Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inventing death: Interview with a (maybe) CIA weapons designer

The following is a playboy article By Laurence Gonzilles. There are plenty of reasons to wonder if this information is factual, but it does contain a discussion of some relevant ballistics technology. As crazy as this guy sounds, there is some interesting information in here. The overall impression I get is that this person blends reality with paranoid guesses about the way the CIA actually works. Of particular interest to me is the use of certain materials in bullets, such as beryllium or white phosphorus, when encased in lead or copper. Frangible beryllium would produce severe allergic reactions, and the impact of white phosphorus inside a victim is all too clear. Further, the use of small explosive devices is interesting to consider because, like complex slugs of metal, this is the type of technology proposed at my N prize page. In any event, enjoy the interview but keep in mind that most of this has not been verified at all. At best, it should be considered a review of possible advanced technologies for assassination, some of which may be real.

The subject of this interview has been claimed widely as Barry Rothman.


"The subject of this interview is an explosives expert who worked for 20 years
designing assassination devices for the CIA while holding various cover jobs
in military, research and development. While still in high school, he was
regularly approached by CIA contacts with requests for poisons, explosives,
guns, silencers and specially designed gadgets for killing or incapacitating
people. He worked his way through a number of employers during this period
and finally, ended up director of research at a large, well known firearms
manufacturer, where he continued to do work for the CIA as well as
implement Projects for the gun company, which in turn, sold its work to the

His career began in the early Fifties. In the late Sixties, he-had two heart
attacks. His absence from work in as many years due to illness finally. forced
him to quit and in 1970 he ,had his last official contact with the CIA. At this
meeting, he said he did not want to do any more work for the agency. For a
number of months, they followed him, thinking that he was running guns to
radicals or showing them how to build terrorist weapons.. They finally left him
alone, as far as he was able to tell.

To establish his credibility, I verified that he did hold the jobs he claims to
have held. In addition to this, I saw extensive documentation, of the type work
he was doing. He also showed me. several devices that he had built for the
CIA, including a modified butane 'cigarette lighter that fired a tiny poisoned
dart capable of Penetrating a heavy coat, He brought out an explosive
.22-caliber bullet, which I tested in the presence of a firearms expert. It did
explode. His activities were also verified by others in the intelligence
community, who are involved in similar fields. And, finally, he was given a
series of lie-detector tests, which indicated that he was telling the truth.

The subject wanted to remain anonymous to protect his family. Chemical and
material names have been deleted in some cases to avoid providing a "cook
book" of weapons and tactics,

Q: During the Senate select committees investigation of intelligence activities
of the CIA, chairman Frank Church was shown a "poison dart gun" by William
Colby, former CIA director. during the week of September 15, 1975, this was
shown on television and on the front pages of newspapers around the
country. Do you know anything about that gun?
A: I must have seen half a dozen different dart guns at one time or another,
because I was testing either ballistics or methods of applying poisons. The
one in the Church committee was said to be electric. I doubt that very much.
The electric guns I saw used magnetic bullets, but they had to be much

Q: Do you think the CIA was lying?
A: It wouldn't be the first time. .

Q: But you did say you worked with poisons. What type of work was that?
A: Basically, I was asked by the CIA to devise methods and devices for
assassination. Almost everything I worked with was designed to kill people.
The three major assassination techniques I dealt with were shooting,
poisoning and explosive devices. There was a lot of emphasis in those
days—say, from 1952 to the late Sixties—on low profile devices. The agency
wanted things that would be lethal but that would not leave "U. S.
Technology" signatures.

Q: Can you give us an example of a weapon that used poison?
A: Yes In the mid-Fifties, my CIA contact came to me with a problem he want.
solved. These things were always put hypothetically. For example, suppose
you wanted kill someone on an airplane without attracting a lot of attention.
Well, the' simplest'. answer. is a contact, poison I was given a substance
called [deleted] a liquid that penetrates, the skin and carries with it anything
you mix in. Put a drop on someone's clothes, in his shoe. That would be the
most basic tool for this type of thing.

Q: Did you deliver that to your CIA contact?
A: No, I went a step further. I started fooling around with snake venom’s,
Mixing them with [deleted]. I used Lyophilized [freeze-dried] tiger-snake
venom at first. There's another snake called the boomslang that I finally
settled on, because the symptoms are very subtle. It causes internal bleeding
and can take days to finally kill you. It would be hard to tell what had
happened to you. And I took a ball point pen, substituted a wick for the refill,
soaked it with the liquid and mixed in some ink. I actually invented the felt tip
pen, but it never occurred to me to patent it. Anyway, you could just touch.
someone with this and that was it.

Q: Did you have to get approval to build the gadget?
A: As I remember it, I went back to my contact with the idea after I thought
about the problem for a while. He said, "Will it work?" I said, Well, I don't have
any volunteers to test it on; are you interested?" Incidentally, like all the other
types that I ever met, he had no sense of humor. I mean zero, zilch. He just
gave me a very calm "No. We'll take care of the testing. You make one” My
contact was kind of strange, anyway. He looked like the Penguin from the
Batman comics and spoke out of the side of his mouth, as if he had been
hurt. At any rate, the snake pens apparently worked, because later he
seemed very pleased. I remember making some comment like "I trust you
tested them in house." No reaction.

Q: Where did you get boomslang venom?
A: It used to be easy to get exotic animals from pet stores, back in the early
Fifties. Now it's a bit harder if they're dangerous. Incidentally, never try to milk
a boomslang. A bad snake. They're damn dangerous, hard to get, not very
cooperative, and because their fangs are in the rear of their mouth, it is hell
on wheels extracting venom. Anyway, I milked them, put the poison into the
solution with [deleted], soaked the wicks for the pens, sealed them up and
delivered them.

Q: You say those jobs were given to you hypothetically. Did your contact ever
get specific?
A: One of the only times he had to get specific rather than just give me a
"What if' was when he wanted to extract a black guy who drove a Jaguar.

Q: Extract?
A: Yes, that was their euphemism. Lovely term, isn't it? Anyway, this black
man had, to die at a certain point in the ride he was to take, say eight.
minutes, after he started — for what reason 'I don't know, perhaps to keep
him from crashing into something. I had to know a lot — body weight, was he
right handed, that sort of thing. They eventually brought me the steering
wheel from a Jaguar and a photograph of the man driving which was just his
hands on the wheel. That's how I knew he was black. I don't know why, but
that seemed strange to me. This was, somewhere between 1954 and 1959.
The poison could have been for use anywhere, Jamaica, Ghana. Anyway, I
mixed up a batch of [deleted] and good old sodium cyanide, which I told them
to paint onto his steering wheel where he'd normally put his hands. I adjusted
the dosage so that knockdown time would be the eight minutes or whatever
the figure was. Apparently, they were pleased with that.

