What The Politics?! Episode 43: The CIA ‘Mad Scientist’ of the MK-Ultra experiments, torture, LSD, and mind control?

WNCT Podcast Network

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States thought they had reason to believe that Communist countries had somehow perfected brainwashing and could use this technique in forms of warfare.

That’s why the United States recruited chemical scientist Sidney Gottlieb to continue research into chemical warfare. Gottlieb would become the head of one of the most infamous and secretive CIA projects in U.S. history, MK-Ultra.

This began the CIA’s search for the perfect mind-control technique. The CIA performed horrific and inhumane experiments on unwitting humans, turning U.S. citizens into guinea pigs for disturbing and sometimes deadly tests.

As our special guest says in our latest podcast, the U.S. government essentially gave Gottlieb a “license to kill.” One drug in particular became Gottlieb’s so-called drug of choice in these experiments: LSD. Originally synthesized in 1938, its hallucinogenic properties first became apparent to scientists in the 1940s. Gottlieb was convinced LSD could be used to manipulate individuals, to make captured spies confess their secrets and even to rewrite their personalities.

Gottlieb not only performed cruel experiments on unknowing U.S. citizens, he worked side-by-side with Nazi war criminals for the entirety of the project, using techniques of torture and testing that were conducted in Nazi concentration camps on prisoners.

Only since Gottlieb’s death has this information been pieced together and brought to light. Through extensive research, interviews and uncovered reports, award-winning correspondent and author, Stephen Kinzer is able to tell this story.

In this week’s conversation, we are joined by award-winning foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer, who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led The Washington Post to place him “among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling.” Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. His foreign postings placed him at the center of historic events and, at times, in the line of fire.

From 1983 to 1989, Kinzer was the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua.  In that post he covered war and upheaval in Central America ColumbiaUniversity awarded Kinzer its Maria Moors Cabot prize for outstanding coverage of Latin America. From 1990 to 1996 Kinzer was posted in Germany.

He was chief of the New York Times bureau in Bonn, and after German unification became chief of the Berlin bureau. From there he covered the emergence of post-Communist Europe, including wars in the former Yugoslavia. In 1996 Kinzer was named chief of the newly opened New York Times bureau in Istanbul, Turkey.  He spent four years there, traveling widely in Turkey and in the new nations of Central Asia and the Caucasus.  After completing this assignment, Kinzer published Crescent and Star: Turkey Between Two Worlds.

After leaving the Times in 2005, Kinzer taught journalism, political science, and international relations at Northwestern University and Boston University.  He is now 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. 

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

“Wormwood” – the story of Frank Olson and MKUltra

Additional publications by Stephen Kinzer: http://stephenkinzer.com/category/books/

Stephen Kinzer

New episodes of What the Politics?! come every Tuesday. Join the conversation! 

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