Secrets of the CIA: from fake town where spooks learn to survive torture to secret museum & mind control experiments

TERRIFYING mind control experiments, a secret town where spies learn to survive torture and a hidden museum most of us will never see.

These may sound like the makings of a top action film, but they're actually just some of the secret inner workings of the CIA.

The Central Intelligence Agency is known for its complete mystery – but every so often, it invites wannabe spooks to get involved with a surprise puzzle online.

The latest one challenged Twitter users to "put your analytical skills to the test" by working out the time of day in a ski resort street scene.

In reality, however, it takes a whole lot more to stand a chance of working for the agency – and you have to be prepared for some shocking sights.

From chilling mind control experiments using drugs, hypnosis and electronic devices that inspired a harrowing storyline in Stranger Things, to the gruelling training process spies go through, we look at some of its top secrets…

Simulated town where trainees 'learn to survive torture'

While training differs for all CIA agents, some are tested in secret in a simulated 'town' called the 'Farm'.

Former agent Amaryllis Fox, 40, who is the wife of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's grandson, Bobby Kennedy III, opened up on her own experience there in her memoir, Life Undercover, last year.

Hidden away on a 10,000-acre site in Virginia, US, the covert facility plays host to a huge, adrenaline-fuelled game of "make-believe" that's dubbed the most "demanding espionage training on Earth".

Here, amid the fake town square, woodland and buildings designed to look like embassies, ruthlessly selected spies are taught everything – from recruiting informants, or "assets", to withstanding torture.

They even reportedly learn ways to kill themselves in case they're captured during their real-life cloak-and-dagger work abroad. And at every step, trainees who don't meet the CIA's standards are eliminated.

"We learn defensive driving, our instructors teaching us to flip cars by tapping a spot above their rear wheel with our own front grill and how to respond in seconds when swarmed by armed militia fighters or trapped at an ambush," Amaryllis recalled.

"They leave fake roadside bombs around campus for us to identify; we indicate that we've found one by pulling over and popping our truck."

As the months pass, the spies are sent on days-long treks across woodland with a rainproof notepad and are trained to shoot targets with Glocks and M4s in urban-combat scenarios.

But it's not all hard work for the youngsters.

Every so often, Amaryllis wrote, the spies get a free weekend, during which they meet up at local hotels, watch movies and "sometimes, most times, we have sex".

While other former agents have spoken out about the Farm, the CIA doesn't acknowledge its existence. It is widely rumoured to be based at the US military reservation Camp Peary, near Williamsburg.

The hidden museum you'll never get to see

The CIA has its own museum that is closed off to the public, and only accessible to agents and their guests – as it's situated on the compound of the George Bush Centre for Intelligence.

It is said to contain 3,500 items, consisting of artefacts that have been officially declassified, including the AK-47 found beside the body of Osama Bin Laden.

"[It] is the rifle that was recovered from the third floor of the Abbottabad compound by the assault team," curator Toni Hiley told NBC News.

"Because of its proximity to (Bin Laden) there on the third floor in the compound, our analyst determined it to be his. It's a Russian AK with counterfeit Chinese markings."

According to the news outlet, the five exhibits inside are packed full of real paraphernalia dating back to World War II.

Other items are said to include a terrorist training manual found in Afghanistan after 9/11, shrapnel that struck a spy plane over North Vietnam and an underwater spy drone made to look like a catfish.

There's also a scale-model of the Abbottabad compound and a section of a wall that was part of the life-size mock-up of the compound used by the SEALs to train for the raid.

Agency officials reportedly call it “the coolest museum you’ll never see".

Mind control programme's 'chilling experiments'

Perhaps one of the most shocking revelations came in 2018, when documents were released revealing the inside secrets of a series of chilling mind-control experiments carried out by the CIA.

They revealed how the agency experimented on both humans and animals using drugs, hypnosis and electronic devices as part of the top secret – and sometimes illegal – project MKUltra.

One document detailed how the CIA planned to drug “criminals awaiting trial held in a prison hospital ward” in a bid to develop “improved techniques in drug interrogation”. 

