From about 1953 until 1973, the CIA clandestinely conducted methods of mind control on both U.S. and Canadian citizens without their consent. It wasn’t until project MKUltra, as it was termed, became public knowledge due to national headlines based on the release of thousands of declassified documents in 2001, that the public became aware of these activities.
Scott O’Connor has written a compelling book about characters caught up in the illegal operations and destroyed by the knowledge of what they were doing to the people that unwittingly became subjects of the experiments. Henry March is the first individual to head up a project in San Francisco selecting people and then drugging them in order to warp their minds.
Two generations later Dickie Ashby, a young CIA agent, is sent to Los Angeles to try and infiltrate a group of bank robbers that claim they have all been abused in a government brainwashing operaton. O’Connor is excellent in setting the mood of the events, and describing the damage done to the individuals that are put in charge of the experiments. First Henry March is shown trying to come to grips with the horror of what he is forced to do and unable to do so and then Ashby facing the results of the experiments two decades later both with the subjects as well as with the families of the planners and their lives.
This is compelling reading and an indictment of a government agency going beyond the pale to prove a point. O’Connor is very good at creating the moods and atmosphere of the events depicted in addition to outlining what are most likely to be the facts of the occurrences during the experiments. Knowing that these experiments were actually carried out makes the book a more fascinating read.
2/14 Paul Lane
HALF WORLD by Scott O’Connor. Simon & Schuster (February 18, 2014). ISBN 978-1476716596. 432p