Sex, Drugs & the CIA
Barbara Crowley Smithe was 19 years old in January 1953. She was full-figured, sexy and smart, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a trace of Irish freckles. She lived in Manhattan with her husband Eliot Smithe, and their 20-month old daughter, Valerie.
People who knew Barbara said she was a vibrant, happy young woman, but that she became confused about her sexuality, and gradually lost her self-esteem. Her friends did not know why, but she began to have angry confrontations with Eliot. Arguments led to rough fights and a separation in 1957. Two extra-marital affairs engendered a haunting sense of guilt, guilt led to depression, depression dissolved into despair, and ultimately Barbara succumbed to paranoia.
At her psychiatrist's advice, Barbara was admitted to Stony Lodge Hospital in December 1958. Before long, she and Eliot divorced, and Valerie went to live with Eliot's parents. Institutionalised for much of the next 20 years, Barbara died of leukaemia in February 1978, without ever telling Eliot the secret she took to her grave - the stunning secret that may very well explain her descent into mental illness.
Indeed, Barbara's mental breakdown may be traced to the night of 11 January, 1953, when - without her knowledge or consent - she was given a dose of LSD by an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. After that incredible night, her short, sad life was never the same.
Why would the CIA want to give LSD to a 19-year-old woman with an infant in her arms? What did Barbara Smithe have to do with pressing matters of National Security?
The official explanation dates to 1951, when the CIA received an unsubstantiated report that the Soviet Union was about to corner the world market in LSD. The Soviets were thought to be perfecting drug-induced "brainwashing" techniques, and the CIA reeled at the prospect of Russian agents dumping LSD into New York's water supply and then using insidious Communist propaganda to turn drug-addled American citizens against their own government.
While this frightening scenario never did materialise, the CIA was able to use it as a pretext to start testing LSD on friends and foes alike. The spy agency's ultimate objective was to develop the capability to entrap and blackmail spies, diplomats, and politicians - ours, as well as theirs.
The CIA called its experimental LSD "mind-control" project MKULTRA.
After a year of conducting MKULTRA experiments in laboratories, the CIA's researchers decided they needed to start testing LSD in "real life" settings. In order to do this, however, they needed a "front", so they asked Harry Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), to provide them with an agent who was capable of finding suitable test subjects within the arcane setting of narcotics control. Subjects were to be FBN informants, drug addicts and drug peddlers, prostitutes, pornographers, and other degenerate underworld characters - in other words, people who were already compromised by their deviant behaviours, and would be unable to complain to the police if they were damaged during the LSD experiments.
The Double Man
The man Anslinger selected for the MKULTRA job was George Hunter White. A highly successful and flamboyant federal narcotic agent since1935, White's claim to fame was a 1937 undercover case he made against the notorious drug smuggling Sino-American trade association, the Hip Sing T'ong. Posing as John Wilson, the nephew of his "Uncle Sam" (a hitherto unknown hood who was forming a new drug syndicate), White crossed the country contracting with Hip Sing T'ong members for huge purchases of opium.
According to legend, White, a Caucasian, was initiated into the T'ong, swearing to accept "death by fire" should he ever break its sacred oath of secrecy. The investigation climaxed in November 1937 with a series of spectacular mass arrests, including several prominent Mafiosi. The case cemented White's status as the FBN's top agent, and subsequently involved him its most important, secret investigations.
At five feet seven inches tall, and weighing a rotund 200 pounds, White, who shaved his head completely bald, was the image of a tough detective, the kind who made bad guys tip their hats and speak politely to cops. A native of California, he was ebullient and brash, and as a former crime reporter for the 'San Francisco Call Bulletin', had a nose for sniffing out trouble. And trouble was what White enjoyed more than anything else. Rough and tough and good with his fists, White led his fellow federal agents into many a fight with the country's most vicious hoods. More importantly, his many newspaper contacts were always available to his publicity hunger boss, and after he extricated Anslinger's stepson from an undisclosed legal problem, White became the Commissioner's favourite and most trusted agent.
The main reason White was given the MKULTRA LSD testing assignment, was that he had acquired clandestine drug testing experience during the Second World War. In 1943 he had been transferred from the FBN to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Assigned to the spy agency as a counter-intelligence officer, Major White became deeply involved in OSS "truth drug" experiments, in which distilled marijuana was used in the interrogation of prisoners of war, suspected double agents, and conscientious objectors. White's "truth drug" experiments continued until at least 1947.
White also was selected for the MKULTRA assignment because he was a disgruntled employee. After the war he had returned to the FBN and by 1950 was serving in New York City, where, apart from his work as a federal narcotic agent, he participated in a number of sensitive "political" investigations for the US Government. Among his special assignments, White worked briefly with Assistant US Attorney Roy Cohn and Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) rooting Communists out of the CIA and the State Department, and from mid-1950 until early 1951 he served as the chief investigator for Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) in a nationwide expose of organised crime. But White was impetuous and overstepped his bounds. First he incurred Harry Truman's wrath by attempting to link the President to organised crime in Kansas City. And in early 1951 he was fired from the Kefauver Committee for leaking classified information. But the final blow came a few months later when the Kefauver Committee aired allegations that New York Governor Thomas Dewey had commuted Lucky Luciano's prison sentence for a sizeable campaign contribution. The allegation was base on a memorandum White had written in 1947, and in retaliation, the sullied Governor banished White from New York.
