Brainwashing and the CIA
SEE NOTES AT END FOR INFO ON SOURCES OF THESE DOCUMENTS
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR 25 APR 1956
MEMORANDUM FOR: The Honorable J. Edgar Hoover
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
SUBJECT : Brainwashing
The attached study on brainwashing was prepared by my
staff in response to the increasing acute interest in the
subject throughout the intelligence and security components
of the Government. I feel you will find it well worth your
It represents the thinking of leading psy-chologists,
psychiatrists and intelligence specialists, based in turn on
interviews with many individuals who have had personal
experience with Communist brainwashing, and on extensive
research and testing.
While individuals specialists hold divergent views on
various aspects of this most complex subject, I believe the
study reflects a synthesis of majority expert opinion. I
will, of course, appreciate any comments on it that you or
your staff may have.
Allen W. Dulles
A REPORT ON COMMUNIST BRAINWASHING
The report that follows is a condensation of a study by training
experts of the important classified and unclassified information
available on this subject.
Brainwashing, as a technique, has been used for centuries and
is no mystery to psychologists. In this sense, brainwashing means
involuntary re-education of basic beliefs and values.
All people are being re-educated continually. New information
changes one's beliefs. Everyone has experienced to some degree the
conflict that ensues when new information is not consistent with
The experience of the brainwashed individual differs in that the
in-consistent information is forced upon the individual under
controlled conditions after the possibility of critical judgment has
been removed by a variety of methods.
There is no question that an individual can be broken psycholog-
ically by captors with knowledge and willingness to persist in tech-
niques aimed at deliberately destroying the integration of a
Although it is probable that everyone reduced to such a confused,
disoriented state will respond to the introduction of new beliefs,
this cannot be stated dogmatically.
PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN CONTROL AND REACTION TO CONTROL
There are progressive steps in exercising control over an
individual and changing his behaviour and personality integration.
The following five steps are typical of behaviour changes in any
1. Making the individual aware of control is the first stage
in changing his behaviour. A small child is made aware of
the physical and psychological control of his parents and
quickly recognizes that an overwhelming force must be
So, a controlled adult comes to recognize the overwhelming
powers of the state and the impersonal, "incarcerative"
machinery in which he is enmeshed. The individual
recognizes that definite limits have been put upon the ways
he can respond.
(Approved for Release) (62-80750-2712X)
(Date: 8 FEB 1984)
2. Realization of his complete dependence upon the controlling
system is a major factor in the controlling of his behavior.
The controlled adult is forced to accept the fact that food,
tobacco,praise, and the only social contact that he will get
come from the very interrogator who exercises control over
3. The awareness of control and recognition of dependence re
sult in causing internal conflict and breakdown of previous
patterns of behaviour.
Although this transition can be relatively mild in the case
of a child, it is almost invariably severe for the adult
undergoing brainwashing. Only an individual who holds his
values lightly can change them easily.
Since the brainwasher-interrogators aim to have the
individuals undergo profound emotional change, they force
their victims to seek out painfully what is desired by the
During this period the victim is likely to have a mental
breakdown characterized by delusions and hallucinations.
4. Discovery that there is an acceptable solution to his
problem is the first stage of reducing the individual's
It is characteristically reported by victims of brainwashing
that this discovery led to an overwhelming feeling of relief
that the horror of internal conflict would cease and that
perhaps they would not, after all, be driven insane.
It is at this point that they are prepared to make major
changes in their value-system. This is an automatic rather
than voluntary choice. They have lost their ability to be
5. Reintergration of values and identification with the cont-
rolling system is the final stage in changing the behaviour
of the controlled individual.
A child who has learned a new, socially desirable behaviour
demonstrates its importance by attempting to as apt the new
behaviour to a variety of other situations. Similar states
in the brainwashed adult are (SECTION DELETED BY CIA)
His new value-system, his manner of perceiving, organizing,
and giving meaning to events, is virtually independent of
his former value system. He is no longer capable of
thinking or speaking in concepts other than those he has
He tends to identify by expressing thanks to
his captors for helping him see the light.
