American University, Washington, D.C.
Would people be surprised to know that the US has a history of collaboration with people who were formally Nazis?
I think that that was a surprising idea awhile back and in fact it was a forbidden idea awhile back. The government bitterly denied that there was any possibility that the U.S. had worked closely with SS men and that sort of thing in Europe after World War II. But over the course of the last decade the documentation has become so clear, the number of examples have become so clear that the government prefers not to discuss it - but anyone who is interested in that time period knows at least in the main picture, what went on.
Now what was the rationale used to justify the appointment of foreign Nazis? And did this have any effect on the evolution…or should I say, escalation of the Cold War?
Well it evolved. During the war itself, of course, you had programs designed to interrogate prisoners of war. So that if a major Nazi or even a minor Nazi fell into the hands of any of the Allied powers, that person was interrogated for information. But as the war drew to a close and as the post-War period emerged, the old system of interrogating people sort of merged into a new system of co-operative efforts with the same people in many cases. One of the best known examples is Reinhard Gaelin who had been Chief of German Military Intelligence on the Eastern front, which was where the Germans fought the Russians and where extraordinarily bloody warfare took place. Something on the order of 20 or 30 million people were killed in that fighting - it was a terrible war - unprecedented brutality. And on top of that, the Eastern front was the focus of the Holocaust and the intentional effort to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, other people. So anyway, Reinhard Gehlen was Chief of Military Intelligence for this process.
One of the main ways that he received information or encouraged - encouraged is probably not the right word - but enforced Soviet prisoners of war to collaborate with him were these starvation camps that were run by the SS. These were huge POW camps in which something along the order of 3 million Soviet prisoners of war were, quite intentionally, starved to death in these camps. Most of the men and women who were captured in this way refused to collaborate with the Nazis but some did collaborate and that’s where Gaelin got his information. After the war, the Americans and the British in particular picked up Gaelin and backed his career and Gaelin eventually emerged as the Chief of West German Intelligence. When a man like Reinhard Gaelin emerges in that sort of position of power after the war, after WWII is over, there's a whole bunch of questions that are raised by that. One is the question of how… you know, who is he working for? The other is whether - you know, the extent to which he can be trusted. There's also moral questions, and so forth and so on. But beyond that there's another question and that is: well, how did this look through the eyes of the Russians, who were trying to figure out what the heck the Americans and the Brits and the French were doing.
Now all the time there's talk, "Oh Russia's such a big mystery, and the Americans and the CIA" and so forth and all supposedly working overtime to try to figure out what the Russians are doing. Well put the shoe on the other foot for a moment and try to figure out how it was that the Russians were trying to figure out what the West was doing and whether the West was gong to double cross them, whether the West was actually preparing a war against them and it's truthful that there was a significant faction in the American government that favored a pre-emptive nuclear war against the Soviet Union in the early 1950s - mass murder. Well… so when the Russians see someone like Gaelin, who's Chief of Military Intelligence for the Nazis during WWII, is turning up again under the protection of the Americans, and is working in this extremely influential position, what sort of bells are going to go off in their heads? The way they are going look at this is the guys in the West are preparing a major offensive. So this is one of the ways in which the Cold War spiraled up and up and up.
Give us a basic definition of psychological warfare.
Psychological warfare is a combination of communication on the one hand - like propaganda and stuff and advertisements and all that - and violence on the other hand, in order to achieve some sort of political objective.
What are the historical roots of the term itself and when did it first become part of the American military paradigm?
The origins of psychological warfare were in Nazi Germany and in the Nazi ideology they had something called weltanshauungskrieg, which means world view warfare; and it was - the idea for them was imposing the Nazi world view on the countries that they had occupied. The Americans picked up this idea, created an American version of it, and called that psychological warfare. Since 1945, these things have gone through an evolution -you know, we're talking about 55 years now - and so now there's all sorts of names - low-intensity warfare, low-intensity conflict, the War on Drugs is a modern day example of psychological warfare.
Can you characterize the level of public disclosure by government to the existence of US operatives that were involved with ex-Nazis? Was the government forthcoming or fearful about the public's reaction to using ex-Nazis in their own intelligence operations?
The government kept its use of ex-Nazis a state secret of the highest order for 45 years and had programs that set out to discredit anyone who came forward with a criticism of this sort of thing and to make them look like monkeys. Now there is so much evidence on the public record that the government's program to hide these kind of co-operative efforts with former Nazis they’ve moved to a different strategy, which is typically just silence.
