tv Stephen Kinzer Poisoner in Chief CSPAN October 26, 2019 10:50pm-12:01am EDT
foundation today or speaker stephen kinzer from brown university it also has a new book poison or in chief. the author of nine books to overthrow with that award-winning correspondence and to tell astonishing stories of the cia medical experiments of the fifties and sixties. with original interviews and survive her testimony in documentary research for the secret of mind control span several countries including nazi scientists leading to experimentation of government employees and foreign politicians prisoners, sex
workers and anyone else that is deemed threatening. with the most powerful unknown in the 20th century of the government lies and deceptions. please welcome stephen kinzer. [applause] >> thank you. this is now my tenth book. i have to say that if i devoted a great deal of my career to figure out what's behind the façade of politics and public diplomacy that we see maybe they were surprising or shocking to some people but this is the first time i have been shocked i'm still in
shock what i discovered while researching the book i cannot believe that this project happened and i cannot believe this guy gottlieb existed for i do believe i stumbled on it as the most powerful unknown american of the 20th century. or somebody else who lived in total visibility to carry out heinous experiments across three continents amounted to a license to kill issued by the us government. as a biography of a guy who did not exist. he is so anonymous even most at the cia had no idea what he was doing. but what he was doing is
profoundly important as we understand ourselves and modern history. let me talk about he was the project aimed to find the secret of mind control. how do you make a subject completely dependent on you to tell you the complete truth to forget everything he wanted you to forget? or to carry out acts and then forget those acts if he had. so this bizarre project face - - based on a great fantasy in early years of the cold war of world war ii. the cia was electrified that
was interpreted that the soviets and the communists discovered the key to mind control. as the communist authorities who - - confessed to crimes he did not commit his eyes were glazed and spoke in monotone and later it turns out he was coerced that they were using to coerce them for centuries. the cia did not see it that way but he had been brainwashed which incidentally was a word invented by cia propaganda to promote the idea that people did not accept that but then it fell for its own fantasy and started to believe in brainwashing.
so when those released prisoners had statements criticizing the aspect criticizing the united states or to committing war crimes how could this have happened? it could it be that they were brainwashing but they made himself believe that means we at the cia have to launch a project to do the same to catch up with them. as it later turned out this was fantasy. there was no technique that any other authorities had discovered to control people's minds but the cia was open to this. how do you get caught up on the fantasy? those episodes are important
but i suspect they were made ready for this all the books and stories that they read and the share lock homes and edgar allen poe stories like gaslight and bengali that the cia unconsciously they assumed whatever they could imagine science could make real. so in 1941 he decided to go on the cia search for the key for mind control and decided to go outside the cia is called mk ultra.
and then to be anything less than global mastery. and those successes so the person that he holds firm to the mind control program is very different from everybody else in the early cia most were silver spoon aristocratic prep school and investment banks. gottlieb was not like that. he was the son of jewish immigrants he went to city college of new york at caltech. he lived and don - - he limped
and had a stutter and from every other federal employee in washington during that period because of his personal life. he considered himself deeply compassionate humanist that he would live in the woods with no running water. he grew his own vegetables. he meditated with candles and studied buddhism and wrote poetry and got up before dawn to milk the goats. very unusual figure at the cia. so then they started out on this project that was most intense and systematic search for mind control techniques that had ever been undertaken
in history. so he decided before you can figure out how to implant a new mind into somebody's brai brain, first you have to blast away the mind that was in there and destroy the human spirit. so next he asked himself what research is out there already we can draw on? are immediately they turn to the people who had the greatest experience of experiment the doctors at the not see concentration camps they not only advise the cia of those techniques they might
use but to actually participate so they were hired by the cia to bring that knowledge when they experiment people and use this to inform the cia search for mind control. so he then set out on projects on every type of coercive technique you can imagine to see how he could first destroy a mind and then insert another in the void. these were the most extreme experiments ever conducted on human subjects by any officer or agency of the us government.
