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 Americans. 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 Moses.


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 personal attention. 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


OA 53-37


The report that follows is a condensation of a study by training experts ofthe important classified and unclassified information available on thissubject.


Brainwashing, as a technique, has been used for centuries and is no mystery topsychologists. In this sense, brainwashing means involuntary re-education ofbasic beliefs and values. All people are being re-educated continually. Newinformation changes one's beliefs. Everyone has experienced to some degree theconflict that ensues when new information is not consistent with prior belief.The experience of the brainwashed individual differs in that the inconsistent 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 psychologically bycaptors with knowledge and willingness to persist in techniques aimed atdeliberately destroying the integration of a personality. Although it isprobable that everyone reduced to such a confused, disoriented state willrespond to the introduction of new beliefs, this cannot be stateddogmatically.


There are progressive steps in exercising control over an individual andchanging his behaviour and personality integration. The following five stepsare typical of behaviour changes in any controlled individual:

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 psychologicalcontrol of his parents and quickly recognizes that an overwhelming force mustbe reckoned with. So, a controlled adult comes to recognize the overwhelmingpowers of the state and the im- personal, "incarcerative" machinery in whichhe is enmeshed. The individual recognizes that definite limits have been putupon the ways he can respond.

2. Realization of his complete dependence upon the controlling system is amajor factor in the controlling of his behavior.The controlled adult isforced to accept the fact that food, tobacco,praise, and the only socialcontact that he will get come from the very interrogator who exercisescontrol over him.

3. The awareness of control and recognition of dependence result in causinginternal conflict and breakdown of previous patterns of behaviour. Althoughthis transition can be relatively mild in the case of a child, it is almostinvariably severe for the adult undergoing brainwashing. Only an individualwho holds his values lightly can change them easily. Since thebrainwasher-interrogators aim to have the individuals undergo profoundemotional change, they force their victims to seek out painfully what isdesired by the controlling individual. During this period the victim is likelyto have a mental breakdown characterized by delusions and hallucinations.

4. Discovery that there is an acceptable solution to his problem is thefirst stage of reducing the individual's conflict. It is characteristicallyreported by victims of brainwashing that this discovery led to an overwhelmingfeeling of relief that the horror of internal conflict would cease and thatperhaps they would not, after all, be driven insane. It is at this point thatthey are prepared to make major changes in their value-system. This is anautomatic rather than voluntary choice. They have lost their ability to becritical.

5. Reintegration of values and identification with the controlling systemis the final stage in changing the behaviour of the controlled individual. Achild who has learned a new, socially desirable behaviour demonstrates itsimportance by attempting to adapt the new behaviour to a variety of othersituations. Similar states in the brainwashed adult are


pitiful. His new value-system, his manner of perceiving,organizing,andgiving meaning to events, is virtually independent of his former valuesystem. He is no longer capable of thinking or speaking in concepts otherthan those he has adopted. He tends to identify by expressing thanks tohis captors for helping him see the light.Brainwashing can be achievedwithout using illegal means.Anyone willing to use known principles ofcontrol and reactions to control and capable of demonstrating the patienceneeded in raising a child can probably achieve successful brainwashing.


A description of usual communist control techniques follows.

1. Interrogation. There are at least two ways in which "interrogation" isused:

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 information.

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 conflict.

2. Physical Torture and Threats of Torture. Two types of physical torture aredistinguishable more by their psychological effect in inducing conflict thanby 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 first. 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 of pain. 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 probablygreater than to any other method. Some individuals appear to be able towithstand prolonged periods of isolation without deleterious effects, while arelatively short period of isolation reduces others to the verge of psychosis.Reaction varies with the conditions of the isolation cell. Some sources haveindicated a strong reaction to filth and vermin, although they had negligiblereactions to the isolation. Others reacted violently to isolation inrelatively clean cells. The predominant cause of breakdown in such situationsis a lack of sensory stimulation (i.e.,grayness of walls,lack of sound,absenceof social contact,etc.). Experimental subjects exposed to this condition havereported vivid hallucinations and overwhelming fears of losing their sanity.

4. Control of Communication. This is one of the most effective methods forcreating a sense of helplessness and despair. This measure might well beconsidered the cornerstone of the communist system of control. It consistsof strict regulation of the mail,reading materials, broadcast materials, andsocial contact available to the individual. The need to communicate is sogreat that when the usual channels are blocked, the individual will resort toany open channel, almost regardless of the implications of using thatparticular channel. Many POWs in Korea, whose only act of "collaboration" wasto sign petitions and "peace appeals," defended their actions on the groundthat this was the only method of letting the outside world know they werestill alive. Many stated that their morale and fortitude would have beenincreased immeasurably had leaflets of encouragement been dropped to them.When the only contact with the outside world is via the interrogator, theprisoner comes to develop extreme dependency on his interrogator and henceloses another prop to his morale.

