|Sex, Drugs, and the CIA
CounterPunch Special Report
Sex, Drugs & the CIA
by Douglas Valentine
[Editors' Note: We are once again pleased to publish an exclusive
investigative report by Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program,
the best book on the CIA's assassination program in Vietnam. This time
Valentine, who has just put the finishing touches on Strength of the
(a history of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the origins of the
drugs), explores one of the Agency's more disgusting chapters, the
of unsuspecting American citizens with LSD. With the Bush administration
and members of congress from both parties clamoring to unfetter the
Agency in the wake of 9/11, this cautionary tale from the CIA's recent
couldn't come at a more apt time. For more on George Hunter White and
CIA's MK-Ultra program read our book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the
Barbara Crowley Smithe was nineteen years old in January 1953. She was
full-figured, sexy and smart, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a trace
Irish freckles. She lived in Manhattan with her husband Eliot Smithe,
their 20-month old daughter, Valerie.
People who knew Barbara said she was a vibrant, happy young woman,
she became confused about her sexuality, and gradually lost her
self-esteem. Her friends did not know why, but she began to have angry
confrontations with Eliot. Arguments led to rough fights and a separation
in 1957. Two extra-martial affairs engendered a haunting sense of guilt,
guilt led to depression, depression dissolved into despair, and ultimately
Barbara succumbed to paranoia.
At her psychiatrist's advice Barbara was admitted to Stony Lodge Hospital
in December 1958. Before long she and Eliot divorced, and Valerie went
live with Eliot's parents. Institutionalized for much of the next twenty
years, Barbara died of leukemia in February 1978, without ever telling
Eliot the secret she took to her grave--the stunning secret that may
well explain her descent into mental illness.
Indeed, Barbara's mental breakdown may be traced to the night of January
11th, 1953, when--without her knowledge or consent--she was given a
LSD by an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. After that incredible
night, her short, sad life was never the same.
Why would the CIA want to give LSD to a nineteen-year-old woman with
infant in her arms? What did Barbara Smithe have to do with pressing
matters of National Security?
The official explanation dates to 1951, when the CIA received an
unsubstantiated report that the Soviet Union was about to corner the
market in LSD. The Soviets were thought to be perfecting drug-induced
"brainwashing" techniques, and the CIA reeled at the prospect of Russian
agents dumping LSD into New York's water supply, and then using insidious
Communist propaganda to turn drug addled American citizens against
While this frightening scenario never did materialize, the CIA was
use it as a pretext to start testing LSD on friends and foes alike.
agency's ultimate objective was to develop the capability to entrap
blackmail spies, diplomats, and politicians--ours, as well as theirs.
The CIA called its experimental LSD "mind-control" project MKULTRA.
After a year of conducting MKULTRA experiments in laboratories, the
researchers decided they needed to start testing LSD in "real life"
settings. In order to do this, however, they needed a "front," so they
asked Harry Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics
(FBN), to provide them with an agent who was capable of finding suitable
test subjects within the arcane setting of narcotics control. Subjects
to be FBN informants, drug addicts and drug peddlers, prostitutes,
pornographers, and other degenerate underworld characters--in other
people who were already compromised by their deviant behaviors, and
be unable to complain to the police if they were damaged during the
The Double Man
The man Anslinger selected for the MKULTRA job was George Hunter White.
highly successful and flamboyant federal narcotic agent since1935,
claim to fame was a 1937 undercover case he made against the notorious
smuggling Sino-American trade association, the Hip Sing T'ong. Posing
John Wilson, the nephew of his "Uncle Sam" (a hitherto unknown hood
forming a new drug syndicate), White crossed the country contracting
Hip Sing T'ong members for huge purchases of opium.
According to legend, White, a Caucasian, was initiated into the T'ong,
swearing to accept "death by fire" should he ever break its sacred
secrecy. The investigation climaxed in November 1937 with a series
spectacular mass arrests, including several prominent Mafiosi. The
cemented White's status as the FBN's top agent, and subsequently involved
him its most important, secret investigations.
