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Poisoner in Chief


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About the Author

Stephen Kinzer is the author of nine books, including The True Flag, The Brothers, Overthrow, and All the Shah's Men. An award-winning foreign correspondent, he served as the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, Germany, and Turkey. He is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University and writes a world affairs column for the Boston Globe. He lives in Boston.


"Winding through the spy-loving Eisenhower-Kennedy years, Kinzer's book is a Tarantino movie yet to be made: it has the right combination of sick humor, pointless violence, weird tabloid characters, and sheer American waste. It is also frightening to read . . . [and] compelling, not least in the way it illustrates how the law of unintended consequences in covert action can work with an almost delirious vengeance." --Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker "Absolutely riveting. Stephen Kinzer's Poisoner in Chief reads like a spy thriller--but his revelations about the macabre career of the CIA's Sidney Gottlieb are deeply disturbing. Kinzer's work underscores once again the narrative power of biography to unearth our collective history." --Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning coauthor of American Prometheus, author of The Good Spy, and executive director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography "Stephen Kinzer has done a great public service with this absorbing and informative portrait of the life and career of Sidney Gottlieb, a CIA scientist who was the Agency's Dr. No in the Cold War--a producer of poison pills, poison darts, and leader of the hunt for the perfect killing machine, a la the Manchurian Candidate. It's all in the bone-crunching detail, and Kinzer, a master of American perfidy, has done it again." --Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib and Reporter: A Memoir Kinzer's retelling of the MK-ULTRA story is unsparing in its gruesome details, but not overwrought . . . Gottlieb has previously been treated as a historical footnote, but Kinzer elevates him to his proper place as one of the C.I.A.'s most influential and despicable characters. --Sharon Weinberger, The New York Times This [book] connects dots between former Nazi torturers, Oregon author Ken Kesey, Boston mobster Whitey Bulger and an obscure CIA chemist who qualifies as the ultimate James Bond villain. . . . Kinzer's startling reportage on Gottlieb's amok research in secret, international detention cells can't help but evoke more recent memories of Abu Ghraib and the like. --Seattle Times "A stranger-than-fiction account of the CIA's efforts in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s at developing mind control and chemical-based espionage methods, and the chemist, Sidney Gottlieb, who spearheaded the effort . . . The nigh-unbelievable efforts he led are vividly and horrifically recreated in this fascinating history." --Publishers Weekly It's an awful story, told fast and well . . . Kinzer has put together a revolting look at the champions of freedom in the USA. --San Francisco Review of Books He's been called Dr. Death, Washington's 'official poisoner, ' and a mad scientist. But Sidney Gottlieb never became a household name . . . Now, pulling together a trove of existing research, newly unearthed documents, and fresh interviews, Kinzer puts the fetid corpus of American Empire back under a microscope. It isn't pretty--but it is instructive. --Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, The American Conservative The most powerful and important organs in the invisible government are the nation's bloated and unaccountable intelligence agencies . . . The best window we have into this shadow world comes with historical accounts of its crimes, including those in Stephen Kinzer's new book, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control. --Chris Hedges, Truthdig Stephen Kinzer tells the story of Gottlieb, a chemist obsessed with finding a way to control the human brain, no matter how many innocent minds he destroyed in the process. --Larry Getlen, New York Post "Stephen Kinzer takes the unusual approach of making Sidney Gottlieb, MK-Ultra's program manager, the central figure of the story . . . Reflecting on Gottlieb's culpability, Mr. Kinzer is careful to place his story in historical context . . . The reader will have to decide how far to venture into this dark thicket." --The Wall Street Journal Stephen Kinzer has written books about civil wars, terror attacks, and bloodycoups, but his latest might be his most alarming. . . . Though the events recounted in Kinzer's Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control took place a half-century ago, they're scandalous in a way that transcends time. --The Daily Beast

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