Was Timothy Leary a CIA Agent? Was JFK the "Manchurian Candidate"? Was the Sixties Revolution Really a Government Plot?
Tinker, Tailor, Stoner, Spy
by Mark Riebling
EXT. THE WHITE HOUSE - SUNSET
Summer-bachelor Jack Kennedy stands on the Harry Truman balcony overlooking the rose-garden fountain, a soothing sight before him: prisms of lighted water shooting into darkness, the white spike of the Washington Monument, auto headlights flickering along Executive Avenue. He begins to feel a deep-seated goodness within, centered between his chest and throat. From the bedroom behind him, through white chiffon curtains in open french doors, float the chords of a Sinatra song -- "All I Need is the Girl." With strange clarity, JFK can suddenly make out every note....
Behind the curtains moves the shadow of a tall woman who is not his wife. She is deeply connected to CIA, and has just dispensed to the President of the United States a dose of LSD. In the next few hours she will be "brainwashing" him, and she will be doing so on the directions of a Harvard psychologist, Dr. Timothy Leary, whose colleagues are all taking CIA money, and who has himself designed a personality test used by CIA....
This, or something very much like this, actually happened. To understand how and why it happened requires cruising back a few years, digging through government documents, reading between the lines of Leary's autobiography, Flashbacks. It's a trip through the secret maze of the American pyschedelic underground, a journey that is its own destination, a mystery that must be solved by the reader's own detective work. What follows are the undisputed facts, the clues:
September 1942: The Office of Strategic Services (OSS), wartime precursor to CIA, begins searching for a drug that will force subjects of interrogation, such as captured Nazi U-boat crews, to reveal secrets. As project director Dr. Stanley Lovell will recall, the idea of a "truth drug" is "considered fantastic by the realists, unethical by the moralists, and downright ludicrous by the physicians." But according to OSS records, Lovell goes ahead and tests "mescaline, various barbiturates, scopolamine, benzedrine, cannabis indica (marijuana), etc." The best results are obtained with the marijuana: "A few minutes after administration, the subject gradually becomes relaxed, and experiences a sensation of well-being... thoughts flow with considerable freedom... conversation becomes animated and accelerated. Inhibitions fall away.... [the drug] makes manifest any strong characteristics of the individual.... Whatever the individual is trying to withhold will be forced to the top of his subconscious mind." To "administer" the pot without a subject's knowing it, OSS scientists dissolve marijuana leaves in acetone, then heat the result into a clear, odorless, viscous liquid -- tetrahydrocannabional acetate -- which can be "injected into any type of food, such as mashed potatoes, butter, salad dressing, or in such things as candy."
May 25, 1943: THC acetate is tested on an unknowing subject, Lower East Side mafioso August "Little Augie" Del Gaizo, who has been helping OSS smuggle agents into Nazi-held Sicily. Little Augie is considered an ideal subject because he has secrets he is "most anxious to conceal, the revelation of which might result in his imprisonment"; in fact, he prides himself on having never informed, and has even "been instrumental in killing some persons who have been informants." But after smoking two proffered cigarettes, laced with a total of .14 grams THC, Little Augie becomes "obviously 'high' and extremely garrulous" as he sits in the apartment of OSS officer George White, a former Treasury agent who had arrested him several times in the past. When White turns the subject to law enforcement, Little Augie "with no further encouragement" divulges the identities of city officials on the take; details of the criminal empire run by Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel; "and other information that subject would not give under ordinary circumstances. There is no question but that administration of the drug was responsible for loosening the subject's tongue." Henceforth, OSS refers to the THC acetate simply as "TD," a cryptonym for "Truth Drug."
1944: OSS uses "TD" in secret operations. Lovell reports that "Certain disclosures of the greatest value are in the possession of our military intelligence as a result of this treatment, which it is felt would otherwise not be known. Properly employed... it may be a national asset of incalculable importance." But OSS officials, fearing political backlash if use of the drug is revealed, shut the program down.
