By Chris Floyd -
The Moscow Times
August 16, 2002.
"In November 1953, a colleague slipped him a drink laced with LSD ...|
Olson leapt to his death from a hotel room in New York City. The government told the family it was simply a tragic suicide
, they didn't mention the field experiment."
There is a thread running through modern U.S.
history, a thin red cord that weaves in and out of the shifting facades of
reason and respectability that mask the brutal machinery of power. At
certain rare moments, the thread flashes into sight, emerging from the
chaotic jumble of unbearable truth and life-giving illusion that makes up
human reality. It appears, bears witness, then vanishes again, forgotten
behind the next facade.
It's a thread that runs from horrified young
intelligence operatives stumbling into the death camps of Nazi Germany to
hardened agents running assassination programs in the jungles of Vietnam
to august men of state building a shadow government with secret decrees
authorizing tyranny, murder, torture and deceit. It's a thread of moral
corruption, corruption by an idea, a temptation, a perversion of reason,
the whisper of evil that says: "The end justifies the means."
That thread fetched up briefly again last week,
then was buried, literally, in a Maryland grave. The family of Frank Olson
laid his exhumed remains to rest, closing the book on their half-century
of struggle to find out why he died so violently at the hands of the
government he had served -- and whose deepest secrets he had
Frank's son, Eric, believes he knows the answer
now: His father was murdered to keep the thread from sight, to "protect"
the American people from the knowledge that their own government had taken
up and extended Nazi experiments on mind control, psychological torture
and chemical warfare -- and that it was conducting these experiments as
the Nazis did, on unwilling subjects, on captives and "expendables," even
to the point of "termination."
Frank Olson was a CIA scientist at Fort
Detrick, Maryland, the U.S. Army's biological weapons research center.
Ostensibly he was a civilian employee of the Army; his family didn't know
his true employer. Olson worked on methods of spreading anthrax and other
toxins; some of his colleagues were involved in mind control drugs and
In November 1953, one of these colleagues
slipped him a drink laced with LSD -- part of a secret "field experiment"
with the new hallucinogen. A few days later, a supposedly mentally
unhinged Olson leapt to his death from a hotel room in New York City. The
government told the family it was simply a tragic suicide. They didn't
mention the LSD -- or the fact that Olson worked for the Central
In 1975, during congressional hearings into CIA
abuses, Eric Olson learned for the first time about the CIA's involvement
in his father's death. After threatening to sue, the family was hastily
given an audience with President Gerald Ford, who personally apologized
for the agency's indirect involvement -- that LSD test gone awry -- and
arranged a $750,000 settlement to keep the case out of court. The director
of the CIA, William Colby, also met the family and gave them what he
claimed was the CIA's complete file on the unfortunate case.
But it was all a lie. Once again they concealed
the CIA connection. They didn't tell the family that Olson had been
considered a security risk or mention what he'd discovered about his
colleagues' research. All this was left to Eric Olson to piece together
over the years -- in obscure archives, through lucky accidents and
strained meetings with old CIA hands, revealing dribs and drabs of the
truth -- a quest documented by Michael Ignatieff in The New York
In the summer of 1953, a few months before his
death, Frank Olson made several trips to Europe to investigate secret
U.S.-British research centers in Germany. There he found the CIA was
testing truth serums and other torture drugs on expendables, including
captured Russian agents. He told a British colleague that he had witnessed
"horrors" there. And it called into starkest question his own work on
biochemical weapons. He came home a changed man, troubled, morose. He told
his wife he wanted to leave government service.
it was too late: The brutal machinery was already grinding. His British
colleague told his own superiors about Olson's concerns; they in turn
informed the CIA that Olson was now a "security risk." Not long after his
return, Olson was given the LSD. Then he was flown to New York, ostensibly
for psychiatric treatment, at the hands of a CIA doctor -- who prescribed
whiskey and pills. Then he was taken to a CIA magician -- yes, a magician
-- who apparently tried to hypnotize him for interrogation.
Finally he checked into a cheap hotel -- with a
CIA handler in tow. Olson called his wife, told her he was feeling better
and would be home the next day. But that night, he was found dead on the
street, 10 floors below. The handler said that Olson had apparently thrown
himself through the closed window in a suicidal fit. And so the first
coverup began: 22 years, until the 1975 meeting with Ford.
Then the second coverup began. The Olson
family's threat of court action threw the White House into a panic. The
truth might come out: Olson's death, the expendables, everything, the
whole thread of murder and torture in the name of "national interests." So
two of Ford's top aides hastily contrived to help bury the truth and
shield the moral corruptors of a nation.
Mark them well, for these two minions would go
far, their names eventually known to all the world: Dick Cheney and Donald