Wednesday 3 October 2018

The CIA and MK-ULTRA by Alan Glynn

In popular culture, the CIA has traditionally been portrayed as a sinister outfit. But in today’s looking-glass political climate, where the ‘deep state’ may be expected to rein in the excesses of a rogue executive, the agency has taken on a mantle – almost - of sainthood. So it is timely to recall one of the CIA’s earliest, and most nefarious, of projects - MK-ULTRA

This was a program set up by the CIA’s first civilian director, Allen Dulles. It was in response to what he believed were Russian attempts to militarise the study of human psychology. According to Dulles, the Soviets were using mind-control techniques as a weapon in their prosecution of the Cold War. In a speech he made in 1953, he declared this to be a very sophisticated form of “brain warfare”. But as it would later transpire, what the Soviets were doing, in terms of interrogation techniques, was about as traditional and unsophisticated as you could get – beatings, torture, sleep deprivation. There was no “brain washing”, there was no “sick science”, no mass production of “Manchurian candidates”. That was all a paranoid fantasy. But just to be sure, Dulles set up his own program, which would involve dozens of university, hospital and pharmaceutical company research departments, not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of test subjects, many of them unwilling or unwitting participants. Over a period of twenty years, the whole thing ballooned into a vast, drug-fuelled apparatus of mind-control and behaviour modification, a state-sponsored program that crossed all ethical boundaries.

It wasn’t until 1975, when the post-Watergate Church Committee hearings exposed the inner workings of the CIA, that people heard of Project MK-ULTRA for the first time. The initial reaction was incredulity, then abhorrence, but over time public awareness of the program faded and it more or less became a sort of science-fiction or even comic-book trope – something synonymous, in most people’s minds, with crackpot conspiracy theories.

It was real, however, and for some people it was more than that – it was a devastating, irreversible eruption into their lives of unimaginable chaos and disorder.

Under The Night by Alan Glynn published by Faber & Faber (4 October 2018)
In 1950s Manhattan, the CIA carry out a covert study of psychoactive drugs. When they dose ad man Ned Sweeney with MDT-48, he finds his horizons dramatically expand as he is hurtled through the corridors of the rich and powerful, all the way to the government's nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. But what of Ned's colleague who was also dosed that night - last seen running half-naked and screaming into the Broadway traffic - and for how long can Ned maintain the extraordinary pace and trajectory of his new life? Over sixty years later, the only fact Ray Sweeney knows about his grandfather's life is that it ended when he jumped out of a hotel window in Manhattan, an event which scarred his family thereafter. But then Ray meets a retired government official, ninety-two-year-old Clay Proctor, who claims he can illuminate not only Ned's life and death, but also the truth behind the mysterious drug. Under The Night is both a sequel and prequel to Alan Glynn's classic debut, The Dark Fields.  Under the Night is an irresistible thriller about the seductive power and dangers of unlocking the potential of the human mind.

More information about Alan Glynn can be found on his website.  You can find him on Twitter @alanglynnbooks

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