Q: How could you tell they were pleased?.
A: Well, a guy I knew pretty well invited me to my first outside job then and I
got the impression that it was being offered as a bonus for work well done.

Q: What do you mean by outside?
A: Out of the country.

Q: What sort of job was it?
A: I was picked up, in a car. My friend was there. We were driven to an air-
plane. Then we flew all night, it seemed like. We landed somewhere. Another
car picked us up. We were driven out into the countryside. Some guy had an
antitank weapon and said, "Do you know how to use this thing?" I said, "Yes."
He said, "Well, use it." I asked what he wanted it used on and he pointed to a
convoy of military trucks over the rise on a little road. So I blew away a couple
of, the trucks.

Q: Do you know what that was all about?.
A: No. It was in Caracas. As soon as I had blown away the trucks, my friend
sent me back to the car and he went over to "finish them off," as he put it.

Q: Meaning what?
A: He just took his pistol and put a bullet through each guy's head, to, make
sure he was dead. Anyway, it was my impression that that was my reward for
doing a good job with the poison systems. It wasn't my idea of a reward.
Later, I asked the guy who had invited me what it was all about. He just
looked at me with a stunned expression and said, "But didn't you enjoy it?"

Q: So far, we're talking about chemical. systems. Did you also design
gadgets like that dart gun?
A: Not quite like that, but quite a number of other things. After the automobile
episode, my contact came to me I with another. hypothetical problem:
Suppose you're in a situation in which it is impossible to bring into a room any
firearms or unconventional things that would be suspect. How would you take
care of roomful of guys? Well, next question. Is: How taken care of I mean,
do you want them extracted, do you want them blinded temporarily?
Biological assault? — always loved that term. It sound so obscene. Well, in
this particular instance, my contact said, "We want them extracted for sure. A
fair number of them, in a moderate-sized room." And. I wound up with one of
the nastiest nasties that I came up with. That, incidentally, was the jargon
for those gadgets: Assorted Nasties. This one was a sub-miniature bomb,
roughly the size of a .45-caliber cartridge. You, threw it and it exploded. It
was loaded with hardened steel shot, like bird shot,
which was coated with poison. Eventually, I replaced that with small pellets of
[deleted] If you get hit with an incandescent fragment of it, you go into
anaphylactic shock almost instantly. It kills you faster than you can believe
I've seen films of tests on monkeys. The knockdown is truly remarkable. Load
it into a shell, fire it at someone and his whole central nervous system goes

Q: Wasn't that a bit dangerous for the person throwing it?
A: it certainly was. It would kill him outright.

Q: Didn't the agency object to that drawback?
A: No. And I found that interesting.
They did ask that I make two versions, the second being one that would give
the guy a chance to survive. It had what amounted to a fuse you could light
with a cigarette or something. Another version lit like a road flare. You could
remove a piece of tape that covered a material similar to what's on the tip of
wooden kitchen matches. Strike it and throw it. In a third version, I mixed red
phosphorus with [deleted]. When you wet this down with chloroform, it will not
explode. But if you let it dry, it becomes highly explosive. You could just plop
it into the middle of a room and it would explode. You could put it on the top
of a door, put it under a toilet seat or any place where it would get bashed.
Once it was armed, it was not easy to disarm, either.

Q: How many of those did you make?
A: Maybe 15 or 20. I also loaded a lot of small-arms ammunition with incen-
diary bullets made of [deleted].22s, nine-millimeter, shot shells. Those were
for rapid kill. And there were strange requests I made some ammunition that
was loaded with an explosive called tetryl so that when you fired it, it blew
you and the gun all over the ceiling. the Walther PPKS .22 was a fairly
standard firearm with the CIA people I knew. I was issued One that had a
barrel threaded to accept a silencer. And I was once asked to modify one so
that, the slide would blow back and take the guy's head off. I assume that
was for one of own people,
Q: Do you mean to say that they were, assassinating their own people?
A: I have no idea what they did with that device—or any of the devices, for
that matter. I was only building them. But others, within the agency had given
me the distinct impression that they would kill their own people if it suited
them to do so. And, at that time, it seemed that they wanted that particular
gun modified in that particular way. It's certainly not standard equipment for
any army or government I can think of.

Q: When you say you were issued that weapon, in what sense do you mean
A: Well, again, it was .given. as a kind of reward. I did some job that pleased
them. Then a friend of mine-the same one who took me to Caracas-took me
to lunch one day. He indicated they were pleased. Then he gave me a
package. At the time, I was working at the [deleted] Institute. So I took the
package back and fluoroscope it to see what was inside!:

Q: Why didn't you just open it?
A: Well, I thought if they were so pleased, they might want to send me to
heaven. Seriously, it was just a standard precaution. And, lo there was a
brand new Walther with a nice new silencer custom fitted to it.

Q: So far, is the work you've described representative of what you were doing
throughout the mid- and late Fifties?
A: Yes, but, of course, I had a regular job as well. I was doing research for
the [deleted] Institute, which was involved in everything imaginable. One of
my first projects for them was to design and test miniature detonators. I knew
they had a vault where they locked secret reports, and I used to go in and
read reports on everything imaginable, just because I was fascinated.
Nuclear stuff, cannon technology. They were very heavily into the study of
flame fuels. Thixotropes, for instance. A thixotrope is a gel that turns into a
liquid when you move it; for example, if you pump it. There were reports
discussing the reality of building a death ray with laser beams-that was in the
Fifties. Of course, they have now actually developed it and it's something the
Defense Department won't even mention. It is a breakthrough in technology
equal to the atomic bomb. When I worked there, the laboratories were
in the basement and included a fully equipped range for firing anything up to
and including 20mm cannon shells. I felt like a mole. Especially in the winter,
I'd go down in the early morning and it.
was dark and I'd come up-at night and it was dark again. I never saw

Q: Was this institute a secret operation?
A: No, not the institute itself. Most of the work I did was classified, but parts of
the place were open, to the public. There were public exhibits upstairs from
us. And the institute did a lot of unclassified work, stuff that had nothing to do
with the military, like testing the strength,, of a certain kind of toilet tissue or
some thing equally strange. But the fact that people were allowed into the
place and that we were obviously working for the military had some funny
results' because we got a reputation for being able to handle strange objects.
If somebody found an old pineapple grenade in his attic, he'd bring it down to
the institute and ask us if it was safe or to dispose of it.