Dewey's edict was a disappointment to White, whose ambition at the time was to serve as the FBN's district supervisor in New York. But White was too important to be dismissed offhand: the MKULTRA Program, which was to be established in New York, was already in the works, and so Commissioner Anslinger simply reassigned him as district supervisor in Boston. But White was rarely there. Instead he kept his apartment in New York while awaiting his final security clearance from the CIA. He was still an employee of the FBN, but he was bitter about the roadblock in his narcotic law enforcement career, and was hoping to find steady employment with the CIA. In this spirit, George White willingly and energetically embarked on his CIA, MKULTRA assignment.
Partners in crime
Although George White had notoriety and powerful friends, and existed above the law as one of Espionage Establishment's "protected few", he was a deeply conflicted man. His first wife, Ruth, deserted him in 1945, calling him "a fat slob," and according to psychological reports compiled while he was applying for employment with the CIA, White compensated for that humiliation by seeking attention, and by hurting people. This was the third reason why the CIA accepted him for the MKULTRA job: George White was a sado-masochist with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, kinky sex, and power.
The archetypal Double Man, White, however, had the ability to charm as well as to repulse, and on 18 August 1951 he married his second wife, Albertine Calef, a clothing buyer at the Abraham and Strauss department store in Brooklyn. Described as a "bubbly" woman, Tine was born in New York of Egyptian Jewish parents. When interviewed for this article, Tine expressed nothing but devotion to the memory of her former husband. She described him as "effective and punctual, a great raconteur, a voracious reader of non-fiction books, and a very good writer." According to her, George White was a liberal Democrat who never picked a fight or resorted to strong-arm tactics.
Tine apparently turned a blind eye toward her husband's deviant behaviour. They shared a comfortable apartment at 59 West 12th Street in Greenwich Village, and hob-nobbed with politicians, diplomats, law enforcement officials, artists and writers. Tine thoroughly enjoyed the fast company her husband kept, and in order to maintain her exciting lifestyle, she stood by and did nothing when he poisoned Barbara Smithe with LSD. Indeed, when this writer asked her what George White did to Barbara on the nightescended into a string of expletives that would have embarrassed a sailor. Her tirade left this writer with the firm impression that she was thoroughly capable of having been White's accomplice in his dirty work.
The fatal flaw
By 1952 White's advancement within the FBN had come to a halt, and he was seeking full-time employment with the CIA. For both parties, the timing could not have been better. In April 1952 White was introduced to Dr Sidney Gottlieb, a club-footed, stuttering, Brooklyn-born officer in the CIA's Technical Services Division and chief of its nascent MKULTRA drug-testing program. White and Gottlieb formed an immediate rapport, and when White's background check was completed in July 1952, Dr Gottlieb hired him. For the next 13 years, White conducted MKULTRA experiments, first in New York City from 1952 through 1955, and then in San Francisco from 1955 until his retirement from the FBN in 1965.
White's sadistic streak, underworld contacts, flexible status with the FBN, and experience in "truth drug" experiments, combined to make him the perfect choice to begin testing LSD on unsuspecting American citizens. But White was an anomaly who secretly resented the elitists who ran the CIA. He also had literary ambitions, and, against strict CIA regulations, he kept a diary of his daily activities.
According to his diary (portions of which were released to this writer as part of a 1994 Freedom of Information Act Request), White conducted his first LSD experiment on 21 September 1952 on a hapless hoodlum named "Tony". White did not record the results of that initial test, but his diary indicates that he met regularly through November with Dr Gottlieb and other top CIA officials regarding his LSD experiments. Notably, these meetings were only one side of his Jekyll-Hyde personality; White simultaneously was working undercover on federal narcotic cases and, in that capacity, he posed alternately as a merchant seaman or a bohemian artist, and consorted with a vast array of underworld characters, all of whom were involved in vice, including drugs, prostitution, gambling, and pornography.
It was under his assumed, bohemian artist persona that White would entrap most of his MKULTRA victims, including Barbara Smithe, whom he first met on December 28th, 1952.
In order to avoid a lawsuit filed by this writer in federal district court, the CIA, in February 2000, released approximately 90 pages from White's diary. The CIA censors were required to redact the names of White's victims, but they inadvertently released a set of pages naming several of the victims, including Barbara Smithe and her husband, Eliot.
Eliot Smithe was located through a computer search, and generously agreed to speak on the record both about his brief association with George White, and the strange event that occurred in New York on 11 January, 1953 - an event Eliot was unaware of until he received a letter, dated 18 July 1979, from CIA officer Frank Laubinger of the Victims Task Force. The startling letter informed Eliot that the CIA, at the request of Congress, was investigating the MKULTRA Program, and that George White might have given Eliot's recently deceased wife a surreptitious dose of LSD.
Born in 1926 and raised in a suburb of New York, Eliot was attending Upsala College in New Jersey when, through a mutual friend, he met Barbara Crowley on a blind date. Barbara was 16 and a high school senior from East Orange. They started going steady and when Barbara became pregnant, Eliot, on his father's advice, asked her to marry him.
"I was confused, not in love," he explains. "But it was the right thing to do, and I thought love would follow."