April-May 1945: Jack Kennedy, before entering politics, is working as a reporter for the Hearst newspaper chain. While covering the charter conference of the United Nations at San Francisco, he frequently sees an old flame from Choate, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and her husband, Cord Meyer, Jr., who is an assistant to the American delegation. A young Yale graduate and award-winning literary talent, Cord Meyer was badly wounded by a Japanese hand-grenade on Guam and has a glass eye; when he smokes cigarettes, the smoke slowly drifts up and into his open, nerveless, unblinking left eye, curling around the glass orb. The sight so disconcerts JFK that he finds himself rubbing his own left eye in a kind of sympathetic agony.
September 1946: Timothy Leary begins doctoral studies in psychology at Berkeley.
1947: Dr. Werner Stoll, a researcher at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, publishes the first scientific articles on LSD-25, an extract of rye mold, noting that it accelerates thinking and blunts suspicion in schizophrenics.
1947-48: As a graduate student in psychology, Leary attends the first two national conventions of the American Veterans Committee (AVC), a left-wing veterans group, as a California state delegation leader. At the second AVC convention, in Milwaukee, Leary meets Cord Meyer, who is then spearheading an anti-communist purge of the organization. Meyer lectures Leary about communism, and the importance of liberal resistance to it. Leary will later credit Meyer with "helping me understand my political-cultural role more clearly."
Late 1950: Cord Meyer joins CIA and begins working in its International Relations Division, of which he is soon put in charge. The express purpose of this division is to covertly finance, infiltrate, and encourage noncommunist liberal-left movements and institutions, such as labor unions, creative-academic societies, and student groups.
April 13, 1953: CIA launches Operation MK/ULTRA, a major drug and mind-control program. Although THC acetate is studied as an interrogation aid, CIA is more concerned about reports of communist brainwashing experiments on American POWs in Korea, and focuses on stronger, hallucinogenic drugs. "Aside from the offensive potential, the development of a comprehensive capability in this field... gives a thorough knowledge of the enemy's theoretical potential, thus enabling us to defend ourselves against a foe who might not be as restrained in the use of these techniques as we are." Some CIA employees, including perhaps Meyer, volunteer for experiments. Through a front organization called The Society For Human Ecology, CIA begins sponsoring $25 million in research into the effects of mind-altering drugs -- LSD, psilocybin and mescaline -- at Harvard University and at several cites in the San Francisco-Oakland area, including Stanford and Berkeley.
1954-59: Leary is director of clinical research and psychology at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland. He devises a personality test, "The Leary," which is used by CIA to test prospective employees. He has also become a close friend to Frank Barron, a graduate school classmate who has ben working for CIA since at least 1953. Barron works at the Berkeley Institute for Personality Assessment and Research, which Leary will later acknowledge is "funded and staffed by OSS-CIA psychologists."
1960-61: Barron founds the Harvard Pyschedelic Drug Research Center. Leary follows Barron to Harvard and becomes a lecturer in psychology. After Barron administers to him some CIA-supplied psilocybin and LSD, Leary begins tripping regularly. He also studies the effects of psycheledics on others in controlled experiments. He later admits to knowing, at the time, that "some powerful people in Washington have sponsored all this drug research." In addition to Barron, Leary's associates and assistants during this period include former OSS chief pyschologist Harry Murray, who had montiored military experiments on Truth-Drug brainwashing and interrogation, and Martin Orne, a researcher receiving funds from CIA. Leary also consults British philosopher Aldous Huxley, author of the psychedelic manifesto, The Doors of Perception (from which Jim Morrision would later take name his band). Huxley, who is at Harvard on a visiting professorship, urges Leary to form a secret order of LSD-Illuminati, to launch and lead a psychedelic conspiracy to brainwash influential people for the purposes human betterment. "That's how everything of culture and beauty and philosophic freedom has been passed on," Huxley tells him. "Initiate artists, writers, poets, jazz musicians, elegant courtesans. And they'll educate the intelligent rich."