Q: Did you personally have to deal with people's leftover war souvenirs?
A: Yes, for a while, anyway, until one day, when my boss called me up and
said that some little old lady had brought in this thing her son got in the war.
He didn't recognize it and neither did I. It was about the size of-a frozen-juice
can, plain metal, and had a T-shaped handle. No markings. So I took it down
to our range, taped a blasting cap to it and -as I was wrapping the wires, I
accidentally hit the handle and heard this clickety, dickety, clickety-a timer
going-whereupon, being very brave, I dropped it, ran like hell, and slammed
the armored doors. Nothing happened, So I told the range attendant to leave
the doors barred, put up a sign and I'd be back after lunch. I had a very long
lunch that day, but when I went back, nothing had happened. Then, as I was
opening the doors, that mother went off. It caused the first miniature earth-
quake in town and scared the sh.t out of me. The blast took a big hunk out of
the concrete floor and scored the walls.

Q: What was it?
A: It took me two years to find out. It was a very rare Italian World War Two
demolition device. They were made with variable-time fuses ranging from,
this-two seconds to several hours. After that, I flat-out refused to accept any
unknown devices and sent a memo -to my director, saying, YOU;

Q: Was all of your work there oriented toward ordnance?
A: No. I worked on methods of applying gold to the edges of Bibles. Some
company wanted to find a way to do this by machine, because at the time, it
was all handwork done by old craftsmen who were dying out. I was up to my
a.shole in Bibles for a long time. I found. that kind of ironic working with one
hand on that and with the other making miniature land mines or something.

Q: You mentioned miniature detonators. Were they for the CIA or part of your
official work for the institute?
A: Both. Officially, I was developing detonators to be used in the warheads of
missiles and artillery shells. Unofficially, was making miniaturized timers and
detonators for setting off high explosives.
you do is take a battery-operated wristwatch or a penlight cell to provide
power to run that little thing I had made; plug the two together and that's your
detonating system. Some arsenal was manufacturing a wrist watch that
looked normal except it had terminals on it to which you could connect the
detonators I was building. I tried to get one of the watches. myself but

Q: What, then, was the difference between the detonators made for the
institute and the ones for the CIA?
A: Basically, just looks. The CIA models were most commonly disguised as
Marlboro boxes. They had asked that I make them so that they could be
disguised as a package of cigarettes and the handiest thing was the Marlboro
hard pack. After" that, there were some other strange. requests. Later, toward
the last part-of my stay at the institute, the Gravel Mine was being developed.
Gravel was the code name for a land mine about the size of a tea bag that
contained no metal or moving parts. They were dropped from airplanes and
armed themselves by evaporation after they hit the ground. Their purpose
was to be sown by air in vast quantities as an area-denial system. They didn't
kill. When stepped on, they detonated and would shatter every bone in your
foot. Actually, my task was to develop a disarm system, because of a meeting
in which I had asked a casual' question, like, "Hey, if you sow thirty
trillion-trillion Gravel Mines and you go to take the territory again, what is
everybody going to do, walk on stilts?"

Q: Was this work for the institute or for the CIA?
A: Again, it was both. My job was to develop a disarm system. I made some
Gravel Mines that were conventional in the sense that they functioned as
they were supposed to. I also made some for the CIA that contained
poisoned glass fragments. I made others that would appear to be disarmed
but were not. With one system, the Gravel Mine would change color if it was
disarmed. So I made some that would change color but not really be
disarmed. I made them by hand and delivered them to my contact, in Maxwell
House coffee cans. For some strange reason, that was specified. Sealed in
the cans. The institute had no knowledge of it. I had to buy the Maxwell
House coffee, open the cans, reseal them, sand them and repaint them so'.
they looked as if they hadn't been tampered with. Why? I don't know. I
understand that in Guam, where Gravel Mines are still stored in great
Quonset huts, some of them have: become armed in the magazines. They're
manufactured wet and if they dry out, then they are armed. Apparently, that
happened there. Makes for an interesting I think what you do is. push the
problem island away with a big stick.

Q:, Was the mine ever used ?
A: Jesus Christ, yes: Vietnam must be one large Gravel Mine. It wasn't a
lethal thing. It just pulverized every bone in your foot. I mean to jelly. A nasty
bastard. I know because I saw them tested which was truly horrible.

Q: How did you test them?
A: We had to take severed legs from cadavers which were, incidentally, legs
stolen from guys killed in Vietnam. Their families were told the legs were lost
in combat. Any way, we'd put a foot in a regulation Army sock, insert that in a
combat boot and then rig it to a machine that applied it to the Gravel Mine
with the force of a 170-pound man stepping on it. We were so disgusted
when we finished that job that we mixed up a batch of straight 200-proof
ethanol with Coca-Cola. I got stoned blind and so did my buddy. We took a
fork-lift truck, went 170 into the janitor's supply area and took out a 55-gallon
drum of concentrated detergent. Outside, here were huge fountains. In the
summertime,. they were turned off in the wee hours of the morning and then
turned back on about 5:30 or six o'clock, They were off, so we took the drum
and dumped the entire contents into the -biggest fountain, right in the middle
of the road. Then we waited for the sun to come up while we were singing
and dancing and' carrying on, When those fountains came on, the great
Amoeba Caper started. A wall of foam 12 feet high erupted and began
creeping across the road. It was absolutely impenetrable. Traffic stopped. It
was magnificent to behold.

Q: You began by saying that you dealt with only three basic types of
systems. There was a lot of talk about drugs during the Church
investigations. Were you ever asked to work with drugs?
A: Only twice that I remember. My contact brought me half a gram of LSD
sealed in 27 different bottles inside of each other, delivered in the
lunchroom-of the institute. Normally, his manner was what is now known as
speed. laconic, straightforward. In this case, he was edgy. This was in the
Fifties and I had no idea what LSD was. I had to pump him for information
Finally, he started giving me a skeleton outline. That specific job gave me
very distinct, creepy felling that it was under the counter even for them. I
didn’t know what the hell he was handing me. If it’s botulismus toxin or
something, screw you, Jack, I don’t even want to get near the container. But,
at any rate, he finally handed it to me. Well, I loaded LSD onto cough drops
and resealed the package. I put -it into cough syrup. I had a whole box of
Neo-Synephrine spray bottles that I loaded. Mostly cold remedies.

Q: What dosage, were you using?
A: Enormous dosage. Probably wipe you out forever.
.Q: You mentioned two instances.

