Poisoner in Chief by Stephen Kinzer

Poisoner in Chief

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 ...

Details Poisoner in Chief

TitlePoisoner in Chief
Release DateSep 10th, 2019
PublisherHenry Holt and Co.
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, Politics, Biography, Science

Reviews Poisoner in Chief

  • 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 illegal actions at will, from torture to drug experiments on the unwitting to assassinations of political leaders around the world. The extreme case, we can only hope, is the story of Sidney Gottlieb, the star of Stephen Kinzer’s Poisoner in Chief. The t...
  • 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 presented on the show. This book was engrossing and horrific at the same time. It's subject is at once sinister and compelling.
  • 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 While much of the historical documents about the programs mentioned have been destroyed or are not yet declassified, this book has enough information to still horrify. Kinzer talks in circles sometimes, but the impression he leaves is nevertheless haunting – one of a young man joining the government for patriotic reasons, and rapidly turning...
  • Brendan
    Breezily written, stylishly articulated, wholly engaging, frequently startling.
  • Llew
    Absolutely fascinating and authoritative history of MK-ULTRA. Something I always read about, maybe in comic books or wild-eyed conspiracy theory stories, and I imagined to be true. But I always assumed it to be a quirky thing, like how the CIA also funded goat hypnosis. No, MK ULTRA was not just a one-off oddball test but an extensive program that was part of the agency's heavy focus on psychological and chemical warfare in the post-war era. The ...
  • 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 almost all of the citations are to prior books, previously available documents made public several years ago, and other public sources. While the author cites a number of interview with unidentified former CIA employees, the information cited is almo...
  • 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”. Instead his actions and those of individuals under his charge irreparably altered lives of innocent civilians and their families forever. But was this man a patriot or no better than the Nazi doctors whose tortuous experiments fueled his early res...
  • Hannah
    Read informative (and freaky), but also a little repetitive at some points.