Still Enrage Victim’s Son
San Jose Mercury News, October 9, 1988
As a child, Harvey Weinstein used to watch his father waltz around the living room, radiating vitality while belting out Al Jolson songs. After all, one can’t even hum along with Jolie unless one has vigor.
But the son saw something awful start happening after his father went to Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal in 1956 to rid himself of anxiety attacks. Louis Weinstein came out of the hospital a listless, confused shadow of the outgoing man his son had known.
Nine years ago, the son, a Stanford psychiatrist, says he figured out why: His father had been brainwashed by a doctor paid by the CIA.
“In all of my years of psychiatry, I had never seen anything like this,” he said of his father’s downfall. “It fills you with rage.”
On Tuesday, the government confirmed Harvey Weinstein’s beliefs as much as it ever will. Although the CIA will not admit to any wrongdoing, it agreed to settle a lawsuit by paying Louis Weinstein and eight other Canadians $750,000—the CIA’s largest out-of-court settlement ever.
The nine, all former patients at the Montreal institute, charged the agency paid for experiments that used them as guinea pigs without their consent. The trial had been scheduled to start Thursday.
Had the trial been held, Harvey Weinstein would have testified both as an expert in psychiatry and as the son of one of the patients. He is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry, director of counseling and psychological services, and associate director of Stanford’s health center.
The actions that Weinstein says led to the lawsuit sound more like the plot for a pulp mystery set behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s than the true story of U.S.-funded experiments at North American hospitals from the mid-1950s through 1973.
Weinstein says a CIA front organization called the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology paid Dr. Ewen Cameron nearly $60,000 over three years to conduct the experiments in Montreal. The organization was part of a project started in 1953, at the height of the Cold War, by then-CIA Director Allen Dulles to finance mind-control research, including experiments with LSD on unwitting subjects.
Documents uncovered by Harvey Weinstein and lawyers involved in the suit show that Cameron’s brainwashing experiments were conducted in two stages.
First, subjects were “depatterned,” which Weinstein describes as “wiping the brain clean of all thought.” This, he said, was done by giving the patients LSD, mescaline, PCP, amphetamines and nitrous oxide, and by sedating them for months at a time.
Cameron also used electroshock treatment three times a day. Harvey Weinstein said this soon rendered patients incapable of bowel and bladder control.
Patients had little contact with other people and were kept in dark rooms.
In this state, patients were ready to be brainwashed.
They were forced to listen to the same message for 16 hours a day. The messages were piped into a loudspeaker in each room, then into speakers on the pillows and finally into earphones.
“The messages would appear to come from within your head,” Harvey Weinstein said.
Louis Weinstein had built a dress factory from scratch. He had lived with his family in a comfortable house in Montreal. He had many friends.
By the time the treatments ended in 1962, his career, the house and his friends were all gone.
During an interview last week, Harvey Weinstein began to cry when recalling how he had persuaded his mother to have the treatments continued, even though his father had been worse after each series of treatments.
“The guilt I felt over the years to get my mother to get him to go back to the hospital . . .,” he said.
Weinstein spent his teen-age years helping to take care of his father, so it seemed natural to become a doctor. He did not, however, initially plan to become a psychiatrist.
“Yet, when I think about it now, there really was no choice to be made,” he wrote in his just-published book, A Father, a Son and the CIA.
Worked at same hospital
In 1966, while a third-year medical student at McGill University in Montreal, Weinstein served his clerkship at its psychiatric hospital, Allan Memorial Institute.
He could have read up on a former patient—his father. “I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I told myself it would have been abusive.”
Thirteen years passed before Weinstein was to find the answer to what happened to his father. Reading a newspaper, the son came across a book review of The Search for the “Manchurian Candidate,” John Marks’ expose of CIA mind-control experiments.
“And the world stopped,” Weinstein said.
He wrote Marks, who told him about two Washington, D.C., attorneys who wanted to sue the government on behalf of others who had been used unwittingly in experiments.
Weinstein then started years of research that took him to archives, where he read all of Cameron’s papers. Cameron died in 1967.
He wrote his book, but could not find an American publisher for it. He was told it was a Canadian story, despite the proof he had found that the CIA paid for Cameron’s work. A Toronto firm published the soon-to-be released book.
Leonard S. Rubenstein, an attorney with the Mental Health Law Project who worked on the lawsuit, said the government defense was that Cameron “was trying to help people.”
“None of them is a vegetable,” he said of the former patients. “None is in a coma. It’s more like in the case of Mr. Weinstein, the most serious disability has to deal with functioning.”
The U.S. government accepts no blame.
“We have consistently maintained that the actions were appropriate at the time,” said CIA spokesman Bill Devine. “The standards were different than today.”
Three presidents—Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan—have signed executive orders forbidding the CIA from doing experiments on unknowing people.
Attorney James C. Turner filed the suit, in federal court in the District of Columbia eight years ago. He said there were two goals.
“The first is monetary vindication, and the only way to get it to them is while they are still alive,” Turner said, explaining why they agreed to settle even though a trial would have forced the CIA to disclose its role.
The plaintiffs are old. Louis Weinstein, for example, is 82. Lawyers feared a prolonged trial and appeals, stretched out over at least three years, would be too much for their clients.
The second goal, Turner said, was “to send a message that no part of the government is above the law.”
Each person’s share will amount to about $88,000 in American money, $100,000 in Canadian currency. His father still lives in Montreal.
Father, son cry
When Harvey Weinstein told his father about the settlement, “he cried, then I cried,” Weinstein said. “He saw it as a vindication. And he had a real sense that at last someone was acknowledging something terrible was done.”
Weinstein remains enraged for many reasons. He questions how a government could be so audacious as to attempt to brainwash unwitting people. He imagines what the outrage would have been if the experiments had been done on U.S. citizens instead of Canadians.
As a doctor, he said he is furious that medicine and research were used to harm, not help. Productive lives were destroyed, and no money could ever recompense them for ravaging about 30 years of their lives.
“No government has the right to trifle with the lives of its citizens,” he said.