What was the other drug you worked with?
A: The other was called BZ, and I wouldn't ever want to get dosed with that. It
was something like LSD, dosage was much lower and you had the work with
it in a glove box, because it was administered by breathing. I saw some very
frightening films of soldiers who had been given BZ. The guys were reduced
to catatonics. They would just sit there, drooling, with no control over
bodily functions. Unless they were given commands like “get up” or “Put your
helmet on,” at which point they would go berserk and attempt to kill the guy
who had given the order. This effect, I understand lasted weeks.
Q: What was the purpose of working with BZ?

A: Area denial, I would imagine. Chemical warfare, that sort of thing..
Q: Did you design anything for domestic use?

A: I think just about everything I had worked with up until the LSD and may-
be those snake pens was not for use in the US But I think that the pens were
used here. Don't ask me why, but I got the feeling that it, was a local gig. The
LSD really impressed me as being something that even they were nervous
about. And you're not going to find your basic Muscovite taking
Neo-Synephrine or Vicks, cough drops.

Q: When did you work with the BZ?
A: Near the end of the Fifties, I think. Sometime near the end of my stint with
the [deleted ] Institute.

Q: What made you leave the institute?
A: I began getting disgusted around 1960 It had nothing to do with CIA types
or anybody else around. I was getting very unhappy. First of all, by that time,
my psyche was really f.cked up. My marriage fell apart. And I had been
eating what is now known as speed.

Q: Where did you get speed?
From the CIA. It was an auxiliary service. Meprobamates—Miltown,
downers—and speed. I initially got some from a doctor, but even in those
days, there were only so many time you could refill a prescription. And on day
I casually asked my contact if he could help me with that. Well, he brought
bottles that were like industrial mayonnaise jars. And very deadpan, he said,
”Is this enough?” I was on speed for about two and half years. I’d wake up in
the morning and have three cups of coffee and a palmful of Dexedrine. I must
have been taking sublethal doses. I think the turning point came when I met a
very sharp girl. She made me realize a lot of things. I started to reappreciate
the fact that I was really a lecherous charcter at heart and that I had been
taking all that energy and sublimating it elsewhere. I had forgotten how good
f.cking could be. That kind of woke me up. Then she gently pointed out to
me that I was killing myself with speed. Finally, one week I took off and
locked myself in my apartment and kicked it—absolute cold turkey.

Q: How bad was the withdrawal?
A: The word agony is not good enough. Most of what I remember was
uncontrollable muscle spasms. That was most distressing. Nausea. Oh,
nausea. And my head—thoughts racing, just trying to keep control of myself. I
was very sick, but I was also very determined. Because I knew if I was going
to continue with speed it would kill me and I’d just as soon put a gun to my
head and get it over with. When I came out of it a week later, I was pretty
wretched, but I was out. And that’s when my creative urge came back and I
designed a little device that fires a small powder charge and blows out a
chemical irritant. At that in time—where did I hear that phrase before?—there
was a wave of rapes; I almost said a rape of waves. That’s kind of poetic.
Anyway, it started me thinking. There must be a way for a woman to defend
herself. And this gadget came into my head, I got someone to promote it and
a company [deleted] was formed.

Q: Meanwhile, were you still in contact with the man from the agency?
A:. No; once I, left the institute, they called. him off. I never saw him again.
They were probably just waiting to see what happened. So I guess it was a
year later, when this little company was doing well, and then I was contacted
by a different guy, who came out to visit me at work.
Q: When someone contacted you, how did you know he was from the CIA?
A: In this case, the guy showed me CIA credentials. An I. D. card. Also, you
kind of got to know what they looked like. When this guy came, he looked so
weird that my secretary: came in and said, "There's a guy out there who.
must be a cop. And he did look like a cop, square jaw, flinty eyes.

Q: You could spot those guys just by their looks?.
A: Well, there were other telltale signs. When he showed up, he was
accompanied by a very bad guy who bore a vague resemblance to King
Kong. When he sat down, he clanked and I made some comment like, “What
ever it is you've got in that shoulder holster must be something to see." He
just kind of smiled and opened his coat and in there was a .44, magnum. I
have never seen a man before or since who was large enough to conceal
that handgun in a shoulder holster. Any way, I asked to see it; he unloaded it
and handed it to me and there was no serial
number on it. It hadn't been removed. There just wasn't any. So he was either
president of a firearms company or a CIA operative.

Q: Did you ask him about that?
A: No. He wasn't the type you'd ask that sort of thing. He wasn't exactly
talkative. If I remember correctly, he spoke in guttural monosyllables. I don't
know what he said, but it didn't matter. When he talked, you listened.

Q: What did your new contact want from you?
A: Well, he looked at our little company and said, “This is an ideal setup. it's
private, it's quiet. You can do a lot of useful things here” " I gave him a few
gadgets to look at. Liter, he came back and said, "There are a lot of things
that we want loaded into special shells. Can you do it?" I made shells loaded
with poisoned flechettes, little ballistic darts, phonograph-needle size. I made
them loaded with poisoned shot, with incendiaries.

Q: What types of poisons were you using?
A: Most of what I worked with in those cartridges was sodium- cyanide and
an anticoagulant. I remember I dipped the flechettes and dried them. There
were a couple of exotic cartridges that converted [deleted] into a hand
grenade. Some were loaded with HE , [high explosives] and shot to get a frag
effect. I developed a small land mine I guess you'd have to call it that—that
you could slip under a rug.

Q: What could something like that be used for?
A: Who knows? Liven up going-away parties. As I said, I really have-no direct
knowledge of what happened with any of those devices.

Q: What other projects were you working on at [deleted]?
A: Sometime in 1962, I invented the miniature distress signal. I had also
screwed around with soft plastic-cased grenades. [Deleted] was doing a lot of
riot-control. work. I started screwing around with those to see what I could
come up with for the CIA. And I loaded some special ones. They were mostly
concussion _ grenades, designed to produce horrendous blast effects. It was
like a giant firecracker initiated by a regular grenade fuse. I did this type of
work until I was able to form my own company to do industrial research. That
company staggered along and I had no CIA contact whatsoever. I was going
broke. And I finally got a lovely order for some pyrotechnic devices from the
[deleted] government that we couldn't fill. I had invented the device, I knew
how to set up production, but I didn't have enough money to start. So I picked
up the phone one day and called a large firearms manufacturer and they
bought us out and hired me. I got my very own laboratory and a nice
comfortable salary. I was running the whole show, basically. What really
wanted was to get into the commercial end of this business. The
military-ordnance business was going to hell rapidly. Vietnam was going to
end and there we would be, selling military equipment. Unfortunately, I was
very quickly pressured into getting into military research and development.

