… At least three times in the past, San Franciscans and other Americans have been inadvertent victims of efforts designed to help shield citizens againsts attacks:
- In 1950, the Army secretly used a Navy ship cruising just outside the Golden Gate to spray supposedly harmless bacteria over the entire city and its outskirts. Eleven people were sickened by the germs in San Francisco, and one of them died.
- From 1956 to 1961, the CIA, in a secret behavior modification program called MK-ULTRA, dispatched agents to test the effects of mind-altering drugs such as LSD and synthetic mescaline on unsuspecting people in San Francisco, Mill Valley and other cities across the country. Many of the victims hallucinated, many became sick and at least two deaths resulted from the experiments.
- And from 1944 to 1974, both the Defense Department and the Atomic Energy Commission conducted hundreds of secret experiments in San Francisco and around the country that exposed unsuspecting patients to dangerous doses of radiation, including injections of plutonium.
These secret research projects were supposed to help the military and other federal agencies prepare defenses against biological warfare, nuclear terror and mass brainwashing.
The most dramatic of the biological warfare experiments was the one in San Francisco, where, in September 1950, a Navy auxiliary mine-laying vessel pumped out billions of supposedly harmless bacteria called Serratia marcescens.
Winds from the sea carried the microbes over 117 square miles of the Bay Area.
Eleven patients who inhaled the bacteria were hospitalized for severe urinary and respiratory infections in San Francisco, and one died of bacterial endocarditis.
In testimony before a Senate committee in 1994, Leonard Cole, a specialist in biological terrorism who teaches at Rutgers University, said that for more than 20 years, the Army continued releasing clouds of “simulant” microbes and chemicals over hundreds of populated areas.
The Army’s purpose, Cole testified, was “to assess the nation’s vulnerability to attack with biological weapons.” But by the 1970s, Serratia marcescens was removed from the Army’s list of “simulant” agents because of its dangers, Cole said, and less harmful ones were used instead.