The Search for the Manchurian Candidate
5. Concerning the Case of
Dr. Frank Olsen
In November 1953, Sid Gottlieb decided to test LSD on a group
of scientists from the Army Chemical Corps' Special Operations Division (SOD) at
Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Although the Clandestine Services hierarchy
had twice put TSS under strict notice not to use LSD without permission from
above, Gottlieb must have felt that trying the drug on SOD men was not so
different from giving it to his colleagues at the office. After all, officials
at TSS and SOD worked intimately together, and they shared one of the darkest
secrets of the Cold War: that the U.S. government maintained the
capability—which it would use at times—to kill or incapacitate selected
people with biological weapons. Only a handful of the highest CIA officials knew
that TSS was paying SOD about $200,000 a year in return for operational systems
to infect foes with disease.
Gottlieb planned to drop the LSD on the SOD men in the
splendid isolation of a three-day working retreat. Twice a year, the SOD and TSS
men who collaborated on MKNAOMI, their joint program, held a planning session at
a remote site where they could brainstorm without interruption. On November 18,
1953, they gathered at Deep Creek Lodge, a log building in the woods of Western
Maryland. It had been built as a Boy Scout camp 25 years earlier. Surrounded by
the water of a mountain lake on three sides, with the peaks of the Appalachian
chain looking down over the thick forest, the lodge was isolated enough for even
the most security conscious spy. Only an occasional hunter was likely to wander
through after the summer months.
Dr. John Schwab, who had founded SOD in 1950, Lt. Colonel
Vincent Ruwet, its current chief, and Dr. Frank Olson, its temporary head
earlier that year, led the Detrick group. These germ warriors came under the
cover of being wildlife writers and lecturers off on a busman's holiday. They
carefully removed the Fort Detrick parking stickers from their cars before
setting out. Sid Gottlieb brought three co-workers from the Agency, including
his deputy Robert Lashbrook.
They met in the living room of the lodge, in front of a
roaring blaze in the huge walk-in fireplace. Then they split off into smaller
groups for specialized meetings. The survivors among those who attended these
sessions remain as tight-lipped as ever, willing to share a few details of the
general atmosphere but none of the substance. However, from other sources at
Fort Detrick and from government documents, the MKNAOMI research can be pieced
together. It was this program that was discussed during the fateful retreat.
Under MKNAOMI, the SOD men developed a whole arsenal of toxic
substances for CIA use. If Agency operators needed to kill someone in a few
seconds with, say, a suicide pill, SOD provided super-deadly shellfish toxin.
On his ill-fated U-2 flight over the Soviet Union in 1960, Francis Gary Powers
carried—and chose not to use—a drill bit coated with this poison concealed
in a silver dollar. While perfect for someone anxious to die—or
kill—instantly, shellfish toxin offered no time to escape and could be traced
easily. More useful for assassination, CIA and SOD men decided, was botulinum.
With an incubation period of 8 to 12 hours, it allowed the killer time to
separate himself from the deed. Agency operators would later supply pills laced
with this lethal food poison to its Mafia allies for inclusion in Fidel Castro's
milkshake. If CIA officials wanted an assassination to look like a death from
natural causes, they could choose from a long list of deadly diseases that
normally occurred in particular countries. Thus in 1960, Clandestine Services
chief Richard Bissell asked Sid Gottlieb to pick out an appropriate malady to
kill the Congo's Patrice Lumumba. Gottlieb told the Senate investigators that he
selected one that "was supposed to produce a disease that was . . .
indigenous to that area [of West Africa] and that could be fatal." Gottlieb
personally carried the bacteria to the Congo, but this murderous operation was
scrubbed before Lumumba could be infected. (The Congolese leader was killed
shortly thereafter under circumstances that still are not clear.)
When CIA operators merely wanted to be rid of somebody
temporarily, SOD stockpiled for them about a dozen diseases and toxins of
varying strengths. At the relatively benign end of the SOD list stood Staph.
enterotoxin, a mild form of food poisoning—mild compared to botulinum.
This Staph. infection almost never killed and simply incapacitated its
victim for 3 to 6 hours. Under the skilled guidance of Sid Gottlieb's wartime
predecessor, Stanley Lovell, OSS had used this very substance to prevent Nazi
official Hjalmar Schacht from attending an economic conference during the war.
