Project MKUltra (sometimes called the CIA mind control program) is the code name given to a program of sometimes illegal experiments on humans designed and undertaken by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. The experiments on human beings were intended to identify, develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogation and torture in order to weaken the individual to force confessions through mind control.

The operation began in the early 1950s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, further reduced in 1967, and officially stopped in 1973. The program was implicated in many illegal activities, including the inadvertent use of US and Canadian citizens as their test subjects which led to controversy regarding their legitimacy. MKUltra used numerous methodologies to manipulate people’s mental states and alter brain functions, including the surreptitious administration of drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, among other forms of psychological torture.

The scope of the MKUltra Project was broad, with research conducted at 80 institutions, including 44 universities, hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies. The CIA operated through these institutions using front organizations, although senior officials in these institutions were sometimes aware of CIA involvement.

Project MKUltra was first brought to public attention in 1975 by the US Congressional Church Committee and a Gerald Ford commission to investigate CIA activities in the United States. Investigative efforts were hampered by the fact that CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all MKUltra files in 1973; The Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations relied on the sworn testimony of direct participants and the relatively small number of documents that survived Helms’ destruction order.

In 1977, a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered a cache of 20,000 documents related to the MKUltra project, which led to Senate hearings later that same year. In July 2001, some information surviving MKUltra was declassified.