How the CIA Paid Prostitutes to Drug their Clients

In the 1950s the CIA began a secret operation to test mind-control drugs on unwilling subjects. The project known as MKUltra had a number of different aspects. Perhaps the most bizarre of these tests involved prostitutes using CIA safe houses as brothels. The CIA wanted to examine the effects of LSD on the mind and they not only tested the drug on civilians but their own agents.

Sidney Gottlieb was the chemist that headed up MKUltra and authorized a number of experiments involving LSD. MKUltra was subjected to almost no oversight, and had the authority to use 6% of the CIA budget. The U.S. government believed that mind-control drugs had been used on American POWs by communist nations. They wanted to explore the potential effects of those drugs and therefore MKUltra was given the authority to test those same drugs on any subjects and in any circumstances they chose.

Sidney Gottlieb took his job seriously and would put his subjects through tortuous experiments to see how LSD would affect someone in a sensory deprivation chamber or hearing degraded statements played on repeat through headphones for hours. He even took LSD himself and would lock himself up in his office taking notes. It may have been the LSD that convinced him to approve a plan by Dr. George Hunter White that involved prostitutes drugging their clients.

MKUltra continued into the 1970s, but then under public pressure about the experiments. CIA director Richard Helms ordered that any documentation about MKUltra be destroyed. Some documentation was saved from the shredder which allowed details about the experiments be uncovered years later. In 1975, the Senate decided that all the participants of the experiments be informed of what they were dosed with and when. But with most of the documentation destroyed, finding the victims proved difficult.

But both documentation and former agents finally revealed many of the details of Operation Midnight Climax which was perhaps one of the most scandalous operations the CIA ever embarked on.