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Sex, Drugs and the CIA

Part Three

Reconstructing History

What emerges from the story so far is the likelihood that Barbara secretly went to the Whites’ apartment looking for something she could never obtain from Eliot. Had Eliot been a caring and supportive husband, she might not have gone. Or she might have trusted him enough to tell him about her visit and the bizarre experience that ensued.

Possibly she enjoyed the LSD trip. But considering the paranoia she developed later in life, it’s more likely that she, like Clarice, was traumatized, and that she buried the trauma in her subconscious mind, like a war veteran burying some horrible combat experience, only to have it emerge years later as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

It is possible, too, that the CIA was responsible for exacerbating the seeds of doubt, guilt, and self-loathing that evolved into Barbara’s paranoia. White put LSD in her drink while she was in a compromising position. She was with her infant daughter, without her husband. In a similar situation, Clarice decided not to tell her parents–the authority figures in her life at the time.

The overwhelming question is, what exactly happened to Barbara that night? Clarice cannot recall if Barbara left the Whites’ apartment before her. Because she was tripping on LSD, she cannot even recall walking home. She wonders why George White would do such a horrible thing to a friend, let alone to a woman with a baby?

Did White take advantage of Barbara while she was defenseless under the influence of LSD? Eliot wonders if White molested Barbara? If White did abuse her while she was out of her mind on LSD, would she risk telling Eliot, whom she knew to be jealous at worst, and unsympathetic at best?

It is agonizing to imagine Barbara’s predicament. How did she manage to care for her child? Like Clarice, did she fear she might never fall asleep again? That terrifying thought made Clarice contemplate suicide. Did it also plant the first suicidal thoughts in Barbara’s mind?

Clarice does not recall what happened to Barbara that night, and Tine isn’t saying. So none of these questions will ever be answered. But plenty of evidence suggests that the CIA conspired to conceal the truth about what really happened on the evening of January 11th, 1953.

The Missing Pieces

Mitchell Rogovin initially told Eliot that his prior relationship with the CIA was unrelated to the case. Later, however, he advised Eliot that the CIA did intend to assert a conflict if the case went to trial. Does that mean that Rogovin, in some way, was involved in the MKULTRA Program?

In addition, the Rogovin firm may have given Eliot misinformation about a crucial matter of law. In a February 8, 1980 internal memorandum, the Rogovin firm said that Eliot could not sue the federal government for battery, because White was working for the CIA at the time he dosed Barbara. But in testimony before the Senate in 1977, Gottlieb said that White was being paid directly by the CIA for only three to six months. Gottlieb could not remember the time frame, but he testified that all of the operations White conducted involved Bureau of Narcotics interests. A May 1953 entry in White’s diary indicates that he returned to the Bureau of Narcotics that month. And if White was only on the CIA’s payroll for three months, as Gottlieb testified, then he was a bona fide federal law enforcement officer when he dosed Barbara with LSD. The government could have been sued.

Another questionable incident occurred in early 1981, when Rogovin met with John Blake, the Staff Director of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, whom he described to Eliot as “a former Deputy Director of the CIA.” In fact, Blake had been the CIA’s Deputy Director of Administration, and in that capacity was the direct supervisor of CIA officer Robert Wiltse, the chief of the Victims Task Force. According to Rogovin, Blake in turn introduced him to John Bross, “an old-time CIA man who recently returned from retirement to the Agency to assist in the transition to the New CIA Director, William Casey.” Rogovin expressed the hope that Bross would convince the CIA to look more favorably on a pre-lawsuit settlement. But that never happened, and one must wonder what role Blake actually played in the negotiations.

Finally, a July 1978 memorandum from John Blake to the Director of Central Intelligence, Stansfield Turner, refers to a strategy paper for defending the CIA against lawsuits by victims of the MKULTRA Program. The CIA’s Assistant General Counsel Anthony Lapham composed the paper. While serving as a special assistant to Assistant Secretary of the Treasury David Acheson in the mid-1960s, Lapham was responsible for liaison with the CIA regarding its relationship with the Bureau of Narcotics. In this capacity Lapham was aware of the existence and purpose of several MKULTRA “safehouses,” the first of which was established by George White in Greenwich Village in June 1953. Indeed, in 1966, Lapham directed FBN agent Andrew Tartaglino to shut down a second MKULTRA safehouse on 13th Street in New York.