Eliot and Barbara were married in September 1950 and their daughter, Valerie, was born the following May. Eliot went to work for the family business, the F L Smithe Machine Company, and Barbara stayed at home and took care of their child. She was a good mother, but naive, with no real interests of her own. Eliot was seven years older and far more worldly-wise. He'd spent two years in the Navy and was a college graduate with a degree in English literature, so Barbara tended to follow his lead in everything.
Unfortunately, Eliot abused his power over Barbara, and projected his personal problem onto his young wife. His biggest problem was, in his own words, that he liked to "skirt the edge." He describes himself as "immature, irresponsible, and erratic," and confesses that he had tried psychotherapy as a way of understanding and controlling his sexual compulsions. But the compulsions persisted, even after he married Barbara. Their first apartment was on 168th Street and Riverside Drive, but they soon moved to 74th Street and Columbus Avenue, in Eliot's words, "to be closer to the action."
"The action" was promiscuous sex in the swinging Greenwich Village scene.
Long before he met Barbara, Eliot had been indulging his sexual fantasies in the Village, and at one fateful party he met Gil Fox, a writer of soft-core pornography. Gil's books dealt with lesbian sex in an inhibited 1950s fashion, referring, for example, to a woman's "secret place." But sex clearly was the subject, and bringing the reader to climax through masturbation at certain points in the narrative was, according to Gil, the object.
Something of a sexual predator, Gil immediately recognised that Eliot was looking for sexual adventures and he invited Eliot, and Eliot's current girlfriend (not Barbara), to participate in a "foursome" with him and his attractive wife, Pat.
"Gil was a charmer," Eliot recalls, "so we agreed. But it wasn't a success. He asked me to peel Pat's stocking off with my teeth, and I tried, but I found myself getting red with rage. It was impossible for me to act against my will. Luckily Gil realised this and told Pat to let me go, which she did. They treated me with kid gloves and because of that we remained friends. We decided to forgot the whole thing."
After he married Barbara, Eliot continued to socialise with Gil and Pat Fox. In fact, Gil dedicated his book, 'And Baby Makes Three', to Barbara and Eliot Smithe.
It was through Gil that Barbara and Eliot met George White.
Sex & drugs & CIA schemes
Gil Fox served in the US Army Air Force as a bombardier in the Second World War, and in 1948 he graduated from Bolling Green College in Ohio with a degree in musicology. At Bolling Green he met Pat, whom he describes as the most beautiful girl on campus. They were married in their junior year and after graduation moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Gil taught music.
But Gil wasn't your typical trombone teacher. His real interest was in writing about sexual deviation, especially lesbians and fetishes. Pat shared his interests and, after tiring of Chapel Hill, they moved to New York in 1950. A Chapel Hill resident who enjoyed spanking provided Gil with a letter of introduction to John Willie, an artist whose speciality was drawing pictures of women wearing high heels. Gil met Willie at a bar on McDougal Street and began writing pornographic novels for Willie's Woodford Press. Shortly thereafter Gil decided to self-publish. He set up Vixen Press at his apartment at 125 Christopher Street, and began writing a book a month under the aliases Dallas Mayo, Paul V Russo, and Kimberly Kemp.
The first mention of Gil Fox in George White's diary occurs on 6 November 1952.
"I knew George well," Gil explains. "Extremely well, in a strange way. George was into high heels. That was his major fetish, and we met through John Willie. Willie was putting out a little magazine called 'Bizarre' that featured women in high heels, and White liked it. He liked my books too, and he asked me to write about high heels.
"Later I did a semi-analysis of him," Gil explains. "As a child, White had been infatuated with an aunt who wore high heels. He was an interesting guy with a sensitive side. He loved to hold and pet little birds, like canaries. But he was a gin drunk. He drank morning noon and night. At parties he would prepare two pitchers of martinis, one for everyone else, and one for himself. He was playing out his sexual fantasies too. One time Pat and I went with him to see his hooker girlfriend at a hotel. She tied him up and strapped him to the bed and whipped his ass. She had on high heels.
"Tine knew George was playing around," Gil adds, "but she was a social climber and she pushed him to succeed. At the time George was big into the New York mayoral election. The candidate he was backing, Rudolph Halley, had been chief of staff on the Kefauver Committee and was running for mayor on the Fusion Party ticket. If Halley won the election, he was going to make George the Commissioner of the NYPD.
"Anyway, as long as Tine wore high heeled boots, George tolerated her. He would lace her into a special pair of high heeled boots. Those high-heeled boots made up their sex life together."
An entry in White's diary notes that he and Tine had the Foxes to their apartment for drinks on Friday night, 28 November, 1952. Kai Jurgenson, a drama professor from Chapel Hill, and Kai's wife, Jo, were also present - and White dosed them all with LSD. The subjects, White wrote in his diary, had a "delayed reaction" and not until the following day did Gil call him regarding Pat's "symptoms". Gil, according to White's diary, was "puzzled".
As Gil recalls: "We were all boozing and smoking pot in those days, including George, and one night George gave us LSD. He slipped it to us secretly. Kai and Jo were visiting us at Christopher Street and we went to the Whites. Afterwards we went slumming around the Lower Village. It was snowing. We stopped the car on Cornelius Street and the snow was red and green and blue - a thousand beautiful colors - and we were dancing in the street. Jo thought she had lace gloves up to her elbows. Then we went into a lesbian bar, but that freaked-out Pat and Jo. Pat had trouble coming off the trip, and Jo later went wacko, like Eliot's wife. And Jo eventually divorced Kai too.
