Operation Midnight Climax was an operation initially established by Sidney Gottlieb and placed under the direction of Narcotics Bureau officer George White under the alias of Morgan Hall for the CIA as a sub-project of Project MKULTRA, the CIA mind-control research program that began in the 1950s.
The project consisted of a web of CIA-run safehouses in San Francisco, Marin, and New York. It was established in order to study the effects of LSD on unconsenting individuals. Prostitutes on the CIA payroll were instructed to lure clients back to the safehouses, where they were surreptitiously plied with a wide range of substances, including LSD, and monitored behind one-way mirrors. Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations.
The safehouses were dramatically scaled back in 1962, following a report by CIA Inspector General John Earman that strongly recommended closing the facility. The San Francisco safehouses were closed in 1965, and the New York City safehouse soon followed in 1966.
The file destruction undertaken at the order of CIA Director Richard Helms and former MKULTRA chief Sidney Gottlieb in 1972 makes a full investigation of claims impossible. However, many records did survive the purge. News of the story began to leak following a landmark story by New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh on illegal CIA domestic surveillance. This report triggered Senate Subcommittee hearings which investigated MKULTRA, and brought Operation Midnight Climax to light.
- Marks, John (1991). The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate". W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.