The origins of MKUltra lie in 1945, and Operation Paperclip — the secret transfer of top Nazi scientists to the US. Armed with extensive documentation on unethical Nazi human experimentation, including research into mind control, a clutch of military programs related to mental manipulation and behavioral modification were launched — including Projects CHATTER, BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE.
Headed by former chemist Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, MKUltra began in April 1953 on the orders of then-CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles.
Officially — albeit behind closed doors — the CIA claimed the program was pursued in response to perceived instances of mind control techniques employed by Chinese, North Korean and Soviet forces on Allied prisoners of war in the Korean War.
In truth, the agency wished to produce an optimal truth drug for use in interrogations, and explore possible uses for mind controlled subjects — including the control of foreign leaders, and assassination.
For the next 20 years, the CIA — in conjunction with the Special Operations Division of the US Army Chemical Corps — engaged in a panoply of illegal activities.