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Fears that countries hostile to the United States would use chemical and biological agents against Americans or America s allies led to the development of a defensive program designed to discover techniques for American intelligence agencies to detect and counteract chemical and biological agents. Between 1953 and 1966, the C.I.A. financed a research project (code name MKULTRA) that was established to counter Soviet and Chinese advances in brainwashing and interrogation techniques. Subprojects were contracted out to various universities, research foundations, and other institutions. In order to carry out their mission, the C.I.A. was entrusted to protect the heart of all intelligence operations sources and methods. These tests were designed to determine the potential effects of chemical or biological agents when used against an individual unaware that he/she had received a drug. The most notorious MKULTRA experiments were the C.I.A. s pioneering of the drug that would later fill the heads of millions: LSD. The C.I.A. was intrigued by the drug and had hopes that acid or a similar drug could be used to manipulate foreign leaders. LSD was also viewed as a way to loosen tongues in C.I.A. interrogations. In fact, many of the researchers used it. At least two persons died as a result of MKULTRA experiments, and others may have suffered impaired health because of the testing. This type of experimentation is now expressly forbidden throughout the United States. Twenty years later after the conception of the MKULTRA project, all known files pertaining to MKULTRA were destroyed. In 1977, John C. Sims, an attorney, and Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D., located some 8,000 pages of previously undisclosed documents. These consisted mostly of financial records that had inadvertently survived the 1973 records destruction.
The case, C.I.A. v. Sims, was argued from December 4, 1984 to April 16, 1985, and in this case there are two questions being asked. The first one is whether 102(d)(3) of the National Security Act of 1947 exempts from disclosure only those sources of intelligence information to which the Central Intelligence Agency had to guarantee confidentiality to obtain the information. In other words, what the National Security Act is saying is that the Director of Central Intelligence shall be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from disclosure to anyone who is unauthorized. The second question being asked is whether the Freedom of Information Act requires the Agency to disclose the institutional affiliations of persons whose identities were exempt from disclosure as intelligence sources. Intelligence sources mean only those sources to which the C.I.A. had to guarantee confidentiality in order to obtain any information.
The case went to the District Court, the Court of Appeals, and then the Supreme Court. The District Court held that the identities of researchers who had received express guarantees of confidentiality need not be disclosed, and also exempted from disclosure other researchers on the grounds that their work for the C.I.A. required that their identities remain secret. The court further held that there was no need to tell the names of the institutions of the individual researchers whose identity was held. The Court of Appeals said that promising confidentiality to the researchers was not enough, that the C.I.A. had to have sufficient proof that shows they gave confidentiality, so that an individual can be called an intelligence source. The Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court and permitted the Director to withhold the institutional affiliations of the researchers who were held from discloser. The Supreme Court, Chief Justice Burger, held that: the statute requiring the Director of Central Intelligence to protect intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure qualifies as a withholding statute ; institutions and individuals who performed research on a project financed by the C.I.A. were intelligence sources and, therefore, the Director was authorized to withhold their identities; the act did not require the Director to disclose the institutional affiliations of the researchers. Although the Director didn t have to tell the names, he talked with the institutions that worked on MKULTRA to see if it was all right to tell the names and only 59 out of 80 institutions said it was all right. The only thing that the Director didn t attempt to do was contact the 185 private researchers that participated. Judge Bork had a different opinion about the case. He criticized the majority s narrow definition of intelligence sources, urging in particular that there is no reason to think that it was meant to protect sources of information only if the secrecy was needed to obtain the information
The legal issues about the interpretation of the National Security Act of 1947 and the Freedom of Information Act were in conflict with the human rights for an American to know the individuals and institutions involved with the government s actions (Legality v. Morality, human rights). To maintain America s national security, keeping access to knowledge about the C.I.A. actions withheld is more important than any unauthorized individual s right to freedom of knowledge. Intelligent sources or people affiliated with the C.I.A. are protected from anyone discovering their identities witch includes their places of work. The significance of the ruling today is that the Director of the C.I.A. can protect sources and methods from unauthorized individuals. The C.I.A. can keep many projects hidden from the people of the United States. Anyone affiliated with the agency is protected no matter what they do.
Anatomy of a Public Interest Case Against the C.I.A. Part 1
Appendix A Testing and Use of Chemical and Biological Agents by the Intelligence Co.
Elliston, Jon MKULTRA: C.I.A. Mind Control.
FindLaw: United States Case Law: Supreme Court.
Gall, Richard G. Mind Control & MK-ULTRA.
The Government Psychiatric Torture Site.
1977 Senate Hearing on MKULTRA: Prepared Statement of C.I.A. Director Stansfield Turner.
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