December 14, 2002 Updated Nov. 28, 2012
When CIA Scientist Frank Olson plunged to his death from the 10th floor of a New York hotel in 1953, his death was ruled a suicide. Twenty-two years later a special Presidential Commission investigating the CIA's development of potent drugs for use in biological warfare and assassinations revealed shocking new details about Olson's death. In 1996 Manhattan D.A. Robert Morgenthau opened a new investigation into Olson's death based on startling discoveries uncovered by forensic sleuth James Starrs that put to lie the CIA's version of how Olson died.
Editor’s Note: On November 28, 2012, the sons of Frank Olson filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., accusing the CIA of covering up the truth about their father’s death in 1953. The sons, Eric and Nils Olson, said their long efforts to get the CIA to open its files and provide them with more information about their father’s death had failed and that the court filing is their only means to find out the truth.
“The evidence points to a murder, and not a drug-induced suicide,” Eric Olson told reporters.
Frank Olson, a bioweapons expert working at the special operations division of the Army’s Biological Laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, plunged to his death from his room in the Statler Hotel in Manhattan on November 28, 1953. The CIA claimed his death was a suicide.
“The CIA’s wrongful conduct in this case continues under the present administration,” said Scott Gilbert, an attorney representing the Olson brothers. “I have met personally with senior agency officials who still refuse to acknowledge the truth and to provide us with all the documents relevant to this matter.”
H.P. Albarelli's book on Frank Olson's death, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments, published in October 2009. Advance orders can be placed at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from the book's publisher Trine Day Books. Additional information on the book may be obtained at:
www.albarelli.net and from www.trineday.com.
Editor's Note: In 1975, 22 years after CIA Scientist Frank Olson allegedly committed suicide by jumping through a closed window on the 10th floor of his room in a New York City hotel in 1953, shocking new details about his death were revealed in the findings of a special Presidential Commission investigating the CIA. The case remained dormant from then until 1996 when Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau opened a new criminal investigation into Dr. Olson's death. Morgenthau's decision was spurred by the startling discoveries of noted forensic sleuth James Starrs of George Washington University, who took on the case at the behest of Olson's family. Following Starrs's many revelations, Morgenthau assigned the Olson case to his newly created Cold Case Unit headed by Stephen Saracco and Daniel Bibb. For the past six years investigators for Morgenthau's office have been digging meticulously into Olson's death. That investigation has been the subject of tremendous speculation and many rumors during those years. Investigative journalist H.P. Albarelli Jr. has also been quietly investigating Frank Olson's death for over seven years, using the Freedom of Information Act to access a trove of once-secret documents pertaining to Olson's death. In a two-part article written for Crime Magazine, Albarelli, who has spent time in New York with the D.A.'s investigators, reveals new insights into the Olson case, one of the 20th century's most provocative unsolved mysteries.
"The subject's name was Frank Olson..."
It had been a hectic but ultimately rewarding month for Rev. Charles Hall Wicks, pastor of the fledgling Congregational Church in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla. After nearly two years of holding weekly services in the town's dingy American Legion Hall, ground had been broken on Nov. 17, 1953 for construction of a new church. In a week, contractors would begin to prepare the site and pour footers for a foundation. If all went according to plans, in less than a year Rev. Wicks's parishioners would enjoy their Sunday worship in a place free from the smell of stale beer and peanut shells. The site for the church was all that Rev. Wicks had prayed for; situated only two blocks away from the town's pristine Gulf of Mexico beaches, the sandy, scrub-covered lot was within easy walking distance for all of the church's 50 charter members.
Lifting a ceremonial shovel full of earth on that glorious November day, the proud pastor proclaimed, "As the Good Lord has demonstrated time and time again, frequently out of nothing springs forth something. Blessed be the Fall said those that came before us because that seeming defiant act placed us here on earth forever in search of God's love and forgiveness." There was no way at the time that Rev. Wicks could have known the supreme irony of his words.
