Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Guinea Pig in a CIA Mind-Control Experiment – Part I

Today’s latest whiff of fresh air in government disclosure comes from the recent release of the CIA’s “Family Jewels” file. gives a Hat Tip to Intelligentaindigena Novajoservo by angryindian for blogging the story about the recent disclosures published in the New York Times as a result of a quest made through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

[Excerpts of CNN Report: “CIA releases 'family jewels' on misconduct”]

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The CIA released hundreds of pages of internal reports Tuesday detailing assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and the secret testing of mind-and-behavior altering drugs like LSD on unwitting U.S. citizens.

The documents also provide information on wiretapping of U.S. journalists, spying on civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protesters, opening mail between the United States and the Soviet Union and China, and break-ins at the homes of ex-CIA employees and others.

The report cites: They [files] first spilled into public view on December 22, 1974, with an article by Seymour Hersh in The New York Times on the CIA's spying against antiwar and other dissidents inside this country. The agency assembled files on some 10,000 people.

Another NY Times report, “Files on Illegal Spying Show C.I.A. Skeletons From Cold War”, states: “Known inside the agency as the “family jewels,” the 702 pages of documents released Tuesday catalog domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments and spying on journalists from the early years of the C.I.A.”

Also, BBC published “CIA details Cold War skullduggery”.

Re-Telling the Story

By now, these revelations should be a well-established part of US history. But invariably, with each new generation, it is necessary to tell the story over again about how the CIA, FBI, and the US Bureau of Prisons used us politically conscious prisoners in secret mind-control experiments.

These recent public revelations follow some 30 years after the FBI disclosure of illegal government activities under J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO. The 1976 Church Committee (US Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities) had already disclosed the CIA’s role in secret spying and espionage against Civil Rights activists, Black Panthers, and other so-called radicals. What has not been disclosed is the CIA’s involvement in mind-control experiments.

When Eddie Griffin wrote “Breaking Men’s Minds”, it was originally entitled Behavior
Control and Human Experimentation at the Federal Prison in Marion and much of the information supplied by these men:

The summer and fall of 1972 witnessed a series of mobilizations, political rebellions, and lawsuits by a multiracial group of prison activists at Marion Federal Penitentiary in Illinois. A cadre of third world activists — from the Black Liberation Army, the Republic of New Africa, and a Puerto Rican independentista fighter to Muslims, Chicanos, American Indians, and whites — came together that spring in Marion to challenge the very logic of incarceration as a form of permanent living death, wrote Alan Eladio Gómez in “Resisting Living Death at Marion Federal Penitentiary, 1972”.

As part of an organized struggle to defend their dignity and maintain the creative momentum for political organizing, and in response to these institutionalized techniques, the activists compiled research for a report on prison conditions submitted to the United Nations, organized a third world political cadre out of the Student Union, and linked up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the People’s Law Office (PLO), and the local university law school in order to bring the struggle into the legal arena. Responding to the brutal beating of a Chicano inmate by a guard, they (re)organized as the Political Prisoners Liberation Front (PPLF) — and as a result were gassed and beaten, their legal materials confiscated, and their hygiene and exposure to chemical riot control techniques ignored for three days. Authorities isolated them in special units within the H and I Segregation, some in so-called steel boxcars. This form of isolation eventually became the Control Unit (CU), an extreme form of solitary confinement.

As inmates challenged the legal basis for long-term incarceration, new techniques of hands-on behavior modification responded to the need for increased control. Edgar Schein, an associate professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helped design the medical-models approach to behavior modification. Schein’s research focused on brainwashing in “totalitarian regimes,” primarily China.17 In 1953, Schein interviewed recently released U.S. POWs to understand better the Korean brainwashing experience. For Schein, brainwashing techniques used by North Korean and Chinese communists against U.S. soldiers in Korean POW camps offered a solution to the problems of control and rehabilitation within the U.S. federal prison system.

In April 1961, Schein presented a paper entitled “Man against Man: Brainwashing” to the staff and senior administrators of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at a meeting of U.S. wardens and social scientists. Schein argued that “in order to provoke marked change of behavior and/or attitude, it is necessary to weaken, undermine or remove the supports to the old patterns of behavior and the old attitudes.” These techniques included isolation to break or weaken emotional ties, the segregation of leaders and the use of cooperative prisoners in their place, a prohibition of group activities not in line with the brainwashing objectives, spying on prisoners and reporting back private material, tricking men into writing statements then shown to other inmates, exploiting informers and opportunists, the disorganization of all group standards among prisoners, and seventeen other suggestions. The appropriation of techniques from communist-bloc prison camps at the height of anticommunism reveals the contradictions of behavior modification — the justification for cruel and inhumane punishment against a specific group of inmates to control them and supposedly make society safe.

