...Kinzer does a thorough job of detailing how LSD affects the brain at the time of use and its aftereffects. This is not a light read and, at times, is infuriating. Exploring how hysteria fueled perverse policy decisions during the Cold War, Kinzer reveals how disturbing the ramifications of these policy decisions can be if left unchecked ... Highly recommended. This work sheds light on misdeeds done in the name of American democracy and should have wide appeal among general readers.
Kinzer’s trashily written but absorbing book combines moral outrage about these episodes with moments of pure comedy. To the question of how the national security apparatus came to think it important to find out how LSD affected elephants and Siamese fighting fish, the book offers various answers ... Throughout, Gottlieb himself remains a cipher: 'a scientist who ate yogurt' ... Kinzer ends his book with a surprisingly measured judgment of the former 'psychedelic Mengele' [.]
... adds a key detail to this fascinating history ... Kinzer’s retelling of the MK-ULTRA story is unsparing in its gruesome details, but not overwrought. Those looking for entirely new revelations, however, won’t find them here — in part, because information from the surviving records has already come to light, first through the investigations of the Senate committee headed by Frank Church of Idaho in the mid-1970s, and then a few years later, in 1978, thanks to John Marks’s book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate. (Kinzer draws liberally from Marks and other secondary accounts, and occasionally one wishes he had cited more original source material.) ... 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 ... Kinzer’s book is also a good reminder that there is rarely legal accountability for the C.I.A.’s misdeeds ... Given that this is a biography, it’s worth noting there is one Gottlieb endeavor omitted from an otherwise comprehensive book, the poisoner in chief’s role in another equally questionable, though less harmful, endeavor: parapsychology.
Reflecting on Gottlieb’s culpability, Mr. Kinzer is careful to place his story in historical context, balancing the standards for human experimentation that emerged after the Nuremberg trials with the Cold War hysteria about Soviet mind control. He rightly points to the support Gottlieb received from Helms and Dulles, who gave nearly unfettered power to a chemist in his 30s with little training or experience in the fields of intelligence and psychology. Mr. Kinzer’s conclusion is that, given the free rein that Gottlieb enjoyed, history should hold him accountable for what happened within his program, but that responsibility for the existence of MK-Ultra lies with his superiors. Some of the details in Mr. Kinzer’s book will remain controversial ... The reader will have to decide how far to venture into this dark thicket.
Journalist Kinzer...delivers 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 ... In the end, 'one of the most powerful unknown Americans' remains a mystery, but the nigh-unbelievable efforts he led are vividly and horrifically recreated in this fascinating history.
In this intriguing study...[t]he author engagingly examines various facets of this bizarre program ... Ultimately, readers will feel Kinzer’s frustration that Gottlieb, after a late-life conversion and being hauled back to Washington, D.C., for two rounds of Senate hearings, maintained his 'victimization' and never truly had to answer for the crime of 'laying waste to other people’s minds and bodies.' A valiantly researched study that resurrects a troubling episode in American history.