Eleven days later, early on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 28, 1953, Ina Ruth Wicks answered her ringing telephone. The sun was just rising over the Intracoastal Waterway, separating Indian Rocks Beach from the mainland, casting long, illuminating rays across the kitchen of the Wicks's small bungalow. Already the temperature was an unseasonable 68 degrees. Ina listened for a moment and then said softly, "Oh, my God."
After another moment, Ina called out to her husband in the other room. When Rev. Wicks saw his wife's face and her quivering hand cupped over the receiver, he said, "Who is it? What's wrong?"
"It's Alice," Ina said, her eyes filling with tears. "Frank's dead."
Alice was Alice Wicks Olson, daughter of Charles and Ina. She was calling from her modest ranch-style house in Frederick, Md. The house is situated on a wooded bluff that, at the time, overlooked one of the most secret places in the United States. The innocuously named Camp Detrick, then unknown to most Americans, was the nation's center for biological warfare. There the Army and CIA were conjuring up a whole new alchemy of destruction and death.
Camp Detrick was also where Frank, Alice's husband, worked. Indeed, Frank Rudolph Olson had spent his entire professional career at Camp Detrick. Having received his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1941, Frank enlisted in the Army 10 months later. Following completion of officers training in Texas at Fort Hood, 30 miles outside of Waco, Cap. Olson had been recruited to work on top-secret projects at Camp Detrick. After the war, he resigned from the Army but was asked to stay on as a civilian scientist.
"Pop, they told me that Frank died last night," Alice told her father after he took the phone from his stunned wife.
"How?" Charles Wicks asked. "What happened?"
"I'm not sure," Alice said. "They only told me that he either fell or jumped out of a hotel window."
Fell or jumped out of a window? Rev. Wicks wasn't sure that he had heard his daughter correctly.
"Where did this happen?" he asked.
"In New York City," Alice said in a strained voice, "at the Statler Hotel."
"But how?" her father asked.
Alice began sobbing. Realizing that his daughter was under tremendous emotional strain and that questions were not what she needed, Charles forced his curiosity aside.
"It's going to be okay. Everything will be all right," he said.
Unknown to the Olson and Wicks families, and at the same time that Alice was delivering her sorrowful news, a group of four CIA officials sat in a cramped office in a building called Quarters Eye, part of the CIA's complex of buildings then situated on the Capitol's Mall area. The officials had been unexpectedly summoned to meet by predawn telephone calls from on-duty CIA security officer Bernard Doran. A former Atomic Energy Commission security officer, Doran had received an earlier call at about 4 a.m. from Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, chief of the CIA's Chemical Branch. Gottlieb told Doran that there had been "an incident in a hotel in New York City involving a death" that required "immediate priority attention." Gottlieb explained that CIA employee Robert V. Lashbrook, assistant chief of the Chemical Branch, had been in the room when the incident occurred and was now awaiting further instructions.
After speaking with Gottlieb, Doran immediately telephoned his superior, Sheffield Edwards, CIA director of Security, and informed him "an Agency employee assigned to an eyes-only project at Camp Detrick, Frederick, Md., had dived through a window at the Statler Hotel in New York City." Detectives from the 14th Precinct were investigating. Said Doran, "The subject's name was Frank Olson."
Edwards, a former high-ranking Army intelligence officer, ordered Doran to summon Dr. Gottlieb and his superior, Dr. Willis Gibbons, chief of the CIA's Technical Services Section, to meet him as soon as possible in Gottlieb's Quarters Eye office. Once everyone was there and Edwards had been thoroughly briefed on the incident, he instructed Dr. Gottlieb to tell Lashbrook to vacate the hotel room in which the incident had occurred and "to take another room at the Statler and await a later phone call from us." Said Edwards, "Tell him to talk to nobody until we get someone there with him."
