The post World War Two power struggle saw the development of strange and even dangerous interrogation tactics.
Hypnosis, drugging and torture became common experiments among the KGB, other Eastern Bloc communist countries and the United States.
According to a CIA report, the pro-Communist sentiments expressed by an American released from Communist prisons led the American intelligence community to believe there was some type of brainwashing going on.
CIA officials believed American prisoners were subjected to drugs, hypnosis and “other exotic means of controlling human behavior.”
No Behavioral or Medical Science Involved
The CIA investigation determined that behavioral scientists were not involved in the enhanced interrogation techniques, and the covert hypnosis methods were based more on doctrine developed by KGB police officials rather than research by behavioral or medical scientists.
Soviet and Satellite police officials had what the CIA describes as a “contempt for psychology” in general, and informants told agency officials that no psychological training was given in KGB schools.
The Soviets and Satellite states experimented with “hypnotics” in heir Cold War interrogations, although the effect did not produce actual hypnosis.
Using Drugs for Covert Hypnosis
Instead, the goal was experimenting with different sleeping drugs that created an intoxicating effect in smaller doses. Popular drugs were barbiturates like Nembutal and Phenobarbital.
Other barbiturates dubbed “truth serums” had an effect similar to alcohol, and there is no evidence Communists effectively extracted confessions using this method on prisoners.
Of course there were well known experiments using hallucinogenic agents such as LSD, mescaline and marijuana. Although highly disorienting, we still don’t know what the impact was in terms of gathering information.
In terms of actual hypnosis, the CIA determined that the methods they knew of that were in practice by the Russians were largely a failure and did not extract much valuable information.
We know little about enhanced hypnosis techniques that exist in the world of interrogation today, aside from recent revelations of waterboarding and sensory deprivation.
Whether hypnosis continued to be developed and practiced after the publication of this document has not been proven.