More virulent in the SOD arsenal was Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis
virus. It usually immobilized a person for 2 to 5 days and kept him in a
weakened state for several more weeks. If the Agency wanted to incapacitate
someone for a period of months, SOD had two different kinds of brucellosis.
A former senior official at Fort Detrick was kind enough to
run me through all the germs and toxins SOD kept for the CIA, listing their
advantages and disadvantages. Before doing so, he emphasized that SOD was also
trying to work out ways to protect U.S. citizens and installations from attack
with similar substances. "You can't have a serious defense," he says,
"unless someone has thought about offense." He stated that Japan made
repeated biological attacks against China during World War II—which was one
reason for starting the American program.
He knows of no use since by the Soviet Union or any other power.
According to the Detrick official, anyone contemplating use
of a biological product had to consider many other factors besides toxicity and
Can the germ be detected easily and countered with a vaccine?
He notes that anthrax, a fatal disease (when inhaled) that SOD stored for CIA,
has the advantage of symptoms that resemble pneumonia; similarly, Venezuelan
equine encephalomyelitis can be mistaken for the grippe. While vaccines do exist
for many of the stockpiled diseases, SOD was forever developing more virulent
strains. "I don't know of any organism susceptible to a drug that can't be
made more resistant," states the Detrick man.
Did the disease have a high degree of secondary spread? SOD
preferred it not to, because these germ warfare men did not want to start
epidemics—that was the job of others at Fort Detrick.
Was the organism stable? How did humidity affect it? SOD
considered these and many other factors.
To the CIA, perhaps the most important question was whether
it could covertly deliver the germ to infect the right person. One branch of SOD
specialized in building delivery systems, the most famous of which now is the
dart gun fashioned out of a .45 pistol that ex-CIA Director William Colby
displayed to the world at a 1975 Senate hearing. The Agency had long been after
SOD to develop a "non-discernible microbioinoculator" which could give
people deadly shots that, according to a CIA document, could not be "easily
detected upon a detailed autopsy." SOD also rigged up aerosol sprays that
could be fired by remote control, including a fluorescent starter that was
activated by turning on the light, a cigarette lighter that sprayed when lit,
and an engine head bolt that shot off as the engine heated. "If you're
going to infect people, the most likely way is respiratory," notes the high
Detrick official. "Everybody breathes, but you might not get them to
Frank Olson specialized in the airborne delivery of disease.
He had been working in the field ever since 1943, when he came to Fort Detrick
as one of the original military officers in the U. S. biological warfare
program. Before the end of the war, he developed a painful ulcer condition that
led him to seek a medical discharge from the uniformed military, but he had
stayed on as a civilian. He joined SOD when it started in 1950. Obviously good
at what he did, Olson served for several months as acting chief of SOD in
1952-53 but asked to be relieved when the added stress caused his ulcer to flare
up. He happily returned to his lesser post as a branch chief, where he had fewer
administrative duties and could spend more time in the laboratory. A lover of
practical jokes, Olson was very popular among his many friends. He was an
outgoing man, but, like most of his generation, he kept his inner feelings to
himself. His great passion was his family, and he spent most of his spare time
playing with his three kids and helping around the house. He had met his wife
while they both studied at the University of Wisconsin.
Olson attended all the sessions and apparently did everything
expected of him during the first two days at the lodge. After dinner on
Thursday, November 19, 1953—the same day that a Washington Post
editorial decried the use of dogs in chemical experiments—Olson shared a drink
of Cointreau with all but two of the men present. (One had a heart condition;
the other, a reformed alcoholic, did not drink.) Unbeknownst to the SOD men, Sid
Gottlieb had decided to spike the liqueur with LSD.
"To me, everyone was pretty normal," says SOD's
Benjamin Wilson. "No one was aware anything had happened until Gottlieb
mentioned it. [20 minutes after the drink] Gottlieb asked if we had noticed
anything wrong. Everyone was aware, once it was brought to their
attention." They tried to continue their discussion, but once the drug took
hold, the meeting deteriorated into laughter and boisterous conversation. Two of
the SOD men apparently got into an all-night philosophical conversation that had
nothing to do with biological warfare. Ruwet remembers it as "the most
frightening experience I ever had or hope to have." Ben Wilson recalls that
"Olson was psychotic. He couldn't understand what happened. He thought
someone was playing tricks on him.... One of his favorite expressions was 'You
guys are a bunch of thespians.'"