"I was angry at George for that," Gil concludes. "It turned out to be a bad thing to do to people, but we didn't realise it at the time."
Indeed, on 14 December, the Foxes again socialised with the Whites, as if nothing unusual had happened. And considering the proclivities of the Foxes and their milieu, to a large extent that was true.
11 January, 1953
"I was into people on the edge," Eliot explains, "and Gil said he knew some people over on the West Side that I might like to meet. I'm not trying to make excuses but I was 25 going on 17, and the Foxes were our friends, and I had no idea that White was a government agent. So Barbara and I went to see them.
"I remember George was fat and bull-like, with a large head and knots on the back of his neck. He was gruff, but wore a nice suit and was well spoken. Tine was in her thirties and very pretty. I had an immediate sexual attraction to her - which White recognised. He showed me a closet full of her shoes, the kind with spiked heels. He was trying to find out what fetishes I was interested in, and he alluded to Tine, who was the bait, and was aware she was bait. Barbara was very good looking too, and it was obvious that they were trying to get us into a sex scene. But because White was so gross I moved away and there never was one."
At least, there never was a sex scene with Eliot.
Eliot enjoyed the fact that his wife, like Pat Fox and Tine White, attracted men. But while he was away on a business trip, the Whites invited Barbara back to their place for dinner and drinks. It was 11 January, 1953, and Barbara was so naive and so trusting that she brought along her 20-month-old baby, Valerie.
Two other women were present that evening: Clarice Stein, a co-worker of Tine's at Abraham & Strauss; and Francine Kramer, a linen buyer at Macy's and a good friend of Tine's. As White noted in his diary, Francine unexpectedly stopped by later that evening and interrupted the LSD experiment he was conducting on Barbara and Clarice.
It was an experiment that ended traumatically for Clarice. As White scribbled in his diary, Clarice got "the Horrors".
After being notified by the Victims Task Force that she too may have been one of White's test subjects, Clarice wrote a letter to the CIA describing what happened that night. In the letter, dated 12 November, 1979, she explained that she lived nearby in the Village and often went to the Whites' apartment after work. She recalled that Barbara was present with her baby daughter that fateful evening, and that George White served martinis, after which Barbara, Tine, and Clarice embarked on a "laughing jag".
When Clarice got home, multicoloured images appeared whenever she closed her eyes. She became frightened but when she called White, he told her not to bother him. He hung up the phone. Her fear evolved into abject terror. She promised herself that if she never fell asleep again, she "would kill myself."
Clarice tried calling White three or four more times that night, each time begging him to tell her what he had put in her drink so she could call her doctor and ask for something to counteract it. White was unsympathetic and hung up every time.
Finally in the morning Clarice called a friend (she did not want to alarm her parents), who remained with her until the symptoms subsided and she fell asleep later that night. Several days elapsed before she returned to work, where, out of necessity, she continued to have a professional relationship with Tine. Resentful and hurt, Clarice cooled their friendship for several months. And yet even though she could never forgive George White, she ineluctably drifted back into his captivating social scene. To this day, Clarice remains friends with Tine.
Her Secret Heart
For some reason, Barbara never told Eliot about her LSD experience. This is one of the great mysteries of her mental illness. Why didn't she tell?
It was not until CIA officer Frank Laubinger wrote to him in July 1979, on behalf of the Victims Task Force, that Eliot learned that his wife had been given LSD. Barbara had died from cancer a mere seven months earlier. She and Eliot had separated in 1957 after a tumultuous marriage, and he'd had little contact with her for over 20 years. Then Laubinger's letter unlocked all of his repressed memories and emotions.
"Barbara was healthy in the early days of our marriage," Eliot recalls. "She was a good wife and mother and I never sensed that she fooled around. But I never knew what was in her secret heart. I can't remember exactly when she began to deteriorate, but it was several years into our marriage, and it got progressively worse. We started going for counselling, but that didn't help, and eventually we separated. She went to live with her parents and later, out of a desire to possess her, I called and asked for a reconciliation.
"When I got to her house she was cowering in a corner. She thought the Mafia was out to get her. Her parents were unable to cope with the problem, so on our psychiatrist's advice I admitted her to Stony Lodge Hospital in December 1958. Not long after that we got divorced, and Valerie went to live with my parents.
"I can't explain why Barbara broke down," Eliot says matter-of-factly. "The psychiatrist told me I was partially to blame, and it's true that I wasn't the best supporter. But after talking with Laubinger, I was ready to accept the possibility that her problems were the result of a reaction to the LSD. Laubinger implied that the LSD experiment had contributed to her mental illness, so I decided to sue the CIA."
Wrangling with the CIA
In October 1979, Eliot hired the law firm of Rogovin, Stern, and Huge to represent him on a contingency basis and to seek compensation from the CIA on the premise that Barbara's mental illness was caused by a surreptitious dose of LSD administered by George White. There was just one catch. Senior partner Mitchell Rogovin, a former assistant attorney general in the Johnson administration, had worked for the CIA on a number of occasions, and that raised the spectre of a conflict of interest. But Rogovin assured Eliot that the CIA's General Counsel did not anticipate any problems in that respect. On the contrary, Rogovin told Eliot that the CIA had expressed a desire to settle the case rather than litigate.