At five feet, seven inches tall, and weighing a rotund 200 pounds,
who shaved his head completely bald, was the image of a tough detective,
the kind who made bad guys tip their hats and speak politely to cops.
native of California, he was ebullient and brash, and as a former crime
reporter for the San Francisco Call Bulletin, had a nose for sniffing
trouble. And trouble was what White enjoyed more than anything else.
and tough and good with his fists, White led his fellow federal agents
many a fight with the country's most vicious hoods. More importantly,
many newspaper contacts were always available to his publicity hunger
and after he extricated Anslinger's stepson from an undisclosed legal
problem, White became the Commissioner's favorite and most trusted
The main reason White was given the MKULTRA LSD testing assignment,
that he had acquired clandestine drug testing experience during the
World War. In 1943 he had been transferred from the FBN to the Office
Strategic Services (OSS). Assigned to the spy agency as a
counter-intelligence officer, Major White became deeply involved in
"truth drug" experiments, in which distilled marijuana was used in
interrogation of prisoners of war, suspected double agents, and
conscientious objectors. White's 'truth drug" experiments continued
at least 1947.
White also was selected for the MKULTRA assignment because he was a
disgruntled employee. After the war he had returned to the FBN and
was serving in New York City, where, apart from his work as a federal
narcotic agent, he participated in a number of sensitive "political"
investigations for the U.S. Government. Among his special assignments,
White worked briefly with Assistant U.S. Attorney Roy Cohn and Senator
Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) rooting Communists out of the CIA and the State
Department, and from mid-1950 until early 1951 he served as the chief
investigator for Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) in a nationwide expose
organized crime. But White was impetuous and overstepped his bounds.
he incurred Harry Truman's wrath by attempting to link the President
organized crime in Kansas City. And in early 1951 he was fired from
Kefauver Committee for leaking classified information. But the final
came a few months later when the Kefauver Committee aired allegations
New York Governor Thomas Dewey had commuted Lucky Luciano's prison
for a sizable campaign contribution. The allegation was base on a
memorandum White had written in 1947, and in retaliation, the sullied
Governor banished White from New York.
Dewey's edict was a disappointment to White, whose ambition at the
to serve as the FBN's district supervisor in New York. But White was
important to be dismissed offhand: the MKULTRA Program, which was to
established in New York, was already in the works, and so Commissioner
Anslinger simply reassigned him as district supervisor in Boston. But
was rarely there. Instead he kept his apartment in New York while awaiting
his final security clearance from the CIA. He was still an employee
FBN, but he was bitter about the roadblock in his narcotic law enforcement
career, and was hoping to find steady employment with the CIA. In this
spirit George White willingly and energetically embarked on his CIA,
Partners in Crime
Although George White had notoriety and powerful friends, and existed
the law as one of Espionage Establishment's "protected few," he was
deeply conflicted man. His first wife, Ruth, deserted him in 1945,
him "a fat slob," and according to psychological reports compiled while
was applying for employment with the CIA, White compensated for that
humiliation by seeking attention, and by hurting people. This was the
reason why the CIA accepted him for the MKULTRA job: George White was
sadist-masochist with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, kinky sex,
The archetypal Double Man, White, however, had the ability to charm
as to repulse, and on 18 August 1951 he married his second wife, Albertine
Calef, a clothing buyer at the Abraham and Strauss department store
Brooklyn. Described as a "bubbly" woman, Tine was born in New York
Egyptian Jewish parents. When interviewed for this article, Tine expressed
nothing but devotion to the memory of her former husband. She described
as "effective and punctual, a great raconteur, a voracious reader of
non-fiction books, and a very good writer." According to her, George
was a liberal Democrat who never picked a fight or resorted to strong-arm
Tine apparently turned a blind eye toward her husband's deviant behavior.
They shared a comfortable apartment at 59 West 12th Street in Greenwich
Village, and hob-nodded with politicians, diplomats, law enforcement
officials, artists and writers. Tine thoroughly enjoyed the fast company
her husband kept, and in order to maintain her exciting lifestyle,
stood by and did nothing when he poisoned Barbara Smithe with LSD.
when this writer asked her what George White did to Barbara on the
January 11th, 1952, the 80 plus year old woman descended into a string
expletives that would have embarrassed a sailor. Her tirade left this
writer with the firm impression that she was thoroughly capable of
been White's accomplice in his dirty work.
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Douglas Valentine is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix
and TDY, all of which are available through iUniverse.com. For information
about Mr. Valentine and his books and articles, please visit his website