Q: What form did this pressure take?
A: Oh, it was very indirect. Like, "Get us into military R and D or hit the
street." I was told that by the officials of the company. They were
manufacturing [deleted] for the Army with a great deal of success and wanted
more contracts. So I obliged them and started work on an improvised
munitions program, which was funded by the [deleted] Arsenal. I wrote a
couple of proposals. Again,- *One of those hypothetical situations: The
Special Forces are dropped behind enemy lines with access to virtually
nothing in the -way of sophisticated materials. And I sold a program of
improvising things, literally out of nothing. For example, you can make white
phosphorus from sulfuric acid, bones and charcoal. It's a pain in the a.s, but
you can get a nasty incendiary weapon out of it. Thermite presents two
problems, getting granulated black-iron oxide and getting granulated
aluminum. The iron oxide is easy to make by burning steel wool. You can
make 40-to-100 mesh- consistent granular aluminum by melting scrap
aluminum in a shallow iron pan and stirring it as it cools. -With out going into
any of the exotic demolition stuff, those were the types of problems I was

Q: Now, meanwhile, what was going on, with the agency?
A: Nothing. I had no contact This work, was for the military, the official,
above board work of -the firearms, manufacturer. So we generated our first
report on improvising munitions and, I must openly — say,- it was a damn
good piece of work. Because, literally, we showed a guy with an IQ on the
order of a 12-year-old's how to make black powder, nitric acid, sulphuric acid,
nitroglycerin, detonators by starting with nothing and winding up,,
with some pretty sophisticated sabotage and demolition stuff.

Q: You haven't mentioned -anything about your educational background.
How did you acquire the know how to write such a report?
A: I have no formal education. As a kid, I was interested in fireworks
explosives, firearms and generally weird things.. When I was 14, I was
apprenticed to an old Italian fireworks. designer. I would work for him after
school and on week-ends. He used to eat garlic and sardine sandwiches and
I'd kid him or later he'd breathe on some fireworks and blow himself up, which
I suppose he did, because one day it was. Snowing hard and I couldn't get
out to the shack where he worked. And the next day I found out that
something had gone wrong and business had spread laterally an him with it.

Q: Are you essentially self-taught, then.
A: More or less. When I was 17 or thereabouts, I was friends with a class-
mate who was a genius with firearms. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of
guns, especially Nazi weaponry. He was a complete fascist. And one calm
day, he announced that he was doing work for the CIA, which, of course, I
didn't believe. Finally, he offered to give me guns that I wanted in exchange
for work. He, incidentally, was the guy who took me to Caracas.

Q: Are, you saying that the CIA recruited you when you were 17 years old?
A: Around that time. I was in high school.

Q: Is that common practice?
A: I have no idea. [Deleted] was working for them even before that. It's not so
young if you consider that a lot of kids 17 years old fought in Vietnam and
World War Two. People always think of spooks as 40-year-old seasoned
James Bond types. Hey, that kid riding by on the bicycle may be carrying an
automatic pistol in his belt-with national security as his excuse. At any rate,
[deleted] used to take me to these Sunday-school indoctrination sessions.
There was a church we used as a front and we'd go there and get basic
indoctrination, ideology, instruction in firearms, explosives, and so on
Q: From whom?
A: I don't know who they were, but they were certainly well prepared with
slides, charts, literature, and so on.

Q: What kind of work did the CIA have you doing when you were that young?
A: Mostly building silencers. [Deleted] would come to me and say they
needed one for such and such a gun and I'd fabricate it. They were all made
to be easily disassembled, both so they could be thrown out easily after use
and so that you could carry them in your luggage on a plane and not arouse
suspicion if someone looked in. A Maxim-type silencer is simply a series of
baffles, like an automobile muffler. Little metal washers stacked on each
other with holes for the bullet to go through. Once, I made one where the
parts were strung on a piece of jewelry chain so it looked like some kind of
modernistic jewelry. It was actually rather attractive. Another one I made from
Japanese coins, some of which are manufactured with holes already in them.
Other than that, most of what I did during high school was brain-storm with
[deleted ], who would record the sessions with a wire recorder.

Q: And from high school you went to the [deleted] Institute?
A: Yes, shortly after getting thrown out of high school for continuing to blow
things up and that sort of nonsense. I went first to the institute, then to the
company that did riot control, then to my own firm and, finally, to the firearms

Q: But at the time you moved to the firearms company, you said there was no
CIA contact.
A: Not at first. But apparently that report got some wide circulation, because
the next thing I knew, I got a call from someone at work who said, "There will
be another agency contact." And a group of five guys came down and we
talked. They did not identify themselves, but I knew from what was said that
they were CIA men. At any rate, they were mostly touching base. "What are
you doing "Where are you?" An establishment of a new kind of link. More
official, really. Somewhere in there, a general manager was brought in over
me at in)- request. I couldn't handle the whole operation. I just wanted to do
the research. They brought in [deleted], who became my liaison to the
Central Intelligence Agency. I was clearly instructed that absolutely no one
else was to be aware of this sort of work. The very first CIA task was a rather
sizable one. And that was the development of a handbook, which I dubbed
The Devil's Diary. It was an offshoot of the improvised-weapons thing, but
instead of being oriented toward explosives and munitions synthesis, it was
specifically aimed at chemical and biological weapons and systems. It was to
be written for anyone with no more than a high school chemistry background.
I will tell you right now that I was not very much in favor of that whole idea. I
began to realize that that was really dangerous information to assemble all in
one place. That is something that, if it ever got out anywhere, would give
somebody the ability to take over or even destroy large cities with very little
investment in time or money. But I got the word. "Write it. One copy. No
carbons." So what I did was survey the plant poisons. There are so many
plant poisons that it bends your mind. Common things you can walk out and
find right now in your back yard can, if treated properly, yield very deadly
poisons that are not easily detectable. I think I included about 40 plants and
instructions on how to use them. The agency was very pleased with it. I went
on from there to biological systems. I came up with a number of agents that
could be made without too much grief. There are a fair number of those. You
do need certain safety precautions or you're going to wipe yourself out. It's
pretty dangerous.