Laubinger, meanwhile, had contacted Clarice, and she too had decided to sue the CIA. She was living in Florida with her husband Sol Smithline, a retired attorney who represented her in the case. Clarice had developed a rare type of cancer, and in her claim against the CIA her physician stated his belief that the cancer might have originated with the surreptitious dose of LSD. Treatments for the cancer had saddled Clarice with diabetes, glaucoma and cataracts, and she was suing the CIA for $150,000 in damages.
Clarice already was suing the CIA when Eliot hired the Rogovin law firm. They never actually met, but through Laubinger they became aware of each other's cases, and they decided to join forces, at which point Sol Smithline gave the Rogovin law firm a copy of Clarice's claim. Barbara, of course, had died of cancer in February 1978, and the fact that both women had developed cancer led all of the plaintiffs to the inevitable conclusion that there was a causal relationship between the LSD and the cancer. Taken together the separate cases were a powerful one-two punch, and Eliot, based on Rogovin's assurances, was certain the CIA would settle without a fight.
Unanticipated problems developed, however, when the Rogovin law firm began to research the long-term effects of LSD. The firm asked several qualified doctors if there could have been a causal relationship between the surreptitious dose of LSD and Barbara's breakdown several years later, but a "qualified maybe" was the unanimous response.
The CIA had reached the same conclusion and on 15 February, 1980, shortly after the Rogovin law firm completed its research, CIA attorney William Allard sent a letter to the Smithlines characterising their offer as "excessive" and asserting that there were no facts on which to base the belief that Clarice's problems were caused by LSD. Allard said her fright and anxiety had been limited to a few days, and the only provable problem was the brief strain on her friendship with Tine. Allard made the Smithlines a counter-offer of $5,000.
On 1 March, the Smithlines lowered their price to $110,000. In the letter to the CIA, Clarice said that the anxiety and terror of the LSD trip had left an indelible stamp on her memory. She still got an icy reaction whenever she recalled the incident.
On 21 March, Allard again denied her claim and shortly thereafter Clarice settled for $15,000 - and a gratuitous visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Meanwhile, as Rogovin informed Eliot, the CIA changed its strategy. Instead of settling, it decided to face the bad publicity a lawsuit might generate. But Eliot pressed ahead and, on 16 May 1980, he submitted a $2,500,000 Claim for Damage, Injury, and Death against the CIA. The Claim argued that Barbara began to manifest the mental problems that contributed to her divorce from Eliot, and her inability to care for Valerie, only after White slipped her an undetermined dosage of LSD.
The Claim also argued that LSD contributed to Barbara's death. It noted that White's boss, Dr Gottlieb, had monitored the LSD tests, but had made no effort to inform Barbara, even though he later became aware of her subsequent mental problems.
Notably, Dr Gottlieb in 1972 and 1973 destroyed all MKULTRA operational files, including White's reports, in order to cover their tracks.
The CIA's response was predictable in light of the Smithline case. On 28 July 1980, CIA General Counsel Daniel B Silver responded to Eliot's Claim by saying there was no evidence that Barbara was ever given LSD. Despite Clarice's testimony, Silver said it was impossible "to reconstruct the details of the unfortunate and reprehensible course of conduct followed by George White."
Seeking to bolster its case, the Rogovin firm sought a court order for medical records from Stony Lodge Hospital, and it contacted Barbara's psychiatrist. With these two actions, the case fell apart.
What the Medical Records Revealed
Barbara was admitted to Stony Lodge Hospital on 2 December 1958, when she was only 25 years old. Dr Milton Berger, the psychiatrist who had been treating her for over a year, referred her there. A Clinical Summary composed during her initial intake described Barbara as "above average intelligence" and "rather attractive". But her hair was dishevelled, and she was apprehensive, confused, and restless. She was agreeable and tried to co-operate, but her thoughts were scattered. She was depressed and afraid that gangsters planned to get rid of her because she had talked much about the labour rackets. She felt her telephone was tapped and that "they" were listening. She expressed feelings of guilt about two affairs she had had after her separation from Eliot. She felt she was paying for her wrongdoing. Barbara was diagnosed as having had "a symptomatic schizophrenic episode."
Several days of testing followed this initial intake. During these tests Barbara seemed fatigued and perplexed, with motor retardation. She said her marriage was bad to begin with. "My husband kept threatening to kill me and I felt someone was going to kill me - shoot me," she told the doctors.
Barbara felt rejected by Eliot. She sensed that he didn't like her or think much of her as a person, because he constantly tried to get her to change her appearance and behaviour. He demanded that she wear tight clothes and pretend to be different people - a ballet dancer in one instance, a burlesque queen in another - to satisfy whatever fantasy he had at the moment. Seeking his approval, she would pose for him and act sexy in front of other men. Eliot would get angry if they did notice her, or if they did not. Either way she lost, but for some reason, Barbara blamed herself. "I would just never try to make a go of things, and I'd keep going out to try to find someone else to fall in love with," she said.
