In 1991, the CIA drew up a classified psychological profile of the Haitian president, who had just been ousted in a military coup. As the Clinton administration prepared to restore him to office in 1994, the agency showed the profile to members of Congress, igniting a campaign to withdraw American support for the exiled leader.
Findings: According to the profile, Aristide suffered from manic depression, had sought treatment at a Montreal hospital in the early ’80s, and was taking a powerful antipsychotic drug. The CIA also claimed Aristide was prone to violence and might seek to kill his political opponents upon his return to power.
Based on the CIA’s claims, Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) openly attacked Aristide as a “psychopath” and “a demonstrable killer.” Yet the hospital in question said he’d never been a patient, and Aristide denied that he was on psych meds. “They said worse things about Martin Luther King,” he noted. “As a psychologist, I know about character assassination and about psychological warfare.”
Reviewing the episode in Foreign Policy, Thomas Omestad concluded that it was a black mark on the agency’s reputation for remote profiling: “If policymakers are going to continue demanding profiles, they also ought to demand that the CIA do them right.”
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