Brainwashing can be achieved without using illegal
Anyone willing to use known principles of control and
reactions to control and capable of demonstrating the
patience needed in raising a child can probably achieve
COMMUNIST CONTROL TECHNIQUES AND THEIR EFFECTS
A description of usual communist control techniques follows.
1. Interrogation. There are at least two ways in which "interro-
gation" is used:
a. Elicitation, which is designed to get the individual to
surrender protected information, is a form of
interrogation. One major difference between elicitation
and interrogation used to achieve brainwashing is that
the mind of the individual must be kept clear to permit
coherent, undistorted disclosure of protected
b. Elicitation for the purpose of brainwashing consists of
questioning, argument, indoctrination, threats,
cajolery, praise, hostility, and a variety of other
pressures. The aim of this interrogation is to hasten
the breakdown of the individual's value system and to
encourage the substitution of a different value-system.
The procurement of protected information is secondary
and is used as a device to increase pressure upon the
individual. The term "interrogation" in this paper will
refer, in general, to this type. The "interrogator" is
the individual who conducts this type of interrogation
and who controls the administration of the other
pressures. He is the protagonist against whom the victim
develops his conflict, and upon whom the victim develops
a state of dependency as he seeks some solution to his
2. Physical Torture and Threats of Torture. Two types of physical
torture are distinguishable more by their psychological effect
in inducing conflict than by the degree of painfulness:
a. The first type is one in which the victim has a passive
role in the pain inflicted on him (e.g.,beatings). His
conflict involves the decision of whether or not to give
in to demands in order to avoid further pain. Generally,
brutality of this type was not found to achieve the
desired results. Threats of torture were found more
effective, as fear of pain causes greater conflict
within the individual than does pain itself.
b. The second type of torture is represented by requiring
the individual to stand in one spot for several hours or
assume some other pain-inducing position. Such a
requirement often engenders in the individual a
determination to "stick it out." This internal act of
resistance provide a feeling of moral superiority at
As time passes and his pain mounts, however, the
individual becomes aware that it is his own original
determination to resist that is causing the continuance
A conflict develops within the individual between his
moral determination and his desire to collapse and
discontinue the pain. It is this extra internal
conflict, in addition to the conflict over whether or
not to give in to the demands made of him, that tends to
make this method of torture more effective in the
breakdown of the individual personality.
3. Isolation. Individual differences in reaction to isolation are
probably greater than to any other method.
Some individuals appear to be able to withstand prolonged
periods of isolation without deleterious effects, while a
relatively short period of isolation reduces others to the
verge of psychosis. Reaction varies with the conditions of
the isolation cell.
Some sources have indicated a strong reaction to filth and
vermin, although they had negligible reactions to the
Others reacted violently to isolation in relatively clean
cells. The predominant cause of breakdown in such situations
is a lack of sensory stimulati n (i.e., grayness of walls,
lack of sound, absence of social contact, etc.).
Experimental subjects exposed to this condition have reported
vivid hallicinations and overwhelming fears of losing their
4. Control of Communication. This is one of the most effective
methods for creating a sense of helplessness and despair. This
measure might well be considered the cornerstone of the
communist system of control.
It consists of strict regulation of the mail,reading
materials, broadcast materials, and social contact available
to the individual. The need to communicate is so great that
when the usual channels are blocked, the individual will
resort to any open channel, almost regardless of the
implications of using that particular channel.
Many POWs in Korea, whose only act of "collaboration" was to
sign petitions and "peace appeals," defended their actions on
the ground that this was the only method of letting the
outside world know they were still alive.
Many stated that their morale and fortitude would have been
increased immeasurably had leaflets of encouragement been
dropped to them.
When the only contact with the outside world is via the
interrogator, the prisoner comes to develop extreme dependency
on his interrogator and hence loses another prop to his
Another wrinkle in communication control is the informer
system. The recruitment of informers in POW camps discouraged
communication between inmates. POWs who feared that every act
or thought of resistance would be communicated to the camp
administrators, lost faith in their fellow man and were forced
to "untrusting individualism." Informers are also under
several stages of brainwashing and elicitation to develop and
maintain control over the victims.
