By Hugh Turley
There are things in our history that most Americans don’t
know because they haven’t been told, or what they have been told is not true.
Unfortunately, some of the things are so disturbing that many of us would
prefer to keep it that way. Such is
the case of the death of Frank Olson.
November 23, 1953, Olson, a scientist at Fort Detrick, Maryland, told his boss
he wanted to quit his job. The
following Saturday Olson fell to his death from a tenth floor window of a hotel
in New York City.
Government officials told his widow and three young
children that Mr. Olson jumped or fell from the window as a result of a nervous
breakdown. That story remained
“the truth” for 22 years.
In 1975 the Rockefeller Commission’s examination of CIA
domestic operations was reported in the Washington Post. The article said that a
civilian employee of the Army had unknowingly taken LSD as part of a CIA test.
The Post quoted the commission saying that the subject “developed
serious side effects and was sent to New York with a CIA escort for psychiatric
treatment. Several days later, he jumped from a tenth-floor window of
his room and died as a result.”
Although the victim was unnamed and a number of things in
the Post article concerning the death were false, the widow, Alice Olson, and
her children recognized that the man in the story was their husband and father.
It was clear to them from the year, the tenth-floor window in New York,
and the victim being a scientist.
The family states that it was also clear the truth was
being suppressed because the victim was unnamed and no one bothered to tell the
family the story was being released. The
family called a press conference and announced that they were filing a lawsuit
against the United States government.
The following day, Dick Cheney, then White House deputy
staff director, sent a memo to his boss, then Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld,
concerning the need to keep classified information secret.
The Olson family would later find the memo at the Ford Presidential
President Gerald Ford invited the Olson family to the White
House, apologized to the widow and her children, and promised a full accounting.
CIA Director William Colby then invited Olson’s widow and her oldest
son, Eric, to lunch in his office and gave them a redacted CIA file on Frank
In return for what finally appeared to be the truth, the
family dropped its lawsuit and agreed to a settlement.
But they had been deceived again. The
facts changed to say that Olson’s death was related to the infamous MK-ULTRA
mind control experiments, but the conclusion that he fell or jumped remained the
Further investigation convinced the Olsons that Frank had actually been murdered. The full story with links to official documents can be found on Eric Olson’s website www.FrankOlsonProject.org.
In 1952, Dr. Frank Olson was a CIA officer and acting chief of the Special Operations at Fort Detrick, the government’s most secret biological weapons laboratory. His division researched and experimented with assassination techniques, biological warfare, terminal interrogations, and LSD mind-control.
A family statement in 2002 alleges Olson’s death
was related to a CIA operation called ARTICHOKE that “involved the development
of special, extreme methods of interrogation.”
The file given to the family by Colby contained references to “the
The family said that Frank Olson had ethical concerns after
he “witnessed terminal interrogations in Germany in the summer of 1953” and
he wanted to get out of his job.
The Olson family eventually contacted Norman Cournoyer, one
of Frank Olson’s oldest friends and closest colleagues at Fort Detrick. Cournoyer
told the family that Olson joined the CIA in the late 1940s, and as part of the
ARTICHOKE program made numerous trips to Europe where he witnessed torture
interrogations of Soviet prisoners, Nazis, and others.
Cournoyer also told them Olson learned biological weapons,
including anthrax were used during the Korean War, despite denials by the U.S.
government. Cournoyer repeated his
story in a 2002 German TV documentary film, “Code Name
ARTICHOKE,” which can
be seen on www.YouTube.com.
In the past the Communist threat seemed to justify secret
immoral activity; today, terrorism is used to justify secret CIA prisons
This article appeared originally in the April 2008 Hyattsville Life and Times of Hyattsville, MD.
David Martin, May 27, 2009