In the summer of 1942, Stanley Lovell, a renowned industrial chemist, received a mysterious order to report to an unfamiliar building in Washington, D.C. When he arrived, he was led to a barren room where he waited to meet the man who had summoned him. After a disconcerting amount of time, William ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, the head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), walked in the door. ‘You know your Sherlock Holmes, of course,’ Donovan said as an introduction. ‘Professor Moriarty is the man I want for my staff... I think you’re it.’
Following this life-changing encounter, Lovell became the head of a secret group of scientists who developed dirty tricks for the OSS, the precursor to the CIA. Their inventions included Bat Bombs, suicide pills, fighting knives, silent pistols, and camouflaged explosives. Moreover, they forged documents for undercover agents, plotted the assassination of foreign leaders, and performed truth drug experiments on unsuspecting subjects.
Based on extensive archival research and personal interviews, The Dirty Tricks Department tells the story of these scheming scientists, explores the moral dilemmas that they faced, and reveals their dark legacy of directly inspiring the most infamous program in CIA history: MKULTRA.