The CIA tried mind control to create the perfect assassin
“Jason Bourne,” is the superspy who continues to investigate his fuzzy past and piece together all the terrible things he’s done.
Bourne’s amnesia has always been central to the character’s story. The ex-black ops soldier has spent years (and three previous films) trying to elude the authorities and uncover exactly how the CIA manipulated him.
And while “Jason Bourne” includes several ripped-from-the-headlines details — austerity protests in Greece, a battle over cyberprivacy — Bourne’s memory loss seems more like the stuff of fiction. But it’s actually based on fact.
The CIA experimented extensively with brainwashing during the 1950s and 1960s, honing techniques that could force someone to kill, then have no recollection afterward. Code-named MKUltra, the program involved some 149 separate experiments — many on unwitting Americans, including a Kentucky mental patient who was dosed with LSD for 179 days straight.
MKUltra was officially launched in 1953 to develop better interrogation techniques, as well as to explore the possibility of creating a programmable assassin. The CIA also wondered if it would be possible to mind-control hostile foreign leaders, such as Fidel Castro.
Some 44 universities, 12 hospitals and three prisons helped out with the experiments, though many were apparently not aware they were working for the CIA. The spy agency sometimes funded the work through anonymous grants that the organizations believed were from private individuals. The institutions that did know “acted in good faith and with the belief they were aiding their government,” per a 1977 Senate report.