Another wrinkle in communication control is the informer system. Therecruitment of informers in POW camps discouraged communication betweeninmates.POWs who feared that every act or thought of resistance would becommunicated to the camp administrators, lost faith in their fellow man andwere forced to "untrusting individualism." Informers are also under severalstages of brainwashing and elicitation to develop and maintain control overthe victims.

5. Induction of Fatigue. This is a well-known device for breaking will powerand critical powers of judgment. Deprivation of sleep results in more intensepsychological debilitation than does any other method of engendering fatigue.The communists vary their methods. "Conveyor belt" interrogation that last50-60 hours will make almost any individual compromise, but there is dangerthat this will kill the victim. It is safer to conduct interrogations of 8-10hours at night while forcing the prisoner to remain awake during the day.Additional interruptions in the remaining 2-3 hours of allotted sleep quicklyreduce the most resilient individual . Alternate administration of drugstimulants and depressants hastens the process of fatigue and sharpens thepsychological reactions of excitement and depression.

Fatigue, in addition to reducing the will to resist,also produces irritationand fear that arise from increased "slips of the tongue." forgetfulness, anddecreased ability to maintain orderly thought processes.

6. Control of Food,Water and Tobacco. The controlled individual is madeintensely aware of his dependence upon his interrogator for the quality andquantity of his food and tobacco. The exercise of this control usuallyfollows a pattern. No food and little or no water is permitted theindividual for several days prior to interrogation. When the prisoner firstcomplains of this to the interrogator, the latter expresses surprise at suchinhumane treatment. He makes a demand of the prisoner. If the lattercomplies,he receives a good meal. If he does not, he gets a diet ofunappetizing food containing limited vitamins,minerals, and calories. Thisdiet is supplemented occasionally by the interrogator if the prisoner"cooperates." Studies of controlled starvation indicate that the wholevalue-system of the subjects underwent a change. Their irritation increased astheir ability to think clearly decreased. The control of tobacco presented aneven greater source of conflict for heavy smokers. Because tobacco is notnecessary to life, being manipulated by his craving for it can in theindividual 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 thecommunists are making widespread use of drugs or hypnosis in brainwashing orelicitation. The exception to this is the use of common stimulants ordepressants in inducing fatigue and "mood swings."

9. Other methods of control, which when used in conjunction with the basicprocesses, hasten the deterioration of prisoners' sense of values andresistance are:

a. Requiring a case history or autobiography of the prisoner provides a mine of information for the interrogator in establishing and "documenting" accusations.

b. Friendliness of the interrogator , when least expected, upsets the prisoner's ability to maintain a critical attitude.

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 contemptable.

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 his value-system. 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.


From the many fragmentary accounts reviewed, the following appears to be themost likely description of what occurs during brainwashing.

In the period immediately following capture, the captors are faced with theproblem of deciding on best ways of exploitation of the prisoners. Therefore,early treatment is similar both for those who are to be exploited throughelicitation and those who are to undergo brainwashing. concurrently with beinginterrogated and required to write a detailed personal history, the prisonerundergoes a physical and psychological "softening-up" which includes: limitedunpalatable food rations,withholding of tobacco,possible workdetails,severely inadequate use of toilet facilities, no use of facilities forpersonal cleanliness,limitation of sleep such as requiring a subject to sleepwith a bright light in his eyes. Apparently the interrogation andautobiographical ,material, the reports of the prisoner's behaviour inconfinement, 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 forbrainwashing .Prisoners exploited through elicitation must retain sufficientclarity of thought to be able to give coherent,factual accounts. Inbrainwashing , on the other hand, the first thing attacked is clarity ofthought. To develop a strategy of defense, the controlled individual mustdetermine what plans have been made for his exploitation. Perhaps the bestcues 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 achievehis 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 crazy.

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 controlis carefully engendered within the prisoner. The individual who receives thepreliminary 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 personalattention 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; timeschedule that has nothing to do with his needs. The voices and footsteps ofthe guards are muted. He notes many contrasts,e.g.,his greasy,unpalatable foodmay be served on battered tin dishes by guards immaculately dressed in white.The first steps in "depersonalization" of the prisoner have begun. He has noidea what to expect. Ample opportunity is allotted for him to ruminate uponall the unpleasant or painful things that could happen to him. He approachesthe main interrogator with mixed feelings of relief and fright.

