Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Public Interest Case Against the CIA

While researching some other topics, I came across a really interesting 1990 law review article by Joseph Rauh & James Turner titled Anatomy of a Public Interest Case Against the CIA, 11 Hamline J. Pub. L. & Pol'y 307. The article talks about a long (over eight years from complaint to resolution) public interest case filed against the CIA over the spy agency's MKULTRA experiments in the late 1950s and 1960s. The fact that MKULTRA (designed to test whether brainwashing was feasible) existed is well-established and has been acknowledged and apologized for by the U.S. government, but it's still astonishing to believe that government-paid researchers would intentionally and secretly give non-consenting residents of mental health facilities massive doses of LSD, expose them to weeks of forced chemical comas, and force them to watch (hundreds of thousands of times) subliminal messages, all in an attempt to reprogram the human psyche. The particular patients who were the plaintiffs in this litigation were relatively short-term residents at a mental health facility in Montreal who suffered from depression; but their conditions were far, far worse after suffering through the MKULTRA experiments.

The article is particularly interesting for those involved in public interest or civil liberties cases, because it demonstrates and discusses many of the difficulties involved: overcoming sovereign immunity issues; dealing with dubious privileges only available to the government such as "Executive Privilege" or "National Security"; financing a case against an opponent (the government) which has virtually limitless resources; keeping a case alive against a defence strategy of Delay, Delay, Delay; and more. These are obstacles that require a massive amount of persistence, patience, faith in the system, and luck to overcome.

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