“He followed me home. Can I keep him?”
Who can resist that plea from a child that has befriended and been befriended by a stray dog? How about that soulful face of a pooch in a shelter trying to stave off the inevitable demise that millions of dogs face? It seems relatively safe to accept these canines into your house, especially if they’ve had their shots and a bath. However, that wasn’t the case in 1963 when the CIA experimented with implanting devices in the brains of dogs in order to control their movements, influence their actions and perhaps even surveil on unsuspecting humans. Is this enough to drive dog-lovers to tropical fish, or worse … to cats?
“The specific aim of the research program was to examine the possibility of controlling the behavior of a dog, in an open field, by means of remotely triggering electrical stimulation of the brain.”
Newsweek and other news sources revealed classified documents from 1963 that were received this week by John Greenewald, founder of The Black Vault, the vast repository of secret files on all sorts of subjects obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The long wait attests to both the secrecy of these government projects and the patience required to wait for requests to be processed. In this case, Greenewald spent 20 years attempting to gain access to the files on these canine mind-control experiments conducted in, not surprisingly, Project MKUltra – the infamous project that attempted to manipulate the minds of humans using drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, abuse and other forms of torture.
According to the redacted documents released as file C00021825, six dogs had electrodes embedded “entirely within a mound of dental cement on the skull” (probably pretty sophisticated for 1963) which with leads inserted under the dogs’ skin and attached to an external harness equipped with a battery pack and a brain stimulator.
“Such a system depends for its effectiveness on two properties of electrical stimulation delivered to certain deep lying structures of the dog brain: the well-known reward effect, and a tendency for such stimulation to initiate and maintain locomotion in a direction which is accompanied by the continued delivery of stimulation.”
A letter written in 1967 and included with the 1965 report (titled “Remote Control Behavior with Rewarding Electrical Stimulation of the Brain” and all names redacted) called the canine mind-control project a success, albeit limited due to then range of the control device – “100 to 200 yards, at most” – and the lack of nearby fields suitable for tests (even back then it was tough to find people to pick up dog poop).
Or … did they use mind control on humans to scoop?
What happened to the six dogs? The report states that after they were made to run, turn and stop in response to electrical currents sent to their brains’ reward centers, some suffered side effects, including infections from the incisions. Based on how animals are treated in other experiments, especially in a time long before PETA, their ending was probably not in a good home chewing on old socks.
A trivial experiment? Was anything in MKUltra trivial?