either witting or unwitting testing of drugs today." It casts no aspersion on Adm. Turner to say that the executive and Congress must find, and have yet to find, credible ways to show that this is so.
But the more demanding tasks is for the research community to confront within its own councils the conditions that led so many of its members to go astray; and it must then esttablish procedures and safeguards to ensure that the secrets of science are probed with caution and moral restraint. Some of this has been done, to be sure, but not enough. The current debate over genetic research, to name just one field, demonstrates that many scientists and medical researchers still have not fully accepted their obligations in this regard.