Olson and most of the others became increasingly
uncomfortable and could not sleep.
When the group gathered in the morning, Olson was still agitated, obviously
disturbed, as were several of his colleagues. The meeting had turned sour, and
no one really wanted to do more business. They all straggled home during the
Alice Olson remembers her husband coming in before dinner
that evening: "He said nothing. He just sat there. Ordinarily when he came
back from a trip, he'd tell me about the things he could—what they had to eat,
that sort of thing. During dinner, I said, 'It's a damned shame the adults in
this family don't communicate anymore.' He said, 'Wait until the kids get to bed
and I'll talk to you.' " Later that night, Frank Olson told his wife he had
made "a terrible mistake," that his colleagues had laughed at him and
humiliated him. Mrs. Olson assured him that the others were his friends, that
they would not make fun of him. Still, Olson would not tell her any more. He
kept his fears bottled up inside, and he shared nothing of his growing feeling
that someone was out to get him. Alice Olson was accustomed to his keeping
secrets. Although she realized he worked on biological warfare, they never
talked about it. She had had only little glimpses of his profession. He
complained about the painful shots he was always taking.
He almost never took a bath at home because he showered upon entering and
leaving his office every day. When a Detrick employee died of anthrax (one of
three fatalities in the base's 27-year history), Frank Olson told his wife the
man had died of pneumonia.
Alice Olson had never even seen the building where her
husband worked. Fort Detrick was built on the principle of concentric circles,
with secrets concealed inside secrets. To enter the inner regions where SOD
operated, one needed not only the highest security clearance but a "need to
know" authorization. Her husband was not about to break out of a career of
government-imposed secrecy to tell her about the TOP SECRET experiment that Sid
Gottlieb had performed on him.
The Olsons spent an uncommunicative weekend together. On
Sunday they sat on the davenport in their living room, holding hands—something
they had not done for a long time. "It was a rotten November day,"
recalls Mrs. Olson. "The fog outside was so thick you could hardly see out
the front door. Frank's depression was dreadful." Finally, she recalls,
they packed up the three young children, and went off to the local theater. The
film turned out to be Luther. "It was a very serious movie,"
remembers Mrs. Olson, "not a good one to see when you're depressed."
The following day, Olson appeared at 7:30 A.M. in the office
of his boss, Lieutenant Colonel Ruwet, To Ruwet, Olson seemed
"agitated." He told Ruwet he wanted either to quit or be fired. Taken
aback, Ruwet reassured Olson that his conduct at the lodge had been "beyond
reproach." Seemingly satisfied and relieved, Olson agreed to stay on and
spent the rest of the day on routine SOD business. That evening, the Olsons
spent their most lighthearted evening since before the retreat to Deep Creek
Lodge, and they planned a farewell party for a colleague the following Saturday
Tuesday morning, Ruwet again arrived at his office to find a
disturbed Frank Olson waiting for him. Olson said he felt "all mixed
up" and questioned his own competence. He said that he should not have left
the Army during the war because of his ulcer and that he lacked the ability to
do his present work. After an hour, Ruwet decided Olson needed "psychiatric
attention." Ruwet apparently felt that the CIA had caused Olson's problem
in the first place, and instead of sending him to the base hospital, he called
Gottlieb's deputy Robert Lashbrook to arrange for Olson to see a psychiatrist.
After a hurried conference, Lashbrook and Gottlieb decided to
send Olson to Dr. Harold Abramson in New York. Abramson had no formal training
in psychiatry and did not hold himself out to be a psychiatrist. He was an
allergist and immunologist interested in treating the problems of the mind.
Gottlieb chose him because he had a TOP SECRET CIA security clearance and
because he had been working with LSD—under Agency contract—for several
years. Gottlieb was obviously protecting his own bureaucratic position by not
letting anyone outside TSS know what he had done. Having failed to observe the
order to seek higher approval for LSD use, Gottlieb proceeded to violate another
CIA regulation. It states, in effect, that whenever a potential flap arises that
might embarrass the CIA or lead to a break in secrecy, those involved should
immediately call the Office of Security. For health problems like Olson's,
Security and the CIA medical office keep a long list of doctors (and
psychiatrists) with TOP SECRET clearance who can provide treatment.