Yet for Schein and his receptive audience the ends clearly justified the means. The chairman of the symposium, Bertram S. Brown of the National Institute of Mental Health, responded warmly to Schein’s presentation; he encouraged prison administrators to experiment with these new techniques on the black Muslim inmate populations on returning to their respective institutions: “What I am trying to say is that we are a group that can do a lot of experimenting and research . . . do things perhaps on your own — undertake a little experiment of what you can do with Muslims. There is a lot of research to do. Do it as individuals. Do it as groups and let us know the results.” Schein designed these programs with Martin Groder, the Marion psychiatrist who would later serve as the director of the Center for Correctional Research at Butner, North Carolina. As a result of Groder’s leadership, and in the wake of the 1962 meeting, Marion became an experiment conducted by the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency, and Corrections at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Prison Rebellion Years at Marion
Prison rebellions in the United States burned through the 1970s, particularly following the murder of Soledad Brother George Jackson in California’s San Quentin on August 7, 1971. Prison activists in Attica, Leavenworth, McNeil Island, and Terre Haute formed clandestine study groups and ethnic studies classes, organized direct actions like labor strikes, and utilized so-called strategies of fire — setting ablaze whatever was at hand to burn it down, something akin to practices in ghetto uprisings across the nation.

In response, as per prison policy, the authorities fired gas containers into the cellblock. The first casualty was independentista Andres Figueroa Codero, who immediately became ill and started hemorrhaging: “People were carrying him on their shoulders, we were banging on the walls, the more we banged, the more gas they shoot . . . and they take him out . . . . We were just fighting, from shutting down the factory and then resisting the lockdown, resisting the hole, we were just fighting for survival and we were resisting. It was an open rebellion. We were fighting back with whatever we had, which was nothing. ”Seven other inmates were hospitalized. Nine days after the strike, on April 8, 1972, authorities transferred sixty-four inmates out of Leavenworth. A few were left at the medical facility in Springfield, Illinois, while the majority was sent to Marion. On arrival there, all the transferred inmates were immediately taken to the hole. The Chicano, Puerto Rican, Native American, African American, and white activists coming from Leavenworth arrived at the same time as did people from McNeil Island. Writ writer Lanier “Red” Ramer and Mike Cassidy from McNeil Island joined African American soldiers like Charles Warren from Atlanta, Akinsiju Ola (also known as Ed Johnson) from New Orleans (the editor of Black Pride, the black prisoners’ newspaper), and Imari Obadele, the president of the Republik of New Africa, joined with Chicanos like Alberto Mares, raúlrsalinas, and Eddie Sanchez at Marion. Transferred to Marion for a set of specific political reasons, these activists came together for another set of specific reasons: they shared the common bond of having taken a stand against what they called “the empire” by resisting the jail machine in different prisons across the country. Prison administrators were worried about rebellions throughout the country. Before the Select Subcommittee on Crime in the U.S. House of Representatives, the warden George W. Pickett testified on December 1, 1971, that inmates housed in special units like Marion’s were “felons difficult to control and manage,” transferred from other prisons because of their aggressive behavior. According to the associate warden Charles E. Fenton, “We have a national constituency here. This place is unique in the history of penology.” Marion’s notoriety was already being discussed.

Search CIA Archives

I have searched the CIA website for connections to our struggle against mind-control experimentation, and so far I have found a book review of “Coercive Persuasion” by Edgar H. Schein.

After having vilified Dr. Schein in my 1977 writings, I have since come to appreciate his understanding of behavioral psychology.


  1. Slightly off topic - look at page 283, paragraph 1:

    "10 December 1970
    DDI noted press accounts of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's 19 November statement that the Black Panthers are supported by Terrorist organizations. He said that we have examined the FBI's related files and our own data and find no indication of any relationship between the fedayeen and the Black Panthers."

    Not that this fact isn't obvious, but it shows that the FBI knew this at the time of that statement.

  2. In a number of places, including pg 331, there are references to multiple writings on "Black Radicalism" in the Carribbean and "advocates of black power" in the U.S.

    page 554: "...I believe their target (s) were minority group (s)."
    - I don't have enough context to determine if this was internal to the U.S., but many of these documents are about illegal activities because they were performed in the U.S.A., so that's my assumption.

  3. There is plenty of interesting reading that give us 20/20 hindsight. I'm glad you are sharing this information with me and others.

  4. Mind control 1984-2008 in Shanghai,China.