Remarks by James C. Turner
Inauguration of the Joseph L. Rauh, Jr.
Chair of Public Interest Law
April 12, 1999
Every day I draw a breath, I miss Joe Rauh. Tonight you are going to see some of the reasons why.
Joe may not have invented public interest law, but he certainly perfected it. The film you are about to see, The Sleep Room, is based on Joe's last great public interest case -- a suit against the CIA on behalf of a group of unsuspecting Canadians who were used as guinea pigs in CIA-funded brainwashing experiments at a Montreal psychiatric hospital.
The Sleep Room is not a documentary or a history of this case; it is a drama. Many characters are composites and I am actually portrayed as a woman, the character Jane Conroy. She's a lot prettier than I am. Tonight we are screening a shortened version of the film that summarizes the events of the 1950s, and focuses on what happened here in Washington during the 1980s. Let me give you some background on this story.
At the height of 1950s Cold War hysteria, the CIA feared that U.S. airmen in Korea had been "brainwashed" to make false confessions. The Agency responded by launching a Top Secret program called MKULTRA to test psychedelic drugs and other techniques of controlling human behavior.
With the blessing of CIA Chief Richard Helms, MKULTRA Director Sidney Gottlieb embarked upon a series of reckless and unethical experiments -- conducting LSD tests by slipping the drug to unsuspecting people. In one 1953 CIA drug test, the results were disastrous, with the human guinea pig, Dr. Frank Olson, falling to his death from the 10th floor of a New York City Hotel -- events which are today the subject of a reopened homicide investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
The Canadians Joe and I represented were all patients of a Montreal psychiatrist, Ewen Cameron, during the late 1950s. Using CIA money, Cameron tried to literally "brainwash" his patients --
- First by wiping out their personality and behavior with LSD and intensive electroshocks
- Then trying to implant new behaviors by playing tape-recorded messages hundreds of thousands of times through headphones and special helmets
- And finally, putting them to sleep with large doses of drugs for weeks on end.
No one knows how many hundreds of patients were abused in these CIA experiments, but the people we represented had their health devastated and their lives shattered by these bizarre experiments -- all conducted without any patient knowledge or consent in violation of the code for medical ethics our country enforced at the Nuremburg War Crime Trials.
Joe was outraged at this story of how the CIA abused its power to conduct secret operations, and believed that accountability for this misconduct was critical. In a word, this was a public interest fight for the principle that no part of our government is above the law. We also believed that reasserting this principle was especially important in the 1980s with the emergence of an increasingly out-of-control CIA led by its then Director, William Casey.
The Sleep Room captures the essence of a public interest fight, as well as Joe Rauh's personal humanity to all those who knew and worked with him. It also documents Joe's incredible determination and fortitude -- for those of us who knew and worked with him have no doubt that the CIA's decade long strategy of litigation by attrition cost Joe his health and ultimately shortened his life.
Ten years ago Joe and I wrote an article about this public interest case against the CIA, which concluded with these words:"A public interest litigation is a special kind of struggle with heavy burdens, but even greater satisfactions. Where else can a lawyer interrogate a former CIA Director one day and draft questions for a Member of Parliament the next? To us it seems that public interest lawyers enjoy the lion's share of the satisfactions in our profession.
"An integrated life where one's professional activities are an extension of the same ethical and moral principles that shape one's private relations is too often dismissed as unattainable in the 'real world.' We don't know of anyone who can work harder or enjoy greater satisfactions in the practice of law than a lawyer whose cases are an extension of personal principles and commitments."
Every day I draw a breath, I miss Joe Rauh. After tonight, you will, too. Ladies and gentlemen, The Sleep Room.