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 Wolf 
(a history of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the origins of the war on 
drugs), explores one of the Agency's more disgusting chapters, the doping 
of unsuspecting American citizens with LSD. With the Bush administration 
and members of congress from both parties clamoring to unfetter the spy 
Agency in the wake of 9/11, this cautionary tale from the CIA's recent past 
couldn't come at a more apt time. For more on George Hunter White and the 
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 of 
Irish freckles. She lived in Manhattan with her husband Eliot Smithe, and 
their 20-month old daughter, Valerie. 
People who knew Barbara said she was a vibrant, happy young woman, but that 
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 to 
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 very 
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 dose of 
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 an 
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 world 
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 their 
own government. 
While this frightening scenario never did materialize, the CIA was able to 
use it as a pretext to start testing LSD on friends and foes alike. The spy 
agency's ultimate objective was to develop the capability to entrap and 
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 CIA's 
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 were 
to be FBN informants, drug addicts and drug peddlers, prostitutes, 
pornographers, and other degenerate underworld characters--in other words, 
people who were already compromised by their deviant behaviors, and would 
be unable to complain to the police if they were damaged during the LSD 
The Double Man 
The man Anslinger selected for the MKULTRA job was George Hunter White. A 
highly successful and flamboyant federal narcotic agent since1935, White's 
claim to fame was a 1937 undercover case he made against the notorious drug 
smuggling Sino-American trade association, the Hip Sing T'ong. Posing as 
John Wilson, the nephew of his "Uncle Sam" (a hitherto unknown hood who was 
forming a new drug syndicate), White crossed the country contracting with 
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 oath of 
secrecy. The investigation climaxed in November 1937 with a series of 
spectacular mass arrests, including several prominent Mafiosi. The case 
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, White, 
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. A 
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 out 
trouble. And trouble was what White enjoyed more than anything else. Rough 
and tough and good with his fists, White led his fellow federal agents into 
many a fight with the country's most vicious hoods. More importantly, his 
many newspaper contacts were always available to his publicity hunger boss, 
and after he extricated Anslinger's stepson from an undisclosed legal 
problem, White became the Commissioner's favorite and most trusted agent. 
The main reason White was given the MKULTRA LSD testing assignment, was 
that he had acquired clandestine drug testing experience during the Second 
World War. In 1943 he had been transferred from the FBN to the Office of 
Strategic Services (OSS). Assigned to the spy agency as a 
counter-intelligence officer, Major White became deeply involved in OSS 
"truth drug" experiments, in which distilled marijuana was used in the 
interrogation of prisoners of war, suspected double agents, and 
conscientious objectors. White's 'truth drug" experiments continued until 
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 by 1950 
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 of 
organized crime. But White was impetuous and overstepped his bounds. First 
he incurred Harry Truman's wrath by attempting to link the President to 
organized crime in Kansas City. And in early 1951 he was fired from the 
Kefauver Committee for leaking classified information. But the final blow 
came a few months later when the Kefauver Committee aired allegations that 
New York Governor Thomas Dewey had commuted Lucky Luciano's prison sentence 
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 time was 
to serve as the FBN's district supervisor in New York. But White was too 
important to be dismissed offhand: the MKULTRA Program, which was to be 
established in New York, was already in the works, and so Commissioner 
Anslinger simply reassigned him as district supervisor in Boston. But White 
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 of the 
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, 
MKLUTRA assignment.
Partners in Crime 
Although George White had notoriety and powerful friends, and existed above 
the law as one of Espionage Establishment's "protected few," he was a 
deeply conflicted man. His first wife, Ruth, deserted him in 1945, calling 
him "a fat slob," and according to psychological reports compiled while he 
was applying for employment with the CIA, White compensated for that 
humiliation by seeking attention, and by hurting people. This was the third 
reason why the CIA accepted him for the MKULTRA job: George White was a 
sadist-masochist with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol, kinky sex, and 
The archetypal Double Man, White, however, had the ability to charm as well 
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 in 
Brooklyn. Described as a "bubbly" woman, Tine was born in New York of 
Egyptian Jewish parents. When interviewed for this article, Tine expressed 
nothing but devotion to the memory of her former husband. She described him 
as "effective and punctual, a great raconteur, a voracious reader of 
non-fiction books, and a very good writer." According to her, George White 
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, she 
stood by and did nothing when he poisoned Barbara Smithe with LSD. Indeed, 
when this writer asked her what George White did to Barbara on the night of 
January 11th, 1952, the 80 plus year old woman descended into a string of 
expletives that would have embarrassed a sailor. Her tirade left this 
writer with the firm impression that she was thoroughly capable of having 
been White's accomplice in his dirty work. 
Click Here to Continue "Sex, Drugs & the CIA" 
Douglas Valentine is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, 
and TDY, all of which are available through For information 
about Mr. Valentine and his books and articles, please visit his website at 

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