Gottlieb had other plans for Frank Olson, and off to New York
went the disturbed SOD biochemist in the company of Ruwet and Lashbrook. Olson
alternately improved and sank deeper and deeper into his feelings of depression,
inadequacy, guilt, and paranoia. He began to think that the CIA was putting a
stimulant like Benzedrine in his coffee to keep him awake and that it was the
Agency that was out to get him. That first day in New York, Abramson saw Olson
at his office. Then at 10:30 in the evening, the allergist visited Olson in his
hotel room, armed with a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of the sedative
Nembutal—an unusual combination for a doctor to give to someone with symptoms
Before Olson's appointment with Dr. Abramson the following
day, he and Ruwet accompanied Lashbrook on a visit to a famous New York magician
named John Mulholland, whom TSS had put under contract to prepare a manual that
would apply "the magician's art to covert activities." An expert at
pulling rabbits out of hats could easily find new and better ways to slip drugs
into drinks, and Gottlieb signed up Mulholland to work on, among other things,
"the delivery of various materials to unwitting subjects." Lashbrook
thought that the magician might amuse Olson, but Olson became "highly
suspicious." The group tactfully cut their visit short, and Lashbrook
dropped Olson off at Abramson's office. After an hour's consultation with
Abramson that afternoon the allergist gave Olson permission to return to
Frederick the following day, Thanksgiving, to be with his family.
Olson, Ruwet, and Lashbrook had plane reservations for
Thursday morning, so that night, in a preholiday attempt to lift spirits, they
all went to see the Rodgers and Hammerstein hit musical, Me and Juliet.
Olson became upset during the first act and told Ruwet that he knew people were
waiting outside the theater to arrest him. Olson and Ruwet left the show at
intermission, and the two old friends walked back to the Statler Hotel, near
Penn Station. Later, while Ruwet slept in the next bed, Olson crept out of the
hotel and wandered the streets. Gripped by the delusion that he was following
Ruwet's orders, he tore up all his paper money and threw his wallet down a
chute. At 5:30 A.M., Ruwet and Lashbrook found him sitting in the Statler lobby
with his hat and coat on.
They checked out of the hotel and caught the plane back to
Washington. An SOD driver picked Olson and Ruwet up at National Airport and
started to drive them back to Frederick. As they drove up Wisconsin Avenue,
Olson had the driver pull into a Howard Johnson's parking lot. He told Ruwet
that he was "ashamed" to see his family in his present state and that
he feared he might become violent with his children. Ruwet suggested he go back
to see Abramson in New York, and Olson agreed. Ruwet and Olson drove back to
Lashbrook's apartment on New Hampshire Avenue off Dupont Circle, and Lashbrook
summoned Sid Gottlieb from Thanksgiving dinner in Virginia. All agreed that
Lashbrook would take Olson back to New York while Ruwet would go back to
Frederick to explain the situation to Mrs. Olson and to see his own family. (Ruwet
was Olson's friend, whereas Lashbrook was no more than a professional
acquaintance. Olson's son Eric believes that his father's mental state suffered
when Ruwet left him in the hands of the CIA's Lashbrook, especially since Olson
felt the CIA was "out to get him.") Olson and Lashbrook flew to
LaGuardia airport and went to see Abramson at his Long Island office. Then the
two men ate a joyless Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant. Friday morning
Abramson drove them into Manhattan. Abramson, an allergist, finally realized
that he had more on his hands with Olson than he could handle, and he
recommended hospitalization. He wrote afterward that Olson "was in a
psychotic state . . . with delusions of persecution."