Barbara described herself as follows: "I find myself very confused. I have a short span of interest, and my mind wanders. I used to think I was so right, but now I see that I did a lot of things that caused a lot of friction."
Applying Freudian theories that were popular at the time, the doctors diagnosed Barbara as having psychosexual confusion, problems with authority, and a "precarious contact with reality." They said she was a chronic paranoid with depression superimposed - that she had doubts about her feminine identity, felt inadequate in personal relationships, viewed her environment as rejecting and hostile, and had a suicidal preoccupation.
The most damaging information for Eliot's lawsuit came from Barbara's psychiatrist, Dr Berger, who informed the Rogovin firm that he would testify as a "hostile witness" against Eliot. Berger said that Barbara told him that Eliot was associating with racketeers, abused her verbally, and threatened her with a knife.
Despite the fact that there was hearsay evidence that Dr Berger had made sexual advances toward Barbara while she was his patient, Eliot's lawyers considered his testimony to be a death warrant. They abandoned the case in April 1981, saying it was too difficult to prove a causal relationship between a dose of LSD administered in 1953, and Barbara's breakdown in 1958. Furthermore, the medical reports were specious, and the CIA would certainly use them to discredit Eliot. The final nail in the coffin was the possibility that Barbara's father may also have suffered from paranoia.
"I should have settled right away," Eliot concedes, "but the climate changed and the law firm abdicated. I was kind of tired of it by then, anyway. They said they would help me find another lawyer, but they didn't. Then they sent me a bill for about $1000. I never paid it, and they never asked again."
Eliot denies having any underworld connections. He did carry a knife for a while, and he admits that this frightened Barbara. But they were squabbling over alimony at the time, and Eliot believes that their legal hassles may have motivated her to exaggerate her concerns to Dr Berger.
He does, however, admit that he played a role in her breakdown. "I harassed her for a year after she kicked me out," he confesses. "I thought of her as a possession. For me it was always just a sexual attraction."
Perhaps subconsciously, Eliot may have wanted the relationship to end. On the day she kicked him out, he appeared before his wife and daughter (deleted at Eliot's request).
For all of these reasons, Eliot felt remorse. After Barbara was re-admitted to Stony Lodge in 1962, he visited her and discovered that the doctors had, in his opinion, damaged her brain with electroshock. "They called it 'regressive therapy'," he explains, "but they never were able to reconstruct her personality."
What emerges from the story so far is the likelihood that Barbara secretly went to the Whites' apartment looking for something she could never obtain from Eliot. Had Eliot been a caring and supportive husband, she might not have gone. Or she might have trusted him enough to tell him about her visit and the bizarre experience that ensued.
Possibly she enjoyed the LSD trip. But considering the paranoia she developed later in life, it's more likely that she, like Clarice, was traumatised, and that she buried the trauma in her subconscious mind, like a war veteran burying some horrible combat experience, only to have it emerge years later as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
It is possible, too, that the CIA was responsible for exacerbating the seeds of doubt, guilt, and self-loathing that evolved into Barbara's paranoia. White put LSD in her drink while she was in a compromising position. She was with her infant daughter, without her husband. In a similar situation, Clarice decided not to tell her parents - the authority figures in her life at the time.
The overwhelming question is, what exactly happened to Barbara that night? Clarice cannot recall if Barbara left the Whites' apartment before her. Because she was tripping on LSD, she cannot even recall walking home. She wonders why George White would do such a horrible thing to a friend, let alone to a woman with a baby?
Did White take advantage of Barbara while she was defenceless under the influence of LSD? Eliot wonders if White molested Barbara? If White did abuse her while she was out of her mind on LSD, would she risk telling Eliot, whom she knew to be jealous at worst, and unsympathetic at best?
It is agonising to imagine Barbara's predicament. How did she manage to care for her child? Like Clarice, did she fear she might never fall asleep again? That terrifying thought made Clarice contemplate suicide. Did it also plant the first suicidal thoughts in Barbara's mind?
Clarice does not recall what happened to Barbara that night, and Tine isn't saying. So none of these questions will ever be answered. But plenty of evidence suggests that the CIA conspired to conceal the truth about what really happened on the evening of 11 January, 1953.
The Missing Pieces
Mitchell Rogovin initially told Eliot that his prior relationship with the CIA was unrelated to the case. Later, however, he advised Eliot that the CIA did intend to assert a conflict if the case went to trial. Does that mean that Rogovin, in some way, was involved in the MKULTRA Program?
In addition, the Rogovin firm may have given Eliot misinformation about a crucial matter of law. In a 8 February, 1980, internal memorandum, the Rogovin firm said that Eliot could not sue the federal government for battery, because White was working for the CIA at the time he dosed Barbara. But in testimony before the Senate in 1977, Gottlieb said that White was being paid directly by the CIA for only three to six months. Gottlieb could not remember the time frame, but he testified that all of the operations White conducted involved Bureau of Narcotics interests. A May 1953 entry in White's diary indicates that he returned to the Bureau of Narcotics that month. And if White was only on the CIA's payroll for three months, as Gottlieb testified, then he was a bona fide federal law enforcement officer when he dosed Barbara with LSD. The government could have been sued.