Edwards then dispatched two special security agents from the CIA and the Department of Defense "to assist [Lashbrook] and follow any future dealings or interviews with the police." Next, Edwards telephoned Robert H. Cunningham, the CIA's Cover Branch chief of its Special Security Division. Cunningham was to begin immediately setting up employment backstopping for Lashbrook so that any further law-enforcement investigations, or other inquiries, would not uncover Lashbrook's connections to the CIA. (Backstopping is the process by which the CIA creates a viable, fully documented employment alias for an employee.)
Finished with these details, Edwards asked Dr. Gottlieb if anyone had contacted Frank Olson's wife. "I spoke with Vincent Ruwet, chief of Detrick's SO Division at about 3 a.m. and asked him to go to Olson's home," replied Gottlieb. "He's probably there right now."
Intimate Bedfellows: the CIA and the Mafia
Also unknown to the Olson and Wicks families was another gathering that occurred two days later and only 29 miles away from Indian Rocks Beach in Tampa, Fla. There, a group of men sat down to a meal of capuliata and pollo ripieno in a back room of Carmine's, a restaurant on Seventh Avenue in old Ybor City. It had been agreed beforehand that there would be no discussion about business during dinner. Mealtime was reserved for small talk. But following dinner, after the table was cleared, after the waiters had been sent away and another bottle of wine and perhaps a bottle of sambuca had been opened, the men would turn their attention to serious matters. They would discuss "this thing that had just happened in New York" and what, if anything, they should do about it.
The man seated at the head of table was Santo Trafficante Jr., who in less than 10 months would formally succeed his father as head of the Florida mob. Santo Trafficante Sr., who was slowly dying of stomach cancer, had come to the United States in 1902 at the age of 16 from Allessandria della Rocca, Sicily. Over the years, the elder Trafficante had methodically built a small empire centered on the unholy trinity of gambling, prostitution, and narcotics. With uncanny skill and treachery, the Trafficantes managed to always stay two steps ahead of the law. In 1950, when the U.S. Senate's Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime, commonly called the Kefauver Committee, decided to hold hearings in Tampa, the Trafficantes knew about it long before it was publicly announced. Congressional and FBI investigators who attempted to serve subpoenas for the hearings were enraged to discover that "all suspected Mafia adherents vanished from their homes and usual haunts when it became known that the committee intended to investigate their activities." Perhaps not coincidentally, as the Trafficante empire expanded over the next decade, it grew quite chummy with the federal government.
Scott Deitche, a Florida-based crime writer who has doggedly researched the Trafficante crime family for years, writes, "The Trafficantes, especially Santo Jr., were intimately involved with narcotics traffickers, gangsters, and hit men with deep ties to the U.S. intelligence community. From Cubans in Miami that worked with Santo Jr. in pre-Castro Cuba to Italian, French, and Corsican drug smugglers in Southeast Asia that were reputably aligned with CIA officials, Santo Jr. was recruited by the CIA for assassination attempts... he also sent some of his crime family hit men on contract jobs throughout Central and South America at the request of his CIA contacts."
Lucky Luciano, who prior to his deportation from the United States in 1946 oversaw many of the Trafficante family operations in Cuba and Latin America, once described Trafficante "as a guy who always managed to hug the background, but he is rough and reliable." Alfred W. McCoy's book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, recounts that Trafficante "was one of the most effective organized crime leaders" operating in the United States. Writes McCoy, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, "Avoiding the ostentatious lifestyle of Cadillacs and diamonds that was so attractive to many Mafioso, Trafficante cultivated the austerity of the old Sicilian dons." Law enforcement officials in Florida, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say that while Trafficante was "low key and unassuming" he could be "more deadly than a provoked cobra." Said one official, "There was a time back in the '60s and '70s when it wasn't wise to utter his name in any given situation."