Spring 1962: Mary Meyer, recently divorced from her CIA husband, visits Leary at Harvard. She leans against the door post, hip tilted provocatively, studying him with green-blue eyes. Leary will later recall here as "amused, arrogant, aristocratic." She tells him she has a "friend who's a very important man, who wants to try LSD for himself." At the time, though Leary does not know this, Mary is having an affair with President Kennedy, which will include more than thirty visits to the White House (later confirmed by Presidential Secretary Kenneth O'Donnell). Mary tells Leary that the government is studying ways to "use drugs for warfare, for espionage, for brainwashing." She asks him to "teach us how to run [LSD] sessions, use drugs to do good." Leary agrees. He provides her with drug samples and "session" reports, and is in touch with her every few weeks, advising her on how to be a "brainwasher." She swears him to secrecy.
Late July, 1962: While the First Lady is away at the Kennedy summer home in Hyannisport, Mary calls on JFK at the White House. She records the visit in her diary, and later describes it to her close friend James Truitt of the Washington Post. She and the President of the United States smoke two joints of marijuana, reportedly prompting the leader of the free world to say, "This isn't at all like cocaine. I'll get you some of that." Once he is suitably "loosened up" -- Leary has emphasized the need to put subjects in a "benevolent state" before turning them on -- Mary dispenses to Jack a dose of LSD. As it starts to "kick in," he goes out and stands on Harry Truman's balcony overlooking the rose-garden fountain, a soothing sight before him....
Fall 1962: Leary meets Mary Meyer in a room at Boston's Ritz Hotel. She alludes to her "hush-hush love affair," and tells him that "top people in Washington are turning on." According to Leary's recounting, she also says: "Do you remember the American Veterans Committee, that liberal veterans group you belonged to after the war? The CIA started that." She explains to him that "CIA creates the radical journals and student organizations and runs them with deep-cover agents.... dissident organizations in academia are also controlled." When Leary asks her how she knows all this, she explains: "I knocked you with those facts to get your attention. It's a standard intelligence trick." She confides that CIA has not only been running left-wing groups as fronts, but has been sponsoring more psychedelic research than he will ever know. "You are doing exploratory work the CIA tried to do in the 1950s. So they're more than happy to have you do their research for them. Since drug research is of vital importance to the intelligence agencies of this country, you'll be allowed to go on with your experiments as long as you keep it quiet," she advises.
Spring 1963: Leary again meets Mary Meyer at the Ritz. She says that her love affair has been exposed, although no publicity has resulted. "I don't trust the phones or the mail," she warns. He is to make no contact with her until further notice.
May-June 1963: Mary warns Leary, who is conducting a psychedelic summer camp in Mexico, that their "sessions" are "in jeopardy" because he is attracting "too much publicity."
September 1963: Mary drives up to see Leary, now conducting experiments at a large private estate in Milbrook, New York. She gives him, for his experiments, a bottle of "the best LSD in the world," from the National Institute of Mental Health. She takes countersurveillance precautions, and says: "We had eight intelligent women turning on the most powerful men in Washington. And then we got found out.... I made a mistake in recruitment. A wife snitched on us... I've gotten mixed up in some dangerous matters."
December 1, 1963: Around this time Mary calls Leary, who had been "expecting a phone call from [her]... ever since the Kennedy assassination." According to Leary, she says: "They couldn't control him anymore. He was changing too fast. They've covered everything up.... I'm afraid. Be careful."
October 12, 1964: Mary Meyer is shot to death, execution-style, at 12:45 p.m., on a park towpath by the Georgetown Canal in Washington, D.C. Her body is identified by Ben Bradlee, Cord Meyer's brother-in-law, editor of the Washington Post. CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton confiscates and later burns the diary in which Mary has recorded her liaisons with JFK. A black laborer with a wife and five children, 26-year old Raymond Crump, Jr., is arrested on suspicion of murdering Mary in a robbery attempt, but she had not been carrying a purse, and there is no credible eyewitness testimony placing Crump at the site. On July 20, 1965, a jury deliberates only eleven hours before acquitting him. The murder weapon is never found; the crime is never solved.
