It’s been a fun day at a.nolen HQ: I’ve just found a 1974 article in which David Obst brags about being a literary agent for John Marks, author of The Search for the ‘Manchurian Candidate': The CIA and Mind Control. In Obst’s own words:
On the front burner right now I’ve also got books by Sam Dash, the majority Watergate counsel; the two sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are writing about their parents; and then, of course, there’s the superb book on the CIA written by Victor Marchetti and John Marks, The Cult of Intelligence.
This is huge, readers, because ‘The Obst Connection’ places John Marks’ and his co-author Victor Marchetti’s motivation in question. Marchetti, a one-time CIA employee, had worked his way up from the notorious Soviet Division to Dick Helms’ special assistant, but had become ‘disillusioned’ and decided to write a ‘defamatory’ book about the agency, The Rope Dancer, which was published in 1971.
In the 1970s, Obst was the go-to literary agent for authors who’d been given ‘leaked’ information. In reality, many of these ‘leaks’ are better described as ‘placements’ of infomation by CIA big-wig William Colby. Obst had a special relationship with Colby– he would ‘place’ leaks from Colby at the appropriate media venue. These leaks were designed to distract from Colby’s criminality at the expense of the CIA in general AND give ammunition to Obst’s KGB patrons. You can read all about that in my posts Managed Opposition; Did William Colby Help the KGB?; and Why is Lloyd Shearer a Family Jewel?
In the meantime, I’ll remind you what Seymour Hersh, another Obst client, said about his buddy David:
“Whether it be My Lai, Watergate, The Pentagon Papers, or any of the other tumultuous events of that era, Obst seems to be in the middle of it.”
In this post I’m going to explain why I suspect that John Marks and Victor Marchetti are ‘managed opposition’ to intelligence community excesses, just like Obst’s other clients Prof. Alfred McCoy (Politics of Heroin) and Seymour Hersh. The ‘red flags’ are: 1) Obst doesn’t talk about Victor Marchetti or John Marks in his 1998 autobiography; 2) Marks/Marchetti’s book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence was praised by Colby in his 1978 autobiography; 3) the CIA’s incredibly cooperative attitude towards Marks’ MK ULTRA work; and 4) Marks’ book on MK ULTRA obscured politically sensitive CIA operations *inside the United States* while showcasing relatively minor ones.
Obst and his Autobiography
David Obst is a man who likes to talk. The article which I quoted from above appeared in The Spokesman-Review as part of Pamela Swift’s “Keeping up… With Youth” column. Below, you’ll see the charming picture of David in his tennis whites which graced the center of Swift’s gossip page. (You look a little preppy for the commune, David. Perhaps your youth wasn’t “Too Good to be Forgotten”?)
David Obst also likes ‘the good life’ and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Despite this weakness, he never mentions John Marks nor Victor Marchetti in his autobiography, Too Good to Be Forgotten: Changing America in the ’60s and ’70s. Obst never mentions his famous client-duo even though he makes time for Leni Riefenstahl and Stan Lee. (Obst does say he lived with a ‘John Marks’ for a while, but this is a misspelling of ‘John Marx’– a mistake Obst’s editor missed 2:1!)
Why the silence, David? I know you were quiet about Derek and Lloyd Shearer because of Derek’s unsavory KGB connections, but why the reticence about Marks and Marchetti? Clearly, you were happy to talk about your relationship to them in 1974, but by 1998 your attitude had changed dramatically…
I don’t think that Obst’s caginess comes from Mark’s and Marchetti’s Colby connection specifically– many of Obst’s big-name clients have CIA/Colby connections and that doesn’t stop Obst bragging about them. Obst knows something particularly unsavory about Marks and Marchetti that makes Obst worried about associating himself with them. (Perhaps Marchetti’s later political work?) I haven’t found the reason for David’s silence, but I’m sure
I’ll discover why in time somewhere David’s already told us why.
Glowing Reviews from Bill Colby
David Obst’s reasons for silence aside, we know from his 1974 interview that he did represent Marks and Marchetti. So what were John Marks and well-connected CIA operator Victor Marchetti doing hanging around David Obst and the KGB-affiliated Shearer clan in 1974? Nothing that didn’t have the blessing of CIA director William Colby.
How were Marchetti and Marks useful to Colby? Their book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974), deflected negative attention away from Colby at a pivotal time: the first months of Colby’s tenure as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). When Cult of Intelligence came out, Colby’s one-time patron and former DCI Richard Helms had just finished burning evidence of his own wrongdoing related to MK ULTRA. The next man in line, James Schlesinger– the guy who’d made the ‘Family Jewels’ list of every CIA activity with “flap potential”– had only held the DCI position a year before getting the hell out. ‘DCI’ Colby probably felt like he’d been handed a hot potato, so he did what he’d always done: protected himself with a media offensive that blamed “the CIA in general” for unethical (and illegal) behavior.