he had two sets of experiments inside the united states and outside the united states or in the us his favorite subjects were prisoners so for example he oversaw an experiment at the federal prison in kentucky which severn african-american inmates were isolated into a cell and without total is happening to them were given over doses of lsd, triple doses every day for 77 days. this was part of gottlieb's effort to find out if this technique could destroy a human mind. guess what? yes. it can. he found many ways to destroy the human mind using sensory deprivation, electroshock and different combinations outside the united states they were
even more intense because he did not have the disposal problem over there if somebody died under the experiment the body could be disposed of particularly in germany. so during the course of my research for this book so this may be the first cia secret prison it look like it could be b&b and the businessman who now owns that there is a basement. this is where cia doctors and not see counterparts conducted experiments at work continued
from concentration camps and said all these people understand what happens in this house. it's not a secret and then i found an article to say this was the torture house there was deaths but the number is not now - - not known but now we know gottlieb was at the top series of experiments and involve sedating people to put them in a coma and then to overdose them so in that transition phase still in their sensory deprivation chambers with the head of the electroshock's could be the way to open their minds to the
outside so he conceived these experiments he had the jekyll and hyde to do that during the day with the community service and to be a loving father and husband that he was. all the drugs that gottlieb came across and compounded but the one that fascinated him the most was lsd he emerged of that era and thought it could be the key for mind control he thought some how this could be used to program a person's mind.
so in 1953 pursuing the cia to buy the entire world supply of lsd. he brought that back to the united states from the government that manufactured it. and then divided the lsd part of that was the experiment that i just discussed other parts were for noncoercive experiments. he set up some bogus medical foundations and offered hospitals and clinics and universities the chance to carry out experiments with people who would be told what they are doing so their reactions could be observed. many happened here in california and who were the first to volunteer? one was ken khazei one flew over the cuckoo's next.
one - - cuckoo's nest. and then felt the grateful dead, all of these people got there first lsd from sydney gottlieb. from the cia from mk ultra. they did not know that at the time that 25 years later they all came to realize unwittingly they were part of a cia project. john lennon was asked in an interview about lsd and said we must always remember to thank the cia. [laughter] he didn't know enough to say we must always remember to thank sydney gottlieb he was the unwitting godfather of the entire counterculture and the irony is the drug that he helped - - hoped that would control people's minds actually fueled a generational
rebellion that destroyed everything the cia believed in. so these intense experiments he comes to two conclusions yes it is possible to destroy the human mind he left a trail of destroyed lives behind him no. it is not possible that mind control is a myth you cannot have people commit murder despite what the movie show you. so to reach that holy grail to see that it did not exist and then went on to another stage in his career more than anyone in the world so in the spring
of 1960 when eisenhower ordered fidel castro to be sawed off that gottlieb got the job and those poison cigars were supposed to be passed on to fidel they had botulism and all of them. when they could not be delivered he compounded a series of pills l stands for lethal. lethal pills to kill he can make this quite easily with a unique laboratory those also could not be delivered to castro. also a wetsuit was supposed to be given as a gift inside tainted with a fungus that would eat on his skin and kill them after he put it on. later that summer - - same summer he personally traveled to the congo to carry poison
he had made to deliver to the cia station chief for use in killing the prime minister of the congo. that eisenhower also ordered assassinated. he was shocked by those commandos could be used but definitely secured his reputation as the prisoner in chief. later went on to spend seven years as part of the cia that makes the toys and the tools that the spies use and in 1973 when he and his patron and helms are forced out of the cia they decided to destroy all records of mk ultra and they left protecting themselves from embarrassment
and much more since then it is possible to piece together. but my favorite sentence in the book is at the very end when i say everything in this book is true but not everything that is true is in this book. i'm painfully aware i've only discovered a small piece of who sydney gottlieb was. toward the end of his life gottlieb was very way down but what he had done. there's a section in my book and then felt burdened and said he was a broken man and riddled with guilt. he went to a monastery so in the end as a highly