Another questionable incident occurred in early 1981, when Rogovin met with John Blake, the Staff Director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, whom he described to Eliot as "a former Deputy Director of the CIA." In fact, Blake had been the CIA's Deputy Director of Administration, and in that capacity was the direct supervisor of CIA officer Robert Wiltse, the chief of the Victims Task Force. According to Rogovin, Blake in turn introduced him to John Bross, "an old-time CIA man who recently returned from retirement to the Agency to assist in the transition to the New CIA Director, William Casey." Rogovin expressed the hope that Bross would convince the CIA to look more favourably on a pre-lawsuit settlement. But that never happened, and one must wonder what role Blake actually played in the negotiations.
Finally, a July 1978 memorandum from John Blake to the Director of Central Intelligence, Stansfield Turner, refers to a strategy paper for defending the CIA against lawsuits by victims of the MKULTRA Program. The CIA's Assistant General Counsel Anthony Lapham composed the paper. While serving as a special assistant to Assistant Secretary of the Treasury David Acheson in the mid-1960s, Lapham was responsible for liaison with the CIA regarding its relationship with the Bureau of Narcotics. In this capacity, Lapham was aware of the existence and purpose of several MKULTRA "safehouses," the first of which was established by George White in Greenwich Village in June 1953. Indeed, in 1966, Lapham directed FBN agent Andrew Tartaglino to shut down a second MKULTRA safehouse on 13th Street in New York.
Furthermore, on 23 January, 1967, Lapham met with Dr Sidney Gottlieb and several other CIA and Treasury officials in sensitive discussions concerning an investigation by Senator Edward Long (D-MS). As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Invasion of Privacy, Long was probing allegations of illegal wiretapping by various branches of the US government, and his staff had stumbled on the existence of the MKULTRA safehouses. A 30 January, 1967, memorandum, written by Gottlieb, records the CIA's on-going efforts to conceal its involvement with the MKULTRA safehouses from Senator Long. When asked if the CIA was using the Narcotics Bureau as a "front" for domestic operations, Gottlieb said no. He told the Treasury Department officials that the "pads" were only used for routine narcotics operations.
Lapham knew this wasn't true. And 10 years later he designed the CIA's strategy against MKULTRA-related lawsuits. If anyone had a conflict of interest in the Victims Task Force case, it was Tony Lapham. But his activities have never been questioned, let alone investigated.
The Causal Relationship
Entries in his diary conclusively prove that George White gave Barbara Smithe LSD. A surreptitious dose of LSD is battery, and Clarice testified that it was delivered to Barbara. So why didn't Rogovin pursue this issue? Why did he emphasise the potential damage of Dr Berger's testimony instead, when there was hearsay evidence that Berger had made sexual advances toward Barbara while she was his patient?
Considering this, one must also wonder if the electroshock treatments were prescribed for Barbara's benefit, or if they were designed to erase memories of George White from her troubled mind?
Although his firm generated evidence to support the theory that LSD was the "precipitating agent" in Barbara's paranoia, Rogovin seems to have ignored it. As the Rogovin firm noted in a 15 January, 1980, report it provided to Eliot, LSD was thought to precipitate a "model fit" of schizophrenia. There was a consensus in the research community that LSD flashbacks could occur and cause mental illness, and there was agreement that unwitting ingestion was an important contributing factor to adverse LSD reactions. Unwitting ingestion represented "a maximally stressful event because the perceptual and ideational distortions then occur without the saving knowledge that they were drug induced and temporary."
One researcher concluded, "the hallucinogenic experience is so striking that many subsequent disturbances may be attributed to it without further justification."
Even the CIA had uncovered evidence that LSD may have caused Barbara's breakdown. A year before the Rogovin firm conducted its research into LSD, Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner, in a letter dated 10 January, 1979, asked the Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) to study the problem. In his personal response to Turner, HEW Administrator Joseph A Califano said, "We believe it may be assumed that where studies with these drugs were conducted in academic institutions by reputable investigators, any short-term consequences would have been detected. But if the CIA administered these drugs to persons under other circumstances, we believe you should take all possible steps to ascertain whether any individuals might have been injured as a consequence of their participation in such research."
George White gave Barbara Smithe LSD in his apartment, while she was with her 20-month old daughter, and yet the Rogovin firm decided to drop the case. Why?
Lowlifes on LSD
Deviants were not the only subject population of the CIA's LSD experiments. As an August 1963 report on MKULTRA, authored by the CIA Inspector General John Earman, clearly stated, "the effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native American and foreign, is of great significance and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories."
Entries in George White's diary indicate that several MKULTRA victims were dosed at a safehouse he rented with CIA money in Greenwich Village. In June 1953, White received $4,100 from Dr Gottlieb. He deposited the money in the National City Bank and used it to rent an apartment at 81 Bedford Street. Helping White decorate the apartment with Toulouse-Lautrec posters was his "Special Employee" Pierre Lafitte, who also hired prostitutes to lure victims into White's lair. Also assisting White were Gil and Pat Fox.
"Tine knew that George was dosing people," Gil Fox explains. "It was his job, and when George was working LSD he rented an apartment in the Village at 81 Bedford Street. He set himself up as an artist/painter named Morgan Hall. He had Pat, who was an artist, paint murals on the walls."
