Frank Olson was a talented chemist who got recruited into developing chemical and germ weapons for the Army. Among his many projects, he helped place an LSD-like substance into an aerosol that was covertly sprayed on a small town in France, resulting in seven deaths and 50 people hospitalized in psyche wards. Olson was involved with the CIA’s MK/Ultra group that deployed drugs and hypnosis to manufacture mind slaves. As the Cold War progressed, however, and the CIA began secretly using chemical and germ weapons on North Korea, Olson began having doubts about the secret experiments at Fort Detrick, Maryland, which is why he stepped down as the head of the Special Operations Group, although he continued working in the lab as a subordinate.
Olson’s colleagues at CIA were sufficiently alarmed to arrange an intervention disguised as a holiday retreat to determine his potential as a security risk. During this retreat, Olson may have refused to recant certain statements, which may have been made while under the influence of a glass of Cointreau secretly laced with LSD. When he returned home, he confessed to his wife on having made a “a terrible mistake.” Believing his job and future were in jeopardy, Olson requested to be fired and/or threatened to submit his resignation, naively believing the Army would let him walk away carrying many of their biggest secrets. Instead, a few days later, they had two operatives club Olson unconscious before throwing him out of a 13-story window across from Penn Station in New York City, November 28, 1953.
The original story told was incoherent. Olson had either jumped or fallen accidentally, and even though a co-worker was in the room at the time (apparently locked inside the bathroom), he could offer no clues as to motive or circumstances. Olson’s son Eric was 9-years-old when his father died, and would devote most of his life unraveling what happened, a voyage that took him deep into the rabbit holes of the wilderness of mirrors. Eventually, in the 1970s, a new narrative was released by the CIA after Olson had his father’s corpse exhumed and found evidence of murder. Now the CIA admitted they had covertly dosed Olson with LSD and caused a nervous breakdown. President Ford invited the family to the White House to apologize and soon a $750,000 check was handed over, provided the family signed an agreement not to sue for wrongful death. Part of this op was the sudden arrival of Seymour Hersh from the New York Times playing role of knight-in-shining-armor. Hersh’s long and celebrated career as the preeminent CIA whistleblower is rooted in protecting CIA sources, and his reach the uppermost realms of the agency.
I wrote about this case for High Times years ago when Hank Albarelli’s illuminating book, A Terrible Mistake, was first published by Trine Day, and even called Eric for some quotes at the time because I found him such an inspirational figure. For decades Eric has refused to accept the layers of lies and has relentlessly pursued evidence with his brilliant spotlight mind. And he did find the truth, although it did not bring closure.
Like Eric, I’ve had my own obsession over the decades about the CIA, only mine involves their murder of John Kennedy, while his involves the murder of his dad. Both murders, however, were ordained and executed by the same people. And despite cracking these cases, neither of us has found closure, probably because those same forces are running the secret government and our voices are too faint to have impact. Maybe this Netflix series Wormwood will have some impact, however. We can certainly hope.
Netflix is making some of the best films these days, and this one makes a great companion to their recent miniseries Manhunt: Unibomber, which deftly illustrates how a teenage math prodigy was sculpted into a serial killer at Harvard through MK/Ultra experiments. One is a docudrama and the other a feature, but they both take viewers on a voyage deep into the heart of intel ops. In both cases, MK/Ultra techniques for hostile interrogation designed to splinter personalities and destroy egos were deployed with tragic results.
I remember years ago when I met some academic friends of my father who’d been studying CIA involvement in drug trafficking, mostly by reading Counterpunch. “Yeah,” I said, “but you realize Counterpunch is likely MI6. You have to peel another layer off the onion.” From there I launched into my theories on how the Illuminati manufactures war-for-profit through secret societies and intelligence agencies, and urged them not to fall for the dialectical games or the phony knights-in-shining-armor, for these knights are really gatekeepers. They believed what I was saying, but were also quite saddened. “Does knowing all this make your life better or worse?” they wondered. As Eric Olson knows all too well. The truth is a bitter pill.