controversial one - - contradictory figure. and a destroyer a gentle hearted torturer. and outlaws so the story is in a disturbing way to understand our country or perhaps ourselves. thank you to make thank you to stephen kinzer and author of the new book poison are in chief. so now we will start with q&a. you said in your remarks you
are surprised by what you found so to even hear about sydney gottlieb. >> in an earlier book i had a short section of how the ca someone to the congo and i began thinking about that and i wondered it was not a career. it was the chief chemist and then i found out the same guy of castro as the prime minister of china but slowly that the job of making poisons was just the side he was just the pharmacist people were
very excited about that but the mk ultra was much bigger than that that was all his responsibility it was never that extreme or intense so i began to realize this person had a secret life to help us understand a little bit of what is the secret life of the us government. >> talk about the assassination attempt of castro and others in a sense it is a tool so tell us in the book to decide that it should be eliminated. >> so eisenhower saw covert
action so to send the kids out to die by the thousands must have weighed on him so i think he believed that was a great way to overthrow government to change the course of history without having to waste lives i don't think he looked forward to see the long-term impact but also symbolizes how unsupervised sydney gottlieb was. undoubtedly eisenhower knew something that the only people at the cia or had an idea was richard helms they understood
that he was doing horrific things that the experiments were very bloodied and probably people were being killed. now those of us may think if somebody was doing something like that working for us we would want details to find out exactly that his response was the opposite the more they understood the less they wanted to know. they never asked. they didn't want to know this is obedience not only to see i a that ignorance is an asset to people don't want to know too much. because of that he could act completely on his own the extra added asset later on people could say he was one crazy guy but we did not supervise him well enough he did these crazy things that's the way to absolve all
responsibility from the government. so now to back up a little bit you go into detail of the aftermath of world war ii in that context that you mention in your remarks with the nazis and the doctors and generals talk about how those that were brought in and then the lack of morality in terms of their ethics that led them to have the use of lethal weapons. >> so he was a japanese journal and doctor who ran the shop for the japanese army in which several thousand people
were essentially cut open alive and murdered so he could see how bodies react to extreme stress and then take samples from their organs he ripped out of them while they were still alive. after the war he's they said we will not prosecute eat you but we want to know your slides and the information how they react to an extreme torture so his counterpart in germany chief of the biowarfare program. put on trial in nuremberg that the cia could get to the judges that were american military officers and said we don't want to hang him we want to hire him. and they did.
ultimately he came to work for the caa and brought the knowledge with him. i think this reflects the tenor of the time but commitment to a great cause is the ultimate justification for committing immoral acts patriotism is the most transcendent and seductive of causes when you allow yourself to get caught up you lose sight of the question is there a limit to the amount of evil you can do before it outweighs the good cracks i think gottlieb did this side of that equation. >> i will ask about operation paperclip but the use of the word of expendable and you
reference that but to see how many human beings were expendable so is there any estimate so talk about that and if there is any information on those places. >> we don't know the people that were experimented to death that made have been included in those seven cases that were destroyed as gottlieb was leaving the cia. operation paperclip is where the biographies of nazis were bleached and converted to make it seem they were nice if it said ss it would be changed not a member of the ss and family lives would be included so they could be brought to the us to work for the cia. during this period only a very
small number of scientists are aware of what gottlieb was doing as a member of the inner core and they traveled to the sites in east asia that only two oversee but these torturous experiments so gottlieb himself used lsd himself so when i began to understand the intensity of some of these experiments if he conceived some of them if he was actually tripping on acid that silly way i can imagine you come up with these combinations of torment and then you convince yourself this is what you do to defend against communism.