Q: Are you referring to things such as anthrax, botulism?
A: One of the most toxic materials known to man is botulismus toxin. The
lethal dose is on the order of a 25th of a microgram. There is a very slim
chance of recovery. The so-called R strain developed by the agency is even
more potent than the garden variety. So, in The Devil's Diary, I told a guy how
to breed botulin, identify it, keep it under vacuum. You could literally set that
up in your own kitchen and then extract the lethal agent in a form you could
disperse. You need a little more sophisticated equipment for things like
botulin, but there is easy access to [deleted]. You can find [deleted] in the
soil. Or pneumonic plague, the air-borne form of bubonic plague. As history
has shown, it can get out of control very quickly. At any rate, I wrote all this
up and sent it in and apparently they were happy, and then they said, "Now
you can do the chemical section and systems." And that's when I did some
work using extremely simple materials to deliver those agents. You know,
sprinkle this on a car engine block, throw that in ventilating ducts. One
system I gave them is so simple, using a material you can get in any
hardware store, that you can't even print it, because you'd have kooks tossing
it all over the place every time they got pissed at someone. Spritz it around
and no one can enter the area. Put some of that mixed with [deleted] extract,
for example, in jars and drop them off tall buildings. or out of a plane and you
could deny admittance to the island of Manhattan in a matter of hours. That
stuff is unbelievable. just unbelievable. A canister of it chucked into the
subway system and you've messed up—perhaps hundreds—of thousands of
people. Incidentally, in the Diary is an extremely simple method of
synthesizing a rather potent nerve gas from a material that is easily available
on your grocer's shelf right now. It requires no time or effort, really.

Q: Do you want to go into that?
A: No, I don't even want to mention it. I don't even want you to know what it
is. Right now, you can walk in and buy enough of it to do all kinds of ferocious
damage. It's not as toxic as VX or some of those things, but damn close to it.
9: What's VX?

A: The most potent nerve gas they had at the time I was working for the CIA.
Q: How long would it take to synthesize your grocery-store nerve gas?
A: Two hours for enough to do a large building, like a high-rise. Low dosage,
inhalation or skin contact, either one. So that also was a very pleasing thing
for them. There is also a form of heavy metal I'd rather not say which one -
that's readily available. It has a natural tissue-penetrating property. Put a drop
in someone's shoe and he'll absorb it in time. Then he has heavy-metal
poisoning, which is frequently fatal. Where did he get it? They'd never know.
Similar in potential were some very peculiar plant poisons that are
little-known, although the literature's there. These are all things that are
buried in the avalanche of scientific paper. For example, there is a substance
that can be extracted from a plant that grows in the Southwest. It's a
neurotoxin, orally administered. but it has this remarkable six-month delay
before any symptoms show up at all. By that time, it's irreversible. You
deteriorate steadily. Like muscular dystrophy. A tribe of Indians used it long

Q: Would they ever be able to figure out what had killed the person?
A: It's very unlikely.
q: Do you have any idea what they wanted that document for?
A: Well, there was one peculiar thing about The Devil's Diary and that was
that I was specifically instructed to orient it toward domestically available
materials and plants. Plants that grow in the U. S. and materials that are sold
in the U. S. What that means, I don't know, but it makes you wonder.

Q: And how much did you get for The Devil's Diary?
A: I was not paid directly by the CIA at that time. The firearms manufacturer
was being paid. I would cost out the project, report the price to my supervisor
and he would take care of any administrative details. I have no idea where
the money went, who knew about it or what they did with it. I believe I told
[deleted] the CIA should pay about $20,000 for The Devil's Diary.

Q: It was just understood that you would do work for the CIA as part of your
A: Right. I had a pretty decent salary. I was happy with it. I had a lot of fringe
benefits. Like a big car with a telephone and a modified, built-in console that
concealed a revolver. Very nice car. Also, a sawed-off shotgun, a Mafia
special, overall length 18 inches, clipped under the dash.
Q: What was the next request from the CIA?

A: I had idly mentioned developing a special .22 rim-fire cartridge. The
agency got very interested and said, "Could you develop one that would
radically increase lethality?" Incidentally, by that time, [deleted] had left the

Q: Who became your contact?
A: just some character from the agency itself. At any rate. the special .22 was
a sub-miniature, delay-fused bomb. A miniature, metal-cased cherry bomb, if
you want to boil it down that simply. The fuse was a pressed column of
barium chromate and boron, topped with an 'ignition material. The casings
were machined out of [deleted]. The first batch I tried myself with a Sionic
silencer and a High Standard pistol. My contact man took a 2000-page phone
book out to the back foyer and I fired one into that from about 15 feet. And
that mother blew a hole in the book you could damn near Put your fist
through. It didn't make much noise, a kind of odd thump, and then the paper
just flew. The bullets were loaded subsonic to make them quieter. "Christ,
that's amazing," lie said. Then he wanted to know if it would penetrate a
military overcoat or a Russian greatcoat and still do the damage, because the
bullet was so underpowered, anyway.

Q: Can you explain that? The bullet was underpowered; yet it did so much
A: I mean the charge that propelled it through the air was small to keep the
bullet from breaking the sound barrier, which is noisy. But the little firecracker
charge. when it blew inside something, had two effects. It released all the
bullet's energy at once, unlike conventional bullets, which gradually slow as
they enter something. And it-well, it blew up inside the target. At any rate, I
had to test them for human targets by using these coats. So I asked my
contact to get me the coats and let me know what he wanted me to put inside
them for testing. He told me to start out with watermelons. And I said, "Do you
want these watermelons to be formally dressed?" Nothing. No feedback
whatsoever. He said, "No, that will not be necessary," and left.

Q: A watermelon was used to test mercury bullets in the movie Day of the
Jackal. Is that accurate?
A: It gives you an idea of what hydrostatic shock is like. In the movie, the
water-melon exploded. That's accurate, more or less. But watermelons are
not really good targets for simulating human tissue. So we ran tests with four
sheep wearing Russian greatcoats, believe it or not. Nobody at work knew
about it. It was Thanksgiving weekend. The CIA brought the sheep and the
greatcoats and we took them out onto the testing fields and zapped them.
There were two guys, my contact and another man, who was a witness. He
had a Bolex movie camera and a 35mm camera. We used a High Standard
with a Sionic silencer, a Walther that was fitted with a Sionic and a Venus
submachine gun, which is a little-known, multibarreled weapon that shoots a
zillion rounds a second, with tandem mounted clips, .22 Long Rifle rim-fire

Q: What's the actual cyclic rate of the Venus?
A: It's some unbelievable number. I'd be guessing. Each clip held 50 rounds
and I think it emptied those clips in 1.2 seconds. What's that, 5000 rounds per
minute. That's the number that sticks with me. but I don't really remember.

Q: Was that weapon classified?
A: People knew that it was around, but everybody said, "What the hell would
you use it for?" You could almost sling it in it shoulder holster. The one that I
saw was maybe 15 inches overall. You could really lay down an unbelievable
amount of high-speed lead in a very short time.

