What would it take to turn you into a suicide bomber?
How would you interrogate a member of Al Qaeda?
With access to formerly classified documentation and interviews from the CIA, the U.S. Army, MI5, MI6, and the British Intelligence Corps, acclaimed journalist Dominic Streatfeild traces the history of the world's most secret psychological procedure.
From the cold war to the height of today's war on terror, groups as dissimilar as armies, religious cults, and advertising agencies have been accused of brainwashing. But what does this mean?
Is it possible to erase memories or to implant them artificially? Do heavy-metal records contain subliminal messages? Do religious cults brainwash recruits? What were the CIA and MI6 doing with LSD in the 1950s? How far have the world's militaries really gone?
From the author of the definitive history of cocaine, Brainwash is required reading in an era of cutting-edge and often controversial interrogation practices. More than just an examination of the techniques used by the CIA, the KGB, and the Taliban, it is also a gripping, full history of the heated efforts to master the elusive, secret techniques of mind control.
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Dominic Streatfeild is a writer and documentary filmmaker. His television work includes the Discovery Channel's series Age of Terror, which examined the roots of political violence. Airing in over 150 countries, Age of Terror featured interviews with members of eighteen terrorist groups, including FARC, the IRA, the Shining Path, and Hezbollah, and won a British Broadcast Award in 2003. He is the author of Cocaine, which the Sunday Times (UK) described as "a definitive history."Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One Brain Warfare IRAQIS DRUGGED, BRAINWASHED AND SENT TO DIE FOR BIN LADEN FROM JAMES HIDER IN KARBALA Terrorists linked with al-Qaeda are increasingly recruiting young Iraqis to carry out suicide bombings, brainwashing them with Osama bin Laden's sermons and drugging them before sending them off to wreak mayhem, Iraqi police believe. --The Times, 22 March, 2004 'I couldn't believe it. My son had gone from a docile mouse to a suicidal killer? No. Not without being brainwashed. Someone got to him. I am sorry to say it, but he was brainwashed.' --Robin Reid, father of shoebomber, Richard Dr András Zakar was returning from morning mass at Viziváros Convent on Sunday, 19 November 1948 when an unmarked car pulled up alongside him. Silently, three men in dark suits leaped out, grabbed the doctor by the arms and bundled him on to the back seat. They climbed in after him, slammed the doors and, with a screech of tyres, accelerated away. To passers-by there was nothing especially remarkable about this incident. Hungarians had been told that the state was under threat and that conspirators were everywhere: the secret police were snatching dissidents more or less continously. What made this case unusual was the victim. Dr Zakar was personal secretary to Jósef Mindszenty, head of the Catholic Church in Hungary and the most senior cardinal in Eastern Europe. Mindszenty, a potential successor to Pope Pius XII, was a powerful man; the 'disappearance' of his secretary was ominous. Five weeks later the secret police returned Dr Zakar to the cardinal's official residence in Esztergom. But the Zakar they delivered on Christmas Eve 1948 wasn't the same Zakar who had left the month before. Something had happened to him. His eyes looked strange. He was confused and disoriented, as if in a twilight state of consciousness. The normally taciturn thirty-five-year-old doctor of theology behaved like a child, babbling and giggling constantly. At one point he ran down the corridors, shrieking. Officers accompanying Zakar treated him like a madman, repeatedly reminding him that they fed him meat twice a week. In return, he simpered as if they were his closest friends. 'He seemed,' recalled Gyula Mátkai, the cardinal's chief secretary, 'to be having a very good time with them.' Ordered to search the building for incriminating evidence, Zakar took off at a gallop, leading the officers to a room in the basement where he pointed to a spot on the ground. Digging a few inches beneath the soil, the policemen discovered a metal box full of Mindszenty's confidential correspondence. They then congratulated the smirking Zakar and shepherded him back to the secret police headquarters at 60 Andrassy Street in Budapest for more 'treatment'. At 6.45 p.m. on Boxing Day, Mindszenty and his elderly mother were making their way downstairs after evening mass when there was a furious banging at the door. The cardinal ordered it to be opened, to find himself facing a group of armed men. Lieutenant-Colonel Gyula Décsi stepped forward. 'We have come to arrest you,' he told Mindszenty. The cardinal asked to see the warrant but Décsi shook his head. 'We don't need one.' Mindszenty knelt, kissed his mother's hand and said a prayer, then picked up his coat and hat and handed himself in to the custody of the arresting officers. The last sounds he heard as he was led away into the night were the voices of his colleagues who, realising that his arrest spelt the end of Catholicism in Hungary under Soviet occupation, had spontaneously started singing the national anthem. Mindszenty's staff were dumbfounded by his arrest but initially it was the behaviour of his secretary that most baffled everyone. How could the loyal Dr Zakar have betrayed the cardinal? Why had he behaved so bizarrely? Clearly, they thought, something strange had happened to him. By the time he arrived in court five weeks later, something strange had happened to Cardinal Mindszenty, too. In the dock he swayed backwards and forwards, unsteady on his feet. His