Olson agreed to enter Chestnut Lodge, a Rockville, Maryland
sanitarium that had CIA-cleared psychiatrists on the staff. They could not get
plane reservations until the next morning, so Olson and Lashbrook decided to
spend one last night at the Statler. They took a room on the tenth floor. With
his spirits revived, Olson dared to call his wife for the first time since he
had left originally for New York. They had a pleasant talk, which left her
In the early hours of the morning, Lashbrook woke up just in
time to see Frank Olson crash through the drawn blinds and closed window on a
Within seconds, as a crowd gathered around Olson's shattered
body on the street below, the cover-up started. Lashbrook called Gottlieb to
tell him what had happened before he notified the police. Next, Lashbrook called
Abramson, who, according to Lashbrook, "wanted to be kept out of the thing
completely." Abramson soon called back and offered to assist. When the
police arrived, Lashbrook told them he worked for the Defense Department. He
said he had no idea why Olson killed himself, but he did know that the dead man
had "suffered from ulcers." The detectives assigned to the case later
reported that getting information out of Lashbrook was "like pulling
teeth." They speculated to each other that the case could be a homicide
with homosexual overtones, but they soon dropped their inquiries when Ruwet and
Abramson verified Lashbrook's sketchy account and invoked high government
Back in Washington, Sid Gottlieb finally felt compelled to
tell the Office of Security about the Olson case. Director Allen Dulles
personally ordered Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick to make a full
investigation, but first, Agency officials tried to make sure that no outsider
would tie Olson's death either to the CIA or LSD. Teams of Security officers
were soon scurrying around New York and Washington, making sure the Agency had
covered its tracks. One interviewed Lashbrook and then accompanied him to a
meeting with Abramson. When Lashbrook and Abramson asked the security officer to
leave them alone, he complied and then, in the best traditions of his office,
listened in on the conversation covertly. From his report on their talk, it can
safely be said that Lashbrook and Abramson conspired to make sure they told
identical stories. Lashbrook dictated to Abramson, who made a recording of the
symptoms that Olson was supposed to be suffering from and the problems that were
bothering him. Lashbrook even stated that Mrs. Olson had suggested her husband
see a psychiatrist months before the LSD incident.
Lashbrook's comments appeared in three reports Abramson submitted to the CIA,
but these reports were internally inconsistent. In one memo, Abramson wrote that
Olson's "psychotic state . . . seemed to have been crystallized by [the
LSD] experiment." In a later report, Abramson called the LSD dose
"therapeutic" and said he believed "this dosage could hardly have
had any significant role in the course of events that followed.
The CIA officially—but secretly—took the position that
the LSD had "triggered" Olson's suicide. Agency officials worked
industriously behind the scenes to make sure that Mrs. Olson received an
adequate government pension—two-thirds of her husband's base pay. Ruwet, who
had threatened to expose the whole affair if Mrs. Olson did not get the pension,
submitted a form saying Olson had died of a "classified illness."
Gottlieb and Lashbrook kept trying to have it both ways in regard to giving
Olson LSD, according to the CIA's General Counsel. They acknowledged LSD's
triggering function in his death, but they also claimed it was "practically
impossible" for the drug to have harmful aftereffects. The General Counsel
called these two positions "completely inconsistent," and he wrote he
was "not happy with what seems to me a very casual attitude on the part of
TSS representatives to the way this experiment was conducted and to their
remarks that this is just one of the risks running with scientific
As part of his investigation, Inspector General Kirkpatrick
sequestered Gottlieb's LSD files, which Kirkpatrick remembers did not make
Gottlieb at all happy. "I brought out his stutter," says Kirkpatrick
with a wry smile. "He was quite concerned about his future."
Kirkpatrick eventually recommended that some form of reprimand be given to
Gottlieb, TSS chief Willis Gibbons, and TSS deputy chief James
"Trapper" Drum, who had waited 20 days after Olson's death to admit
that Gottlieb had cleared the experiment with him. Others opposed Kirkpatrick's
recommendation. Admiral Luis deFlorez, the Agency's Research Chairman, sent a
personal memo to Allen Dulles saying reprimands would be an
"injustice" and would hinder "the spirit of initiative and
enthusiasm so necessary in our work." The Director's office went along, and
Kirkpatrick began the tortuous process of preparing letters for Dulles'
signature that would say Gottlieb, Gibbons, and Drum had done something wrong,
but nothing too wrong. Kirkpatrick went through six drafts of the
Gottlieb letter alone before he came up with acceptable wording. He started out
by saying TSS officials had exercised "exceedingly bad judgment." That
was too harsh for high Agency officials, so Kirkpatrick tried "very poor
judgment." Still too hard. He settled for "poor judgment." The
TSS officials were told that they should not consider the letters to be
reprimands and that no record of the letters would be put in their personnel
files where they could conceivably harm future careers.
The Olson family up in Frederick did not get off so easily.
