The job proved too psychologically challenging for him

Tuesday, June 25th, 2024

Area 51 by Annie JacobsenAfter Khrushchev denied American claims that it was setting up missiles in Cuba, Annie Jacobsen explains (in Area 51), the CIA convened its Special Group and concluded that Castro had to be deposed:

The man in charge of making sure this happened was Richard Bissell.


Bissell’s official title was now deputy director of plans. As innocuous as it sounded, DDP was in fact a euphemism for chief of covert operations for the CIA. This meant Bissell was in charge of the Agency’s clandestine service, its paramilitary operations. The office had previously been known as the Office of Policy Coordination, or OPC.

The man he replaced was Frank Wisner, who had first introduced Bissell to the CIA:

It was Frank Wisner who’d knocked on Bissell’s door unannounced and then spent a fireside evening in Bissell’s Washington, DC, parlor eleven years before. It was Wisner who had originally asked Bissell to siphon off funds from the Marshall Plan and hand them over to the CIA, no questions asked. Wisner had served the Agency as deputy director of plans from August 1951 to January 1959, but by the end of the summer of 1958, the job proved too psychologically challenging for him — Frank Wisner had begun displaying the first signs of madness. The diagnosis was psychotic mania, according to author Tim Weiner. Doctors and drugs did not help. Next came the electroshock treatment: “For six months, his head was clamped into a vise and shot through with a current sufficient to fire a hundred-watt light bulb.” Frank Wisner emerged from the insane asylum zombielike and went on to serve as the CIA’s London station chief. A broken man, Wisner did not last long overseas. He shuffled in and out of madhouses for years until finally forced to retire in 1962: “He’d been raving about Adolf Hitler, seeing things, hearing voices. He knew he would never be well.” Tragically, on October 29, 1965, Wisner was getting ready to go hunting with his old CIA friend Joe Bryan at his country estate when he took a shotgun out of his gun cabinet and committed suicide.


  1. Bomag says:

    I’m guessing we have better protocols today for screening out those with such issues.

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