Q: Who put the coats on the sheep:,
A: I did. Did you ever have to put an overcoat on a sheep? I guess not. I put
its legs through the armholes. Well, that was the first one and I couldn't help
thinking how ridiculous it all was. Me, the sheep rustier, dressing the sheep in
Russian greatcoats before assassinating them. We shot, that one in the.
chest cavity, and, of course, that instantly killed it. The second one was shot
in the right front leg. And, much to everybody's surprise, including mine, it
was also instantly fatal. it was rather devastating. It dropped with only three
legs. It blew the leg off. very definitely. But it did kill it instantly; I mean dead,
not just wounded. Which is a rather dramatic test. Two shots and two rather
startling effects. And there were four sheep. Anyway, they loaded the Venus.
it had tandem silencers, which made the damnedest noise, like the world's
record fart. It Was such it weird sound, you would never identify it as gunfire.
And when they fired it, tile sheep turned to instant suet and it was a
horrendous-looking mess. It was just unbelievable. A hundred rounds in 1.2
seconds. The sheep were literally blown over the whole damn place. That
was two sheep unintentionally. Because the first one went down so fast and
the clips emptied so fast that the bullets passed over the first and hit the other

Q: Was the CIA satisfied?
A: Totally, yes. They ordered 5000 rounds of that model. So I made those.
Then they came back and said, "Look, what else call you do with this thin(,?
Call you improve lethality?" I said, "How much more lethal do you need the
mother, for Christ's sake?" They said, "Well, we want something that isn't
quite as dramatic. Blowing a fist-size hole in somebody's chest cavity on an
airplane is a little obvious." And I said, "Well, you've got it point there; it is a
little messy." So I loaded some that had extremely small charges, very quiet,
low velocity, so that when the bullet penetrated, it would kind of pop an end
off and inject whatever you wanted. Some of them were loaded with
lyophilized cobra venom. There was also tiger-snake venom, nasty stuff,
another neurotoxin. I didn't understand why the hell they wanted it poisoned
one, anyway. I got the feeling I was dealing with James Bond types just
looking for more gadgets. They liked that a lot, a very handy device.

Q: That's it pretty sophisticated weapon, though were there others that were
more subtle?
A: Yes. It was, again, hypothetical: What do you do if you're stuck in a place
and you're surrounded by hostile, sex-crazed, Albanian dwarfs or savage
cabbage butterflies? It was a brain-storm session. I had said, "Flame
weapons are mighty damn effective psychologically. There must be a way to
make it pocket-size one." That was very intriguing to then. But the
conventional systems we had required a lot of mechanical junk. Anyway,
what I came up with was a very, very simple system, which I'd rather not de-
scribe, because I don't want to take responsibility for the next skyjacking. It
was about the size of a battery-operated vibrator. When you pulled the
trigger, you got a jet of flame that was respectable, let's put it that way. And I
say jet because it made a roar and covered an area of 20 feet. It would burn
you badly if you were standing in front of it but, as I said, it made a lot of
noise and was psychological) devastating. The thing that they really (lug
about it was that you could disassemble it quickly, throw it into )'Our luggage
and carry it anywhere. To the authorities, it was nothing. A couple of hunks of
metal you could say were part of the support for your jockstrap. They'd never
suspect that it was it firearm of the first order,

Q: That must be taking us close to the end of that type of work for you.
A: Yes. There was one last major job that was a very rush program for a
barometrically operated bomb that released cyanide gas, rather than
exploding. It was to be very small, "as small as practical to wipe out a
commercial-size airliner"-that's a quote from my contact. The emphasis was
that it be something they wouldn't discover after the plane crashed. So I built
one into a domestically available aerosol deodorant call, with a barometric
switch, two batteries, a miniature blasting cap that shattered an ampoule of
[deleted] in a casing of [deleted]. I delivered two of those and they had asked
specifically that the deodorant calls be from domestic sources. They were set
to go off at 5000 feet and I have no idea what they did with them.

Q: You say that was your last job. What made you decide to stop working for
the agency?
A: I have not touched on the fact that things were changing with me
psychologically. The real change was initiated when I started with the
firearms company,. First of all, I had met and fallen in love with [deleted], my
lab assistant, ail(] we got married. And I really didn't want to make any more
weapons. Although I was originally enchanted by the 'James Bond macho
trip, it had worn out and I was much more interested in living, than I was in
building things to kill people, including myself. I don't believe I mentioned,
either, that I have very .nearly blown myself away a few times.

Q: Did you ever find yourself paranoid, thinking that maybe it wasn't an
A: Of course, but you have to watch yourself or you'll go crazy. The one time I
was really suspicious was when I developed a miniature white-phosphorus
grenade. It was loaded with powdered aluminum to give the fireball a better
spread. Nifty little thing. Anyway, I ordered some six-second grenade fuses. A
case came over labeled as if it contained six-second fuses. I screwed one in,
pulled tile pin, and-whamo!-it was a one-quarter-second fuse and it blew me
away. I was in the hospital for a very long time. The thing that saved my life
was the fact that because it was experimental, I had put too much aluminum
in the mixture, which made the white phosphorus disappear and not stick to
Q: Then you think someone was trying to tell you something.--
A: No, not really. But it has made me wonder. Anyway, I had begun to resist
fiercely any of the military R and D the firearms people wanted. But I Couldn't
talk that kind of sense to them.

Q: What was their response?
A: There was all kinds of chickenshit pressure.

Q: Was that pressure from the firearms company or the CIA?
A: The CIA had said nothing at that point. But in the firearms company, some
of the key people from die main office were absolute wretches. Anyway, I had
been worn down physically and emotionally to the point where something had
to give, and that's when I had a heart attack. Then they tooled me off to the
hospital and put me into the EKG and a few other things and said, "Man, it is
all acute myocardial infarction." I was not very old, and there I was,
wondering when the next blip was going to come. Tile chest pain was terrible,
like somebody stabbing me with an ice pick. It's steady, relentless.

Q: When you recovered, did you return to work?
A: Correct. I hung around, but a year later almost to the day, I had a second
heart attack. I had started an exercise program and used to jog every
morning, which. quite frankly, was overkill. One morning, it was just too much,
and zap. Three months later, I went back to work but with the express
purpose of quitting. had been out of work for so long they were just glad to
see me leave. I think it as no more than a few days after I had officially
separated that there was a phone call at home and I met one of the CIA
contacts. And he was just supposedly inquiring about my health. But he was
also obviously inquiring about my social life. You know, very oblique, casual
references, but it was unusual. "How things going at home?" I mean, that
question was never asked. There was so vague probe: Had I made new
friends? Meaning new radical friends. I'm pretty sure that I made some kind of
sarcastic remark, "Yes, and they're all Weather men." it was Obvious to me
that he concerned. So I said, "Look, I've had two heart attacks. That's
enough, and I kind of revising my whole lifestyle." just didn't want to do any
more weapons work. From the change of expression, was apparent that he
wasn't very happy with that statement. That's when questions started to come
up about political feelings, which they would never have discussed before.
They were paranoid: If you ain’t with us, you're against us. A he did ask me if
I had kept a copy of Diary, which was reasonably indicative of what he was
thinking. I told him, " No and I'm not involved with anybody and don't intend to
be." My wife and I managed to coast for a while and I involved in all kinds of
endeavors, consulting work, and so on. We made ends meet.

