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The CIA's Secret Research on Torture

How Psychologists Helped Washington Crack the Code of Human Consciousness

by Alfred W. McCoy

The CIA’s interest in effective methods of torture began in the 1950s, in the early years of the Cold War. At first the objective was “defensive”—to find a way to combat communist “brainwashing,” which appeared to be the cause of confessions of guilt by captured American pilots during the Korean War. But the CIA’s quest soon turned to “offensive” measures that could be used to break Soviet spies and other enemies. Two major sources of aid came to the agency’s investigations. The first was a trove of information gleaned by the Nazis during World War II from concentration-camp experiments and similar testing—many of whose researchers were still around to act as advisers. The second was the cooperation of professional psychologists, many with leading university positions, who proved to be remarkably pliable in conducting questionably ethical experiments. Their aim was to show how prisoners might be tortured and broken through psychological rather than physical means. Alfred McCoy, a leading historian in the field, here explores the sordid and often outrageous practices of the CIA and its helpmates.


The CIA's Secret Research on Torture details:

ISBN: 978-1-937853-69-3

Words: 13,170

Pages: 29


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Tags:  Torture - CIA - Brainwashing - Psychological Interrogation - Medical Ethics - Guantanamo - Nuremberg Code - Donald Hebb - Henry Beecher - Ewan Cameron - Nazi experiments - Stanley Milgram