eyes were half closed and he was uncoordinated, like a sleepwalker. He spoke in a monotone, as if repeating facts by rote. At times he paused for up to ten seconds between words. Apparently unable to follow the course of his own trial, this highly educated, intelligent man stood, eyes glazed, totally bewildered. Worse than his appearance, however, was what he said. As Mindszenty stared into the middle distance, he confessed that he had orchestrated the theft of Hungary's crown jewels--including the country's most sacred relic, the Crown of St Stephen--with the explicit purpose of crowning Otto von Habsburg emperor of Eastern Europe. He admitted that he had schemed to remove the Communist government; that he had planned a Third World War and that, once this war was won by the Americans, he himself would assume political power in Hungary. The confessions were patent nonsense. Since the end of the war, Mindszenty had indeed opposed the Communist takeover of Hungary but he was no revolutionary, and he certainly wasn't a traitor. At one point in court he agreed that he had met Otto von Habsburg in Chicago on 21 June 1947; in fact, Habsburg had not been in Chicago and the cardinal had not been in the United States on that date. Moreover, Western observers soon discovered that Mindszenty had specifically warned Church officials of his impending arrest by the Communists. Afraid that he might buckle under torture, he had written letters just weeks before he was picked up to the five most senior Catholic officials in Hungary with instructions that they were to be opened only in the event of his arrest. The letters stated categorically that he had not taken part in any conspiracy and that he would never resign his episcopal see. Asked in court about them, Mindszenty appeared to have changed his mind. 'I did not see then many things which I see today,' he slurred. 'The statement I made is not valid.' He also offered to resign. To those who knew him, Mindszenty had undergone a radical transformation. A source close to Pope Pius XII commented that the Mindszenty on trial was 'not the man that we knew'. British Foreign Office analysis concluded that he was 'a tired or resigned man wholly unlike what we know of the Cardinal's real personality'. Even his mother agreed, telling the press that when she was allowed to see him in jail 'he was a completely changed man, without will and without consciousness'. At one point when she visited him, he had failed to recognise her altogether. The cardinal's handwriting seemed to have changed, too. Comparisons of his signature before and after the arrest revealed considerable differences. According to an Italian graphologist, Mindszenty was 'no longer capable of writing his customary signature'. Sure enough, in the month of the trial, two Hungarian handwriting experts, Laszlo Sulner and Hanna Fischhof, defected to Austria and confessed to working on the case. Initially, they said, they had been called in to forge the cardinal's confessions but it soon became clear that this would not be necessary: he was signing them of his own accord. According to the two experts, documents emerging at the start of Mindszenty's interrogation contained denials, but within a fortnight they were full of confessions. 'The mind which impelled the pen in the first instance,' reported Sulner, 'was not the mind which impelled the pen in the second instance.' Something strange, indeed, had happened to the cardinal. In the West, the appearance of a powerful, resolute man publicly confessing to crimes he couldn't possibly have committed immediately rang a bell. The same thing had happened in Moscow a decade earlier. At the time, Stalin had arrested a number of his inner circle and placed them on trial for horrendous--but wholly implausible--crimes. The Moscow Show Trials (1936-38) presented the macabre spectacle of the Soviet state prosecutor, Andrei Vyshinsky, howling repeatedly that the accused were 'mad dogs', 'dogs gone mad' and 'dirty dogs' that should be 'taken out and shot', while the supposed conspirators fell over each other to agree with him. Many stated from the outset that their crimes were so heinous that they had no right even to offer a defence. Sergei Mrachovsky--a man with impeccable revolutionary credentials--confessed to a bizarre plot to murder Stalin. Lev Kamenev stated that he was a 'bloodthirsty enemy' of the Soviet Union who, in an act of 'contemptible treachery', had tried to assassinate Kirov. Richard Pickel admitted to assisting with the planning for this assassination, referring to himself as 'the dregs of the land'. And yet there was not a shred of evidence that any of these confessions was true. The defendants then turned on themselves and each other. Edouard Holtzman declared that he and his friends were 'not only murderers but fascist murderers'. To Yuri Piatakov, meanwhile, the crimes of his fellow defendants were so grave that he asked permission to shoot them himself. One was his ex-wife. In this Kafkaesque nightmare, defendants not only demanded to be found guilty, but also requested the most severe punishment. Arkady Rosengoltz stated that 'I don't want to live after this disgrace', A.A. Shestov that 'The proletarian court must not, and cannot, spare my life.' Shestov's only remaining goal, he said, was to 'stand with calmness on the place of my execution and with my blood to wash away the stain of a traitor to my country'. He wasn't the only one who wanted to die. 'I am a traitor to my party,' concluded Mrachovsky, 'who should be shot.' He was. They all were--after first thanking the prosecutor, Vyshinsky, for honouring them with the ultimate sentence. The spectacle of hardened revolutionaries lining up to sign their own death warrants created worldwide consternation. Was it really possible that these men were guilty? In response to public concern the United States established the Dewey Commission to find out. It eventually decided that the Soviet confessions were so inherently improbable that they couldn't possibly be true. 