1965-66: FBI agents openly surveil Leary's drug experimentation compound at Milbrook. Leary, intimidated, considers relocating to Mexico. For jurisdictional reasons, the Bureau turns the case over to former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy, now a county prosecutor, who later says: "The word was that at Leary's lair the panties were dropping as fast as the acid." Liddy leads a raid by sheriffs in March 1966. Leary is charged with possession of illegal drugs, but the case is dropped on technicalities after the Supreme Court's Miranda decision in June. This series of events imprints on Leary a deep distrust of the FBI and of "cops" generally.
January-August 1967: Ramparts, a radical magazine, exposes CIA sponsorship of the National Student Association, a Cord Meyer project. Meyer's best friend, James Angleton, assigns CIA officer Richard Ober to begin a leak investigation into the Ramparts story. Ober's probe is soon expanded into a spy program on the countercultural and student-protests movements, code named CHAOS.
September 1967: Just as CHAOS is launched, Leary moves from the isolation of upstate New York, where he has been philosophically contemplating the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and becomes a gregarious, media-hounding fixture of the Southern California countercultural scene, telling young people to "Tune in, Turn On, Drop Out."
1968: While other New-Left leaders preach violent overthrow of the U.S. Government and creation of a Marxist dictatorship, Leary urges instead a nonviolent, drug-oriented "hippie capitalism," an artsy-craftsy, decentralized, libertarian sort of entrepeneurship that will also soon find its expression in the culture of the Grateful Dead. While Leary's position does constitute a rejection of the corporate world, it also embraces private property and the profit motive. Because of this, the Marxist Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) denounces Leary and his noncommunist followers for "limiting the revolution." The Progressive Labor Party (PLP), a Maoist "Old Left" group, goes so far as to claim that Leary is a CIA agent. But the PLP is accusing everyone it disgarees with of being CIA.
1969: Leary critics will eventually point with suspicion to his close connections during this time to an international LSD-smuggling cartel, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, which is rumored to be a CIA front. The Brotherhood is controlled by Ronald Stark, whom an Italian High Court will later conclude has been a CIA agent since 1960, and the Brotherhood's funds are channeled through Castle Bank in the Bahamas, a known CIA "proprietary." For two years Leary lives at Brotherhood headquarters, located on a ranch in Laguna Beach. During this period, the Brotherhood corners the U.S. market on LSD and begins distributing only one variety of the drug, "Orange Sunshine." Stark says he plans to distribute the product to CIA-backed guerillas fighting Chinese occupation; he reportedly knows a high-placed Tibetan close to the Dalai Lama, and wants to provide enough LSD to dose all Chinese troops in Tibet. In the U.S., meanwhile, Stark provides enough Orange Sunshine to dose the hippie culture and radical left many times over. This is the "bad acid" on which Charles Manson's followers murder Sharon Tate, and on which Hell's Angels stab to death a black man during a concert by the Rolling Stones. The Summer of Love has been supplanted by a Season of Hate. Because of this, many countercultural insiders -- including William S. Burroughs, White Panther leader John Sinclair, and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey -- will eventually entertain the theory that Stark, Leary, and Orange Sunshine are all part of CIA plot to discredit and neutralize the radical left. According to former radicals Martin Lee and Bruce Shalin, widespread use of Orange Sunshine "contributed significantly to the demise of the New Left, for it heightened the metabolism of the body politic and accelerated all the changes going on... In its hyped-up condition, the New Left burned itself out."
Fall 1969: According to declassified government documents, CIA now has a CHAOS agent with "particularly good entree into the highest levels of the domestic radical community," who is providing "extremely personal data." It is decided to send this agent to infiltrate the overseas headquarters of the Black Panthers, but this will not be accomplished for many months. In the meantime, CIA will debrief him for purely domestic information about his associates, in part because he does not "wish to deal with the FBI." This description perfectly fits Leary. No one has better "entree" than Leary, who has recently been helicoptered in as the guest of honor at Woodstock. Few have more "personal" data on radical figures than the man who is personally turning them on. The overall pattern of Leary's career, his continual links to people who are linked to CIA, is certainly suggestive. So is the fact that, like CIA's "star agent," his willingness to mix with CIA-types does not extend to the FBI, which Leary has disliked since Liddy's raid on Milbrook.