It was the end of World War II. Germany is falling. The Americans know there will be tribunals. Describe for us a little bit of the history. How are they getting them out? What was the name of the project? What was happening?
The U.S. use of Nazi criminals went through an evolution and how it was done and how it was explained changed over the course of time. But one thing that was very clear was that in 1945 it was clearly American policy that Nazi criminals were the enemy. The objective was to arrest them. The objective was to remove them from positions of power in Germany. By 1946, there was a new president in office and the policy had changed and it was clear that at that stage, the Russians had become the primary enemy and that former Nazis, either in terms of people who had been in the SS, or people who were scientists, or most particularly people who were corporate and banking figures - the elite of Nazi Germany, the people who had profited from the Holocaust…. that rewriting their history became a big part of what took place in the first decade of the Cold War.
Give us a brief historical lesson about Project Paperclip.
Project Paperclip was a program that was designed to identify German scientists who were particularly valuable - especially for military type science and to bring them to the U.S. and put them to work. Classic Project Paperclip person was Werner Von Braun. But there were actually several hundred people. Some were involved in rocket science. Some were involved in submarine building. Some were involved in chemical warfare. There were a variety of other applications.
There was a second wave, or I'm not sure if it was all part of the same one, of people who were in fact psychiatrists - who had worked with the idea of mind and mind sciences. Do you know a bit about that?
Yeah. I think that in trying to understand psychological warfare and in trying to understand the American approach to the postwar efforts to control people's minds - both as individuals and on a mass scale - there's a lot of illusions about how that was done. Were Nazis involved or former Nazis involved in that process? Yes, they were. Was it a Nazi mind control program in the sense of a resurrection of Goebbles (Joseph Goebbles) style propaganda? No it wasn't. This was a post-Nazi program if you will. It was an Americanization of some of the same types of propaganda techniques that had been pioneered in the 1930s but now it was the 1950s, it was the 1960s, it was the 1980s. And clearly the techniques involved in mind control evolved over time.
Interesting. One thing you write about in Blowback is that we had this image of scientists being for science and there's a level of orderliness and humanity to that, yet did these scientists also benefit from the Nazi machine and were they conscious of the slave concept?
Some did. Some were certainly conscious of the slave concept. Some did benefit from the Holocaust. There were Nazi psychologists and psychiatrists. Communications theorists, which happens to be my field, were involved in this. The so-called development of countries was very much tied up with this. Understanding the concept of developing countries is important in understanding mass mind control because what happened was these think tanks were set up and they were sort of one-stop shopping where organizations like the CIA or the National Security Council would go and they would get advice on propaganda, they would get advice on counter-insurgency, they would get advice on economic development, on where to build the dams and the railroads and so forth, in order to most effectively extract copper or coal or uranium or whatever it is they happen to be after. So that type of looting and that type of mentality was pronounced during the 1950s. There were and there are today important distinctions between the Nazi mentality - particularly the orthodox Nazi mentality - and the orthodox American security mentality. And one of the most important differences is this: that when the Germans took over a country - took over Belgium for example or Holland - they set about systematically looting that country… systematically exterminating Jews and in general looting the country. The Americans strategy is more sophisticated. What the Americans want to do is to create mental genetics in such a way that country evolves in a form that is desirable and co-operative to the geo-political strategy of the United States. So this is a step beyond Nazi Germany's approach and in its own way is considerably more sophisticated.
At what point do you think the application and deployment of mind control techniques shifted from external populations of the enemy to America’s own domestic population? When did the government start applying control mechanisms to its own population?
The development of control mechanisms or psychological warfare - in other words this joining together of communication, particularly mass communication on the one hand and violence on the other hand - has from its inception, from its very beginning, been applied to both the domestic populations of the countries that are doing it in our case the U.S., and to populations overseas. And the populations overseas in some cases are the so-called enemy or the enemy of that day, whether it happens to be Libya one day or whoever, Cuba, or whoever the enemy of that day is, or even so called friendly countries - Britain, France, The Netherlands and so on, Norway, Italy… so the tactics change and are adapted to the particular conditions of these places but there is a continuity of tactics for all of these targets.
Talk about MK-ULTRA - its origins and its intentions.