This is how Wikipedia– a popular quick-refence– summarizes The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence:
Victor Marchetti used the expression “cult of intelligence” to denounce what he viewed as a counterproductive mindset and culture of secrecy, elitism, amorality and lawlessness within and surrounding the Central Intelligence Agency in the service of American imperialism.
Colby liked Marks’/Marchetti’s book so well that he aped its conclusions about the CIA in his 1978 autobiography Honorable Men: My Life in the CIA:
Considering the importance and all-consuming nature of the work I was doing at the Agency; considering the missionary zeal [Eleanor and ISIS! -a.nolen], sense of elitism and marvelous camaraderie among my colleagues there; considering above all that I was strictly forbidden to talk about what I was doing with anyone outside the Agency and thus couldn’t share my concerns or just sit around shooting the breeze in shop talk with anyone in the outside world– considering all of this, one can see how easy it would have been for me to drop out of that world and immerse myself exclusively in the cloak-and-dagger life. And some of my colleagues at the Agency did just that. Socially as well as professionally they cliqued together, forming a sealed fraternity. They ate together at their own special favorite restaurants [this is a particular dig at Angleton- a.nolen]; they partied almost only among themselves; their families drifted to each other, so their defenses did not always have to be up. In this way they increasingly separated themselves from the ordinary world and developed a rather skewed view of the world. Their own dedicated double life became the proper norm, and they looked down on the life of the rest of the citizenry. And out of this grew what was later named– and condemned– as the “cult” of intelligence, an inbred, distorted, elitist view of intelligence that held it to be above the normal processes of society, with its own rationale and justification, beyond the restraints of the Constitution, which applied to everything and everyone else. As I saw this develop, I remembered a talk I had with Donovan several years before. I had asked him how you get young paratroopers to behave like choir boys on Saturday night after spending six days learning to be aggressive, devious and heroic. He answered that he didn’t know, but nevertheless it just had to be done. It would be many years before I would have to develop a better answer than Donovan’s.
That I didn’t fall into this “cultist” attitude– at least not to the degree I might have– I have to attribute solely to Barbara.
Always on the outside, Bill, but you still managed to claw your way to the top! I think the quote above shows readers very clearly why Colby put Helms’ old assistant Marchetti and Marks onto their first book project: C.Y.A. for Colby… at the expense of the rest of the CIA. By the way, Barbara is Colby’s first wife, who he ditched after his career at the CIA ended and he didn’t need her anymore…
The CIA Finds Dirt on Itself!
John Marks’ book with Marchetti wasn’t his only claim to fame. It’s John Marks’ post-1974 work, or rather his lawyers’ work, that got the CIA to release the MKULTRA files a few years after the Rockefeller Commission delivered rudimentary evidence of the mind-control program in the wake of Colby’s ‘Family Jewels’ leak. The story goes that Marks’ lawyers worked for several months to get the CIA to release 50 documents under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; the fabled “seven boxes” of MKULTRA documentation would follow a few years later, when the CIA suddenly announced they’d found more evidence and decided to tell Marks about it!
Those seven boxes– almost 20,000 documents that each needed ‘sanitization’ and clearance for their release– were probably in preparation during that one year when George Herbert Walker Bush ruled Langley; the seven boxes were then released during the first months of DCI Stansfield Turner’s tenure. Turner worked hard to stop criticism of the CIA’s role in Vietnam and William Colby. (While Colby left the CIA in 1976, he was still a powerful figure in organized crime through the 1980s.)
Directors Colby/Bush/Turner all went out of their way to deliver 20,000 ‘incriminating’ documents to one lone little man, John Marks, and however many lawyers Marks could afford at Fried, Frank, Shriver, Harris and Kampelman. CIA cooperation like that *never* happens for independent researchers.
If readers have ever filed a FOIA request with the CIA, you’ll know what an arduous, and arbitrary, process it is. The CIA has special staff who deal with the public with regard to these requests: they have a list of files which are pre-approved for release and are (fairly) quickly mailed out on CDs to whoever asks for them. MKULTRA files are one of these ‘quick release’ files. However, if you request files on something that hasn’t been pre-approved for public consumption, the CIA will find some excuse to refuse to release information. The agency prefers not to tell you directly that the info won’t be released– that would be tantamount to admission that the CIA had a working relationship with an organization/the person in question. Instead, they’ll make impossible demands. Once, when I made an FOIA request about an academic who was *probably* a CIA asset in the 1950s, I was telephoned by the agency and told that they knew whose file I was requesting and that they’d process my request if I could find this academic’s social security number. This academic had been an American citizen for a few years during the 1950s.
