The Frank Olson Legacy Project
Have some covert activities of the CIA, although intended to protect American citizens, actually hurt them?
The Case of Frank Olson
In what follows I
will discuss the question: have some covert activities of the CIA, although
intended to protect American citizens, actually hurt them? To answer this
question I will use as an example the case of Dr. Frank Olson.
Dr. Frank Olson was a military scientist working at Fort Detrick MD. Dr. Olson specialized in biochemical and bacteriological weapons. In November of 1953 he and his colleagues went on a secret trip to a lodge at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. When Dr. Olson returned he was very disturbed and talked to his wife of making a big mistake.
That Monday he went
to work and quit his job, but his boss convinced him to stay and to go
to New York City to obtain treatment for his depression. That Monday Olson
and two of his superiors went to New York. On Friday night, November 28th,
1953 Dr. Olson mysteriously fell from his bedroom window and died. For
22 years the Olson family lived with the questoin of how did he fall?
In 1975, the Rockefeller
commission released a report saying that the CIA had given some of its
civilian scientists a dose of LSD in their drinks in November of 1953.
One of the scientists later was confirmed to be Dr. Olson. The Olson family
held a press conference in July of 1975 demanding the documents that were
surrounding the incident of Dr. Olsons death. Later that summer,
President Gerald Ford met with the Olson family and apologized on behalf
of the government. President Ford also said that the cause of death was
the LSD experiments. The Olsons were then presented with all the relevant
CIA documents concerning Dr. Olsons death. In the CIA documents
there were a lot of interesting facts about the deat that raised a whole
new batch of questions for the family. In 1994, Dr. Olsons body
was exhumed and an autopsy was performed. The autopsy, as did the documents,
uncovered a lot of incrimitating evidence that pointed to foul play.
This paper will be
basically divided into three sections. The first section tells the information
known in 1953 and the effect Dr. Olsons death had on the family.
The second section will contain the facts realesed in the CIA documents.
The third section is concerning the autopsy of Dr. Olson, the investigation
of Professor Starrs, and what questions remain on the case.
Dr. Frank Olson was
a U.S. military scientist researching biochemical and bacteriological
warfare during the Cold War. Dr. Olson worked for the Special Operations
division (SOD) at Fort Detrick located in Frederick, Maryland. Fort Detrick
was the biggest and most important center for biochemical and bacteriological
warfare. The SOD was the most secret system working on the delivery of
lethal diseases and deadly toxins used for assassinations. Dr. Olson was
working with the CIA on a project called MKNAOMI. Dr. Olson and his men
were working to develop highly toxic and deadly poisons for the CA to
use against enemies.
Dr. Olson had developed
all kinds of different posions and ways to deliver them. If an agent needed
to kill somebody fast then Olson had produced a super deadly shellfish
toxin. The flaws about this particular poison was the assasin had no time
to get away, it was easily tracable, and the person being poisoned had
to be eating shellfish. Probably the most often used poision was botulinum.
It took about 12 hours to take effect so the killer could make his escape.
Dr. Olsons specialty was delivering airborne diseases. He always said
that people have to breath but they dont have to eat. Some of his
methods for delivering diseases like anthrax was to release them in everyday
items like aerosol cans, cigarette lighters, and in cars.
In November of 1953,
Dr. Olson went on a trip to Deep Creek Lake, set up by Sidney Gottlieb,
the head of the MKNAOMI operation, with some of his colleagues from both
the CIA and the SOD. Nobody knew what happened at the lodge untill 1975
when the Rockefeller commission released the CIA reports concerning Dr.
Olson. The meeting took place on Thursday the 20th and Friday the 21st
of November. When Dr. Olson returned home from the meeting he was very
quiet and subdued. He didnt speak to his family he just moped around
the house all weekend. He kept speaking of making a big mistake. Nobody
even found out exactly what that mistake was but it was probably working
for the CIA that he considered a mistake. On Monday, he went to work at
Fort Detrick and told his superior Vincent Ruwet that he had decided to
quit his job. His boss, being a good friend of Olsons, told him
not to quit and that he would take him to New York to obtain treatment
for his sudden depression. That same day Olson went to New York with two
of his immediate superiors Vincent Ruwet and Robert Lashbrook. When the
men arrived New York they got a hotel room on the 13th floor of the Statler
Hotel. Nobody is sure why they kept Dr. Olson on the thirteenth floor
of a hotel when there was a CIA safehouse under Sidney Gottliebs
control just 20 blocks from the Statler Hotel. Dr. Olson received the
treatment he needed from Dr. Harold Abramson, who was said to be a psychiatrist,
but in fact he was an allergist.
