Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control Book Summary

The bestselling author of All the Shah’s Men and The Brothers tells the astonishing story of the man who oversaw the CIA’s secret drug and mind-control experiments of the 1950s and ’60s.

The visionary chemist Sidney Gottlieb was the CIA’s master magician and gentlehearted torturer—the agency’s “poisoner in chief.” As head of the MK-ULTRA mind control project, he directed brutal experiments at secret prisons on three continents. He made pills, powders, and potions that could kill or maim without a trace—including some intended for Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders. He paid prostitutes to lure clients to CIA-run bordellos, where they were secretly dosed with mind-altering drugs. His experiments spread LSD across the United States, making him a hidden godfather of the 1960s counterculture. For years he was the chief supplier of spy tools used by CIA officers around the world.

Stephen Kinzer, author of groundbreaking books about U.S. clandestine operations, draws on new documentary research and original interviews to bring to life one of the most powerful unknown Americans of the twentieth century. Gottlieb’s reckless experiments on “expendable” human subjects destroyed many lives, yet he considered himself deeply spiritual. He lived in a remote cabin without running water, meditated, and rose before dawn to milk his goats.

During his twenty-two years at the CIA, Gottlieb worked in the deepest secrecy. Only since his death has it become possible to piece together his astonishing career at the intersection of extreme science and covert action. Poisoner in Chief reveals him as a clandestine conjurer on an epic scale.


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Title:Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control

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    Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control Reviews

  • David Wineberg

    One of the (many) problems with the CIA is who knows what. The less you know, the less you have to lie about and potentially get caught on. Or catch the agency on, which is worse. The result is illega...

  • doug bowman

    Thanks to Fresh AirAs so often happens, most of the non- fiction works that I read come out of hearing an episode of the National Public radio show, Fresh Air. I have never been disappointed by a book...

  • Caitlin

    Engrossing but also hard to read; not because of the writing, but because the subject is so frustrating. While much of the historical documents about the programs mentioned have been destroyed or are ...

  • Brendan

    Breezily written, stylishly articulated, wholly engaging, frequently startling....

  • SP

    Poisoner In Chief was a book I would consider hard to read. This is not because of the writing, the difficulty was caused by the frustrations I felt while reading on the topic of the CIA’s mind cont...

  • Bob

    While the book contains a significant amount of information regarding Sidney Gottlieb's life, focused on the 10 prime years of MK-ULTRA, there appears to be very little new information or insight, as ...

  • K.T.

    A fascinating recount of one man working for the CIA during the Cold War. A man who went to great (and ultimately unsuccessful) lengths to find a substance that could create a “Manchuria Candidate...

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