Surprise is commonly used in the brainwashing process. The prisoner is rarelyprepared for the fact that the interrogators are usually friendly andconsiderate at first. They make every effort to demonstrate that they arereasonable human beings. Often they apologize for bad treatment received bythe prisoner and promise to improve his lot if he, too, is reasonable. Thisbehaviour is not what he has steeled himself for. He lets down some of hisdefenses and tries to take a reasonable attitude. The first occasion he balksat satisfying a request of the interrogator , however, he is in for anothersurprise. The formerly reasonable interrogator unexpectedly turns into afurious maniac. The interrogator is likely to slap the prisoner or draw hispistol and threaten to shoot him. Usually this storm of emotion ceases assuddenly as it began and the interrogator stalks from the room. Thesesurprising changes create doubt in the prisoner as to his very ability toperceive another person's motivations correctly. His next interrogationprobably 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 isaccused in terms of broad generalities (e.g., espionage, sabotage,acts oftreason against the "people"). This usually provokes the prisoner to makesome statement about his activities. If this take the form of a denial, he isusually sent to isolation on further decreased food rations to "think over"his crimes. This process can be repeated again and again. As soon as theprisoner can think of something that might be considered self-incriminating,the interrogator appears momentarily satisfied. The prisoner is asked to writedown his statement in his own words and sign it.

Meanwhile a strong sense of dependence upon the interrogator is developed. Itdoes not take long for the prisoner to realize that the interrogator is thesource of all punishment , all gratification,and all communication. Theinterrogator, meanwhile,demonstrates his unpredictbility. He is perceivedby the prisoner as a creature of whim. At times, the interrogator can bepleased very easily and at other times no effort on the part of the prisonerwill placate him. The prisoner may begin to channel so much energy into tryingto predict the behaviour of the unpredictable interrogator that he loses trackof what is happening inside himself.

After the prisoner has developed the above psychological and emotionalreactions to a sufficient degree, the brainwashing begins in earnest. First,the prisoner's remaining critical faculties must be destroyed. He undergoeslong, fatiguing interrogations while looking at a bright light. He is calledback again and again for interrogations after minimal sleep. He may undergotorture that tends to create internal conflict. Drugs may be used toaccentuate his "mood swings." He develops depression when the interrogator isbeing kind and becomes euphoric when the interrogator is threatening thedirest penalties. Then the cycle is reversed. The prisoner finds himself in aconstant state of anxiety which prevents him from relaxing even when he ispermitted to sleep. Short periods of isolation now bring on visual andauditory hallucinations. The prisoner feels himself losing his objectivity.It is in this state that the prisoner must keep up an endless argument withthe interrogator . He may be faced with the confessions of other individualswho "collaborated" with him in his crimes. The prisoner seriously begins todoubts his own memory. This feeling is heightened by his inability to recalllittle things like the names of the people he knows very well or the date ofhis birth. The interrogator patiently sharpens this feeling of doubt by morequestioning. This tends to create a serious state of uncertainty when theindividual has lost most of his critical faculties.

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 vulnerable. No one can morally justify killing even in wartime. The usual justification is on the grounds of necessity orself-defense. The interrogator is careful to circumvent such justification. Hekeeps the interrogation directed toward the prisoner's moral code. Every moralvulnerability is exploited by incessant questioning along this line untilthe prisoner begins to question the very fundamentals of his ownvalue-system. The prisoner must constantly fight a potential breakdown. Hefinds that his mind is "going blank" for longer and longer periods of time. Hecan not think constructively. If he is to maintain any semblance ofpsychological integrity, he must bring to an end this state of interminableinternal conflict. He signifies a willingness to write a confession.

If this were truly the end, no brainwashing would have occurred. Theindividual would simply have given in to intolerable pressure. Actually, thefinal stage of the brainwashing process has just begun. No matter what theprisoner writes in his confession the interrogator is not satisfied. Theinterrogator questions every sentence of the confession. He begins to editit with the prisoner. The prisoner is forced to argue against every change.This is the essence of brainwashing. Every time that he gives in on a pointto the interrogator, he must re-write his whole confession. Still theinterrogator is not satisfied. In a desperate attempt to maintain somesemblance of integrity and to avoid further brainwashing, the prisoner mustbegin to argue that what he has already confessed to is true. He begins toaccept as his own the statements he has written. He uses many of theinterrogator's earlier arguments to buttress his position. By thisprocess,identification with the interrogator's value-system becomes complete.It is extremely important to recognize that a qualitative change has takenplace within the prisoner. The brainwashed victim does not consciously changehis value-system; rather the change occurs despite his efforts. He is no moreresponsible for this change than is an individual who "snaps" and becomespsychotic. And like the psychotic, the prisoner is not even aware of the transition.