5. Induction of Fatigue. This is a well-known device for breaking
will power and critical powers of judgment. Deprivation of
sleep results in more intense psychological debilitation than
does any other method of engendering fatigue. The communists
vary their methods.
"Conveyor belt" interrogation that last 50-60 hours will make
almost any individual compromise, but there is danger that
this will kill the victim.
It is safer to conduct interrogations of 8-10 hours at night
while forcing the prisoner to remain awake during the day.
Additional interruptions in the remaining 2-3 hours of
allotted sleep quickly reduce the most resilient individual .
Alternate administration of drug stimulants and depressants
hastens the process of fatigue and sharpens the psychological
reactions of excitement and depression.
Fatigue, in addition to reducing the will to resist, also
produces irritation and fear that arise from increased "slips
of the tongue." forgetfulness, and decreased ability to
maintain orderly thought processes.
6. Control of Food, Water and Tobacco. The controlled individual
is made intensely aware of his dependence upon his
interrogator for the quality and quantity of his food and
tobacco. The exercise of this control usually follows a
No food and little or no water is permitted the individual for
several days prior to interrogation. When the prisoner first
complains of this to the interrogator, the latter expresses
surprise at such inhumane treatment. He makes a demand of the
prisoner. If the latter complies,he receives a good meal. If
he does not, he gets a diet of unappetizing food containing
limited vitamins,minerals, and calories.
This diet is supplemented occasionally by the interrogator if
the prisoner "cooperates." Studies of controlled starvation
indicate that the whole value-system of the subjects underwent
a change. Their irritation increased as their ability to
think clearly decreased. The control of tobacco presented an
even greater source of conflict for heavy smokers. Because
tobacco is not necessary to life, being manipulated by his
craving for it can in the individual a strong sense of guilt.
7. Criticism and Self-Criticism. There are mechanisms of
communist thought control. Self-criticism gains its
effectiveness from the fact that although it is not a crime
for a man to be wrong, it is a major crime to be stubborn and
to refuse to learn. Many individuals feel intensely relieved
in being able to share their sense of guilt.
Those individuals however, who have adjusted to handling their
guilt internally have difficulty adapting to criticism and
self-criticism. In brainwashing, after a sufficient sense of
guilt has been created in the individual, sharing and self-
criticism permit relief. The price paid for this relief,
however, is loss of individuality and increased dependency.
8. Hypnosis and Drugs as Controls. There is no reliable evidence
that the communists are making widespread use of drugs or
hypnosis in brainwashing or elicitation. The exception to this
is the use of common stimulants or depressants in inducing
fatigue and "mood swings."
9. Other methods of control, which when used in conjunction with
the basic processes, hasten the deterioration of prisoners'
sense of values and resistance are:
a. Requiring a case history or autobiography of the
prisoner provides a mine of information for the
interrogator in establishing and "documenting"
b. Friendliness of the interrogator, when least expected,
upsets the prisoner's ability to maintain a critical
c. Petty demands, such as severely limiting the allotted
time for use of toilet facilities or requiring the POW
to kill hundreds of flies, are harassment methods.
d. Prisoners are often humiliated by refusing them the use
of toilet facilities during interrogator until they soil
themselves. Often prisoners were not permitted to bathe
for weeks until they felt contemptible.
e. Conviction as a war criminal appears to be a potent
factor in creating despair in the individual. One
official analysis of the pressures exerted by the
ChiComs on "confessors" and "non-confessors" to
participation in bacteriological warfare in Korea showed
that actual trial and conviction of "war crimes" was
overwhelmingly associated with breakdown and confession.
f. Attempted elicitation of protected information at
various times during the brainwashing process diverted
the individual from awareness of the deterioration of
The fact that, in most cases, the ChiComs did not want
or need such intelligence was not known to the prisoner.
His attempts to protect such information was made at the
expense of hastening his own breakdown.
