British ‘brain washing’ during WWII interrogations

BBC Radio 4 has an excellent documentary on how ‘brain washing’ techniques and psychological coercion were used by the British military for interrogations during the Second World War.

Newly uncovered documents implicate psychiatrist Alexander Kennedy in the use of sensory deprivation, disorientation and mind-altering drugs on prisoners during secret service interrogations on foreign soil.

The piece has uncanny echoes of the recent debate about Guantanamo Bay and ‘war on terror’ interrogations with the extensive use of contractors and the leader of the government, Harold Wilson Macmillan, falsely denying that anything abusive took place.

The techniques are surprisingly similar to those later researched by the CIA MKULTRA programme and many of the sensory deprivation and disorientation techniques clearly survived until the ‘war on terror’.

It’s an interesting complement to the recent BBC documentary (‘Revealing the Mind Bender General’) we discussed previously about the role of British psychiatrist William Sargant in what seems like a continuation of this research in post-war London.

BBC News has a brief summary of the programme if you don’t catch it in the next few weeks as it is likely to disappear from the now crippled BBC archive in the near future.

Link to BBC Radio 4 edition of Document on WWII ‘brain washing’.
Link to BBC News piece ‘Britain’s WWII brainwashing’.


  1. Rachel
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Just a note, that it was PM Harold MacMillan, not Harold Wilson, who was Prime Minister at the time.

  2. Rachel
    Posted November 24, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Macmillan, that is. My mistake!

  3. Posted November 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Rachel, correcting it now!

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