Dirty Little Spy Secret
By Fintan Dunne
aides to Gerald Ford, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney helped cover up
the background to the death of CIA scientist, Frank Olson who fell from
a 10th floor window in 1953, not long after he had been classified as
a potential security risk.
Olson's son Eric says his father's conscience was troubled by awareness
of Nazi-style CIA experiments on human subjects.
Kathryn Olmsted, University of California-Davis history professor, recently
discovered files at the Gerald Ford library that showed White House officials
deliberately withheld details of Olson's death from his family.
They included a memo from Dick Cheney, who was a White House assistant
at the time, to Donald Rumsfeld, the chief of staff, on July 11, 1975.
That memo warned that a lawsuit by Olson's family might make it necessary
"to disclose highly classified national-security information.''
Another memo routed through Cheney and written by White House counsel
Roderick Hills to the president cautioned that in any court action "it
may become apparent that we are concealing evidence for national-security
must have been a lot to conceal, because the administration rolled out
the red carpet for the Olson family. They were granted a meeting with
the president Gerald Ford, who apologized for the death and promised full
disclosure. Then they met with CIA Director William Colby, who gave them
a file of documents comprising the CIA investigation into Olson's death.
Those documents confirmed other details disclosed in a 1975 commission
of inquiry into CIA abuses --which had initially alerted the family. Befriended
for years by Olson's boss, they had been led to believe that either accident
or suicide for personal reasons explained the death. Now the CIA told
the family that Frank Olson was a civilian Army scientist working on LSD,
who had himself been given the drug without his knowledge. CIA reports
were disclosed showing how this had led directly to his suicide some days
The family received $750,000 in return for waiving their right to further
proceedings against the government. Rumsfeld and Cheney had helped resolve
the case to the administration's satisfaction. It was an embarrassing
episode that involved having to reveal the recklessness of the CIA's actions.
But those "admissions" were a well constructed pack of lies.
The truth behind Frank Olson's death was far, far worse.
"JUST LET ME DISAPPEAR"
On 8th August 2002, relatives of Frank Olson took turns reading a long
statement that contends that the scientist was murdered. "We have
satisfied ourselves that Frank Olson was murdered because of security
concerns regarding his work,'' said Olson's son Eric, who has spent years
investigating his father's death.
Frank Olson was not, after all a civilian employee of the Army. He was
a CIA employee working at Fort Detrick on precursor programs to MK-ULTRA,
specializing in anthrax aerosols, possibly for for use in covert assassination.
Olson's passport, indicates that in the summer of 1953 --only months before
his death-- he had visited secret joint American-British testing and research
installations near Frankfurt, Germany where he had likely witnessed terminal
experiments on expendable prisoners. His misgivings were such that a British
intelligence agent who became aware of them recommended that Olson be
denied further access to Porton Down, the British chemical-weapons research
A few days before his death Olson told his superior Lt. Col. Vincent Ruwet
that he wanted to resign. Ruwet demurred. The following morning, he returned
to insist that his resignation be accepted. Ruwet took Olson to New York
where he saw a doctor who was experimenting with LSD for the CIA. Olson
was also taken to see a New York hypnotherapist on the CIA payroll. He
was pleading to be allowed resign, asking those around him to "just let
On November 27th 1953, he checked into the Statler Hotel in Midtown New
York, with a colleague, Robert Lashbrook. He called his wife Alice saying
he felt "much better" and "looked forward to seeing her the next day."
2 a.m. the following morning, Olson was found lying on the sidewalk in
his undershirt and shorts, flat on his back with his legs smashed and
bent at an acute angle. High above, a blind could be seen pushed through
an empty window frame on the 10th floor. The hotel telephone operator
overheard a call from room 1018A, in which a voice had said, "He's gone."
The voice on the other end had replied, "That's too bad." Lashbrook admitted
making calls but denied any such comment.
ONE LIE WITHIN ANOTHER
In 1994, Eric had his father's body exhumed. A forensic team, led by James
Starrs of George Washington University, found a blow to Olson's temple
which was not severe enough to have been caused by the high velocity fall.
Starrs concluded that someone had knocked Olson out, and then thrown him
out the window.
Following the autopsy, Eric Olson uncovered information from ex-intelligence
agents that contract killers associated with the Trafficante mob family
were hired by the CIA to murder his father. In 1997, he saw an inadvertently
declassified assassination manual dating from late 1953, which advised
"The most efficient accident... is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard
surface..." The manual went on to recommend a blow to the temple
to stun the subject.
Back in 1975, when the family met Seymour Hersh of The New York Times,
he had said: "I can't believe you fell for that story for 22 years." In
July 1975, the family held a news conference in their backyard saying
they felt "violated by the CIA.'' In August 2002, they were back
in the same yard again.
To have been so grievously misled by the agencies of government --not
once-- but twice, must cause an anguish hard for any outsider to truly
For their part in that second lie, Rumsfeld and Cheney have much to regret.
Cheney was but an aide, but Rumsfeld was Chief of Staff at the time. The
affair shows nothing of the nobility of purpose often portrayed in the
White House drama TV series "West Wing." Rather it reeks of
the sordid business of hiding murder by the State to cover up intelligence
programs full of yet more murder.
Photos by Eric Olsen Original Cartoon from Moscow Times
Reading & References
the C.I.A. Do to Eric Olson's Father? by Michael Ignatieff --1 April 2001
Scientist Was Murdered, Sons Say by By Fredric N. Tulsky --9th Aug
Scientist's Death Haunts Family by By Fredric N. Tulsky --8th Aug 2002
The Past Is Prologue by Chris Floyd --16 Aug 2002
The Search for the Manchurian Candidate (Chap 5) by John Marks --1979
Eric Olson's Web Site on His Father's Death
PAGE URL http://www.gulufuture.com/future/olsondeath.htm