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
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
A REPORT ON COMMUNIST BRAINWASHING
The report that follows is a condensation of a study by train-
ing 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 prior belief.
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 re-
moved 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 personal-
ity. 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 individ-
ual and changing his behaviour and personality integration. The fol-
lowing five steps are typical of behaviour changes in any controlled
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 reckoned with. So, a controlled adult
comes to recognize the overwhelming powers of the state and the im-
personal, "incarcerative" machinery in which he is enmeshed. The in
-dividual 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 controll-
ing system is a major factor in the controlling of his behavior.The con-
trolled adult is forced to accept the fact that food, tobacco,praise,
and the only social contact that he will get come from the very in-
terrogator who exercises control over him.
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
controlling individual. During this period the victim is likely to
have a mental breakdown characterized by delusions and hallucinat-
4. Discovery that there is an acceptable solution to his prob-
lem is the first stage of reducing the individual's conflict. 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 pre-
pared to make major changes in their value-system. This is an
automatic rather than voluntary choice. They have lost their a-
bility to be critical.
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 de-
sirable 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
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pitiful. 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 adopted. He tends to identify by expressing thanks to
his captors for helping him see the light.Brainwashing can be achieved
without using illegal means.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 successful brainwashing.
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 information.
b. Elicitation for the purpose of brainwashing consists of
tility, 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 con-
flict, 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 are distinguishable more by their psychological effect in induc-
ing 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 it-
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 indi-
vidual 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
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 iso-
lation cell. Some sources have indicated a strong reaction to filth and
vermin, although they had negligible reactions to the isolation. Others
reacted violently to isolation in relatively clean cells. The predominant
cause of breakdown in such situations is a lack of sensory stimulation
(i.e.,grayness of walls,lack of sound,absence of social contact,etc.).
Experimental subjects exposed to this condition have reported vivid hal-
licinations and overwhelming fears of losing their sanity.
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 con-
trol. 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. May 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 morale.
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 com-
promise, 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
Fatigue, in addition to reducing the will to resist,also produces
irritation and fear that arise from increased "slips of the tongue." for-
getfulness, 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 con-
trol usually follows a pattern. No food and little or no water is per-
mitted 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 re-
lieved in being able to share their sense of guilt. Those individuals
however, who have adjusted to handling their guilt internally have dif-
ficulty 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, how-
ever, 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
b. Friendliness of the interrogator , when least expected, up-
sets 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 contempti-
e. Conviction as a war criminal appears to be a potent factor
in creating despair in the individual. One official analysis of the pres-
sures 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
f. Attempted elicitation of protected information at various
times during the brainwashing process diverted the individual from aware-
ness 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.
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 brainwashing .
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,possi-
ble 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 inter-
rogation and autobiographical ,material, the reports of the prisoner's be-
haviour in confinement, and tentative "personality typing" by the interro-
gators, 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 suffi-
cient clarity of thought to be able to give coherent,factual accounts. 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 interro-
gation. 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
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 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
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 inter-
rogator unexpectedly turns into a furious maniac. 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 in-
terrogator stalks from the room. These surprising changes create doubt
in the prisoner as to his very ability to perceive another person's moti-
vations correctly. His next interrogation probably will be marked by im-
passivity 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 the "people"). This us-
ually 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 again. 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 unpredict-
bility. 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 happen-
ing inside himself.
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 min-
imal sleep. He may undergo torture that tends to create internal con-
flict. 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 penalties. 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 "collabo-
rated" 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 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 kill-
ing even in wartime. The usual justification is on the grounds of neces-
sity or self-defense. The interrogator is careful to circumvent such
justification. He keeps the interrogation directed toward the prisoner's
moral code. Every moral vulnerability is exploited by incessant question-
ing along this line until the prisoner begins to question the very fun-
damentals 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. Ac-
tually, the final stage of the brainwashing process has just begun. No
matter what the prisoner writes in his confession the interrogator is
not satisfied. The interrogator questions every sentence of the confes-
sion. He begins to edit it 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 point to the interrogator, he must re-
write 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 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
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, pro-
tect his cohorts, or gain some other goal.
b. The individual should be taught how to achieve the most favor-
able 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 restric-
tions 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 some-
times indicate that he might compromise on some little point to help the
interrogator in return for more favorable treatment, may be useful in-
deed. 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 al-
ways 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 in-
ternal conflict and conflict-producing mechanisms. He should learn to
recognize when someone is trying to arouse guilt feelings and what be-
havioural 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 inter-
rogate for information are those who have experienced previous interroga-
tions. Practice in being the victim of interrogation is a sound train-
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 unex-
pected 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. Evi-
dently 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 in-
dicated 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 situation. Take the ex-
ample of a senior grade military officer. He has the knowledge of sensitive
strategic intelligence which it is his duty to protect. He has the respon-
sibility 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 as-
sures 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 conflict. 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 in brainwashing.
3. Brainwashing is an involuntary re-education of the fundamental
beliefs of the individual. To attack the problem successfully, the brain-
washing 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 in-
dividual 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
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 Plans
(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 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:
SECRET CD 1131
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 inter-
disciplinary 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 indi-
cates 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,
SECRET CD 1131
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
1. Itelson, Lev, "Pedagogy: An Exact Science?" USSR October 1963,
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 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.