After dinner at Carmine's, Santo explained to his guests that there was no reason to be overly concerned about the recent activities of their friends in New York. Santo said that things would be fine if everyone were to simply forget about everything. It had been several days already, Santo said, and there had been nothing in the newspapers but two brief articles about a suicide. No follow-up stories. No investigation. No curiosity. Nothing. Things were under control and if all went according to plan, Santo said, within a few more days everything would be back to normal and "our little friend" who was stashed away in a cottage on Don CeSar Beach Street in nearby St. Pete beach could pack up and go back to the Big Apple.
Nobody seated around the table seemed at all bothered about the cryptic style of Santo's speech. Specifics simply weren't necessary. Everyone was well versed in Santo's way of talking. After all, Santo had learned from a master, his father, and neither man, despite their myriad illicit enterprises and several court appearances had ever spent a day in prison. Everyone at the table knew that was where specifics would get you.
Santo Jr. had just turned 39, but in less that four decades he had seen more places in the world than had some of the best traveled men in their lifetimes. From his homes in Tampa and Miami, Santo had journeyed to Jamaica, Haiti, Nassau, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Panama, Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, France, Italy, and Germany. Within a few more years his list would grow to include Turkey, Egypt, Hong Kong, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Santo had spent so much time in Cuba that the island had practically become a second home to him. Indeed, in 1959, his oldest daughter's wedding would be held in Havana's elegant Hilton Hotel. In Cuba's capital city Santo's ostensible duties were to manage the Sans Souci Casino and other properties owned by his father and criminal mastermind Meyer Lansky. But his real job, according to the FBI and Federal Narcotics Bureau agents that shadowed him nearly everywhere, was to oversee the steady flow of large heroin shipments from Marseilles to Cuba and then on to Miami and Tampa where they were broken down for distribution. The Trafficantes maintained excellent relations with Cuban leader, Fulgencio Batista, but when it became apparent that Fidel Castro would replace Batista, they shifted gears with ease and began paving the way for a smooth transition with the bearded rebel leader. In December 1955, when Castro visited Tampa to announce to the world that Batista had to be removed from power, he made a special point of paying his respects to Santo.
"I'll be glad to tell you anything I know about what happened," a CIA agent told Alice Olson a few days after her husband's funeral.
Since Frank's death, Alice felt as if she were sleepwalking through life. Hardly a night had passed when she didn't wake up expecting to find her husband lying beside her. Awake, she would agonize about what had caused Frank to do something so seemingly irrational as jumping through a closed tenth floor window. The man she knew and loved would have never left her and their children alone, devastated, and guilt ridden. When Alice did manage to sleep, she had horrible dreams in which she saw Frank's bleeding, mangled body lying on the New York sidewalk. During the day, everywhere she looked she saw something that reminded her of Frank.
Alice never viewed her husband's lifeless body. After Frank's embalmed corpse was shipped back to Maryland from New York, Alice inquired about his missing personal effects. Where were Frank's wallet, his identification credentials, his watch, and other personal items she asked. Gone, she was informed. For unexplained reasons, Alice was told, Frank had thrown these items away while wandering the streets of New York one night. When Alice went about making funeral arrangements, she was informed that because Frank's face was so disfigured from his crashing through a closed window and falling to the pavement below it would be impossible to have an open casket service.
The church for Frank's funeral was overflowing with mourners. Nearly all of his colleagues from Camp Detrick's Special Operations Division, many accompanied by their spouses, attended. After the service, Alice, dressed in black, stood dazed on the steps of the church greeting and thanking people for coming. Later she would recall in a conversation with the wife of one of Frank's colleagues that two faces among those that stopped to wish her well were unfamiliar.
"That was Bob Lashbrook and his boss," Alice's friend said. "I don't know what his bosses name is, but Bob is a very nice young man. As a matter of fact, he was just here a couple of nights ago for dinner." Then the woman lowered her voiced and said conspiratorially, "They both work for the CIA, you know." A few days after this, the "very nice young man" Bob Lashbrook, accompanied by his boss, who introduced himself as Sidney Gottlieb, knocked on Alice's door. They had come by to express their condolences and to say that Frank would be greatly missed by everyone who had worked with him. "I'll be glad to tell you anything I know about what happened," Lashbrook said.
