Operation Midnight Climax was an operation initially established by Sidney Gottlieb and placed under the direction of Federal Narcotics Bureau in Boston, Massachusetts with the officer George Hunter White under the pseudonym of Morgan Hall for the CIA as a sub-project of Project MKULTRA, the CIA mind-control research program that began in the 1950s. Before the programs were shut down, hundreds of scientists would work on them.
The project that started in 1954 consisted of a web of CIA-run safehouses in San Francisco, Marin, and New York City. It was established in order to study the effects of LSD on unconsenting individuals. Sex workers 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 glass. Every one of these acts was blatantly illegal and 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 Operation Midnight Climax program was soon expanded, and CIA operatives began dosing people in restaurants, bars and beaches.
The safehouses were dramatically scaled back in 1963, following a report by CIA Inspector General John Earman which strongly recommended closing the facility. The San Francisco safehouses were closed in 1965, and the New York City safehouse soon followed in 1966.
In 1974, the journalist Seymour Hersh exposed the CIA’s illegal spying on U.S. citizens and how the CIA had conducted non-consensual drug experiments. His report started the lengthy process of bringing long-suppressed details about MK-Ultra to light. Project MKULTRA came to light in the spring of 1977 during a wide-ranging survey of the CIA’s technical services division. John K. Vance, a member of the CIA inspector general’s staff, discovered that the agency was running a research project that included administering LSD and other drugs to unwilling human subjects.