Ruwet told them Olson had jumped or fallen out of the window in New York, but he
mentioned not a word about the LSD, whose effects Ruwet himself believed had led
to Olson's death. Ever the good soldier, Ruwet could not bring himself to talk
about the classified experiment—even to ease Alice Olson's sorrow. Mrs. Olson
did not want to accept the idea that her husband had willfully committed
suicide. "It was very important to me—almost the core of my life—that
my children not feel their father had walked out on them," recalls Mrs.
For the next 22 years, Alice Olson had no harder evidence
than her own belief that her husband did not desert her and the family. Then in
June 1975, the Rockefeller Commission studying illegal CIA domestic operations
reported that a man fitting Frank Olson's description had leaped from a New York
hotel window after the CIA had given him LSD without his knowledge. The Olson
family read about the incident in the Washington Post. Daughter Lisa
Olson Hayward and her husband went to see Ruwet, who had retired from the Army
and settled in Frederick. In an emotional meeting, Ruwet confirmed that Olson
was the man and said he could not tell the family earlier because he did not
have permission. Ruwet tried to discourage them from going public or seeking
compensation from the government, but the Olson family did both. 
On national television, Alice Olson and each of her grown children took turns
reading from a prepared family statement:
We feel our family has been violated by the CIA in two ways," it said.
"First, Frank Olson was experimented upon illegally and negligently.
Second, the true nature of his death was concealed for twenty-two years.... In
telling our story, we are concerned that neither the personal pain this family
has experienced nor the moral and political outrage we feel be slighted. Only
in this way can Frank Olson's death become part of American memory and serve
the purpose of political and ethical reform so urgently needed in our society.
The statement went on to compare the Olsons with families in
the Third World "whose hopes for a better life were destroyed by CIA
intervention." Although Eric Olson read those words in behalf of the whole
family, they reflected more the politics of the children than the feelings of
their mother, Alice Olson. An incredibly strong woman who seems to have made her
peace with the world, Mrs. Olson went back to college after her husband's death,
got a degree, and held the family together while she taught school. She has no
malice in her heart toward Vin Ruwet, her friend who withheld that vital piece
of information from her all those years. He comforted her and gave support
during the most difficult of times, and she deeply appreciates that. Mrs. Olson
defends Ruwet by saying he was in "a bad position," but then she stops
in mid-sentence and says, "If I had only been given some indication that it
was the pressure of work.... If only I had had something I could have told the
kids. I don't know how [Ruwet] could have done it either. It was a terrible
thing for a man who loved him."
"I'm not vindicative toward Vin [Ruwet]," reflects
Mrs. Olson. "Gottlieb is a different question. He was despicable." She
tells how Gottlieb and Lashbrook both attended Olson's funeral in Frederick and
contributed to a memorial fund. A week or two later, the two men asked to visit
her. She knew they did not work at Detrick, but she did not really understood
where they came from or their role. "I didn't want to see them," she
notes. "Vin told me it would make them feel better. I didn't want an ounce
of flesh from them. I didn't think it was necessary, but, okay, I agreed. In
retrospect, it was so bizarre, it makes me sick . . . I was a sucker for
Gottlieb and Lashbrook apparently never returned to the
biological warfare offices at SOD. Little else changed, however. Ray Treichler
and Henry Bortner took over CIA's liaison with SOD. SOD continued to manufacture
and stockpile bacteriological agents for the CIA until 1969, when President
Richard Nixon renounced the use of biological warfare tactics.
And presumably, someone replaced Frank Olson.
The description of the CIA's relationship with SOD at Fort
Detrick comes from interviews with several ex-Fort Detrick employees; Church
Committee hearings on "Unauthorized Storage of Toxic Agents, Volume 1;
Church Committee "Summary Report on CIA Investigation of MKNAOMI"
found in Report, Book I, pp. 360-63; and/ Kennedy subcommittee hearings on
Biological Testing Involving Human Subjects by the Department of Defense, 1977.
The details of Sid Gottlieb's involvement in the plot to kill Patrice Lumumba
are found in the Church Committee's Interim Report on "Alleged
Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders," pp. 20-21. The Church
committee allowed Gottlieb to be listed under the pseudonym Victor Scheider, but
several sources confirm Gottlieb's true identity, as does the biographic data on
him submitted to the Kennedy subcommittee by the CIA, which puts him in the same
job attributed to "Scheider" at the same time. The plot to give
botulinum to Fidel Castro is outlined in the Assassination report, pp. 79-83.