Before he left for New York, Frank Olson told his wife, "I've made a terrible mistake. I'll talk with you about it later."
About a month after Frank Olson's funeral, Charles and Ina Wicks telephoned Alice Olson and suggested that she and her three children come down to Florida for a visit. "The children will love it here and it would do them a world of good to get away," Charles told Alice. Ina said, "It would be good for you to get away, too."
The week that Alice and her three children visited Indian Rocks Beach was near perfect weather-wise. The expansive sky over the broad waters of the Gulf of Mexico was gloriously blue with only an occasional wisp of cottony cloud scattered about. The sun was soothingly warm, the atmosphere absent the stifling humidity of summer. A steady breeze blew off the Gulf and evenings were perfect for relaxing outside. Charles Wicks had been right, his grandchildren loved the change of scenery and climate. Eric, the oldest at 9, was non-stop from morning to night. His sister, Lisa, and brother, Nils, 7 and 5 respectively, followed him about everywhere. One afternoon they all ran into the house screaming. They had seen what they were convinced was a rattlesnake crawl under a nearby cottage. The next day the children were astounded to spot a small shark gliding through the water. Rev. Wicks told his grandsons about the six-foot long bull shark that had been snagged by a local fisherman the year before and for hours after the boys wouldn't venture more than a few yards beyond the shoreline. One bright afternoon after lunch, Wicks walked his grandsons down the beach to the area that is known today as Belleair Shore. There he showed them where the World War II machine gun installations had been. On the way back they stopped and admired "the Castle," the stately beach residence of Val Antuono. Wicks told the boys that Antuono owned a large cigar factory in Tampa and that, before the war, he had been decorated by Mussolini for his fervent opposition to the Mafia in the United States.
Alice sat on the beach watching and playing with Lisa. She and Ina had great fun building sand castles for the little girl to stomp on, but Ina could see that Alice was deeply troubled by her husband's death. Alice was easily distracted and sometimes her sentences trailed off without completion. At any given time during the day, Ina would notice Alice quietly crying.
One evening, after the children had fallen asleep, Charles asked Alice if she had learned any more about Frank's death. No, she hadn't, Alice said, explaining that things had been too chaotic making arrangements to receive federal death benefits to concentrate on anything else. Frank's superior at Camp Detrick, Col. Vincent Ruwet, had helped her maneuver through all the bureaucratic red tape and fill out the many government forms. Alice told her parents that it had been Ruwet, a good family friend, who had first come to the house to tell her that Frank was dead.
"Why had Frank gone to New York?" Ina asked.
After a moment, Alice softly said, "To see a psychiatrist."
"But why"? her father asked. "What was wrong with him"?
Alice began to cry and said that she wasn't sure why. Prior to going to New York, Frank had been away for three days at what she thought had been a scientific retreat, Alice explained. The meeting had been held at a remote area in western Maryland called Deep Creek Lake. Alice knew this, she said, because she had seen the mimeographed driving instructions to the location on top of Frank's other papers the morning he had left. Curious, Alice had scanned the cover sheet that was headed "Deep Creek Rendezvous." It read in part: "Two story, fairly new, stone cabin 30 feet from lake." And then in keeping with Camp Detrick's extreme security, the page instructed: "Camouflage: winter meeting of script writers, editors, authors, lecturers, sports magazines. Remove [Camp Detrick] decals from cars."
Everything was fine the morning Frank departed, Alice said, but when he returned on a Friday afternoon something was wrong. Frank looked haggard when he came in. There were dark circles under his eyes and his clothes looked disheveled, as if he'd slept in them. He was uncharacteristically moody and uncommunicative.