Another detailed the CIA’s interest in developing ways to cause amnesia in humans using experiments “no matter how weird, inconclusive or unusual”.

It went on to detail how they were looking to find ways of developing hypnotic speaking techniques which would control the minds of “large audiences” and “heighten group susceptibility”.

Experiments which were “too dangerous, too shocking, too unusual for routine testing would be of interest to us", the memo from 1956 read. 

The records also detail mind control experiments on dogs, cats and mice with a cocktail of drugs and by implanting electronic devices – most likely as a precursor to human experiments. 

The records were obtained by researcher John Greenewald Jr, through a series of Freedom of Information requests – who subsequently published them on his website The Black Vault. 

The programme of human experiments was carried out in the early 50s until it was official halted in 1973 – after it was linked to the death of scientist Frank Olson, who plunged to his death from a 13th storey window after being secretly dosed with acid.

The overall aim was said to be to identify and develop mind-control drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture in a bid to force confessions and control behaviour. 

The CIA reportedly wanted "people who couldn't fight back" and often bribed heroin addicts into taken LSD with offers of more heroin.

In one case, seven volunteers in Kentucky were given LSD for 77 consecutive days.

The experiment became even more sinister when Dr Sidney Gottlieb, the chemist who directed MKUltra, wanted to see if the drugs could be given to high ranking officials to alter the course of important meetings and speeches.

He initiated a string of experiments where LSD was given to people in "normal" settings without warning – with surprise acid trips becoming "something of an occupational hazard" among CIA employees.

And the tests didn't stop with drugs – as documents revealed hypnosis was also studied with the aim of "inducing anxieties" and "hypnotically increasing ability to learn and recall complex written matter".

The mind control experiments were also ramped up when Scottish psychiatrist Ewen Cameron began overseeing horrific tests – including electroshock treatments and putting people into chemically induced comas.

He believed "psychic driving" through constant playing of taped messages could wipe out the symptoms of mental illness but this "de-patterning" often erased the patient's memory and left them in a child-like state.

Cameron also put his patients through electroconvulsive therapy at 30 to 40 times the normal power.

The shady experiments went on to inspire the chilling story of Eleven's mum in Netflix's Stranger Things.

'Monitoring up to 5million tweets a day'

It's no secret that social media platforms monitor users' activity closely – but according to the Associated Press, it's nothing on the CIA.

The agency reportedly looks over around 5million tweets a DAY – as well as closely following activity on Facebook.

The report, cited by Politico, claims staff at its Open Source Centre pored through the posts to build intelligence reports on international reaction to certain events.

Doug Naquin, the centre’s director, reportedly claimed to AP that the system even enabled the agency to foresee the Egyptian uprising.

It's also said to have monitored the real-time reaction from the Middle East after Osama bin Laden's death.

Grim torture methods 'included playing Red Hot Chili Peppers songs'

A leaked classified report in 2014 revealed several interrogation methods allegedly used by the agency.

And one source even claimed songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers were played to a terrorism suspect to try and extract information.

Interrogations were said to have taken place at Guantanamo Bay's Camp Echo, as well as other 'black sites' across the world, and sources told Al Jazeera many were an imitation of communist regime torture methods.

They claimed prisoners were deprived of food, water and sleep, as well as given threats.

However, the sources claimed one man, Zain Abidin Mohammed Husain Abu Zubaydah, was subjected to multiple methods – allegedly including being kept awake longer than the prescribed 11 days, and having cold water poured on his naked body.

It's claimed he was then put in a cage and forced to listen to the loud music.

'Secret coffee shops and mysterious sculpture'

It's no big surprise that security is tight in the CIA headquarters – but it's more extreme than many may realise.

The Starbucks there, known as Store Number 1, is banned from asking customers their name for orders – the only one in the world with the rule.

And according to Reader's Digest, staff in the coffee shop had to have rigorous background checks before being hired.

Meanwhile, there's also an encrypted statue there called Kryptos, by the American artist Jim Sanborn, which was installed in the 1990s.

While three of the four encrypted messages are said to have been solved, the last one remains one of the most famous unsolved codes in the world.

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