1970: In February, Leary is convicted of marijuana possession and jailed at Lompoc, California. This seems clear evidence that he is not, after all, a CIA asset or government informant. Yet CIA has at times employed agents or infomrants who are later prosecuted for activities unrelated to their government work. For instance, Johnny Rosselli, and other Mafiosi hired by CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro in the early 1960s, are eventually taken down by the FBI, though over CIA protest. If then, Leary is working for CIA, this may complicate, but ultimately not preclude, his prosecution for other "crimes." In any case, Leary is not exactly chained to the wall in a dark cellar. Lompoc is a minimum-security, white-collar "joint," the plushest in the United States, and Leary is still able to get acid. His movements, moreoover, soon keep him in a position to provide valuable intelligence to the U.S. government. On September 12, he is "liberated" from Lompoc by members of the Weather Underground, an SDS offshoot named after Bob Dylan's lyric, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The Weathermen have launched a Marxist guerilla struggle in the United States, and Leary pledges his solidarity in a a "POW Statement." It reads, in part: "Listen Americans! Your government is an instrument of totally lethal evil. Resist actively, sabotage, jam the computer... hijack planes, trash every lethal machine in the land.... To shoot a genocidal robot policeman in the defense of life is a sacred act.... Total war is upon us.... WARNING: I am armed and should be considered dangerous!" This especially provocative and hyperbolic communique has two main effects. It re-establishes Leary's bona fides in the radical underground, and it turns American opinion farther against the New Left.
October 1970: According to Angleton's deputy, Scott Miler, CIA is at this time trying quite hard to the answer the question: "What was Eldridge Cleaver doing in Algeria?" As it happens, Leary now flies to Algiers and joins up with Black Panther Party leader Eldridge Cleaver. Leary's travels, and the operation to spring him from jail, have been financed by Stark and the Brotherhood.
October 21, 1970: A CIA memo records that its prized CHAOS source -- Leary? -- is now overseas.
November 1970 - May 1971: Cleaver grows suspicious of Leary, searches Leary's apartment "for documents proving that we [Leary and his wife] were CIA operatives," and imprisons him in the Panthers' Algerian compound as "white slaves." On February 12, 1971, a CIA document reports that "Eldridge Cleaver and his Algiers contingent have apparently become disenchanted with the antics of Tim Leary.... Electing to call their action protective custody, Cleaver and company, on their own authority, have put Tim and Rosemary under house arrest." Since Leary's condition is not publicly known, this report can only have come from penetration of Cleaver's entourage. Unless CIA has recruited black militants -- a sociologically unlikely scenario -- the information has most probably come from electronic surveillance on the Panther compound, or from secret communications by Leary or his wife.
May 1971: Leary and his wife escape to Switzerland with the assistance, according to Leary, of an "Algerian bureaucrat named Ali," who "made no bones about his connection to the CIA." "Are you sure you can trust him?" Leary's wife asks him. "He's liberal CIA," Leary says, "and that's the best mafia you can deal with in the twentieth century." The escape operation is financed by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, though checks drawn on CIA's Castle Bank.
June 18-19, 1972: G. Gordon Liddy, now working for Republicans' Campaign to Re-Elect the President (CREEP), oversees a break-in of the Democratic National Committe at Watergate. The burglars are caught and Liddy is arrested. The next day, top CIA officials meet secretly to discuss the burglary, in which Liddy has used some ex-CIA agents working for ex-CIA officer Howard Hunt at the White House. CIA director Richard Helms orders his deputies to carry out a "damage control" strategy, to deflect suspicion away from the Agency and toward the President's Men. This is exactly what is accomplished by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's key "intelligence community" source in the case, Deep Throat, who begins providing tips to Woodward this very day, a few hours after CIA's damage control meeting. The coincidence of timing suggests that Throat is someone who is at the CIA conference and who has close connections to the Post. Cord Meyer, now #2 man in CIA's Operations Directorate, is at the meeting, and is still close with his in-law Bradlee, the Post's editor. He also fits perfectly the many clues Woodward later drops as to Throat's identity, including chain smoking, a knowledge of literature (Meyer was an award-winning fiction writer before joining CIA) and a battle-scarred face (Meyer had a glass eye).