At the dinner table that evening Frank appeared pensive and oddly distracted. He shifted his food about on his plate and hardly ate. He only half listened to what the children had to say and seemed not to hear anything that she said. "Finally," Alice told her parents, "I said, 'It's a shame that the adults in this family don't communicate any more.'" Alice said that Frank then made a strained effort to talk, but that after dinner he became even more withdrawn. After she put the children to bed, Alice said that she pleaded with Frank to tell her what was wrong.
"I can't," Frank told her.
"Why not?" she insisted.
"I just can't," Frank said.
Alice said that she persisted and that eventually Frank said, "I've made a terrible mistake. I'll talk with you about it later."
"What kind of mistake?" Alice asked him.
"I can't say now. It was a terrible mistake," Frank said again. "I'll tell you about it later, but first I need to resign from my job."
"He wanted to resign?" Charles Wicks said surprised. He knew that his son-in-law had recently been promoted to director of Plans and Assessments for the ultra-secret Special Operations Division and that Frank seemed quite happy with his work. The previous summer, Ina and Charles visited with Frank and Alice in Frederick. Frank had told Charles that he was excited about his change in assignments and the travel that was taking to him many new spots on the globe.
Alice explained that when Frank went to work the following Monday he attempted to resign twice. During his second attempt, Frank's superior, Col. Ruwet, told him that he thought he needed psychiatric treatment. "It was then that arrangements were made to take Frank to New York," Alice said.
"But why New York?" Alice's father asked. "Why not a closer place, like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore or Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.?"
"I'm not sure," Alice said. "I think because Vin Ruwet thought it would be best for someone in New York to see him. Someone who was cleared security-wise that could talk candidly with him."
Charles Wicks sat quietly for a moment and then said that he thought that recommending psychiatric care for someone who only wanted to leave their job sounded like an extreme reaction.
"I don't understand that," he said. "It makes no sense. Were there any other signs that Frank was disturbed?" he asked.
Alice said that besides his dark mood and comments about having made "a terrible mistake" there had been one other thing that caused her concern. When Frank was driven to Washington, D.C. to take a flight to New York, she had ridden in the car with him, she explained. They had stopped for lunch at a Hot Shoppe in Silver Spring on the outskirts of the Capitol, she continued. When the waitress brought his food, Frank shocked Alice by pushing the plate away saying, "I can't eat this food, it's poisoned." Alice said that she asked Frank, "What on earth are you talking about?" and that he replied that she wouldn't understand. A half-hour later Frank and Vin Ruwet departed for New York. "It was the last time I ever saw Frank," Alice said, her voice breaking.
"Col. Ruwet went with him to New York?" Charles Wicks asked. Alice nodded affirmatively in reply.
"Then Ruwet was there when he died?" Wicks asked.
"No," Alice said, "he came home before that... on Thanksgiving day, for the holiday."
"Why didn't Frank come back then with him?" Wicks asked.
"He did," Alice said. "But on the way home from the airport with Vin he decided to go back to New York."
"Why?" her father asked.
Alice looked down at her hands folded in her lap. There was a long pause before she answered.
"Because he was afraid that he might say something irrational in front of the children."
"He said that?" Charles asked. "Why would he say that?"
"It's what Vin told me," Alice said. "I don't know why."
"But why would Frank be concerned about that?"
"I don't know, Pop. I really don't. I've thought about so much... but I don't know." Alice didn't say anything to Ina and Charles about what happened the day Frank unexpectedly returned home from work in the middle of the morning to tell her that he was going to New York. "I've consented to psychiatric care," Frank said and then explained that a colleague had come home "with me because he thought I might do you bodily harm." Alice still couldn't believe Frank had said that.
Charles Wicks wasn't sure what to say or think and there followed a long silence. Charles was in his early 70s and in his many years as a minister and as someone who people choose to confide their innermost thoughts to, he had never heard a story as baffling as the one about what had happened to his son-in-law.
