Award-winning foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer, whose investigations and penetrating analyses have shed harrowing light on innumerable clandestine American adventures here and abroad, will return to the South End library on Tuesday, October 22, with the amazing results of his latest investigation of government wrong-doing, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. A former New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, Berlin and Istanbul, and current world affairs columnist at the Boston Globe, Kinzer tells the hair-raising tale of chemist Sidney Gottlieb, who was in charge of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA mind control project in the 1950s and 60s, when Allen Dulles was head of the CIA. At a talk for a Boston publication party in September, Kinzer noted that, while he may have shocked others with his earlier investigations, discovering what Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA had engaged in during the 1950s and 1960s shocked him.
In a recent interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Kinzer described how Sidney Gottlieb brought LSD to America, from its pharmaceutical producer in Switzerland, to find a way to control the minds of human beings, ostensibly for national security purposes. Assisted by funds from phoney foundations, Gottlieb asked various institutions around the world, including hospitals and prisons, to experiment with LSD on those under their control. One of them was Whitey Bulger who received LSD every day for a year when in Federal detention, he discovered.
Strangely, Gottlieb, who oversaw experiments at secret prisons in the 1950s and ‘60s, producing pills, powders, and potions that could kill or maim without leaving a trace, considered himself deeply spiritual. He lived in a remote cabin without running water, meditated, and rose before dawn to milk his goats. Since his death in 1999 it has become possible to piece together his astonishing career of 22 years in the CIA, and Kinzer, the author of a dozen books including The True Flag, The Brothers, Overthrow, and All the Shah’s Men, was able to draw on newly available documents and additional original interviews to write Gottlieb’s biography (although he prefers to say he was on an LSD trip and saw Sidney Gottlieb there).
“It’s all in the bone-crunching detail, and Kinzer, a master of American perfidy, has done it again,” says Seymour Hersh, investigative journalist and national security contributor to The New Yorker. Kinzer, a South End resident, is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.