>> when you talk about what happened of the expendables in germany there is a direct lineage so what was utilized from those for 40 or 50 years earlier. >> so the subject in his experiments are expendable which is another charming phrase suspected enemy agents possibly refugees that had no connection with to be missed if they would not turn up again in east asia capturing prisoners of war we don't know
how many but they did not survive gottlieb came to know more than anybody of his generation and he wrote a memo explaining how to do this how you make them completely dependent on the interrogator to lose all sense of connection outside the chamber of which you have imprisoned him cracks he wrote about the techniques of doing this in the extended memo. so that wound up shaping the guidelines that were used for the phoenix program in vietnam that were passed to secret police forces in latin america during the 1980s and then
turned up in instruction manuals for overseas interrogation like abu grape sometimes those phrases can be traced back to gottlieb so there is a definite continuum from those experiments conducted right through so-called enhanced interrogation. >> but given the titles of counterintelligence interrogation that was from 1983 the human resources exploitation manual is about what quick. >> that is another word that i think for mind control how do you get into a person's head and control that person cracks even though he could never
figure out how to program someone to go out and commit aggressive acts. and to find a whole series of ways to reduce a functioning human being and to slowly realize and then to put something in the drink and nothing was the same again. and then to be captured by one of the doctors and then i could recognize my family ever again so decades later and toward the end of his life one of these lawsuits would come
to trial after 20 years of the ins and outs of the american court the beginning of 1989 it look like gottlieb would testify under oath in a case in which he had participated. and when he was about to go to trial he died at the age of 80. the lawyer who pursued that case for 20 years will never know for sure but he committed suicide. this is which all of it became public is not a coincidence he died just as the case was about to come to trial. and as you drops lsd in fact one anecdote and the chief of
security and then to give that information it would not be recommended to test the punch at the holiday chris me part one discuses parties at the cia i found a story that gottlieb like to use to tell they were super secret nobody even knew what was lsd in those days and nobody was allowed to know. so when he was in an airplane and was walking back to his seat and walking down the aisle somebody said is that lsd your drinking cracks he
was terrified this is one of the greatest secrets of us government and it was dulles. the only other person who knew. [laughter] the book is just full of the most incredible characters so the canadian doctor. so cameron. can you talk about how he got hooked up with gottlieb and what you wrote about cracks and the psychiatric association? of those psychologist and psychiatrist. >> cameron was one of the contractors of the subcontracts that gottlieb gave out as you said psychological societies of the
institute and coincidentally enough walking into this room within the last hour i had a meeting with somebody whose father had his life completely destroyed he told me my father had to panic attacks he went into a psychological hospital and by bad luck they were contracted by gottlieb to grab people for experiments. he was going in for six weeks of sensory deprivation but one of cameron's techniques of those coffins and it would be repeated hundreds of thousands of times my mother hates me.
and it would be shrieking into your ears all this time so the father in his mid- forties in his memory will never function again as a human being he was psychologically crippled and destroyed for life but this is what he left behind him and cameron was one of the most extreme subcontractors so some people later had turned up victims of cameron one of the victims was the light on - - the wife of canadian parliament who kept the case alive in the granddaughter is now a very interesting artist
to convey under the care. is the last picture of the photo section and some of those are trying to appoint the responsibility. >> it's clear and to answer these questions that they got away with. >> right. gottlieb had the right to requisition human subjects that will he was hardly supervised at the very small
core of scientist there was a moment in 1853 to have an attack of conscience so frank olson was his chief chemist he made one of the normal tours to europe to observe the experiments that he was possibly tortured to death using aerosol that he actually developed suddenly he didn't want to do it anymore he was uncomfortable he told his colleagues in the cia i want to quit i will quit the cia and later found out asked his
friends if they knew a good journalist so not so long after coming back from his trip to europe 195 frank olson went out the window of a h floor hotel room in new york city plunged to his death. that was described as a suicide of an army scientist he was not an army scientist he was cia and suicide was suspect. >> so does this have meaning quick. >> the project had three names started off being called bloomberg because the truth serum the idea is you would find a potion or pill to make them sing like a bird.
