What appears to have happened is that they were experimenting with LSD as a potential tool of cultural war with the Soviet Union, but things got out of control, and once the drug made it into the public at large, it took on its own momentum.
The big leap is that it wasn’t accidental and was actually part of a designed plan. That’s the main claim made by “Weird Scenes INside the Canyon.” There are strange pieces of coincidence in that book, but I don’t buy his theories that the entire counterculture was methodically and deliberately invented in order to undermine the anti war effort. That seems like too much of a leap, by far, and I think it also gives far too much credit to hte competence of the FBI and CIA.
But, those groups undoubtedly had their sticky fingers in many aspects of the era. It’s actually a shame that Watergate came to so drastically overshadow cointelpro, because cointelpro was a far uglier aspect of Nixon’s legacy, and one I think every American should know about.
Because yes, a thing like cointelpro can happen here in the United States. It has.