Posted by: B Gourley | August 10, 2012

Is There a Real-life Jason Bourne Legacy: A Brief History of Assassin-Building

With The Bourne Legacy movie out, there’s a ton of publicity development in progress. Among these efforts is an interview with the writer-director, Tony Gilroy, that talks about his study into real world research projects that he thought might be relevent to his movie. This got me thinking about whether the U.S. currently has a program for behavior modification designed to build assassins?

Before 9/11, if one had asked me if we had such a project, I’d have suspected not. However, in response to the fear caused by that event, governments (Federal and local) have dusted off a lot of bad ideas and come up with a few new ones. The NYPD has apparently taken to spying on individuals who live not only out of the Burroughs, but out of the state of New York entirely. While our Federal government is nearly dysfunctional owing to an inability to agree on anything, they do come close to agreeing that privacy rights don’t apply to new technologies and anyone who thinks differently is unpatriotic.

Going back to the pre-9/11 era, why would I have guessed we didn’t have an active program in place? Well, it’s certainly not that I thought we were above doing it. After all, the MK Ultra program (and related projects, i.e. PAPERCLIP, CHATTER, ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, etc.) was in existence from the 1950’s through the 70’s. For those unfamiliar, MK Ultra was all about behavior modification via drugs, hypnosis, and sensory deprivation. When the program’s existence came to light in the late 1970’s, there was outrage. The Manchurian Candidate book had come out in 1959 and the first movie of that title was in 1962, so Americans were familiar with the concept, they just figured that only the godless Commies would resort to such nefarious practices. Perhaps more influential in the program’s demise than public outrage was the fact that it didn’t seem to work. In 1953, and Army scientist, Frank Olson, committed suicide while under the influence of LSD that was administered without his knowledge or consent. This is but one tragic example resulting from the belief that psychopharmacology is an exact science, rather than a nebulously understood one. The human brain isn’t clockwork, but rather a clockwork orange.

I don’t know if there is a program like MK Ultra around today. I’d like to think people are wiser about such things now, at least in the wake of experience, but then again…

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