THE EXERCISE OF CONTROL: A "SCHEDULE" FOR BRAINWASHING
From the many fragmentary accounts reviewed, the following
appears to be the most likely description of what occurs during
In the period immediately following capture, the captors are
faced with the problem of deciding on best ways of exploitation of
the prisoners. Therefore, early treatment is similar both for those
who are to be exploited through elicitation and those who are to
undergo brainwashing. Concurrently with being interrogated and
required to write a detailed personal history, the prisoner
undergoes a physical and psychological "softening-up" which
includes: limited unpalatable food rations,withholding of
tobacco,possible work details, severely inadequate use of toilet
facilities, no use of facilities for personal cleanliness,
limitation of sleep such as requiring a subject to sleep with a
bright light in his eyes.
Apparently the interrogation and autobiographical ,material,
the reports of the prisoner's behaviour in confinement, and
tentative "personality typing" by the interrogators, provide the
basis upon which exploitation plans are made.
There is a major difference between preparation for elicitation
and for brainwashing .Prisoners exploited through elicitation must
retain sufficient clarity of thought to be able to give
In brainwashing , on the other hand, the first thing attacked
is clarity of thought. To develop a strategy of defense, the
controlled individual must determine what plans have been made for
his exploitation. Perhaps the best cues he can get are internal
reactions to the pressures he undergoes.
The most important aspect of the brainwashing process is the
interrogation. The other pressures are designed primarily to help
the interrogator achieve his goals. The following states are created
systematically within the individual . These may vary in order, but
all are necessary to the brainwashing process:
1. A feeling of helplessness in attempting to deal with the
impersonal machinery of control.
2. An initial reaction of "surprise."
3. A feeling of uncertainty about what is required of him.
4. A developing feeling of dependence upon the interrogator .
5. A sense of doubt and loss of objectivity.
6. Feelings of guilt.
7. A questioning attitude toward his own value-system.
8. A feeling of potential "breakdown," i.e.,that he might go
9. A need to defend his acquired principles.
10. A final sense of "belonging" (identification).
A feeling of helplessness in the face of the impersonal
machinery of control is carefully engendered within the
prisoner. The individual who receives the preliminary treatment
described above not only begins to feel like an "animal" but
also feels that nothing can be done about it. No one pays any
personal attention to him. His complaints fall on deaf ears.
His loss of communication, if he has been isolated, creates a
feeling that he has been "forgotten."
Everything that happens to him occurs according to an
impersonal time schedule that has nothing to do with his needs.
The voices and footsteps of the guards are muted. He notes many
contrasts,e.g.,his greasy,unpalatable food may be served on
battered tin dishes by guards immaculately dressed in white.
The first steps in "depersonalization" of the prisoner have
begun. He has no idea what to expect. Ample opportunity is
allotted for him to ruminate upon all the unpleasant or painful
things that could happen to him. He approaches the main
interrogator with mixed feelings of relief and fright.
Surprise is commonly used in the brainwashing process. The
prisoner is rarely prepared for the fact that the interrogators
are usually friendly and considerate at first. They make every
effort to demonstrate that they are reasonable human beings.
Often they apologize for bad treatment received by the prisoner
and promise to improve his lot if he, too, is reasonable. This
behaviour is not what he has steeled himself for. He lets down
some of his defenses and tries to take a reasonable attitude.
The first occasion he balks at satisfying a request of the
interrogator, however, he is in for another surprise. The
formerly reasonable interrogator unexpectedly turns into a
The interrogator is likely to slap the prisoner or draw his
pistol and threaten to shoot him. Usually this storm of
emotion ceases as suddenly as it began and the interrogator
stalks from the room. These surprising changes create doubt in
the prisoner as to his very ability to perceive another
person's motivations correctly. His next interrogation probably
will be marked by impassivity in the interrogator 's mien.
A feeling of uncertainty about what is required of him is
likewise carefully engendered within the individual . Pleas of
the prisoner to learn specifically of what he is accused and by
whom are side-stepped by the interrogator.
