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CIA secret experiments tonight on National Geographic channel

Close on the heals of this recent Radio Lab story about CIA experiments at Harvard in the 1950s that may have had a dire impact on the [w:Ted Kaczynski] aka the Unabomber, and the recent news report that the US govt conducted Syphilis tests in Guatemala in the 1940s (not to mention the long-known about [w:Tuskegee syphilis experiment]s), tonight on the National Geographic channel is an in-depth look at “CIA Secret Experiments” during the [w:Cold War].

And for all you govt docs library geeks out there, you can read the Report to the President by the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States, June 1975 (aka the “Rockefeller Commission Report”) available in libraries throughout the country — find a nearby library here and here. It’s also available online.

From National Geographic Channel:

  • In the wake of World War II, the U.S. government was engaged in a large number of confidential medical experiments designed to help win the Cold War. During these elicit experiments they exposed unknowing members of the public to biological and chemical agents, developed techniques for mind control, and even planned assassinations on powerful leaders of developing nations.
  • Some methods that were considered for the distribution of these chemicals were to poison cigars, toothpaste, and ink.
  • The CIA embarked upon a multimillion dollar, highly classified research program into the covert use of biological and chemical materials such as bacteria to infect the enemy, poisons for assassinations, and truth drugs for interrogations.
  • Included in the medicine chest used for these experiments would have been anthrax, the plague, and brucellosis.
  • A U.S. army experiment on New York City in 1966 exposed over a million people to the bacterium bacillus subtilis variant niger. Scientists used light bulbs filled with a combination of bacteria and charcoal particles, which they then dropped through vents onto the subway tracks.
  • During this experiment, trillions of germs were released into the transit system during peak travel hours. The trials were conducted without the knowledge or cooperation of the NYC Transit Authority or Police Department.
  • During this period, the CIA was also looking into the use of chemical substances for ways to manipulate and control human behavior; one such chemical that caught their attention was lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD.
  • The CIA recruited prisoner volunteers to be administered LSD as part of their experimentation. The prisoners who cooperated were sometimes given heroin as a reward. In one experiment, prisoners were kept on increasing doses of LSD for 77 consecutive days.

[Thanks BoingBoing!]

Military 2.0

I’ve been fascinated by the struggles with, and now the apparent embrace of, social media by the U.S. Armed Forces. When I first saw that the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs was tweeting, it signaled the military’s shift towards strategically harnessing new media to advance the Armed Forces public affairs goals and “compete in an evolving global messaging space”. And lest you assume that Admiral Mullen just tweets what he had for lunch, his social media strategy clearly outlines his goals to engage and expand audiences. (Incidentally, in addition to following who you’d expect, such as his wife and President Obama, Admiral Mullen also follows The Economist, Oprah, Thomas Friedman, Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulus, and UNHCR).

Below are a couple of examples of the military’s web presence in the 21st C. network. Of course, while providing useful information for servicemembers, their families, researchers, students, and the general public, they are also public relations outlets. But in our rich information landscape, that’s true of many “authoritative sources” (all the more reason for teaching critical thinking about information):

Department of Defense Social Media Hub
“Designed to help the DoD community use social media and other internet-based capabilities to share responsibly and effectively, both in official and unofficial capacities.” See especially their “How To” guides, which explain the basics of various 2.0 tools, and highlights examples of how servicemembers are using social media.

Pentagon Channel
Head over the the ‘shows’ section to browse the wide range of video and audio broadcasting available online, including “This Week in the Pentagon” and the American Forces Press service weekly podcast for military news; “Battleground”, featuring historic films from past wars; and “Downrange”, a newscast from Iraq and Afghanistan. On the lighter side, check out “The Grill Sergeants“, a cooking show featuring top chefs in the military, and “Fit for Duty: Pilates” for a good workout.

Information as Power, U.S. Army War College
To learn more about these practices in the context of security issues, check out this electronic library of academic work by and for the U.S. Army related to information as an element of national power. You’ll find publications such as “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter”, “Information Operations as a Deterrent to Armed Conflict”, and “War in the Information Age”.

Wikileaks Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010

Anyone who hasn’t heard of the new wikileaks release of the Afghan Afghan War Diary, 2004-2010 — over 91,000 reports written by soldiers and intelligence officers covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010 — must be living under a rock. It’s been all over the international news and is being compared to the [w:Pentagon Papers] released in 1971 by [w:Daniel Ellsberg]. In particular, the NY Times, Guardian UK, and Der Spiegel newspapers have all published detailed analyses of the document dump. In addition, BoingBoing has a Q&A with wikileaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum and NYU’s Jay Rosen has written some interesting and thought-provoking thoughts over at PressThink. This is BIG folks!