“Where would you go to find a Social Security number under these circumstances?” I asked the (very polite) representative.
“It’s probably somewhere in the National Archives,” was his answer!
(That’s a joke in research circles, because the US National Archives is such a mess. The last time I visited there were notices in my particular reading room asking the public to look out for several boxes of classified documents that went missing somewhere on campus…)
My point is, readers, that Colby wanted to release 50 MKULTRA documents to Marks shortly after the 1974 scandals and DCIs Bush and Turner were happy to continue to use Colby’s tactics through 1977.
Marks’ 1980 book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate mentions William Colby three times: once in reference to the ex-Director’s bringing a neat-o dart gun to his congressional testimony; once in reference to a saccharine quote Colby made about the touchy-feely business of graduating working relations between handlers and spook-assets; and finally when Marks states that Colby said the Cuban economic sabotage programs ended around the time Colby’s own CIA directorship started. Ya don’t say, Bill.
**It’s incredible that John Marks doesn’t have more to say about the CIA’s number one narcotics dealer in a book about drugs and mind control.**
On the other hand, Marks wastes no time saying bad things about Colby’s former patron who’d destroyed any MK ULTRA evidence against himself, Richard Helms:
He [Richard Helms] would become the most important sponsor of mind-control research within the CIA, nurturing and promoting it throughout his steady climb to the top position in the Agency. [p.13]
Gottlieb would preside over arcane fields from handwriting analysis to stress creation, and he would rise through the Agency along with his bureaucratic patron, Richard Helms. [p.17]
Richard Helms, Sid Gottlieb, John Gittinger, George White and many others would undertake a far-flung and complicated assault on the human mind. [p. 20]
(To be fair, the MKULTRA program ran from the early 1950s-1973, under the directorship of: Allen W. Dulles (Marks mentions him 15 times in Manchurian Candidate), John A. McCone (mentioned 5 times), William F. Raborn (never mentioned), and Richard M. Helms (mentioned 17 times). Marks claims most projects had ended by 1963, three years before Helms became DCI. )
You don’t have to get far into Search for the Manchurian Candidate to know who Marks wants to paint as the bad guys.
If the first 50 MKULTRA files were released because Colby wanted them to be released, why did Colby want them released? Probably because Colby, like Helms before him, knew something was going to come out and reasoned it would be better to control what came out rather than leave that to somebody else. What’s the safest way to spin MKULTRA? “Yeah, we did it. But we didn’t find anything.”
I think John Marks says it best:
The Kennedy [Senator Edward Kennedy, Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research, 1975] hearings added little to the general state of knowledge on the CIA’s behavior-control programs. CIA officials, both past and present, took the position that basically nothing of substance was learned during the 25-odd years of research, the bulk of which had ended in 1963, and they were not challenged. That proposition is, on its face, ridiculous, but neither Senator Kennedy nor any other investigator has yet to put any real pressure on the Agency to reveal the content of the research– what was actually learned– as opposed to the experimental means of carrying it out. In this book, I have tried to get at some of the substantive questions, but I have had access to neither the scientific records, which Gottlieb [Sidney Gottlieb] and Helms [Richard Helms] destroyed, nor the principal people involved.
Marks is being somewhat honest here: a careful reading of Search for the Manchurian Candidate shows that Marks holds the same opinion as the CIA– nothing of substance was discovered. In fact, Marks indirectly flatters the agency quite often. A reader could easily come away from Manchurian Candidate with the impression that the CIA is filled with brilliant, if sometimes misguided, patriots who have to make tough choices. I encourage readers to look to the end of chapters 10 “The Gittinger Assessment System”; 9 “Human Ecology”; 7 “Mushrooms to Counterculture”; 6 “Them Unwitting: The Safehouses”; and chapter 4 “LSD” for evidence of this flattery.
Historians interested in James Angleton’s career should know that at the end of chapter 11 “Hypnosis”, Marks goes out of his way to smear Angleton, with speculative allegations against the Counterintelligence division’s use of hypnosis, should hypnosis have been proved effective. It’s almost like Colby wrote that chapter himself…
Marks did such a good job planting the meme ‘nothing was discovered’, that you can find it popping up everywhere MK ULTRA is discussed. For example, I just found this quote from one-time American Psychiatric Association president Philip G. Zimbardo’s and Susan M. Andersen’s paper ‘Resisting Social Influence’, which was published in the Cultic Studies Journal, 1984, Volume 1, Number 2, pages 196-219:
John Marks’ expose of the CIA’s secret mind control program (see The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate) suggests that no foolproof way of “brainwashing” another person has ever been found. After a decade of intensive, costly research into the technology of such control, the CIA’s MKULTRA program was deemed a failure. Covert operations could claim little more than being capable of turning unsuspecting victims into “vegetables.”