later it was turned to artichoke supposedly the favorite vegetable and then mk ultra i think they chose that because it is the ultra project the most important project we have. but if that were true that it would be the ultra discovery. >> you mentioned morality but what could have enabled people in the american government so then we think we have one is there an explanation for this quick. >> america always have trouble with enemy deprivation syndrome we always have to have somebody out there to
pose the counterweight and the soviet union played that positive for that for the forties and fifties and beyond that we projected all the worst aspects of the enemies we thought in world war ii if they could bomb america than the soviets are likely to do the same if the nazis killed dozens for no reason in concentration camps so americans were led to believe that we faced a horrific and implacable enemy enemy not to kill us all but destroy the entire possibility of human life on earth fighting a horrific enemy would certainly a few hundred lives of the
climate of the early caa would be naïve and sentimental. so caught up in the mindset everything seems justifiable so now we are told because of the threat we are facing have to give up our civil liberties and give up certain actions in the world so normally we would never carry out but it is the extreme circumstance to abandon our principles so there's always the push that so extreme that we have to depart but after a while we address on - - adjust to a new normality but as true patriots
but he also had a club foot was that part of the motivation quick. >> he was motivated especially by the fact he could not serve in world war ii he was eager to serve in another way and there is no evidence he ever questioned those extreme experiments but on the contrary he kept pushing it further and further how can a person consider himself allow himself to do that he considered himself an extreme individual in the individual way to tell himself to make it impossible into regiment
society so therefore anything he could do to resist that is definitely an object lesson for us to be carried away to think anything is justifiable that needless to say historians today have unanimously concluded that threat is greatly exaggerated but at the time it sees so real that any kind of defense was a way to defend america. >> and the creativity tell us about john mulholland.
>> that's a fascinating character the most famous magician of his era and gottlieb was brought into the cia to do something magic. mind control so the way he would cross paths as a recital disciple who became to radio city music hall and had celebrity friends so gottlieb went to see him and presented him with a problem and said i can make poison and mind altering pills and devices to get to the targets but how do we deliver the pill? had you get it to the drink
with those needles that were so hyper then you would never feel it cracks how do you deliver the poison cracks he hired mulholland to write a manual based on the stage magic techniques how to drop drinks into peoples drinks - - pills into peoples drinks and i learned about magic for reading his manual actually it was the only document that has become fully available and one of the things i learned what he taught the cia agents because he conducted training sessions and how to stab them with poison syringes it's not
true the hand is quicker than the eye but that's not correct that's not how magic works. magic works by distracting a person make them look at one thing while you do something else so those cia officers they learned that so operation midnight claimant so those characters behind those operations. >> these are two drug-related. operation sea spray the
military wanted to find out if it would be possible to spray an entire city with a toxic poison and they pick the city with a non-toxic but traceable bacteri bacteria. this became operation sea spray to think the fog would help the skies so to have giant hoses connected to tanks harmless but traceable bacteria to cruise along the coast of california near san francisco and then one week later measurements were taken it turned out the poison spray
reached all of san francisco and a dozen communities surrounding it so it found out that it was able. >> the medical journal article just outside san francisco and they had 11 patients check in with urinary infections and couldn't understand where they came from. they said there was a little bit of red dye in the urine of this phenomenon so it wasn't as non-toxic as they thought but no officials in california were ever told now was 1951. so later in the mid- 19 fifties with the more bizarre project on telegraph hill with
this infinite imagination to decide if drugs have a special effect on men in conjunction with sex. how do you do that the cia should set up portillo and hire somebody he did and hired a guy a federal narcotics agent one of the most colorful characters in my book from chestnut street up on telegraph avenue that was the bordello style and their they had tainted drinks and meanwhile this agent who knew nothing about psychology or any kind of science would sit
behind a one-way mirror on his portable toilet drinking martinis making notes about sex going on in the other room. these are your tax dollars at work. [laughter] he came to find a way to protect the united states against communism. >> so after finishing and then the men would begin talking and say you stay with them for a while. how high does it fly? they would test these out with operation midnight climax. i did read it had of you
unfortunately they demolished it so climax car my left but all those files were destroyed but some information came out so what do you think is going on today? is that this administration to bush or obama? >> when you are researching a project like this one and you realize how extreme some of the projects are that unfold behind closed doors, it has to make you wonder if there are