Prior to World War I, Charles, a native of Cohoes, N.Y., and a graduate of Cornell University, spent five years performing missionary work in China. There, Charles's young eyes were opened to a world that was near completely unknown to him, a world that was frequently strange, extreme, and violent yet at the same time intoxicatingly exotic, enchanting, and fascinating in its near indecipherable complexities. Ironically, it was the Opium War that opened China to Western missionaries. Opium, which was first introduced into Asia by Muslim traders sometime during the eighth century, was quickly recognized by the West for its lucrative commercial potential. Despite that it was duly noted that "it leaveth behinde it oftentimes a mischiefe worse than the disease itselfe," traders from the West were more than willing to risk death and war over control of the ample product. Missionaries often found themselves in highly dangerous situations in Asia. Not long after his departure from the Orient, Charles was horrified to learn that friends John and Betty Stam, both Presbyterian workers, had been brutally tortured and then beheaded by Communist agitators.
One of Charles's first sermons in Florida was on the "Godless scourge of Communism." It was in early 1952 and the previous summer, during a visit to Frederick, Md., to see their grandchildren, Frank and Charles had a long conversation about events in Germany and in the Communist-controlled section of that country. Frank, who had never left North America during World War II, had been surprised at what he had seen in Germany. To say the least, Eastern Europe in the early 1950s was chaotic. The results of war had left large areas of the country appearing as wastelands. Whole towns and cities had been leveled to the ground. In Dusseldorf alone 95 percent of the houses were destroyed. Seven million Germans died in the war and two million more were left physically disabled. Twenty million Germans were homeless and without adequate nutrition. In Berlin, over 50,000 people died in a 24-month period following the war; the main causes were starvation, hypothermia, and disease. Eleven million German soldiers were held as POWs. Allied statisticians estimated that some 35-million people in Eastern Europe were displaced from their homes.
Following the Potsdam Conference in summer 1945, Germany was divided into four zones of occupation. Traveling inside the former Greater Reich was an exercise in treachery. Fortified checkpoints and barricades heavily guarded by American, Russian, French, or British troops were everywhere. Traveling within and throughout the zones were countless intelligence agents, counter-intelligence agents, double and triple agents, paramilitary bands, collaborators, informers, defectors, and war-crime fugitives. It was commonplace for any of these people to be snatched off the streets, interrogated, beaten, raped, tortured, and murdered. Assassination in public places, work sites, and homes was elevated to an art form. The brutal and bizarre became mere backdrops for reality. In East Germany thousands were arrested for speaking out against or questioning the Communist government. Many would never be heard from or seen again. Maintaining one's sense of morality, patriotism, and purpose was difficult in such an environment regardless of which side you were on.
Frank told Charles about an American he had learned about named George Shaw Wheeler. On April 6, 1950, Wheeler, and his wife, Eleanor, asked the Czechoslovak Communist government to grant them asylum. Frank said that Wheeler was a Department of Defense (then the War Department) employee working in the American zone of Germany. His job was directing the activities of the Army's De-Nazification Branch. After his defection, Wheeler held a press conference to explain that the central motive for his crossing over was his indignation over what he termed a "typical gangster plot" by American authorities in their "brutal and unlawful" treatment of Czeclosavak citizens and others. Wheeler said he was "ashamed" of the activities of the Army's Counter-Intelligence Corps, the CIA, and of those American journalists who looked the other way and acted to cover up illegal acts committed by Americans. Wheeler also said he was "disgusted" with high-ranking Army officials who constantly intervened in his responsibilities in order to protect Nazis.
Alice broke the long silence telling Charles and Ina that it had been wonderful for her and the children to come to Florida for a visit. She wished that Frank had been able to come with them, she said. "Frank and I talked a lot about visiting," she said. "I'm sure he would have loved it here."
