5 Things You Didn’t Know About the CIA

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the CIA

Not much about the CIA isn’t classified. Investigative journalism has a way of looking into the darkest corners and over the years some surprising things about the CIA have surfaced.

Here’s 5 that you might not have heard about.

1. Human Mind Control Experimentation

It has been publicly acknowledged that both the CIA and the Department of Defense participated in experiments to control human behavior. At times without the consent or knowledge of the persons being experimented upon. Within the United States of America.

While these experiments took place in the 1960’s they remained secret and classified until 1974. In December of that year the New York Times reported the existence of MKULTRA, the code name for the CIA’s mind control research.

The report by the Times resulted in both a congressional investigation and a Presidential commission. It was learned that in 1973 then CIA Director Richard Helms had ordered the destruction of most of the records related to the project.

As a result of those inquiries it was learned that at least 150 separate research projects had been funded by the CIA.

Following these investigations into the CIA and MKULTRA then President Gerald R Ford issued the first Executive Order on Intelligence Activities in 1976.

Among other things it prohibited experimentation on humans without their consent. Later updates to the Order by subsequent Presidents expanded the scope of the policy to include all human experimentation.

Due to the destruction of records mentioned above the only documents remaining relate to financial details. An accurate estimate of the number of ‘projects’ undertaken can be made, however anything else is based on admissions of those involved and/or Presidential disclosure.

In 1975 the family of Dr Frank Olson, a participant in the project was awarded a $750,000 settlement and an official apology from President Ford and CIA Director William Colby.

In 1994 the body of Dr Olson was exhumed and an autopsy performed. The Medical Examiner involved ruled his cause of death to have been ‘homicide.’

2. Drug Trafficking

While there have been allegations of direct CIA involvement of drug distribution their major involvement has been permitting the drug trade to exist.

The cultivation of illicit drugs is often associated with regions of political instability and unrest.

In Afghanistan the CIA is said to have provided their drug lord allies with arms, transportation and protection from prosecution. At the same time turning a blind eye toward the distribution of opium.

An infamous example occurred in what has been called the Iran Contra affair. Here there were allegations of direct CIA involvement in distribution.

The Kerry Committee investigated the charges and concluded that members of the US State Department “who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking… and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers.” (Wikipedia)

In the process of carrying out the foreign policy of the US the CIA has often allowed the cultivation and distribution of drugs in order to finance the operations of rebel factions in the current favor of the US.

And at times to finance causes that had been officially denied funding by US policy makers.

3. Torture

The CIA has publicly admitted to subjecting individuals to “harsh interrogation and imprisonment methods.” However the definition of torture is a continuing debate.

Allegations along with convincing evidence has been presented charging that the CIA maintains and transports persons to facilities located in foreign countries that use torture as an interrogation technique.

In places not under the influence of US policy and/or law. In a speech delivered on 06 September 2006 then President George W Bush announced that the CIA operated “secret prisons.”

In the same speech Bush assured the American public that all prisoners held by the CIA had been transferred to military incarceration at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

4. Extraordinary rendition

Extraordinary rendition is the process of moving a prisoner from where they are captured to a location where they can be interrogated – without the interference of US policy.

Before 911 the CIA is said to have released suspected terrorist to their home countries to stand trial there. Even if those countries were known to engage in questionable practices during interrogation.

After 911 things got stranger. The CIA began turning over prisoners to third party countries to be held and interrogated in those countries. Countries know to use torture.  Jordan for example.

Many of the detainees ended up at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Where they can now be legally detained, for an indefinite period, without formal charges.

Jordanian officials refute allegations that they have or do accept rendered prisoners. Evidence such as CIA flight logs, smuggled documents from detention centers and repeated statements from former detainees suggest otherwise.

5. Cyberwarfare

In June of 2010 Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz was ‘attacked’ by computer malware called Stuxnet. Over 1000 nuclear centrifuges were destroyed. And the Iranian nuclear program was struck a debilitating blow.

A senior White House official publicly stated that the US and its allies were doing all in their power to make the situation as damaging as possible.

The US has also been on the receiving end of cyber attack.

In March of 1998 selected systems in the Department Of Defense and private industry were attached by a virus called Moonlight Maze. Computer systems in the former Soviet Union were said to be the culprit, although who was responsible was never determined. Russia denied any involvement.

And it’s not a laughing matter. Official US policy states that a cyber attack may constitute use of force and as such be subject to international rules of engagement. Last year the Department of Defense announced that certain cyber attacks could result in the US deploying nuclear weapons.

Both the Intelligence and Military communities have developed strategies for proactive cyber defense.


From the above one might think that the CIA is one bad actor. An Eastern Bloc defector was quoted as saying that CIA activities are subjected to scrutiny unprecedented among the world’s intelligence agencies.

Reckon what goes on in the rest of the world?

by James Bradrick

Written by James Bradrick

James Bradrick left the sun and surf of southern Mexico to blog and write about civil and human rights issues from San Diego CA.

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