Q: Did they leave you alone then?
A: Not by any means. I know that I was followed. There was always a pickup
car as I turned out of our street, no matter time of day I left. There was one
guy I began to recognize, who looked I Slim Pickens. The phones were also
tapped. I would call somebody: "Fred, I'll be leaving at such and such a time
and, sure enough, there would be a pick up car out on my route. I started
addressing friends as "Comrades" and other sophomoric things, just to
relieve tension. Well, then I started bump into CIA guys in very peculiar
places, like little restaurants that nobody ever went to. it was deliberate, to let
me know they were watching. They were so obvious. Clever little oblique
questions like, "Hey, did you ever walk off with any machine guns before you
quit?” I think that I probably aggravated the situation by responding with what
I considered to be humor. Statements like 'No, I'm too busy preparing
botulismus R strain for radicals," or some other nasty thing.

Q: What was the last meeting?
A: The last confrontation that I had when my wife noticed she was being
followed. That was the first time she realized that somebody was behind her
the time and it frightened her. That did it. I made I phone call and set up a
meeting with two CIA types at the [deleted], a pleasant, quiet restaurant
walked in and sat down. They order drinks and asked if I wanted one. I said
"No, thank you, I just came here make a statement, which is this: Very briefly
if you continue to with my life, if you continue to keep me under
surveillance and act as if I'm involved in some kind of political bullshit, particu-
larly now that you've involved my family in it, I'm telling you right here and
now that I will detonate a canister of VX in the central-air-conditioning system
in Langley," I said. "If anything unusual happens to me or my family, I have
arranged to do this and it will be done." And I got up and I walked out.

Q: Were you bluffing?
A: No, I was not. I worked with biochemical warfare long enough to be able to
make that threat very real. They were well aware of what I had done for them,
so they knew damn well what I could do to them. So at this point, it's kind of a
Mexican standoff, if you will.

Q: Are they still after you in some way?
A: My impression is that they've drop it, at least from within the CIA. I d think
they've completely given it up other ways.

Q: What are your plans, now that your out of weapons design?
A: I've started working on designing toys I have patents and some backers a
hope to be bringing out some toys so with any luck.

Q: Doesn't that strike you as odd, working for so long designing assassination
devices and then switching to making toys?
A: All my life, I've liked to fool with things. I'm just doing it now in a way that
will entertain people instead of kill them.

While this interview was being prepared, the subject died. Cause of death
was shown by autopsy to be a heart attack.


David Rothman, the son of Barry Rothman, composed a book about his father. A review is posted below:

Mr. Death : the life of a CIA assassination expert by his son

"Review by Kirkus Book Reviews
A rambling and ultimately tedious memoir about an odd duck named Barry Rothman, a self-taught weapons and explosives expert Who claimed, in a 1977 Playboy interview that appeared just after his death at age 40, to have worked for the CIA. (Whether he really did or not isn't established here, title notwithstanding.) Raised by his divorced mother, young David looked forward to visiting his father--""I loved the suspense of not knowing what I'd find in his basement this visit."" Childhood memories: the smell of tear gas in dad's kitchen; remnants of phosphorous grenades in dad's backyard; the time dad shot a pheasant with a riot gun for Thanksgiving dinner, through the window, which was closed. In the eyes of his teenage son, Barry Rothman was part-wizard, part-pal; and the mercilessness with which the adult David probes the dark side of his father's life suggests the anger of betrayal. A different portrait of the elder Rothman emerges from interviews, and it isn't pleasant: his mother (""I saw evil in my son when he was just a boy""); his ex-wife (""You immediately thought the worst. And usually it was true""); a close friend (""Truth was what he thought it was at the moment""); and bis widow (""The mysterious look, with the black car with the black interior. . . he always used to tell me he was goin' somewhere, always on a mission. . . . I had to be nuts to believe all that shit, too""). Aside from weapons, his interests were limited--chiefly sex (almost any woman would do, though he had a special thing for little girls) and porno. An undercurrent of sexual competition with dad runs through the book (there are numerous references to the size of Barry's physical equipment), and finally surfaces in David's lurid description of his affair with his widowed black stepmother's younger sister (""Now it's my turn to have to hold to fuck to suck the brown bitch-goddess. . .""). All in all: not so much a biography, or even a book, as an exorcism of some personal demons. For a very limited audience."


Gir said...

Does anyone think that the CIA came back and killed him after they found out that he published this?

High Power Rocketry said...

Good question... I have my doubts that any of this is actually true and he actually worked for the CIA. The fact is, the CIA is was less effective and less paranoid that films suggest. Anyway, in the era after "family jewels" was released, I think the CIA became more relaxed still about the distant past. He probably would have gotten a pass if this were true, since he never actually witnessed many murders etc.

JayBaseball said...

I didn't know Barry Rothman did all these things. I knew him back around 1970 when he bought porno in my dad's book shop in Downingtown Pennsylvania. He also got me started in selling fireworks in which I made a good profit. Talking about those poisons, now I know why he had snakes in cages his basement. He was a very smart and nice guy, and I remember seeing him as a guest on the old To Tell the Truth show telling about his fireworks feats.

Bob Good said...

Barry's fireworks factory, Nova Pyrotechnics, blew up in October of 1972. It was located at an old graphite mine in Chester county, PA which had formerly been occupied by a weapons research facility. Barry consulted there befor starting tNova. When the Feds got done guarding the ruins, we scoped it out and found LOTS of blasting caps, hand grenade primers and chemicals that are NOT used in fireworks. When he died of a heart attack, more chemicals and pengun shells appeared there; perhaps dumped by his family. We, of course, put everything we found to good use! :-)

High Power Rocketry said...

Thanks for the info guys! It would have been crazy to know Rothman in person.

Jay Cee said...

I worked with David Rothman in the late 1980's. He had given me a copy of Mr. Death which I've read several times. At the time he was working on a book called Volcano about conspiracy with the Kennedy assassinations. He was a nice guy to me but I think all of the stuff concerning his dad ultimately led him to suffer from paranoid delusions.