Next to nothing is
known about what happened in New York, but according to Ruwet and Lashbrook,
on Wednesday night Dr. Olson got up, got dresed and left the room he shared
with Ruwet. The next morning Lashbrook and Ruwet found Dr. Olson in the
hotel lobby wearing his coat, Dr. Olson then told them that he had heard
the voice of his boss telling him to walk around the city, throw his identification
away, and tear up his money and that is what he had done.
Despite Dr. Olsons
strange behavior, Lashbrook and Ruwet continued with their orders to take
Olson back to Frederick that day, Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. When they
got to Washington D.C., Dr. Olson decided that he wanted to return to
New York because he was afraid that he would become violent with his children.
Lashbrook took Dr. Olson back to New York and Ruwet went ahead to Dr.
Olsons home in Frederick to tell Mrs. Olson that Dr. Olson was not
coming home for Thanksgiving, but that he was going back to New York.
When Olson and Lashbrook returned to New York, Dr. Olson continued his
visits with Dr. Abramson. On Friday night Dr. Olson called his wife for
the first time since Monday. He told her that he was in good spirits and
told her that he would be home the next day. Dr. Olson hung up the phone
and he and Lashbrook went to bed. Early Saturday morning, November 28th
1953, Mrs. Olson 38 years old, her two sons, ages 5 an 9, and her daughterm
age 7, were told that their husband and father was dead as the result
of falling out of the window of a New York hotel room.
For the next 22 years,
the Olson family wondered what happened to their father. Dr. Olsons
oldest son Eric was especially interested in how his father just simply
fell out of a window. He spent his whole childhood trying to find out
how his father fell out of a window. It was an especially hard experience
for Eric because all of a sudden he had taken his fathers place
and become the man of the house. One day he found his fathers camera
and he started to take pictures. Eric got very interested in photography
and had a great interest in finding a way to superimpose pictures. When
Eric was 15 years old, he and his brother Nils, age 11, decided to ride
their one-speed bikes across the US from Frederick to California. They
did. Eric and his brother Nils are the youngest people in America to ride
their bikes across the whole country.
In 1975, the Rockefeller
commission was investigating illegal covert activities by the CIA. On
June 11, 1975 the Washington Post released a report saying that the Rockefeller
commision had uncovered CIA documents that revealed the fact that in 1953
a government scientist had died after the CIA had given him a dose of
LSD without his permission. The report never gave the name of the scientist
he but was later found out to be Dr. Olson. A month later in July of 1975
the Olson family held a press conference so they could get control of
the documents that contained the facts that surrounded the incident involving
Dr. Olsons death. Later in the summer the president (Gerald Ford)
met with the family and apologized for the U.S. government and the CIA.
President Ford also said that the proximate cause of Dr. Olsons
death was the LSD experiments performed by Gottlieb and his colleagues.
The CIA director William Colby then invited the Olson family to join him
for lunch where he presented them with all of the documents concerning
the case of Dr. Frank Olsons death.
The CIA documents
contained a lot of interesting facts that gave the family a whole new
idea of what might have really happened to their father. The documents
raised new questions for the family. Now they wondered if he commited
suicide because of a bad reaction to the LSD, or if he was thrown from
the window because he was a security risk about the LSD experiments. There
are hundreds of possible explanations of what could have happened to him.
The documents also give more detailed accounts of many of the occurances
that happened around the time of Dr. Olson*s death. The documents give
an especially good idea of what happened at the Lodge at Deep Creek Lake.
According to the documents, the meeting was set up and organized by Sidney
Gottleib and Robert Lashbrook who both worked for the CIA had a continuing
relationship with Dr. Olson. The purpose of this relationship (at least
how Olson understood it) was to enable the the SOD to make available some
of research findings to the CIA. Dr. Olson never suspected that during
that November of 1953 that he and his collegues would be used as guinea
pigs in an LSD experiment performed by Gottlieb and Lashbrook. Dr. John
Schwab, Lt. Colonel Vincent Ruwet, and Dr. Frank Olson, led the group
to the lodge. They carefully removed their Fort Detrick bumper stickers
from their cars before setting out. Sid Gottlieb had brought 3 co-workers
form the CIA including Robert Lashbrook. The two groups of men met in
the living room of the lodge and split off into specialized meetings.
