In the early 1950s, the U.S. government purchased the world’s supply of LSD as just the first step in a debauched program code-named MK-ULTRA. In an exclusive interview, Ike Feldman, one of the operations kingpins, talks to Richard Stratton about deadly viruses, spy hookers, and bad trips.
The meeting was set for noon at a suitably anonymous bastion of corporate America, a sprawling Marriott Hotel and convention center on Long Island. Driving out of the city, I was tense and paranoid. For one thing, I was leaving Manhattan without permission from my parole officer. What was I going to tell him? “I want to travel to Long Island to interview a former narcotics agent who worked undercover for the CIA dosing people with LSD.” My parole officer would have ordered a urine test on the spot.
Then there was the fact that previous run-ins with drug cops had usually resulted in criminal prosecutions. I spent most of the ’80s in prison for smuggling marijuana. How would this ex-agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), forerunner of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), take to a retired outlaw writing a story about MK-ULTRA, the CIA’s highly secretive mind-control and drug-testing program?
Ira “Ike” Feldman is the only person still alive who worked directly under the legendary George Hunter White in MK-ULTRA. The program began in 1953 amid growing fear of the Soviet Union’s potential for developing alternative weaponry. The atomic bomb was a sinister threat, but more terrifying still were possible Soviet assaults on the mind and body from within — through drugs and disease. In an attempt to preempt foreign attacks and even wage its own assaults, the CIA funded a group of contract agents and scientists to develop a panoply of means to destroy or forever incapacitate a human being.
For years, Feldman had ducked reporters. He agreed to meet with me only after a private detective, a former New York cop who also did time for drugs, put in a good word. There was no guarantee Feldman would talk.
“The LSD,” Feldman began, “that was just the tip of the iceberg. Write this down. Espionage. Assassinations. Dirty tricks. Drug experiments. Sexual encounters and the study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That’s what I was doing when I worked for George White and the CIA.”