Instead, the prisoner is asked to tell why he thinks he is held
and what he feels he is guilty of. If the prisoner fails to
come up with anything, he is accused in terms of broad
generalities (e.g., espionage, sabotage,acts of treason against
This usually provokes the prisoner to make some statement about
his activities. If this take the form of a denial, he is
usually sent to isolation on further decreased food rations to
"think over" his crimes. This process can be repeated again and
As soon as the prisoner can think of something that might be
considered self-incriminating, the interrogator appears
momentarily satisfied. The prisoner is asked to write down his
statement in his own words and sign it.
Meanwhile a strong sense of dependence upon the interrogator is
developed. It does not take long for the prisoner to realize
that the interrogator is the source of all punishment , all
gratification, and all communication. The interrogator,
meanwhile, demonstrates his unpredictbility. He is perceived by
the prisoner as a creature of whim.
At times, the interrogator can be pleased very easily and at
other times no effort on the part of the prisoner will placate
him. The prisoner may begin to channel so much energy into
trying to predict the behaviour of the unpredictable
interrogator that he loses track of what is happening inside
After the prisoner has developed the above psychological and
emotional reactions to a sufficient degree, the brainwashing
begins in earnest.
First, the prisoner's remaining critical faculties must be
destroyed. He undergoes long, fatiguing interrogations while
looking at a bright light. He is called back again and again
for interrogations after minimal sleep.
He may undergo torture that tends to create internal conflict.
Drugs may be used to accentuate his "mood swings." He develops
depression when the interrogator is being kind and becomes
euphoric when the interrogator is threatening the direst
Then the cycle is reversed. The prisoner finds himself in a
constant state of anxiety which prevents him from relaxing even
when he is permitted to sleep. Short periods of isolation now
bring on visual and auditory hallucinations.
The prisoner feels himself losing his objectivity. It is in
this state that the prisoner must keep up an endless argument
with the interrogator. He may be faced with the confessions of
other individuals who "collaborated" with him in his crimes.
The prisoner seriously begins to doubts his own memory. This
feeling is heightened by his inability to recall little things
like the names of the people he knows very well or the date of
his birth. The interrogator patiently sharpens this feeling of
doubt by more questioning. This tends to create a serious state
of uncertainty when the individual has lost most of his
The prisoner must undergo additional internal conflict when
strong feelings of guilt are aroused within him. As any
clinical psychologist is aware, it is not at all difficult to
create such feelings. Military servicemen are particularly
No one can morally justify killing even in wartime. The usual
justification is on the grounds of necessity or self-defense.
The interrogator is careful to circumvent such justification.
He keeps the interrogation directed toward the prisoner's moral
Every moral vulnerability is exploited by incessant questioning
along this line until the prisoner begins to question the very
fundamentals of his own value-system.
The prisoner must constantly fight a potential breakdown. He
finds that his mind is "going blank" for longer and longer
periods of time. He can not think constructively. If he is to
maintain any semblance of psychological integrity, he must
bring to an end this state of interminable internal conflict.
He signifies a willingness to write a confession.
If this were truly the end, no brainwashing would have
occurred. The individual would simply have given in to
intolerable pressure. Actually, the final stage of the
brainwashing process has just begun. No matter what the
prisoner writes in his confession the interrogator is not
The interrogator questions every sentence of the confession. He
begins to edit it with the prisoner. The prisoner is forced to
argue against every change. This is the essence of
Every time that he gives in on a point to the interrogator, he
must rewrite his whole confession. Still the interrogator is
not satisfied. In a desperate attempt to maintain some
semblance of integrity and to avoid further brainwashing, the
prisoner must begin to argue that what he has already confessed
to is true.
He begins to accept as his own the statements he has written.
He uses many of the interrogator's earlier arguments to
buttress his position. By this process,identification with the
interrogator's value-system becomes complete.
It is extremely important to recognize that a qualitative
change has taken place within the prisoner. The brainwashed
victim does not consciously change his value-system; rather the
change occurs despite his efforts. He is no more responsible
for this change than is an individual who "snaps" and becomes
psychotic. And like the psychotic, the prisoner is not even
aware of the transition.
