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LISTEN | Brainwashed

A new investigative series from CBC Podcasts brings you into the true, twisted story of the CIA's attempts at mind control. Hosted by Michelle Shephard.

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The new investigative series from CBC Podcasts addresses one of society's most notorious conspiracy theories: MKULTRA. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Most conspiracy theories aren't true — but this one is. Brainwashed tells the story of one of the world's most notorious.

The new series from CBC Podcasts is a multi-part investigation into the CIA's experiments in mind control – from the Cold War and MKULTRA to the so-called War on Terror. We learn about a psychiatrist who used his patients as human guinea pigs at a Montreal hospital and what happens in times of fear when the military and medicine collide. We discover the ripple effect that the devastating experiments have had — on the survivors, their families, and on thousands of other people around the world. And how they are fighting back.


Brainwashed: Trailer

Brainwashed is an investigative series into the CIA’s covert experiments in mind control – from the Cold War and MKULTRA to the so-called War on Terror. Listen to the voices of the survivors and their families, the conscientious objectors and the lawyers and journalists who have fought to have this story come to light. Go into the hospital rooms where psychiatric patients became unwitting guinea pigs for such so-called treatments given Orwellian names like psychic driving and de-patterning. We look at what happens in times of fear, when the military and medicine collide and how without accountability, a torturous cycle continues.


Brainwashed, Episode 1: Ravenscrag. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
The Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal was an innovative new hospital where patients sought cutting-edge psychiatric care. But instead of being helped, many were subjected to shockingly brutal experiments: massive doses of LSD or other drugs, electroshocks, and sensory deprivation. How — and why — could this be allowed to happen?


Brainwashed, Episode 2: Psychic Driving. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
Dr. Ewen Cameron, an internally renowned psychiatrist, was once the director of the World, American and Canadian Psychiatric Associations. So how did he come to develop his controversial treatments? And what was the real purpose behind his experiments?

Episode 3: Exposing MKULTRA

Brainwashed, Episode 3: Exposing MKULTRA. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
Communist brainwashing, mind control experiments, a government cover up... MKULTRA sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theories or science fiction. But it was real. John Marks, author of The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, and Stephen Kinzer, author of Poisoner in Chief, reveal the shocking details of the bizarre and expansive secret CIA project.

Episode 4: Suing the CIA

Brainwashed, Episode 4: Suing the CIA. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
After discovering that they were the unwitting victims of human experiments, nine of Dr. Cameron’s victims band together to take on a Herculean task – to make the CIA pay. How do you sue one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world?

Episode 5: We Tortured Some Folks

Brainwashed, Episode 5: We Tortured Some Folks. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
MKULTRA was supposed to have ended in the 1960s. The torturous experiments didn’t work. So why did these techniques evolve and continue to be used by American trainers throughout Latin America, and then get revived once again in the era that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks? The CIA’s Black Sites and a courtroom inside the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base may hold some of the answers.

Episode 6: Never Too Late To Say Sorry

Brainwashed, Episode 6: Never Too Late to Say Sorry. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)
MKULTRA has entered popular culture, becoming the butt of jokes, television plot points, and the darling of internet conspiracy theorists. At the very least, the secrecy that still surrounds MKULTRA, or the CIA’s post-9/11 programs, sows distrust of governments, and medical professionals. At worst, it gives credence to online conspiracies, like Pizzagate, that end up having real world consequences. Meanwhile, the families of the victims continue to suffer. And continue to fight for justice and recognition.