Since the Trump administration declared national emergency in mid-march over the rapid spread of COVID-19, the task of developing a vaccine has fallen on the U.S. Army’s top virus research lab in Fort Detrick, located in suburban Maryland some 50 miles outside of Washington, D.C..
Over the past decades, leading researches on a wide range of viruses and bacteria were conducted inside the sprawling complex. Its state-of-the-art facilities also store some of the most dangerous toxins known to mankind, including Ebola, anthrax and the SARS coronavirus.
The obscure army base came under the spotlight in 2008 after one of its scientists was suspected to have perpetrated the 2001 anthrax attack, where several letters containing the deadly germ was mailed to American media and government offices.
Last year, one of the most prominent high-security labs inside the campus was shut down by health authorities due to safety violations. Besides a few incidents here and there, Fort Detrick seems like an ordinary place for modern medical science. Dialing back to history a little further, however, a period of purely freakish history begins to emerge.
After World War II, Fort Detrick became a site of horrifying scientific experiments conducted under a top-secret CIA quest to control the human mind, known as Project MK Ultra. After more than 20 years, the project ended in abysmal failure and led to an unknown number of deaths, including a scientist who participated in the project, and at least hundreds of American and Canadian victims subjected to mental and physical torture. The experiments not only violated international law, but also the agency’s own charter which forbids domestic activity.
Project MK Ultra was brought to life by the godfather of America’s intelligence empire – CIA Director Allen Dulles, whose ever-fiery rhetoric about Soviet threat helped him prop up an omnipotent national security apparatus that would come to define American politics. In 1953, after capturing American pilots who admitted to deploying anthrax during the Korean War, Dulles began touting theories that they had been brainwashed by then communists of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To ensure national security, he argued, the U.S. must devise its own brainwashing program.
Dulles’ claim turned out to be based on nothing more than pure Cold War fantasy as a report he later commissioned rejected the communist brainwashing claims.