The few people that are still alive who attended these meetings willl
not say anything about what was said in the meetings. After dinner on
the second night Olson and his collegues were all having an after diner
drinks. What they didnt know was that Sid Gottlieb had spiked the
drinks with LSD. Nobody in the group realized anything was wrong until
Gottlieb told them about 20 minutes later. Everybody in the group just
laughed it off except for Olson who wigged out and turned
The CIA documents
turned over the family also said that the night Dr. Olson died the hotel
manager, Armand Pastore, said that Lashbrook was behaving oddly after
Dr. Olsons death. He never went down to see if Dr. Olson was alive,
never called the police, or the front desk. He just sat on the toilet
with his head in his hands. The CIA documents also say that on the night
Dr. Olson died Dr. Abramson had given him a combination of bourbon and
rembutal which had a strong likelihood of killing him.
After the family
read those documents that were very incriminating to the CIA they must
have wondered if maybe Frank Olson was murdered by the CIA. The Olson
family has been wondering if their father was murdered, commited suicide,
or he just fell, since 1953 and they probably will be wondering for a
long time to come.
In the summer of
1994, Mrs. Olson died of pancreatic cancer. They needed to dig up Dr.
Olson so they could bury him next to Mrs. Olson. The family decided that
since that they were digging up Dr. Olson that they would reform an autopsy.
When the autopsy was done evidence that pointed to foul play and possible
murder was found.
The 1953 medical
report done immedately after Dr. Olsons death said specifically
that there were cuts and abrasions on the body. When the autopsy was performed
by James Starrs, Professor of Law and Forensic science at the National
Law Center at George Washington University, and a diverse team of scientists
assembled by Professor Starrs. Starrs and his team searched the body for
any cuts and abrasions and didnt find any. This means that the report
done by the police after Olsons death was a lie and that Dr. Olson
didnt fall through a window or he would have had cuts and abrasions
on the body.
and his investigative team found a large hemotoma on the left side of
Dr. Olson*s head and a large injury on his chest. The team concluded that
the injury on his head and chest did not happen during the fall. They
most likely happened in the room before falling out of the window.
When Professor Starrs
was done the autopsy, he had a feeling that Dr. Olson was murdered and
he decided to investigate further outside of the morgue where he performed
autopsy. Starrs found out from the hotel manager, Armand Pastore, that
after the death the police were quickly under the control of the CIA.
According to Pastore, Lashbrook was taken down to the station for questioning
and as Pastore said he was back at the hotel sooner than it would
take to book a hooker. Starrs then raised the question: did the
CIA give Olson LSD to create the impression of mental illness to make
it probable that he committed suicide when he was really murdered? Pastore
also said that the switchboard operator on duty the night of Dr. Olsons
death heard a phone conversation that came from Dr. Olsons room
minutes after he went through the window to Long Island. The call consisted
of two sentences, the first voice said well hes gone
the second voice said thats too bad.
Another reason that
foul play or murder is suspected in Dr. Olsons death is that here
are no known cases of LSD suicides during a flashback that have happened
more than one week after taking the drug. It is very improbable that Dr.
Olson could gain enough speed in a small room to clear the radiator, penetrate
the glass window, go through a closed wondow shade and not get cut, in
a small dark hotel room, when just 4 feet away sleeps a CIA agent.
went to interview the leader of the trip to Deep Creek Lake, Sidney Gottlieb.
Starrs says that nothing about the meeting was suspicious except for the
final comment, the national security of this country was on the
line, made by Sidney Gottlieb. When Gottlieb left the CIA in 1973
he reportedly shredded many documents that suggested his wrongdoing and
that underlines his unreliability.
The New York police
have been very suspicious when it comes to the case of Dr. Frank Olson
since 1953. Recently the Olson family went to collect the police records
that concern Dr. Olsons death but the records have been withheld
from the family and from CBS News because, as the New York Police Department
said, disclosing them would reveal unconventional police procedures.