1. Training of Individuals potentially subject to communist control.

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 morale. 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 recognizingrealistic 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 to face.

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 imperative.

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 pressures. 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 guilt.

h. Finally, the training must teach some methods that can be utilized in thwarting particular communist control techniques:

Elicitation. In general, individuals who are the hardest to interrogate forinformation are those who have experienced previous interrogations. Practicein being the victim of interrogation is a sound training device.

Torture. The trainee should learn something about the principles of pain andshock. There is a maximum to the amount of pain that can actually be felt. Anyamount of pain can be tolerated for a limited period of time. In addition, thetrainee 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 thwartedbest by mental gymnastics and systematic efforts on the part of the isolate toobtain stimulation for his neural end organs.

Controls on Food and Tobacco. Foods given by the communists will always beenough to maintain survival. Sometimes the victim gets unexpectedopportunities to supplement his diet with special minerals,vitamins and othernutrients (e.g.,"iron" from the rust of prison bars). In some instances,experience has shown that individuals could exploit refusal to eat. Suchrefusal usually resulted in the transfer of the individual to a hospital wherehe received vitamin injections and nutritious food. Evidently attempts ofthis kind to commit suicide arouse the greatest concern in communistofficials. If deprivation of tobacco is the control being exerted. the victimcan gain moral satisfaction from "giving up" tobacco. He can't lose since heis not likely to get any anyway.

Fatigue. The trainee should learn reactions to fatigue and how to overcomethem insofar as possible. For example, mild physical exercise "clears thehead" in a fatigue state.

Writing Personal Accounts and Self-Criticism. Experience has indicated thatone of the most effective ways of combatting these pressures is to enter intothe spirit with an overabundance of enthusiasm. Endless written accounts ofinconsequential 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. Perfectlycompatible responsibilities in the normal execution of an individual's dutiesmay become mutually incompatible in this situation. Take the example of asenior grade military officer. He has the knowledge of sensitive strategicintelligence which it is his duty to protect. He has the responsibility ofmaintaining the physical fitness of his men and serving as a model example fortheir behaviour. The officer may go to the camp commandant to protest thetreatment of the POWs and the commandant assures him that treatment could beimproved if he will swap something for it. Thus to satisfy one responsibilityhe must compromise another. The officer, in short, is in a constant state ofinternal conflict. But if the officer is given the relative priority of hisdifferent responsibilities, he is supported by the knowledge that he won't beheld accountable for any other behaviour if he does his utmost to carry outhis highest priority responsibility. There is considerable evidence that manyindividuals tried to evaluate the priority of their responsibilities on theirown, 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 understandingof brainwashing.

1. There is nothing mysterious about personality changes resulting from thebrainwashing process.

2. Brainwashing is a complex process. Principles of motivation, perception,learning, and physiological deprivation are needed to account for the resultsachieved in brainwashing.

3. Brainwashing is an involuntary re-education of the fundamental beliefs ofthe individual. To attack the problem successfully, the brain-washing processmust be differentiated clearly from general education methods forthought-control or mass indoctrination, and elicitation.

4. It appears possible for the individual,through training,to develop limiteddefensive techniques against brainwashing. Such defensive measures are likelyto be most effective if directed toward thwarting individual emotionalreactions to brainwashing techniques rather than toward thwarting thetechniques themselves.

15 August 1955

(note Declassified)



19 JUN 1964

(Commission No. 1131)

General Counsel
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 Commission's needs.


(DECLASSIFIED) Richard Helms
(By C.I.A.) Deputy Director for Plans
(letter of ___________)




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 effective method. 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 similar materials. 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 plans.

b. The outstanding feature, in addition to the interdisciplinary approach, is a new concern for mathematical approaches to an understanding of behavior. 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 trend. 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 forcontrolling 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 1963, p. 10.

2. Borzek, Joseph, "Recent Developments in Soviet Psychology," Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 15, 1964, p. 493-594.

Return to Top of Document
Return to CIA Reports Panel
Return to Home Page


Civil Intelligence Association
Defense Oversight Group