DEFENSIVE MEASURES OTHER THAN ON THE POLICY AND PLANNING LEVEL
1. Training of Individuals potentially subject to communist
Training should provide for the trainee a realistic appraisal
of what control pressures the communists are likely to exert
and what the usual human reactions are to such pressures. The
trainee must learn the most effective ways of combatting his
own reactions to such pressures and he must learn reasonable
expectations as to what his behaviour should be.
Training has two decidedly positive effects; first, it
provides the trainee with ways of combatting control; second,
it provides the basis for developing an immeasurable boost in
Any positive action that the individual can take, even if it
is only slightly effective, gives him a sense of control over
a situation that is otherwise controlling him.
2. Training must provide the individual with the means of
recognizing realistic goals for himself.
a. Delay in yielding may be the only achievement that can
be hoped for. In any particular operation, the agent
needs the support of knowing specifically how long he
must hold out to save an operation, protect his
cohorts, or gain some other goal.
b. The individual should be taught how to achieve the
most favorable treatment and how to behave and make
necessary concessions to obtain minimum penalties.
c. Individual behavioural responses to the various
communist control pressures differ markedly.
Therefore, each trainee should know his own particular
assets and limitations in resisting specific
pressures. He can learn these only under laboratory
conditions simulating the actual pressures he may have
d. Training must provide knowledge of the goals and the
restrictions placed upon his communist interrogator.
The trainee should know what controls are on his
interrogator and to what extent he can manipulate
the interrogator. For example, the interrogator is not
permitted to fail to gain "something" from the
controlled individual. The knowledge that, after the
victim has proved that he is a "tough nut to crack" he
can sometimes indicate that he might compromise on
some little point to help the interrogator in return
for more favorable treatment, may be useful indeed.
Above all, the potential victim of communist control
can gain a great deal of psychological support from
the knowledge that the communist interrogator is not a
completely free agent who can do whatever he wills
with his victim.
e. The trainee must learn what practical cues might aid
him in recognizing the specific goals of his
interrogator. The strategy of defense against
elicitation may differ markedly from the strategy to
prevent brainwashing. To prevent elicitation, the
individual may hasten his own state of mental
confusion; whereas, to prevent brainwashing,
maintaining clarity of thought processes is
f. The trainee should obtain knowledge about communist
"carrots" as well as "sticks." The communists keep
certain of their promises and always renege on others.
For example, the demonstrable fact that "informers"
receive no better treatment than other prisoners
should do much to prevent this particular evil. On the
other hand, certain meaningless concessions
will often get a prisoner a good meal.
g. In particular, it should be emphasized to the trainee
that, although little can be done to control the
pressures exerted upon him, he can learn something
about controlling his personal reactions to specific
The trainee can gain much from learning something
about internal conflict and conflict-producing
mechanisms. He should learn to recognize when someone
is trying to arouse guilt feelings and what
behavioural reactions can occur as a response to
h. Finally, the training must teach some methods that can
be utilized in thwarting particular communist control
Elicitation. In general, individuals who are the hardest to
interrogate for information are those who have
experienced previous interrogations. Practice in
being the victim of interrogation is a sound
Torture. The trainee should learn something about the
principles of pain and shock. There is a maximum
to the amount of pain that can actually be felt.
Any amount of pain can be tolerated for a limited
period of time. In addition, the trainee can be
fortified by the knowledge that there are legal
limitations upon the amount of torture that can be
inflicted by communist jailors.
Isolation. The psychological effects of isolation can
probably be thwarted best by mental gymnastics and
systematic efforts on the part of the isolate to
obtain stimulation for his neural end organs.
Controls on Food and Tobacco. Foods given by the communists
will always be enough to maintain survival.
Sometimes the victim gets unexpected opportunities
to supplement his diet with special minerals,
vitamins and other nutrients (e.g.,"iron" from the
rust of prison bars).
In some instances, experience has shown that
individuals could exploit refusal to eat. Such
refusal usually resulted in the transfer of the
individual to a hospital where he received vitamin
injections and nutritious food.