Furthermore, on January 23rd, 1967, Lapham met with Dr. Sidney Gottlieb and several other CIA and Treasury officials in sensitive discussions concerning an investigation by Senator Edward Long (D-MS). As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Invasion of Privacy, Long was probing allegations of illegal wiretapping by various branches of the U.S. government, and his staff had stumbled on the existence of the MKULTRA safehouses. A January 30th, 1967 memorandum, written by Gottlieb, records the CIA’s on-going efforts to conceal its involvement with the MKULTRA safehouses from Senator Long. When asked if the CIA was using the Narcotics Bureau as a “front” for domestic operations, Gottlieb said no. He told the Treasury Department officials that the “pads” were only used for routine narcotics operations.

Lapham knew this wasn’t true. And ten years later he designed the CIA’s strategy against MKULTRA-related lawsuits. If anyone had a conflict of interest in the Victims Task Force case it was Tony Lapham. But his activities have never been questioned, let alone investigated.

The Causal Relationship

Entries in his diary conclusively prove that George White gave Barbara Smithe LSD. A surreptitious dose of LSD is battery, and Clarice testified that it was delivered to Barbara. So why didn’t Rogovin pursue this issue? Why did he emphasize the potential damage of Dr. Berger’s testimony instead, when there was hearsay evidence that Berger had made sexual advances toward Barbara while she was his patient?

Considering this, one must also wonder if the electroshock treatments were prescribed for Barbara’s benefit, or if they were designed to erase memories of George White from her troubled mind?

Although his firm generated evidence to support the theory that LSD was the “precipitating agent” in Barbara’s paranoia, Rogovin seems to have ignored it. As the Rogovin firm noted in a January 15, 1980 report it provided to Eliot, LSD was thought to precipitate a “model fit” of schizophrenia. There was a consensus in the research community that LSD flashbacks could occur and cause mental illness, and there was agreement that unwitting ingestion was an important contributing factor to adverse LSD reactions. Unwitting ingestion represented “a maximally stressful event because the perceptual and ideational distortions then occur without the saving knowledge that they were drug induced and temporary.”

One researcher concluded, “the hallucinogenic experience is so striking that many subsequent disturbances may be attributed to it without further justification.”

Even the CIA had uncovered evidence that LSD may have caused Barbara’s breakdown. A year before the Rogovin firm conducted its research into LSD, Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner, in a letter dated January 10th, 1979, asked the Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) to study the problem. In his personal response to Turner, HEW Administrator Joseph A. Califano said, “We believe it may be assumed that where studies with these drugs were conducted in academic institutions by reputable investigators, any short-term consequences would have been detected. But if the CIA administered these drugs to persons under other circumstances, we believe you should take all possible steps to ascertain whether any individuals might have been injured as a consequence of their participation in such research.”

George White gave Barbara Smithe LSD in his apartment, while she was with her 20-month old daughter, and yet the Rogovin firm decided to drop the case. Why?

Lowlifes on LSD

Deviants were not the only subject population of the CIA’s LSD experiments. As an August 1963 report on MKLUTRA, authored by the CIA Inspector General John Earman, clearly stated, “the effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native American and foreign, is of great significance and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories.”

Entries in George White’s diary indicate that several MKLUTRA victims were dosed at a safehouse he rented with CIA money in Greenwich Village. In June 1953 White received $4100 from Dr. Gottlieb. He deposited the money in the National City Bank and used it to rent an apartment at 81 Bedford Street. Helping White decorate the apartment with Toulouse-Lautrec posters was his “Special Employee” Pierre Lafitte, who also hired prostitutes to lure victims into White’s lair. Also assisting White were Gil and Pat Fox.

“Tine knew that George was dosing people,” Gil Fox explains. “It was his job, and when George was working LSD he rented an apartment in the Village at 81 Bedford Street. He set himself up as an artist/painter named Morgan Hall. He had Pat, who was an artist, paint murals on the walls.”

Other people helped White as well, including other FBN agents, and White’s close friend Irwin Eisenberg. A wealthy industrialist from California, Eisenberg owned an expensive home in Larchmont, New York. White often visited Eisenberg there, and in his diary he describes swimming in the estate’s spacious pool.

According to CIA officer Laubinger, Eisenberg was a “benefactor of the arts” who in 1953 was sponsoring the career of Linda King, an aspiring New York actress. An entry in White’s diary notes that he invited Linda to the Bedford “pad” on 12 September 1953. A subsequent entry indicates that Linda became “psychotic” and that Tine took her to Lenox Hills Hospital on East 77th Street and Park Avenue. When Linda arrived at the hospital she claimed White had “drugged” her. But nothing came of the incident. Evidently the CIA arranged an accommodation with the medical department of the New York City Police department to protect White from any hassles with victims.

