The Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall recently hosted journalist and author Stephen Kinzer for a breakfast discussion covering the history of the United States Government’s search for mind control techniques during the Cold War. Kinzer’s recent book, Poisoner in Chief, detailed former CIA psychologist Sidney Gottlieb’s use of psychoactive drugs against witting and unwitting patients – who were often fellow Americans.

Kinzer was clear that this behavior, though carried out by people who should have known better, was part of the overarching Cold War paranoia that permeated society during this time. The goal of these tests were to “pull away,” “melt,” or otherwise destroy people’s minds to rebuild them, helping to turn Soviet agents or those with knowledge of Soviet activities or plans against Moscow.

Mr. Gottlieb’s activities led to him purchase the ENTIRE known global supply of LSD at one point, and were ultimately the inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Multiple patients committed suicide after being subjected to his treatments, often due to being “dosed” with LSD. Gottlieb, who was a “proto-hippie” in Mr. Kinzer’s words, saw the walls start to close in on him toward the end of his life. This Jekyll and Hyde character ultimately passed away – many think he took his own life – before any major legal action was taken against him after these activities came to light.

Stephen Kinzer is an award winning journalist and author, and a former New York Times bureau chief. More information about his new book Poisoner in Chief can be found HERE.