Evidently attempts of this kind to commit suicide
arouse the greatest concern in communist
officials. If deprivation of tobacco is the
control being exerted. the victim can gain moral
satisfaction from "giving up" tobacco. He can't
lose since he is not likely to get any anyway.
Fatigue. The trainee should learn reactions to fatigue and
how to overcome them insofar as possible. For
example, mild physical exercise "clears the head"
in a fatigue state.
Writing Personal Accounts and Self-Criticism. Experience has
indicated that one of the most effective ways of
combatting these pressures is to enter into the
spirit with an overabundance of enthusiasm.
Endless written accounts of inconsequential
material have virtually "smothered" some eager
interrogators.In the same spirit, sober, detailed
self-criticisms of the most minute "sins" has
sometimes brought good results.
Guidance as to the priority of positions he should defend.
Perfectly compatible responsibilities in the normal execution of an
individual's duties may become mutually incompatible in this
Take the example of a senior grade military officer. He has the
knowledge of sensitive strategic intelligence which it is his duty
to protect. He has the responsibility of maintaining the physical
fitness of his men and serving as a model example for their
behaviour. The officer may go to the camp commandant to protest the
treatment of the POWs and the commandant assures him that treatment
could be improved if he will swap something for it. Thus to satisfy
one responsibility he must compromise another.
The officer, in short, is in a constant state of internal
con lict. But if the officer is given the relative priority of his
different responsibilities, he is supported by the knowledge that he
won't be held accountable for any other behaviour if he does his
utmost to carry out his highest priority responsibility. There is
considerable evidence that many individuals tried to evaluate the
priority of their responsibilities on their own, but were in
conflict over whether others would subsequently accept their
evaluations. More than one individual was probably brainwashed while
he was trying to protect himself against elicitation.
The application of known psychological principles can lead to
an understanding of brainwashing.
1. There is nothing mysterious about personality changes
resulting from the brainwashing process.
2. Brainwashing is a complex process. Principles of
motivation, perception, learning, and physiological
deprivation are needed to account for the results achieved
3. Brainwashing is an involuntary re-education of the
fundamental beliefs of the individual. To attack the
problem successfully, the brainwashing process must be
differentiated clearly from general education methods for
thought-control or mass indoctrination, and elicitation.
4. It appears possible for the individual,through training,to
develop limited defensive techniques against brainwashing.
Such defensive measures are likely to be most effective if
directed toward thwarting individual emotional reactions to
brainwashing techniques rather than to ward thwarting the
techniques themselves. 15 August 1955
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.
19 JUN 1964
(Commission No. 1131)
MEMORANDUM FOR: Mr. J. Lee Rankin
President's Commission on the
Assassination of President Kennedy
SUBJECT : Soviet Brainwashing Techniques
1. Reference is made to your memorandum of 19 May 1964,
requesting that materials relative to Soviet techniques
in mind conditioning and brainwashing be made available
to the Commission.
2. At my request, experts on these subjects within the CIA
have prepared a brief survey of Soviet research in the
direction and control of human behavior, a copy of which
is attached. The Commission may retain this document.
Please note that the use of certain sensitive materials
requires that a sensitivity indicator be affixed.
3. In the immediate future, this Agency will make available
to you a collection of overt and classified materials on
these subjects, which the Commission may retain.
4. I hope that these documents will be responsive to the
(DECLASSIFIED) Richard Helms
(By C.I.A.) Deputy Director for
(letter of ___________)
CD 1131 SECRET
SUBJECT: Soviet Research and Development in the Field of
Direction and Control of Human Behavior.
1. There are two major methods of altering or
controlling human behavior, and the Soviets are
interested in both.
The first is psychological; the second,
pharmacological. The two may be used as individual
methods or for mutual reinforcement.
For long-term control of large numbers of people,
the former method is more promising than the latter.
In dealing with individuals, the U.S. experience
suggests the pharmacological approach (assisted
by psychological techniques) would be the only
Neither method would be very effective for single
individuals on a long term basis.
2. Soviet research on the pharmacological agents
producing behavioral effects has consistently lagged
about five years behind Western research.