Other people helped White as well, including other FBN agents, and White's close friend Irwin Eisenberg. A wealthy industrialist from California, Eisenberg owned an expensive home in Larchmont, New York. White often visited Eisenberg there, and in his diary he describes swimming in the estate's spacious pool.
According to CIA officer Laubinger, Eisenberg was a "benefactor of the arts" who in 1953 was sponsoring the career of Linda King, an aspiring New York actress. An entry in White's diary notes that he invited Linda to the Bedford "pad" on 12 September, 1953. A subsequent entry indicates that Linda became "psychotic" and that Tine took her to Lenox Hills Hospital on East 77th Street and Park Avenue. When Linda arrived at the hospital she claimed White had "drugged" her. But nothing came of the incident. Evidently the CIA arranged an accommodation with the medical department of the New York City Police department to protect White from any hassles with victims.
"We knew he was a federal narcotic agent and was giving people LSD," Gil Fox says. "He would invite people to Bedford pad, dose them with LSD, and then take photographs of them through a two-way mirror. But I never got into it. We weren't interested in that aspect of his life. He wanted to keep that aspect of his lifestyle secret. At the time LSD was great fun, that's all. Then sub-agent Olson walked out the window, and that's when the shit hit the fan."
On 26 November, 1953, Defense Department employee Frank Olson, who had been working on the MKULTRA Program, allegedly ran through a window and fell to his death from the tenth floor of the Statler Hotel in New York City. Several days before, Olson had been given a surreptitious dose of LSD by Dr Gottlieb. Olson's death was ruled a suicide by the CIA and the NYPD.
Clarice Smithline never forgave George White. She describes him as a mean man who drank all day and kept lots of guns on the table. Once he crushed her curtains because, he said, they were too pretty.
But she respected him, too. After he retired as the FBN's District Supervisor in San Francisco, White invited his father to live with him and Tine at their apartment in town. There was a fire in the apartment and George rescued his father. But he could not get back inside to save his beloved parrot.
"Why," Clarice asks, "did he dose his friends with LSD?"
The short answer is, so the CIA could learn how to entrap and discredit people. In one alleged case, White, on behalf of his friend, New York mayoral candidate Rudolph Halley, slipped LSD to an opposition speaker at a Halley political rally.
That is what MKULTRA was all about: entrapping and compromising politicians, friends and foes alike. It is well known within the intelligence research community that the CIA tried to dose Fidel Castro with LSD, and that the FBI made illegal tapes of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr engaging in extra-marital sex, in a blatant attempt to force him out of politics.
This is the truly frightening aspect of MKULTRA, and it was known not only to espionage insiders like Anthony Lapham, but also to the Victims Task Force. As Frank Laubinger recalls, the Victims Task Force was led to believe that White "was mixing it up with drug dealers; that he would slip it to people to aide in their debriefings. But there was no evidence White was giving pot to drug dealers."
Instead, White was giving LSD to average, vulnerable people like Barbara Smithe.
"Why give them LSD then let them wander into the night?" Laubinger asked this writer. "Was it a lark? Was he serious? This is not standard scientific procedure."
"We were interested to find out why," Laubinger concludes, "and we would have stayed with it for several years, but the powers that be told us to put it behind us."
Laubinger pauses. "If they really wanted to find out what happened, it would have been investigated by Congress."
And if not for the fact that so many Congresspersons have stayed at CIA safehouses, that might actually be a valid course of action.
The Known Victims
BARBARA SMITHE: died of cancer after suffering serious mental problems.
VALERIE SMITHE: lives in a foreign country.
CLARICE STEIN SMITHLINE: settled with the Whites and the CIA.
FRANCINE KRAMER: when contacted by CIA officer Frank Laubinger she was courteous, but did not recall who was present on the night of 11 January 1953.
GIL AND PAT FOX: swingers who didn't really care.
KAI JURGENSON: never found
JO JURGENSON: advised by her psychiatrist not to assist the Victims Task Force.
LINDA KING: never found by the Victims Task Force. There was no record at Lenox Hills Hospital, and when Laubinger contacted White's childhood friend, Irwin Eisenberg, he was on his deathbed and did not want to be bothered. She is said to be living in Los Angeles, her home for over 50 years.
HERMAN GINSBERG AND HIS WIFE BOBBIE: Herman Ginsberg was an executive with Crown Cork & Seal. White's diary indicates they were dosed on 13 September 1953 at the Bedford "pad." White wrote that Herman told him of a "psychic transformation" after using "the hypertension drug." When contacted by CIA officer Frank Laubinger, Ginsberg was not helpful and said he did not believe they had been dosed.
RUTH KELLY: a dancer in San Francisco, never found by the Victims Task Force, but is said to be alive and well and living in Miami. Laubinger could not find Pierre Lafitte either, despite the combined efforts of the DEA, CIA and FBI, and the knowledge that he lived in and operated a restaurant in New Orleans.
GEORGE WHITE: in 1963 he became seriously ill with cirrhosis of the liver and by 1965 his weight was down to 135 pounds. Upon his retirement he was appointed fire marshal in Stimson Beach, California. He continued to drink and surround himself with adoring deviants until his death in 1975. (White wrote famous letter to Sid Gottlieb, in which he said: "I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?")
ALBERTINE WHITE: the only person who knows the truth.
First published on Counterpunch