'We therefore find,' concluded the report, 'the Moscow Trials to be frame-ups.' But if they were 'frame-ups', how was it done? What would it take to make grown men publicly vilify themselves and their lives' work like this? There were no outward signs that any of the defendants had been tortured. And even if they had, why didn't any of them burst out with the truth in court? They must have known that they were going to be shot anyway. It was speculated that the Soviets had used drugs or hypnosis on the victims. But no one knew. 'No mystery in history,' reported the Daily Mail, 'matches what is going on in Moscow.' A decade after the mysterious Show Trials, history seemed to be repeating itself in the Mindszenty case. The cardinal, reported the Evening Standard, was a 'bewildered man, ready like all other Soviet victims to confess to whatever was laid to his charge'. The Daily Telegraph agreed that he was 'not in full possession of his faculties'. Some commentators even speculated that the man in the dock was not Mindszenty but an impostor. It was a supremely unlikely theory but, faced with such an improbable spectacle, what theory wasn't? As had been the case during the Show Trials, the press was keen to attribute the strange confessions to the use of drugs. In a piece entitled 'Mindszenty: drug? Third degree? Hypnosis?' the Daily Mail reported that the cardinal had been dosed with 'confession drugs such as Benzedrine, amphetamine, scopolamine and actedron'. A RAND Institute study of the confession phenomenon concurred, concluding that the Soviets were using drugs and hypnosis, among other techniques, to prepare victims for trial. Church authorities felt the same: a spokesman for Pius XII commented that if Mindszenty had indeed confessed, he had been forced to do so by drugs. Whatever the technique used to make him talk, however, someone was going to pay for it. On 31 December 1948, the pope excommunicated everyone involved in the cardinal's arrest and interrogation. The British Foreign Office debated the issue for some time. Admittedly, the cardinal was 'not normal' at his trial, and there was some evidence that Soviet interrogators used drugs to 'undermine the nerves and will-power'. But generally the mood was sceptical. Accounts of widespread drug use were, says one dispatch from Vienna, 'journalistic embroidery'. According to a top-secret document dated 10 February 1949, Mindszenty had probably been persuaded to confess by less subtle means: Dr Zakar had been beaten 'half dead' and paraded in front of his boss, who had immediately buckled. But the diplomats weren't entirely convinced by their own theory: if Zakar had been savagely beaten, why did he show no sign of it at the trial? 'All told,' concludes the Foreign Office file, 'the Cardinal's confession remains as much of a mystery as ever.' American authorities agreed. The trial was an enigma. The only thing that was clear was that something had happened to Mindszenty and, whatever it was, it was deeply sinister. 'Somehow,' wrote US Army intelligence adviser Paul Linebarger, 'they took his soul apart.' Three years after Mindszenty was sentenced to life imprisonment for his 'crimes', another bombshell hit. In Korea. On the night of 13 January 1952, pilots Kenneth L. Enoch and John S. Quinn of the 3rd US Air Force Bomb Group were shot down over North Korea. Four months later, on 16 May, the two men made an extraordinary confession to a group of Chinese interrogators. They had, they said, been deploying biological weapons, including anthrax, typhus, cholera and plague, over Korea. The weapon-delivery systems, said Quinn, were 'still in the experimental stage' but effective. 'I was forced,' he stated, 'to be the tool of these [American] warmongers and made to . . . do this awful crime against the people of Korea and the Chinese volunteers.' The men's confessions were taped and broadcast on Peking Radio the next day. Moscow Radio soon took up the cause, and the East began accusing the West of war crimes. Nine months later, in February 1953, Colonel Frank H. Schwable, Chief of Staff of the US First Marine Wing, confirmed Enoch and Quinn's allegations. Schwable, who had been shot down on 8 July the previous year, gave explicit details of the operation. According to his statement, the US biological-weapons programme was numbered VMF-513 and codenamed SUBPROP. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff had green-lighted the project in October 1951. First operational tests had been run, said Schwable, in November that year using B-29s from Okinawa, Japan, but pretty soon bacteria-delivery devices were being fitted to other aircraft including Tiger Cats, Skyraiders, Corsairs and Panthers. The testing was so secret that even the pilots concerned were not allowed to know what they were carrying. Naturally, other allies in the United Nations were not informed, either. Schwable explained that canisters containing the germs were dropped at various altitudes across diverse terrain and over different-sized cities to enable the US military to determine how the bacteria spread, and thus to calculate the most effective ways of deploying them in the future. The weapons were specifically designed to harm civilians. Operational uses of germ weapons were numerous. Schwable even gave squadron numbers and the names and ranks of senior officers involved. Everything the two junior pilots had alleged was true: the United States had been...
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