“We knew he was a federal narcotic agent and was giving people LSD,” Gil Fox says. “He would invite people to Bedford pad, dose them with LSD, and then take photographs of them through a two-way mirror. But I never got into it. We weren’t interested in that aspect of his life. He wanted to keep that aspect of his lifestyle secret. At the time LSD was great fun, that’s all. Then sub-agent Olson walked out the window, and that’s when the shit hit the fan.”

On 26 November 1953, Defense Department employee Frank Olson, who had been working on the MKULTRA Program, allegedly ran through a window and fell to his death from the tenth floor of the Statler Hotel in New York City. Several days before, Olson had been given a surreptitious dose of LSD by Dr. Gottlieb. Olson’s death was ruled a suicide by the CIA and the NYPD.


Clarice Smithline never forgave George White. She describes him as a mean man who drank all day and kept lots of guns on the table. Once he crushed her curtains because, he said, they were too pretty.

But she respected him, too. After he retired as the FBN’s District Supervisor in San Francisco, White invited his father to live with him and Tine at their apartment in town. There was a fire in the apartment and George rescued his father. But he could not get back inside to save his beloved parrot.

“Why,” Clarice asks, “did he dose his friends with LSD?”

The short answer is, so the CIA could learn how to entrap and discredit people. In one alleged case, White, on behalf of his friend, New York mayoral candidate Rudolph Halley, slipped LSD to an opposition speaker at a Halley political rally.

That is what MKULTRA was all about: entrapping and compromising politicians, friends and foes alike. It is well known within the intelligence research community that the CIA tried to dose Fidel Castro with LSD, and that the FBI made illegal tapes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. engaging in extra-marital sex, in a blatant attempt to force him out of politics.

This is the truly frightening aspect of MKULTRA, and it was known not only to espionage insiders like Anthony Lapham, but also to the Victims Task Force. As Frank Laubinger recalls, the Victims Task Force was led to believe that White “was mixing it up with drug dealers; that he would slip it to people to aide in their debriefings. But there was no evidence White was giving pot to drug dealers.”

Instead, White was giving LSD to average, vulnerable people like Barbara Smithe.

“Why give them LSD then let them wander into the night?” Laubinger asked this writer. “Was it a lark? Was he serious? This is not standard scientific procedure.”


“We were interested to find out why,” Laubinger concludes, “and we would have stayed with it for several years, but the powers that be told us to put it behind us.”

Laubinger pauses. “If they really wanted to find out what happened, it would have been investigated by Congress.”

And if not for the fact that so many Congresspersons have stayed at CIA safehouses, that might actually be a valid course of action.

The Known Victims

Barbara Smithe: died of cancer after suffering serious mental problems.

Valerie Smithe: lives in a foreign country.

Clarice Stein Smithline: settled with the Whites and the CIA.

Francine Kramer: when contacted by CIA officer Frank Laubinger she was courteous, but did not recall who was present on the night of 11 January 1953.

Gil and Pat Fox: swingers who didn’t really care.

Kai Jurgenson: never found

Jo Jurgenson: advised by her psychiatrist not to assist the Victims Task Force.

Linda King: never found by the Victims Task Force. There was no record at Lenox Hills Hospital, and when Laubinger contacted White’s childhood friend, Irwin Eisenberg, he was on his deathbed and did not want to be bothered. She is said to be living in Los Angeles, her home for over 50 years.

Herman Ginsberg and his wife Bobbie: Herman Ginsberg was an executive with Crown Cork & Seal. White’s diary indicates they were dosed on 13 September 1953 at the Bedford “pad.” White wrote that Herman told him of a “psychic transformation” after using “the hypertension drug.” When contacted by CIA officer Frank Laubinger, Ginsberg was not helpful and said he did not believe they had been dosed.

Ruth Kelly: a dancer in San Francisco, never found by the Victims Task Forcer, said to be alive and well and living in Miami.

Laubinger could not find Pierre Lafitte either, despite the combined efforts of the DEA , CIA and FBI, and the knowledge that he lived in and operated a restaurant in New Orleans.

George White: in 1963 he became seriously ill with cirrhosis of the liver and by 1965 his weight was down to 135 pounds. Upon his retirement he was appointed fire marshal in Stimson Beach, California. He continued to drink and surround himself with adoring deviants until his death in 1975. (White wrote famous letter to Sid Gottlieb, in which he said: “I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest?”)

Albertine White: the only person who knows the truth.

Douglas Valentine is the author of The Hotel Tacloban, The Phoenix Program, and TDY, all of which are available through iUniverse.com. For information about Mr. Valentine and his books and articles, please visit his website at www.douglasvalentine.com

He can be reached at: redspruce@attbi.com