1973-78: After two years of "jet-setting" in Switzerland, Leary returns to the U.S. By his own account, this has occured through the machinations of CIA; Leary says they have "kidnapped" him. He is convicted on drug charges, and begins doing hard time at Folsom Prison. This seems clear evidence, again, that suspicions about his ultimate loyalties are merely left-wing paranoia. But after a few months out of public view, Leary comes into the open as a government informant. Under the code-name CHARLIE THRUSH, he turns State's evidence against the Weather Underground. Freed from prison, he is taken into custody for fear that radical revolutionaries have marked him for execution. His former colleagues in the movement form a group calling itself People Investigating Leary's Lies (PILL). Abbie Hoffmann declares that "Timothy Leary is a name worse than Benedict Arnold." Allen Ginsburg says that Leary is "like Zabbath Zvi, false Messiah, accepted by millions of Jews centuries ago."
1978-93: After his last offical contacts with security agencies, in 1978, Leary distances himself both from the government and the "movement" that no longer really exists. Out in the cold, he becomes a sophist in the true sense, a wise-man for rent or hire. Early in the Reagan years he "debates" G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate burglar who once busted him at Milbrook, on a nationwide tour. Former sixties radicals disgustedly describe the event as "bogus," and say it is proof that Leary is "in with the fuzz." At the very least, Leary seems to the Left a lightweight, a one-man Madison Avenue scam, a functional part of the Establishment he once swore to subvert. He hangs out at Helena's, the trendy restaurant in which Jack Nicholson has an interest, and he occasionally philosophizes for a fee at Carlos and Charlie's, a local restaurant that also headlines Joan Rivers. He defends his New Style by saying, quite earnestly: "If Aristotle were alive today, he'd have a talk show." He also publishes Flashbacks: An Autobiography, recounting obliquely his dealings with Cord and Mary Meyer and his work as a government informant, touching only in passing on CIA's funding of LSD resarch. In 1992 appears, as himself, in Roadside Prophets, a film starring Adam Horovitz. In 1993, he appears in an ad for the Gap. (Cf. "The Great Gap Conspiracy," by Hugh Gallagher, in the previous issue of Grand Royal.) He designs computer software and hails the coming of the Information Superhighway. Though lacking family wealth, or any gainful employment since 1962, he has nevertheless managed to become a rich man. He lives in Benedict Canyon, only a doors away from the house where Manson's followers, and Orange Sunshine, did their worst. From his yard he can survey the whole City of Light, and he likes the symbolism of that.