‘Resisting Social Influence’ is a fascinating read and I will talk about it more in later posts. Clearly, Dr. Zimbardo and Dr. Andersen have read Marks’ book on MK ULTRA; but they haven’t read the MK ULTRA files. Marks did a *great job* of discouraging people from actually reading the MK ULTRA material.
Tweaking American “Human Ecology”
Discouraging people from actually reading these files is important, because the MK ULTRA documents do contain some pretty explosive stuff– the stuff John Marks is careful not to talk about.
What does the MK ULTRA material really contain? A long time ago I put in an FOIA request for the MK ULTRA cd and was sent a copy by the CIA’s Information and Privacy Coordinator. There are nearly 20,000 documents on a collection of three discs. I’m going to give you a rough run-down of what’s discussed. A great number of those documents are so heavily redacted that it’s difficult to give them context or even understand what’s being said.
– 54% of the documents relate to ‘ARTICHOKE’ and ‘BLUEBIRD’ material: the use of hypnosis, drugs, alcohol, interrogation techniques, psychiatric methods to get people to ‘confess'; or ‘brainwash’ people; or to make soldiers more effective in battle. There are disconnected tidbits about various investigations into said activities, including domestic investigations in places like Minneapolis MN and Detroit MI; scraps of evidence garnered from Soviet science and unidentified drugs in syringes/vials that had fallen into CIA hands. Also, correspondence with unnamed medical doctors and other civilian researches about the possibility of using the techniques listed above; selected instances of monies paid to these doctors/researchers but not exhaustive accounting records. There are also data on how ARTICHOKE and BLUEBIRD agents would be indoctrinated while working on the projects. (Of this 54%, only 4% of documents relate to the use of LSD and Swiss pharmacutical company Sandoz!)
– 8 % are summaries of subprojects to MKUltra. Some of these are quite interesting, especially the “human ecology” projects. Marks ignores or downplays the more interesting of these projects, which involved research into how different groups of people in the United States can be manipulated politically– like inner-city minorities and non-English speakers.
–4 % of documents relate to Frank Olson’s death after the CIA *allegedly* tested out mind-altering drugs on him.
–8 % of documents relate to drug addiction and useful aspects to the CIA, including the use of Codine. (This is very vague information, most of it is correspondence back and forth trying to set up an interviews with Dr. Harris Isbell at the NIMH.)
–13 % of the documents relate to behavior research in humans and animals; how drugs may affect behavior; ability of animals to manipulate electricity; Pavlovian conditioning; communication techniques of animals.
–8 % cover the use of electricity to interfere with sleep, anesthesia, ‘electronarcotics’ research, dream research, living tissue response to electricity, heart function, psychological responses to electrodermal response, electrochemical responses in living tissue, nervous system research, electric photography, research into how people respond to sound and language (including often-repeated words), light and eye research (for incapacitating), stress electroencephalographic results and biological power sources.
– 5% are “SI and H” experiments, which are also interesting and mostly unmentioned by Marks. These experiments were not conducted on a large scale: they looked at how well agents could lie or remember details of a specific situation under different conditions, for example.
I’m going to wrap this up by pointing out that there are *very concerning* projects documented in the MK ULTRA releases, particularly relating to “human ecology” inside the United States. Marks doesn’t talk about these projects, but they could throw light upon what’s happened in Ferguson, Missouri, so I’m going to talk about them in upcoming posts. I don’t understand why details of these “human ecology” projects were released.
It may be that CIA officials thought that these subprojects wouldn’t mean much to a 1970s audience, that they would just ‘pad out’ the release and make it look more comprehensive, but I find that hard to believe given the race riots of the 1960s.
There are other projects too, such as the CIA ‘data mining’ election results with respect to “human ecology” in order to try to understand how to get people to vote a certain way. Frankly, as an American citizen, I find these types of projects a lot more dangerous than tests of LSD’s use as a truth syrum. Why would Colby/Bush/Turner release this information when they had Marks focus on the other stuff, anyway? I don’t have an answer… yet.
In the meantime, we can throw John Marks and Victor Marchetti onto the ever-growing pile of ‘whistle blowers’ who are really just tools which members of the ‘intelligence community’ use to manipulate the public.