The incident with the Iraqi colonel is on p. 181 of the same report.
The several inches of CIA documents on the Olson case were
released by the Olson family in 1976 and can be found in the printed volume of
the 1975 Kennedy subcommittee hearings on Biomedical
and Behavioral Resarch, pp.1005-1132. They form the base of
much of the narrative, along with interviews with Alice Olson, Eric Olson,
Benjamin Wilson, and several other ex-SOD men (who added next to nothing).
Information also was gleaned from Vincent Ruwet's testimony before the Kennedy
subcommittee in 1975, pp. 138-45 and the Church committee's summary of the
affair, Book I, pp. 394-403. The quote on Harold Abramson's intention to give
his patients unwitting doses of LSD is found in MKULTRA subproject 7, June 8,
1953, letter to Dr. [deleted]. Magician John Mulholland's work for the Agency is
described in MKULTRA subprojects 19 and 34.
1. Toxins are chemical substances, not
living organisms, derived from biological agents. While they can make people
sick or dead, they cannot reproduce themselves like bacteria. Because of their
biological origin, toxins came under the responsibility of Fort Detrick rather
than Edgewood Arsenal, the facility which handled the chemical side of America's
chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programs. (back)
2. Brucellosis may well have been the
disease that Gottlieb selected in the spring of 1960 when the Clandestine
Services' Health Alteration Committee approved an operation to disable an Iraqi
colonel, said to be "promoting Soviet-bloc political interests" for at
least three months. Gottlieb told the Church committee that he had a monogrammed
handkerchief treated with the incapacitating agency, and then mailed it to the
colonel. CIA officials told the committee that the colonel was shot by a firing
squad—which the Agency had nothing to do with—before the handkerchief
3. For some reason, the U.S. government
has made it a point not to release information about Japanese use of biological
warfare. The senior Detrick source says, "We knew they sprayed Manchuria.
We had the results of how they produced and disseminated [the biological agents,
including anthrax].... I read the autopsy reports myself. We had people who went
over to Japan after the war." (back)
4. Gottlieb stated just after Olson's
death, at a time when he was trying to minimize his own culpability, that he had
talked to the SOD men about LSD and that they had agreed in general terms to the
desirability of unwitting testing. Two of the SOD group in interviews and a
third in congressional testimony flatly deny the Gottlieb version. Gottlieb and
the SOD men all agree Gottlieb gave no advance warning that he was giving them a
drug in their liqueur. (back)
5. For the very reason that most trips
last about eight hours no matter what time a subject takes the drug, virtually
all experimenters, including TSS's own contractors, give LSD in the morning to
avoid the discomfort of sleepless nights. (back)
6. To enter the SOD building, in addition
to needing an incredibly hard-to-get security clearance, one had to have an
up-to-date shot card with anywhere from 10 to 20 immunizations listed. The
process was so painful and time consuming that at one point in the 1960s the
general who headed the whole Army Chemical Corps decided against inspecting SOD
and getting an on-the-spot briefing. When asked about this incident, an SOD
veteran who had earlier resigned said, "That's the way we kept them out.
Those [military] types didn't need to know. Most of the security violations came
from the top level.... He could have gone in without shots if he had insisted.
The safety director would have protested, but he could have." (back)
7. Mrs. Olson says that this is an
outright lie. (back)
8. Nonpsychiatrist Abramson who allowed
chemist Lashbrook to tell him about his patient's complexes clearly had a
strange idea what was "therapeutic"—or psychotherapeutic, for that
matter. In Abramson's 1953 proposal to the CIA for $85,000 to study LSD, he
wrote that over the next year he "hoped" to give hospital patients
"who are essentially normal from a psychiatric point of view . . .
unwitting doses of the drug for psychotherapeutic purposes." His treatment
brings to mind the William Burroughs character in Naked Lunch who states;
"Now, boys, you won't see this operation performed very often, and there's
a reason for that . . . you see, it has absolutely no medical value." (back)
9. President Gerald Ford later personally
apologized to the Olson family, and Congress passed a bill in 1976 to pay
$750,000 in compensation to Mrs. Olson and her three children. The family
voluntarily abandoned the suit. (back)