Giving a powerful hallucinogen to unwitting subjects, of course, was a dangerously irresponsible thing to do, considering that LSD can cause effects resembling psychosis— what hippies in the 1960s referred to as a bad trip.
"At the most basic level, the lack of informed consent and the unwitting subject's lack of information on adverse effects and potential consequences is of great concern," Joseph Troiani, Ph.D., explains via email. Troiani is an associate professor of clinical psychology and founding director of the Military Psychology Program at Adler University and retired military intelligence officer, who is familiar with MKULTRA from reading open-source material that has become available.
"Mind control experiments like these, utilizing LSD (psychoactive drug), administered to individuals unbeknownst to them to see what effect it would have on them, violate all medical standards," Troiani says. "There is a parallel between the CIA's operation and the Tuskegee experiments where African Americans were lied to about being treated for syphilis. The Tuskegee experiment patients were not treated for syphilis; instead, they were given placebo treatment and monitored to see progression of illness. These actions are unethical and criminal in nature."
Operation Midnight Climax and the rest of MKULTRA ran into problems in 1963, when a staffer in the office of CIA's Inspector General John S. Earman discovered them while auditing the CIA's technical services division. The IG was alarmed by the impropriety of dosing unsuspecting people with a hallucinogen, according to the Rockefeller Commission report.
Worse yet, the IG's probe discovered that some test subjects had become ill for hours or days afterward, and that at least one had to be hospitalized.
"A final phase of the testing of MKULTRA products places the rights and interests of U.S. citizens in jeopardy," the IG's July 1963 report noted, adding that if the program was ever exposed it "could induce serious adverse reaction in U.S. public opinion."