A few years ago Eric
Olson was on an airplane and was reading a magazine on the plane called
Spin, a popular magazine among teenagers. There was a long article
about the CIA mind control experiments with LSD. The article mentioned
a new name of one of the CIA agents who was involved with Gottlieb. His
name was Ike Feldman. Ike Felman was a CIA agent for the safe House
operation which was also part of the CIAs drug testing program that
was run by Sidney Gottlieb.
the CIA of murdering Dr. Olson but he does not know why they would do
it. Eric arranged a meeting with Feldman and found out a lot of really
interesting things. Feldman told Eric that there was a CIA safe house
that was under Sidney Gottliebs control just a few blocks from the
Statler Hotel. This raised the question of why did the CIA keep Dr. Olson
on the 13th floor of the Statler Hotel when there was a safe house run
by the same man responsible for the LSD experiment where he should have
been kept in an emergency. This is what made Feldman suspicious of foul
play and possibly murder. To find out more about the mystery, Feldman
went to his superior George White for more answers and information.
Feldman found out
that the safe house was used by Gottliebs group to test the influence
of sex and drugs when combined with each other. George White also told
Feldman that Lashbrook and his colleagues had tried to persuade Dr. Olson
to jump from the window at the Statler Hotel. He also said that under
the influence of drugs Dr. Olson came near the window but refused to jump.
The neglect of Dr. Olsons suicidal behavior in New York was very,
very strange. If the reason for taking Dr. Olson to New York was really
to obtain treatment for him then why did they keep him on the 13th floor
of a hotel, especially after all of the strange behavior incidents in
the CIA documents? The documents also said that Dr. Olson also had a pre-existing
psychiatric condition why wasnt he excluded from a mind control
After the investigation
done by professor Starrs, the Olson family and friends believe that Dr.
Olson was murdered on November 28th 1953, because of the large amount
of incriminating evidence and inconsistencies in the stories of the CIA.
In 1994 when Dr.
Olsons body was exhumed and the autopsy and the investigation were
performed by Professor Starrs and his investigative team many more questions
were raised, such as why did the 1953 medical report say that there were
cuts on his body when the autopsy in 1994 said there werent? Was
the large hemotoma on the side of Dr. Olson*s head caused by hit on the
head inside the room since it was not caused by the fall? Why did Lashbrook
get back from questioning after Dr. Olsons death so fast? Why was
Dr. Olson kept at a hotel when there was a CIA safe house run by Gottlieb
20 blocks away? Why if Dr. Olson had a pre-existing psychiatric condition
then why wasnt he excluded from the LSD experiments? If Lashbrook
was the person who called Dr. Gibson and told him he had seen Olson jumpt
through the window then why didnt he tell the turth to everybody
else? If the caller wasnt Lashbrook, though, that means that Lashbrook
lied about being the only person in the room. Finally the most important
qusetion that hasnt been answered is was Dr. Olson murdered?
In this paper I have
discussed the question: have some of the covert activities of the CIA,
although intended to protect American citizens, actually hurt them? In
order to answer this question I have used the example of the case of Frank
Olson. In the case of Dr. Frank Olson, the answer to this question is
definitely yes. It has affected Frank Olsons whole family and the
people that were involved with the death. The death of Ms. Olsons
husband drove her to alcoholism which is probably one of the causes of
her cancer. Dr. Olsons death is also reason that his son Eric became
a psychologist whose speciality is collages.
The CIA may be helping the national security of our nation but they are definitely hurting us at the same time. The CIA has been accused of killing civilians and even testing nuclear weapons on American communities but all they say is that it endangers national security and they can get away with murder. This is definately not justice. Along with hurting us physically they hurt the economy by spending it on secret activities that cost billions of dollars. There are more secret agencies than the CIA, like the NSA, though, that are probably commiting even more horrible crimes and getting away with them. The NSA is so secret that their budget is even unknown. Now we have to ask ourselves just one question: is the price we have to pay for the CIAs protection too expensive?
Altered States of America: The CIAs Covert LSD Experiment
Spin. March 1994.
Huge, Harry; Olson,
Eric; and Huge Theodore. Memorandum in Support of a Criminal Investigation
into the Death of Dr. Frank Olson Attorneys memorandum submitted
to the New York District Attorney, May 12, 1995.
CBS News. Eye on the Case of Frank Olson CBS Eye to Eye segment, August 4, 1994.
|Oliver Boothby was 13 years old when he wrote this paper. He was a student at the Dunbarton Middle School in Maryland.|