A novel and twice made
into a movie, Condon’s creation seems fiction – as it seems
so farfetched, could anyone believe it is real? Nevertheless, Condon
accurately reported on then secret experiments. And perhaps the enormous
scope and implications of the people and powers involved may also conform
Manchurian Candidate was a novel by Richard Condon, which has twice
been made into a movie; once in 1962, the second time in 2004.
The book and the first movie are about how during the Korean War, Raymond
Shaw and ten other men on an Intelligence and Reconnaissance patrol
are captured by the Chinese, brainwashed, and finally released, convinced
that Shaw has heroically saved them. It is a feat of bravery that earns
Shaw the prestigious Medal of Honour, just as the Chinese intended.
Raymond himself is turned into a pliable killing machine: a crack marksman,
a Medal of Honour winner and the stepson of a US senator make him an
ideal sleeper-assassin for his Soviet-Chinese handlers to use when going
after the most prominent of targets.
1962 edition had Frank Sinatra in the role of Bennett Marco, the apparent
“madman” bent on destroying Shaw, even though Marco is one
of the few who realises what is truly going on. Marco was also a former
Korean prisoner who even may know how to save Shaw. The movie was extremely
controversial in the United States. In Finland, the movie was banned
from 1962 till 1989. Nevertheless, it was nominated for two Oscars.
Tina Sinatra, Frank Sinatra’s daughter, was the main mover behind
the remake, when she acquired the rights.
The re-edition is set in an election year, 2004, and is a political
thriller in which the vice president – Shaw – gets killed
on the day of the election. However, he commits a type of “passive
suicide”, as he has understood that he has been brainwashed. This
time, the war is not in Korea, but the Gulf War of the early 1990s.
In the first film and book, “Manchurian” stands for Communists,
bent on world domination. But by 2004, the threat of communism had disappeared.
The global threat is now seen to be corporate totalitarianism, i.e.
Manchurian Global, a powerful powerbroker-think tank on America’s
political landscape. It maps how the US government intersects with multinational
organisations that prosper on war and chaos. As such, the remake also
incorporates a lot of the 1984 – Big Brother mythology.
Washington described the movie as “A frightening what if, if things
like this could happen”. Others stated that they tried to make
the movie to be a mirror of who we are and what we have become, and
a warning; that fiction failed to compare with the reality of the people
who are in the White House.
As examples of “Manchurian Global”, Enron was used as an
example of how big companies stealing are caught stealing money, apparently
fully backed up by those who should insist that laws are obeyed, such
as Arthur Andersen, who went down together with Enron. In the movie,
the makers tried to show that the Spirit of America had become “Corporate
the first film, the brainwashed mind takes its cue when playing solitaire,
in which the Queen of Diamonds “activates” the brainwashed
mind. In the remake, the cue is a series of repetitive verbal “key
words”. There are further echoes of electroshock, sleep deprivation
The Manchurian Candidate is not the only novel or film that tackles
this subject. Others include Conspiracy, starring Mel Gibson and John
Case’s Trance State. Each harkens back to a real scandal: MKULTRA,
aka MK-ULTRA, in which MK stands for Mind Control.
Project MKULTRA was the code name for a CIA mind control research program
lasting from the 1950s to 1970s. It was first brought to wide public
attention, including a U.S. Congress (the Church Committee) and a presidential
commission (the Rockefeller Commission). To quote Ted Kennedy, who served
on one of the investigating committees: "The Deputy Director of
the CIA revealed that over 30 universities and institutions were involved
in an 'extensive testing and experimentation' program which included
covert drug tests on unwitting citizens 'at all social levels, high
and low, native Americans and foreign.' Several of these tests involved
the administration of LSD to 'unwitting subjects in social situations.'
At least one death, that of Dr. Olson, resulted from these activities.
The Agency itself acknowledged that these tests made little scientific
sense. The agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific
The “evil genius” involved in these experiments was Dr.
Sidney Gottlieb, though due credit should go to CIA director Allen Dulles
who issued the order in April 1953, officially in response to alleged
Soviet, Chinese, and North Korean uses of mind control techniques on
U.S. prisoners of war in Korea. The CIA wanted to use similar methods
on their own captives, hoping in the final analysis to be able to manipulate
foreign leaders with such techniques, including Cuba’s Fidel Castro,
who was America’s pet obsession of the 1960s – like Saddam
Hussein of the 1990s, or Qaddafi in the 1980s.
It is remarkable that the highly classified MKULTRA project and Condon’s
novel overlap, including such details as the Korean POWs being a prime
problem. We can only wonder whether Condon “knew” and decided
to fictionalise what he must have known could never be aired at the
time in any other format.
the 1970s, the renewed spirit of the late 1960s not only resulted in
Nixon’s resignation over a scandal, it also meant that scandalous
projects such as MK-ULTRA – which in essence were a continuation
of Nazi experiments on World War II POWs and/or Jews – would come
out. No wonder then that most of the MKULTRA records were deliberately
destroyed in 1972 by order of CIA Director Richard Helms, so that it
would be impossible to have a complete understanding of the more than
150 individually funded research projects sponsored by MKULTRA and the
related CIA programs.
