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 capabilitywhich it would use at timesto 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
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 carriedand chose not to usea drill bit coated
with this poison concealed in a silver dollar. While perfect for
someone anxious to dieor killinstantly, 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 poisoningmild
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 IIwhich 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 incubation period.
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
epidemicsthat 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 eat."
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, 1953the same day that a Washington
Post editorial decried the use of dogs in chemical experimentsOlson
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 day.
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
couldwhat 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
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
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 handssomething
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
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 night.
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 LSDunder Agency contractfor 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
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 Nembutalan unusual combination for a
doctor to give to someone with symptoms like Olson's.
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 feeling better.
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 dead run.
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 connections.
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 officiallybut secretlytook 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 pensiontwo-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 investigation."
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
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
experimenteven 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 mealmost the core of
my lifethat my children not feel their father had walked out
on them," recalls Mrs. Olson.
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 them."
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
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 squadwhich the Agency had nothing to do
withbefore the handkerchief arrived. (back)
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.
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
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)
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