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Cia drug experimentation { May 11 2003 }

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May 11, 2003
The C.I.A.'s Bad Trip

The C.I.A.'s Bad Trip

Q. I read recently that the C.I.A. conducted drug experiments in the 1950's in New York. Any idea where?

A. In the cold war 1950's, the spy game between the United States and Russia was afoot. In hopes of developing a truth serum, C.I.A. scientists began experimenting with the hallucinogenic LSD. At first the work was conducted at the university level in a program called MK-Ultra, but the experiment eventually moved off campus, to an apartment at 81 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village.

In 1953 the apartment was rented to a man named on the lease as Morgan Hall. In reality, Morgan Hall was George Hunter White, who had conducted LSD experiments for the C.I.A. in a program called Operation Midnight Climax.

White transformed the apartment into a safe house complete with two-way mirrors and surveillance equipment. Posing as Morgan Hall, artist and seaman, he used to lure people back to the apartment and give them LSD - sometimes with consent, sometimes without - and recorded the drug-induced behavior.

In 1955 White and Operation Midnight Climax were moved to Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, where the operation used prostitutes to lure men to the safe house for experiments. The entire project is described in the 1985 book "Acid Dreams: The C.I.A., LSD and the Sixties Rebellion'' by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (Grove Press).

In 1965, the C.I.A. pulled the plug on Operation Midnight Climax and admitted it was unethical. Possession of LSD was made illegal in 1966.

4 Fares in 4 Days

Q. Hmm, city in fiscal crisis, subway fares go up. Haven't I seen this movie before?

A. It was playing back in 1975 when subway fares jumped to 50 cents from 35 cents, during New York's most famous fiscal crisis, when the city neared bankruptcy. This sequel, however, has different producers.

The situations are fundamentally different, said Stephen Berger, who helped shepherd New York through the 1970's crisis as executive director of the New York State Emergency Financial Control Board for the city. In the 1970's the city subsidized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority more than it does today. So any depression in the city economy affected the M.T.A. Since then, the role of city subsidies in the M.T.A. budget has been reduced to the point where there is "no direct correlation," said Mr. Berger, who is now chairman of Odyssey Investments.

Despite pledging to "hold the fare" in the 1973 mayoral campaign, Mayor Abraham D. Beame had little choice in 1975 but to acquiesce to the M.T.A. decision to raise fares. The 43 percent increase was met with demonstrations, and civic groups encouraged passengers to enter through exit gates without paying.

The increase caused an odd pricing situation. At the time, half-price fares were offered on Sundays and holidays. The fare on Saturday, Aug. 30, was 35 cents; on Sunday it was 17 cents. On Monday, Sept. 1, the fares went up but because it was Labor Day, the price was 25 cents. The next day, the fare rose to 50 cents. Four different subway fares in four consecutive days was unprecedented.

I on the Aisle

Q. Although an avid theatergoer, I just noticed there is no "Row I" in any Broadway theaters. Why is that?

A. According to Ken Mandelbaum, a Broadway historian, theaters omit the row "I" to avoid confusion with the number 1. There's already enough confusion with people sitting in the wrong seats, which, if you're an avid theatergoer, you've probably noticed happens a lot.

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