They have been interested in such research, however,
and are now pursuing research on such chemicals as
LSD-25, amphetamines, tranquillizers, hypnotics, and
There is no present evidence that the Soviets have
any singular, new, potent drugs to force a course of
action on an individual.
They are aware, however, of the tremendous drive
produced by drug addiction, and PERHAPS could couple
this with psychological direction to achieve control
of an individual.
3. The psychological aspects of behavior control would
include not only conditioning by repetition and
training, but such things as hypnosis, deprivation,
isolation, manipulation of guilt feelings, subtle or
overt threats, social pressure, and so on.
Some of the newer trends in the USSR are as follows:
a. The adoption of a multidisciplinary approach
integrating biological,social and physical-
mathematical research in attempts better to
understand, and eventually, to control human
behavior in a manner consonant with national
b. The outstanding feature, in addition to the
inter-disciplinary approach, is a new concern for
mathematical approaches to an understanding of
Particularly notable are attempts to use modern
information theory, automata theory, and feedback
concepts in interpreting the mechanisms by which
the "second signal system," i.e., speech and
associated phenomena, affect human behavior.
Implied by this "second signal system," using
INFORMATION inputs as causative agents rather
than chemical agents, electrodes or other more
exotic techniques applicable, perhaps, to
individuals rather than groups.
c. This new trend, observed in the early Post-Stalin
Period, continues. By 1960 the word "cybernetics"
was used by the Soviets to designate this new
This new science is considered by some as the key
to understanding the human brain and the product
of its functioning--psychic activity and
personality--to the development of means for
controlling it and to ways for molding the
character of the "New Communist Man".
As one Soviet author puts it: Cybernetics can be
used in "molding of a child's character, the
inculcation of knowledge and techniques, the
amassing of experience, the establishment of
social behavior patterns...all functions which
can be summarized as 'control' of the growth
process of the individual." 1/Students of
particular disciplines in the USSR, such as
psychologist and social scientists, also support
the general cybernetic trend. 2/ (Blanked by CIA)
4. In summary, therefore, there is no evidence that the
Soviets have any techniques or agents capable of
producing particular behavioral patterns which are
not available in the West.
Current research indicates that the Soviets are
attempting to develop a technology for controlling
the development of behavioral patterns among the
citizenry of the USSR in accordance with politically
determined requirements of the system.
Furthermore, the same technology can be applied to
more sophisticated approaches to the "coding" of
information for transmittal to population targets in
the "battle for the minds of men."
Some of the more esoteric techniques such as ESP or,
as the Soviets call it, "biological radio-
communication", and psychogenic agents such as LSD,
are receiving some overt attention with, possibly,
applications in mind for individual behavior control
under clandestine conditions.
However, we require more information than is
currently available in order to establish or
disprove planned or actual applications of various
methodologies by Soviet scientists to the control of
actions of articular individuals.
1. Itelson, Lev, "Pedagogy: An Exact Science?" USSR October
2. Borzek, Joseph, "Recent Developments in Soviet Psychology,"
Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 15, 1964, p. 493-594.
SECRET CD 1131
The first letter and attachment are from
DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS 1984 microfilms under MKULTRA (84)
002258, published by Research Publication Woodbridge, CT
06525. Some original markings were not retyped, but the
content is the same.
The second letter and attachment are from the
Warren Commission documents.
Notice should be paid to the different tone Helms gives to
his letter, keeping in mind he was found guilty of lying
to Congress. He places greater emphasis on "Soviet"
practices and tries to diminish breakthroughs gained by
Some thought should be given as to WHY the Warren
Commission sought such documents (remembering that ALLEN
DULLES was a member of that Commission). They were
exploring the Manchurian candidate theory.
It was revealed during the Church Committee hearings of
1975 that Helms had been in charge of Project AMLASH, a
program to assassinate Castro (Cuba),Trujillo (Dominican
Republic), Diem (RVN), Schneider (Chile) using MAFIA figures
John Roselli and Santos Trafficante to do the job.
Care was used to insure lines appear in same length and
order. Page length will have to be adjusted if you desire
to print this. Look for other specials soon. David John