Sidney Gottlieb was a great scientist who chose to work as a torturer for the CIA in the 1950s and 1960s. Trained as a chemist, Sidney Gottlieb headed the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program which was tasked to invent mind-control techniques. Sidney Gottlieb directed a small team at the MK-ULTRA which carried brutal experiments on human prisoners on three continents in the CIA’s secret prisons. They invented pills, powders, and potions to kill and/or maim human enemies like foreign leaders including Fidel Castro. CIA-paid prostitutes brought clients to CIA-owned bordellos where they carried out mind-altering experiments with drugs. His experiments spread LSD across the United States. He is known as the hidden godfather of the 1960s counterculture
In Poisoner in Chief, Stephen Kinzer tells the story of Sidney Gottlieb and the MK-ULTRA with the help of new documentary evidence. Sidney Gottlieb’s and CIA’s obsession with controlling the human mind destroyed many lives. Sidney Gottlieb and his paymasters in the CIA had little or no respect for fellow human beings. Stephen Kinzer says, in the two decades at the Central Intelligence Agency, Sidney Gottlieb had directed history’s most systematic search for techniques of mind control. He was also the CIA’s chief poison maker. His work had been shrouded in secrecy to complete as render him invisible. He carried out medical experiments on hundreds of people. During these experiments, they were tormented and many of them were completely and permanently shattered. Sidney Gottlieb justified all this in the name of science and patriotism.
In the 1960s Sidney Gottlieb rose to the top of the Technical Services Division (TSD), which makes the tools that CIA officers use. Sidney Gottlieb ran a bustling gadget shop in Washington and directed the work of several hundred scientists and technicians scattered around the world. They crafted a mind-boggling array of spyware, from a rubber airplane to an escape kit concealed in a rectal suppository. Sidney Gottlieb and his team supplied tools of the trade to CIA officers operating in the Soviet Union and dozens of other countries. Stephen Kinzer quotes one of his successors as having written, “Under Gottlieb’s leadership, TSD built worldwide technical capacities critical to virtually all significant US clandestine operations in the last third of the twentieth century… Yet regardless of Sidney Gottlieb’s public service and personal charity, his name will always be inextricably linked to the ten-year MK-ULTRA program and the sinister implications of associated words such as drugs, LSD, assassination, and mind control.”
In the early 1960s, as the Vietnam War intensified and leftist insurrections erupted in Latin America, the CIA set out to produce a manual for interrogators. It emerged in 1963, entitled KUBARK Counter-Intelligence Interrogations. Stephen Kinzer says that it codified everything the CIA had learned about what it called “coercive counterintelligence interrogation of resistance sources.” During the 1960s, it was the essential text for CIA interrogators and their partners in “allied service” around the world. Most of the techniques it describes, and most of its insights into how prisoners react to various forms of abuse, came from MK-ULTRA which was nourished by fantasies taken from fiction. Decades later the process was reversed. Stephen Kinzer says that revelations about MK-ULTRA inspire a new sub-genre of fiction and films and TV shows and video games. They reflect the same fascination with mind control that has gripped human imagination for centuries, but with a twist. When Sidney Gottlieb brought MK-ULTRA to its end in the early 1960s, he told his CIA superiors that he had found no reliable way to wipe away memory, make people abandon their consciences or commit crimes and then forget them.
Poisoner in Chief is a true story of Sidney Gottlieb who directly killed many people on behalf of the CIA and destroyed hundreds — or maybe thousands — of lives by popularizing drugs life LSD in the 1960s. Poisoner in Chief is an indictment of the CIA. Stephen Kinzer shines a light on the darkest corners of our history. Kinzer’s revelations are extremely disturbing, and one wonders if such things are still happening. Mind-numbing biography shakes our collective conscience. Poisoner in Chief is as engrossing as a fantasy/spy novel can be. Kinzer is a natural storyteller who grabs your attention from page one. Stephen Kinzer must be commended for his service to America and humanity.