not others. could there have been another got leaves now? think of how technology has advanced so tremendously from the paleolithic era of the 19 fifties when gottlieb was around. at least when he was there people could have supervised him if they wanted to. they didn't want to but a small circle but now our surveillance system is so big i don't know if there is any group of people that has an idea of what it's doing. so certainly the gottlieb story takes you to the edge of conspiracy theory and beyond somebody some person is comparable that will be the
subject 50 years from now to be discussed in this very room. >> what was remarkable again. >> so he became the spy tools to the end of his career he was very creative and if you have seen the james bond movies that was gottlieb. so he created tools that he didn't want to look too deep into and then to be concealed in a reckless repository. and we received a request and often responded in a latin
american country were no longer able to overhear the soviet ambassador to carry out his sensitive conversations in the yard he came out with a gun and from several hundred yards away and that would hit the tree and was a transmitter but another one of the favorite devices the l pill he concocted these are all sorts of purposes for those pilots they could just touch their skin and could die that was a toxin that gottlieb created by
extracting minute's amounts of bacteria from thousands of alaskans that's the way he made his poison. so he went on to create the l pill of soviet agents that was a traitor to his own country and this person was afraid to be found out and tortured to death. so gottlieb could make the l pill but that wasn't enough you can ask for a pause and then reach down into your sock and ask for a box so to create a pair of eyeglasses and if you took them off under
intense interrogation session and you chewed on the end of the eyeglasses that is where the pill was that immediately you follow over and die so this is the creativity that made him a figure toward the end of his career. >> so obviously the goal is control as a super weapon but was there experimentation with the other drugs they were using in terms of treatment today some of these are now illegal but trauma so is there any indication of how that could be used for good to help people quick. >> first of all gottlieb would
answer everything was for the good because it was for america but so it is no he never thought of that of those who discovered lsd didn't think of it that way the first idea is it should be used as mental illness but now 70 years later but in a way it is back there will be a musical on broadway this spring with a tony award winner about clare booth luce and cary grant using lsd back in the day hopkins university announced a 17 million-dollar grant to create a study of psychometric drugs this the first of it's ever happened in america and they had to legalize magic
mushrooms i now think perhaps we are getting back to the point where we envisioned in the beginning of the forties that psychoactive drugs could be used for therapy and positive forces why we got so far off track was sydney gottlieb. >> so we have reached a point from your introductory remark he was evil but a very complicated character as you alluded to as a reflection of his times as a patriot or a killer but you said history and morality he is a patriot and demonic judging him as a
deep dive into the human mind and soul so what is your conclusion quick. >> after he left the cia he went off to become the sydney gottlieb he thought he was he sold all their belongings and went to the world's poorest people for the rest of their lives and in 1875 they were working at a hospital for a leprosy patient and india when they said essentially we have bad news somebody has figured it out i don't want to talk to you now god leave did have to testify twice and the senators did not know enough to ask the right questions which basically was the
assassination headline grabbing which touched the heart of the mk ultra. so i think he definitely believes he was a patriot but he also understood the severity of what he was doing that at one point he says and want the members of this committee to know i consider this to be very difficult and distasteful but also unpleasant but also necessary. that is the way he justified his own justifications were not even for himself at the end anybody who believed in final judgment or karma payback would have great
trouble looking back on a lifelike sydney gottlieb. >> at the institution for public affairs former new york times. chief and author of the new book poison or in chief. this is part of the commonwealth club series underwritten by the bernard foundation and also thank you to everyone here we remind you stephen kinzer books are for sale he will be happy to sign copies after the program this meeting of the commonwealth club is adjourned cap
>> there are patterns of corporate behavior. she talks very eloquently about making this decision to come forward with this book and feeling the women that came before her with matt lauer carry guilt and that she in turn carried a sense of guilt for anyone who might face violence afterwords. and ultimately that's why she wanted to break the cycle. >> because of the silence that is why she felt guilty quick. >> once it is concealed and to
allow their perpetrators you expose subsequent people. and so many of these stories where there was nothing in the hr file about it. and there were payouts happening over and over again. this isn't an nbc problem but this is corporate america and it should not have been on her shoulders but on the shoulders of that company. >> but it's only now because she was brave enough to speak now there is a still wider group of claims so a lot of
people were brave to expose the story of the book. . . . . welcome to the 21st annual book festival. i'll start off with a few housekeeping items. if you can silence your phones at this time that would be great. please feel free to share your experience on social media using the festival # at texas book fast # texas book fast. this is an inter