April 14, 1994: Leary, aged 73, visits Gainesville, Florida, where I live. He has come to present a multi-media lecture demonstration of electronic mind expansion, "How To Operate Your Brain." Three thousand people sit down to see him. He wears white Adidas, black polyester pants, and a psychedelic vest with a '93 Lollapalooza Guest Pass stuck on it. In his warm-up remarks, he describes looking out the window of his plane on the way in, and comments that "the clouds in Gainseville have been constructed by George Lucas." He complains that it's hard to buy marijuana anymore, and says that pot causes short-term memory loss, but also "long-term memory gain." He says he will be trying to "brainwash" the audience, "not to resist or fight authority, but to engage it in a dialogue to force progressive change." The lights go down, and some electronic funk comes on. Leary serves as narrator-guide while colors and words flicker and flash on a screen. He quotes Socrates and Ralph Waldo Emerson. People should think for themselves and question authority. Also, "Divinity resides within." After the lights come on, Leary opens the gig up for questions -- but only after warning us, "You're not supposed to believe anything I say." People start queueing up for questions at two microphones, and I'm about fifth in line at one of them. I'm planning to ask him about his rumored connections to CIA. Most of the "questions" before mine are pretty uncool. A lot are from NORML activists: "If you wanna come over to my place afterward..." Then some crazy-eyed man says, "The state of Florida is shaped like a gun, and Gainesveille is the trigger -- look at a map. Anyway, I'm a schizophrenic and I think I'm Jesus Christ. So Dr. Leary, am I Jesus Christ?" He is serious. Leary dispenses with him by saying, "Just don't get yourself crucified." Finally it's my turn. I step up to the mike. Leary looks at me, looks at his watch. "Sorry, no more time for questions." A fist-faced steroidal security guard gets between me and the mike. Leary disappears behind the curtain. As fans mill about afterward, I hear there's some kind of VIP reception for Leary in a side-room, guarded by more fat-necks in blue blazers. I scam my way in: My girlfriend is a professor at the Univeristy, and she talks to some guy who talks to some guy. The side room is one of those harshly lit holding tanks, like where a record company's PR girl puts you when she doesn't know you're "with the band." People nibble nervously on peanut-butter cookies until Leary enters. There's an initial crush forward, but then everyone sort of hestitates, afraid to get too close to "the man," unsure what to say. He sits down at the far side of the room. What the hell, I go for mine -- I sit down right next to him. He inscribes to me a copy of Flashbacks. I notice that his hands are weird in the way old people's hands are, with these corroding purple spots. He seems tired and distracted, so I try the standard espionage trick: Knock him with some facts to get his attention. "You know, my stepmother used to work for Cord Meyer." Which is true; she was for some years a secretary at CIA. Leary's reaction is physical: He jerks, as if jolted by some alternating current for which he has no adapter. His eyes are bright with memory. "Cord Meyer was a pretty intense guy," he says, smiling. I ask a couple other questions, tacking around. Then I put it to Leary like this. "You say in your book that a lot of the LSD experiments at Harvard and Berkeley were, like, paid for by CIA. So I was wondering -- I mean, what were your connections with the Agency?" Suddenly he seems tight and defensive, finds the adapter and plugs it in. "They never gave me a dime," he says. I look into his eyes, the way you do when you try to tell if someone is lying. I don't see deception, exactly; only pain. He doesn't say anything to me after this, so I awkwardly say goodbye and leave. Driving home, in the dark, I feel some journalistic guilt for having bothered this good-hearted sage, whose views on life are mostly right. Maybe he has actually told me the truth. The pain in his eyes was probably injured innocence, the kind I'd feel if I'd done a great life's work and some punk kid asked me, at the end of it, if I'd been funded all along by the KGB. On the other hand, if he did collaborate with CIA, he'd hardly be at liberty to say so, would he? Might he not also feel just a bit guilty; thus the pain? And if the Agency never gave him any money, how did they get the rights to use the personality test that bears his name? I come to a red light. Flashing in my mind is a subliminal message from Leary's "brainwashing" session: "Think for yourself -- question authority." And then I remember his warning to us, before the question & answer period: "You're not supposed to believe anything I say."
INT. CYBERSPACE - A MACINSTOSH CLASSIC - GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA - DAY
An impossible transition is required here. Questions hang, uanswered, like bats on the ceiling of a cave. Was Timothy Leary CIA, or what? What was Mary Meyer trying to "brainwash" JFK to do, and why did both die such untimely, mysterious deaths? Was Orange Sunshine really part of a government-orchstrated plot? Is Leary's Online Tip a new way to free the mind, or merely the final phase of his one-man plot to hijack the history of the world?
Damn if I know. The secret world of intelligence and espionage has been called a "wilderness of mirrors," and rightly. You can spend a lot of time saying, "On the one hand.... On the other hand," especially if you are on Truth Drug.
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Putting this here as it's no longer online except via waybackmachine: http://web.archive.org/web/199812031011 ... leary.html