The CIA-FDA Connection

Up until the early 1960s LSD studies had flourished without government restrictions and the CIA had sponsored numerous research projects to enhance its mind control capabilities. In 1962, however, the Technical Services Staff, which ran the MK-ULTRA program, began to orient its behavioral activities exclusively toward operations and away from peripheral long-range studies. This new strategy resulted in the withdrawal of support for many academics and private researchers. Extensive LSD testing was no longer a top priority for the MK-ULTRA crew, which had already learned enough about the drug to understand how it could best be applied in selected covert operations. While acid was still an important part of the cloak-and-dagger arsenal, by this time the CIA and the army had developed a series of superhallucinogens such as the highly touted BZ, which was thought to hold greater promise as a mind control weapon.

In 1962, Congress enacted new regulations which required that anyone who wanted to work with LSD had to receive special permission from the FDA. This was the first of a series of increasingly restrictive measures with respect to LSD research. But the CIA and the military were not inhibited by the new drug laws. A special clause in the regulatory policy allowed the FDA to issue "selective exemptions" that favored certain researchers. With this convenient loophole the FDA never attempted to oversee in-house pharmacological research conducted by the CIA and the military services. Secret arrangements were made whereby these organizations did not even have to file a formal "Claim for Exemption," or IND request. The FDA simply ignored all studies that were classified for reasons of national security, and CIA and military investigators were given free reign to conduct their covert experimentation. Apparently, in the eyes of the FDA, those seeking to develop hallucinogens as weapons were somehow more "sensitive to their scientific integrity and moral and ethical responsibilities" than independent researchers dedicated to exploring the therapeutic potential of LSD.

While aboveground research was being phased out, the CIA and the military continued to experiment with an ever more potent variety of hallucinogens. In effect, the policies of the regulatory agencies were themselves "regulated" by the unique requirements of these secret programs. As an official of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (of which the FDA was part) explained, "We are abdicating our statutory responsibi!ities in this area out of a desire to be courteous to the Department of Defense...rather than out of legal inability to handle classified materials." The same courtesy was proffered to the CIA. The FDA collaborated with the Agency in other ways as well. FDA personnel with special security clearances served as consultants for chemical warfare projects. Information concerning new developments in thc field of psychopharmacology was exchanged through confidential channels. The FDA also provided laboratory facilities and samples of new drugs that might prove useful to the CIA. In light of the FDA's relationship with the intelligence community, it is highly unlikely that a maior policy decision regarding LSD would have been made against the wishes of the CIA.

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An excerpt from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove Press)
Copyright 1985 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
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