On the Trail of the JFK Assassins
Brainwashing Lee Harvey Oswald
My interest had begun with the Luis Castillo saga that first led me into the assassination labyrinth. But later, the more I learned about Oswald, the more a peculiar pattern emerged in his life as well. The Atsugi naval air base where he'd been stationed in Japan (1957-58), it turned out, had been one of the locations where the CIA's use of LSD on unsuspecting service personnel occurred. Nagell told me that hypnosis was used in intelligence for "compartmentalization of information," and sometimes a "courier" might be targeted for hypnosis.
He added, in one of his cryptic memorandums, that he'd discovered Oswald "undergoing hypnotherapy" from David Ferrie in New Orleans in 1963. Oswald had been a teenaged cadet in Ferrie's Civil Air Patrol in the mid-fifties, when Ferrie "frequently practiced" using hypnosis on his young associates, according to the House Assassinations Committee.
Edward G. Gillin, an assistant district attorney in Orleans Parish, recounted a visit from Oswald in "July or early August, 1963" to his office. There Oswald came inquiring about "whether or not a particular drug was legal or illegal," a drug that would allow someone "to see into the future." Gillin added that Oswald spoke extremely rapidly, "demonstrating a super-imposed indoctrination in which he had no great self-identification. He was spouting words, phrases and clichés without true comprehension."
Mexico City, where Oswald went on at least one occasion that summer, was a primary place where the CIA implemented a counterintelligence program with three goals: "(1) to induce hypnosis very rapidly in unwitting subjects; (2) to create durable amnesia; and (3) to implant durable and operationally useful posthypnotic suggestions."
It was also summer 1963 when the CIA later maintained it put a stop to the MK ULTRA program, after Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick warned clandestine-affairs chief Richard Helms: "Research in the manipulation of human behavior is considered by many authorities in medicine and related fields to be professionally unethical, therefore the reputations of professional participants in the MK ULTRA program are, on occasion, in jeopardy." Kirkpatrick recommended eliminating all testing on unwitting subjects. In 1963, the Army also ordered that all interrogations using LSD be terminated.
After the assassination, when FBI Director [J. Edgar] Hoover hinted to the Warren Commission that Oswald could have been a "sleeper" agent sent back by the Russians, commission counsel J. Lee Rankin requested from the CIA all "materials relative to Soviet techniques in mind conditioning and brainwashing." Helms responded with a memo that remained classified until 1974. It stated: "Soviet research on the pharmacological agents producing behavioral effects has consistently lagged about five years behind Western research. They have been interested in such research, however, and are now pursuing research on such chemicals as LSD-25, amphetamines, tranquilizers, hypnotics and similar materials."
By September 1957, [Oswald had] been assigned to the Atsugi Naval Air Base just outside Tokyo. Atsugi was the point of origin for the top-secret U2 spy plane flights, whose mission was to photograph military and industrial targets at altitudes high above the Soviet Union and communist China. As a radar operator, Oswald was at least privy to the existence of the U2s.
Atsugi also contained some 20 buildings identified as the Joint Technical Advisory Group, the cover designation for one of the CIA's main operational bases in Asia. Among the CIA files on MK ULTRA released 20 years later, there was a memorandum dated December 1, 1953, headed "SUBJECT: Use of LSD….Only two (2) field stations, Manila and Atsugi, have LSD material," it said. Another sanitized file noted: "Preparing cables to field to find out who has custody and access. Atsugi and Manila. Issuance done only with two CIA employees concurrence and use only with DD/P [Deputy Director for Plans] approval."
Frank Camper was a 20-year intelligence veteran with numerous FBI and CIA contacts, who served in Vietnam with the elite Special Operations Group and later worked under deep cover penetrating terrorist organizations worldwide. I met Camper at a conference, where he related something told him by an inside source: "Oswald reported a Japanese communist approach to him to Naval Intelligence and then the CIA picked him up. He fit the profile for MK ULTRA." In 1994, Camper wrote me in a letter: "What gives away his high[ly] probable induction in MK ULTRA project experiments is the fact he was frequently in the brig or base hospital, was recalled from a unit movement to Formosa to return to the Atsugi hospital, and ended up being assigned to the hospital on a layover or casual basis."
This, Camper believed, "would have given the MK ULTRA doctors an opportunity to review Oswald's conditioning and mental state, and correct or note whatever they found wrong."
It was shortly after Oswald's last release from the Atsugi hospital, and reassignment to a Marine squadron at Iwakuni Air Base some 430 miles southwest of Tokyo, that he began referring to the Marines as "you Americans" and denouncing "American imperialism" and "exploitation."
In his book, The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate," author John Marks described an MK ULTRA project approved in 1956 to have one of its fronts— the Human Ecology Society—"study the factors that caused men to defect from their countries and cooperate with foreign governments. MK ULTRA officials reason that if they could understand what made old turncoats tick, it might help them entice new ones. While good case officers instinctively seemed to know how to handle a potential agent—or thought they did—the MK ULTRA men hoped to come up with systematic, even scientific improvements... [T]he purpose of the research was to assess defectors' social and cultural background, their life experience and their personality structure, in order to understand their motivations, value systems and probable future reactions."
In the late 1950s, there would be a sudden rash of American defectors to the Soviet Union, including Oswald. It has long been suspected that at least some of these were intentionally dispatched on behalf of the CIA or the military. Whatever the 1956 MKULTRA study fully entailed would, it seems, have been quite useful for such future operations.