What we do know is that Gottlieb was known to torture victims by locking
them in sensory deprivation chambers while dosed on LSD, or to make
recordings of psychiatric patients' therapy sessions, and then play
a tape loop of the patient's most self-degrading statement over and
over through headphones after the patient had been restrained in a straitjacket
and dosed with LSD.
was not the only evil genius. The experiments were even exported to
Canada when the CIA recruited Albany, New York doctor Ewan Cameron,
author of the psychic driving concept which the CIA found particularly
interesting. In it he described his theory on correcting madness, which
consisted of erasing existing memories and rebuilding the psyche completely;
brainwashing. He commuted to Montreal every week to work at the Allan
Memorial Institute and was paid $69,000 from 1957 to 1964 to carry out
MKULTRA experiments. As he used non US citizens, the CIA’s hands
were officially washed clean, as their remit forbids working on their
Cameron was not some little known scientist. While carrying on the work
of men like Mengele, he became known worldwide as the first chairman
of the World Psychiatric Association, as well as president of the American
and Canadian psychiatric associations. Cameron had actually been a member
of the Nuremberg medical tribunal only a decade earlier.
of this work was paid for by a secretive arrangement that granted a
percentage of the CIA budget: 6% of the CIA operating budget in 1953,
without oversight or accounting.
In December 1974, in the aftermath of Watergate and with a new attitude
to cut through the government secrecy to reveal “the truth”
to the US citizens, The New York Times reported that the CIA had conducted
illegal domestic activities, which resulted by the summer of 1975 of
the first official hearings.
One of the most notorious revelations was how Frank Olson, an Army biochemist
and biological weapons researcher, was given LSD without his knowledge
or consent in 1953 as part of a CIA experiment and apparently committed
suicide a week later following a severe psychotic episode. Olson's son
disputes even this version of events, and maintains that his father
was murdered for far worse knowledge on MK-ULTRA, due to his knowledge
of the sometimes-lethal interrogation techniques employed by the CIA
in Europe, used on cold war prisoners. Frank Olson's body was exhumed
in 1994 and cranial injuries suggested Olson had been knocked unconscious
before being thrown out of the window.
Unsurprisingly, the CIA's own internal investigation claimed that Gottlieb
had conducted the experiment with Olson's prior knowledge, although
neither Olson nor the other men taking part in the experiment had been
informed of the exact nature of the drug until some 20 minutes after
its ingestion. The report further suggested that Gottlieb was nonetheless
due a reprimand, as he had failed to take into account suicidal tendencies
Olson had been diagnosed as suffering from which might well have been
exacerbated by the LSD. Nevertheless, Frank Olson's family received
$750,000 by a special act of Congress, and both President Ford and CIA
director William Colby met with Olson's family to publicly apologize.
Subsequent reports would show that another person, Harold Blauer, a
professional tennis player in New York City, also died as a result of
a secret Army experiment involving mescaline.
the recommendations of the Church Committee, President Gerald Ford in
1976 issued the first Executive Order on Intelligence Activities which,
among other things, prohibited "experimentation with drugs on human
subjects, except with the informed consent, in writing and witnessed
by a disinterested party, of each such human subject" and in accordance
with the guidelines issued by the National Commission. Subsequent orders
by Presidents Carter and Reagan expanded the directive to apply to any
In Canada, the
issue took much longer to surface, only surfacing in 1984. It was learned
that not only had the CIA funded Dr. Cameron's efforts, but perhaps
even more shockingly, that the Canadian government was fully aware of
this, and had later provided another $500,000 in funding to continue
the experiments. This revelation largely derailed efforts by the victims
to sue the CIA as their U.S. counterparts had, and the Canadian government
eventually settled out-of-court for $100,000 to each of the 127 victims.
the 2004 edition, part of the scripts read that “The Assassin
always dies baby. It is necessary for the national healing.”
No wonder then that the original movie was controversial because
of the assassination of President Kennedy. Questions were asked,
such as whether Oswald could have been a real “Manchurian
Candidate”, seeing that he had spent large amounts of time
in the Soviet Union. Had they somehow “turned” him
and then sent him back to the United States, where he somehow
was “activated”, and as an automaton killed the president?
Though the scenario is most likely not true (as Oswald was unlikely
the assassin), the thought itself was enough to cause controversy…
Some researchers, however, have suggested that Oswald was most
likely not, but Oswald’s killer, Jack Ruby, may have been
“piloted” to kill Oswald. In his book "Dallas
Justice," Melvin Belli, Ruby’s first attorney, stated:
"Never once did he [Ruby] voluntarily mention Lee Oswald
by name. Never as far as I could see, was he willing to concede
that there had been this living, breathing human being who had
died at his hands. It was strange because he had the capacity
to summon up sympathy for almost anything." More revealing
were the psychiatric diagnoses made of Ruby. Dr. Walter Bromberg
stated that Ruby was "pre-set to be a fighter, to attack."
He continued, "definitely there is a block to his thinking
which is no part of his original mental endowment." Dr. Roy
Shafer elaborated by saying, "He [Ruby] appears not altogether
in control of his body actions, as if they occur independently
of his conscious will at times."
But it was Dr. Manfred Guttmacher, a leading criminal psychologist,
who threw the cat amongst the pigeons. He testified that Ruby's
brain had been "damaged," but could not unravel exactly
how. He further testified that he felt that at the time of the
shooting Ruby had suffered a "functional psychosis."
"It would be functional, not organic." Dallas Assistant
Attorney Bill Alexander then asked: "Well, by functional
mental psychosis, do you mean a psychotic condition for which
there is no known organic cause?" "Yes."
Guttmacher seems to have been hinting at something that his audience
was not able to comprehend; though underway for at least ten years
by then, MKULTRA remained totally unknown to the general public.
Still, in early 1977 the CIA released a document dated January
22, 1954, raising the question, "Can an individual be made
to perform an act of attempted assassination involuntarily...?"
The document, under the codename "Operation Artichoke,"
took the question a step further, "against a prominent (foreign)
politician or if necessary against an American official?"
The question was left unanswered…
There was at least one reporter who believed Jack Ruby's mind
had been tampered with. It was journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. She
was the only reported to have had a private interview with Ruby
after the killing. Shortly after that interview, she proclaimed
she was going to "blow the JFK case sky high." Somehow,
she suddenly died…