Mk-ULTRA was one program of a series of programs that came out of the CIA beginning in the early 1950s and in one form or another, really continuing up to this day that developed drugs, interrogation techniques, psychological warfare techniques, in an effort to get what the agency, the CIA in particular, wanted out of people that they had targeted. So some of the specifics of the Mk-ULTRA program focused on drugs. And the buried history of this is, if you go back and you look at the academic literature that’s written by people who do pharmacological research - drug research - you'll see LSD and mescaline and these types of drugs being tested in weird places - South Africa, Chile, Brazil in the later 40s and early 1950s. Why were they testing it in South Africa? Well it’s because they could do pretty much what they damn well pleased with people there because it was essentially a slave state. Then later the usefulness or the purported usefulness of say LSD as a tool for interrogating people, as a tool for brainwashing people and so on was picked up by the CIA and the respected think tanks of those days.
There's a respected think tank called the Bureau of Applied Social Research - it was at Columbia University in New York and many of the founding fathers of modern social science worked there at one time or another. Well they had a great big contract from the CIA to test out ways to use LSD to interrogate people and to tear down their personalities and to reshape their personalities. Well, as things have turned out, LSD is a much less predictable drug than what the CIA had hoped at the time that it started putting money into promoting this drug. The impact of LSD on society has been quite complex because on the one hand it’s a tool that under some circumstances with some people can be a very mind opening experience. Just look around or read the literature - you know, this is not a particularly controversial point of view. Meanwhile it is also a tool that in some people - in fact, in many people - if you overdose on it, if you use bad drugs, if you use it at the wrong time, if you've got emotional problems that you are struggling with in any way, it can induce like a psychotic reaction. And a lot of people have been hurt by this. So that drug became one element of a broader cultural shift in the United States of attitudes towards drugs.
I can remember very vividly Haight/Ashbury in the early 1970s - actually the process started before that - but you know, the so-called Summer of Love, 1960s, love-ins, all this kind of stuff - was followed in very short order by the summer of heroin. A lot of people got strung out on junk and the whole economics, the whole cultural reality of that cultural breakthrough in San Francisco changed. So you could say that, at one moment of time, there was because of coincidences, because of luck, because of some very interesting people who were in San Francisco, because of great bravery of the part of people in the cultural scene of San Francisco, there was a break out of the spectacle, out of the American blindfold and then that rapidly re-sealed itself and the old economy of repression came back but in a new form.
When did psychological warfare programs enter the civilian domain?
Psychological warfare programs entered the civilian domain at exactly the same moment they entered the military domain. And this is true both in Nazi Germany and in the Americanized version. The Americanized version you can track quite closely because there was an agency set up to do this job and it was the Office of War Information and its function was to control information - it's kind of interesting concept for what an agency is to do. Not so much different from what a television network does in some ways - or a computer internet service provider. But in any case this agency was set up to control information about the war and simultaneously it had a military function and a civilian function from its very beginning.
And at that point, was the civilian population seen as a danger that had to be controlled?
Danger would not be the right word. It was seen as a question mark. It was not clear what the civilian population would do. The 1930s had been a time of great upsurge of working people: organization of unions. United Auto Workers developed a or perfected if you will a tactic called a sit-down strike, where the workers would literally take over a factory by sitting down in the darn factory and that drove the corporations absolutely ballistic. And that is still to this day a very powerful tactic. So it wasn’t so clear in 1939, 1940, 1941 as to what the civilian population was going to do.
There's this famous quote, "The war isn't won on the battlefield, it's in the hearts and minds of the people." Is the mind the last battleground - is that the last territorial frontier for war?
In a certain sense the mind has always been the primary battleground. Now obviously there are physical battles and some of them have been terrible. But the objective of physical battles in the final analysis is the minds of people.
When we hear the term mind control… does that sound like something that certain parts of the CIA may have pursued - the idea of controlling individuals?
Its well documented that particularly during the 1950s the CIA had large well-funded programs to experiment with different types of mind control - using drugs, using electro-shock, using insulin-shock and other techniques. I can give you an example of a particular study that was done by a very famous university in New York, at Columbia University. They called it the stable-mate concept. And I don’t know how much detail you want on this, but one of the tactics that the CIA developed was called the stable-mate concept. And you would send your CIA agent in and you would send the person you were trying to influence in and you would give the person you were trying to influence very, very heavy doses of LSD or a similar drug and then the CIA agent would try to mentally kind of disassemble this person and then reassemble them back again in a way that was most advantageous to the Agency and to the government. This was pursued quite systematically. Now does that mean that everybody who says that they're a victim of mind control is telling the truth? Personally I don’t buy it. I think that we have to take responsibility for ourselves and take responsibility for standing up for ourselves.