Frank Olson's Secret Job
Alice didn't know it at the time, but Frank had already traveled to the Sunshine State, always in secret and never for rest or relaxation purposes. Frank journeyed to Florida in special military aircraft traveling from covert sites located in Utah and Texas, and from Carroll Island, Md., and Plum Island, N.Y. Frank, whose specialty at Camp Detrick following the war was the airborne delivery of lethal diseases and other substances, also made trips to England where he would visit Porton Down, formally called the Chemical and Microbiological Defense Experimental Establishment. Here British scientists were conducting a series of covert experiments with LSD and various nerve gases. About 1,000 military personnel, men and women, throughout the years 1952 and 1953 were used as guinea pigs in these tests. Recently it was revealed by The London Times that 25 people might have died as a result of the experiments. One of the fatalities was RAF airman Ronald Maddison. On May 6, 1953, after having a minute amount of sarin dripped onto his arm, Maddison turned blue and began foaming at the mouth. After about 20 minutes, he experienced violent convulsions and died. Port-of-entry stamps on Frank Olson's passport reveal that he may have been present for some of these experiments.
Camp Detrick's SO Division's experimental activities also branched out into more esoteric directions. Again, Florida, as well as five other Southern states and Haiti, Costa Rica, Panama, and Cuba would be visited in the pursuit of these highly classified activities. Over a span of four years, Olson traveled to all of these places and also central Africa and Morocco. In 1950, the CIA with the assistance of the SO Division, launched a global quest to locate, collect, and catalog samples of every natural and organically grown plant with lethal or hallucinogenic properties. Quickly the search was expanded to include animal poisons of all kinds. In 1951, after the CIA entered into a formal agreement with Detrick's SO Division, Dr. Friedrich Hoffman was placed in charge of the quest. Hoffmann, a highly trained chemist, was a former Nazi scientist who in 1949 was secreted from Germany into the United States to initially work with the SO Division on the development of nerve gases, tabun, and sarin. At the time, Olson was chief of SO's Planning, Training, and Intelligence Section, a position that brought him into direct contact with Dr. Hoffman.
Eventually in the mid-1960s, Dr. Hoffmann's efforts evolved into the CIA-created and controlled Amazon Natural Drug Co. As it was commonly called, ANDCO was operated by Joseph Caldwell King, the CIA's former Western hemisphere chief who had been a major participant in the agency's early assassination programs. King was familiar and fond of life south of the border having been stationed in Argentina from 1941 to 1945 and in Guatemala from 1952 to 1953. Assisting King with ANDCO business was Garland Williams, the former head of the Federal Narcotics Bureau's New York branch and a former officer with the Army's Counter Intelligence Corps, Special Strategic Intelligence Division who, according to confidential correspondence, was "deeply involved in the interrogation of Korean POWs" and "was instrumental in the FNB's hiring of Ira Feldman, also a former Army intelligence operative."
Former CIA employees who were close to King and Williams say that ANDCO "shipped hundreds of crates filled with hallucinogenic plants back to the CIA and Fort Detrick." Revealing motives behind some of the shipments, Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett wrote in 1995 that Detrick scientists "fed simians food that was laced with dust from pulverized Amazonian magic plants to see if they could be induced to kill one another."
''You will never know what happened in that hotel room," Alice Olson would scream at her children.
When Alice Olson and her children departed Indian Rocks Beach for home, Ina Wicks kissed each of her grandchildren goodbye and took Alice's hand in hers and said, "You're going to have to be extra strong now." Back in Frederick, Md., Alice did her best to get on with life without Frank, but coping with his death became increasingly difficult. People who knew Alice well say that she was simply overcome by self-doubt and confusion about Frank's sudden and unexplained death.
For a brief period of time in 1955, Alice was able to set her confusion aside when she began receiving the attentions of a man whom she thought really cared for her. She discovered, however, that the man, a friend of the family when Frank had been alive, was actually more interested in her sons and had molested one of her boys after he had taken the boys on a camping trip. Devastated, Alice began to seek solace in the bottle and soon she was a severe alcoholic. And, for years, she remained that way. Often Ina and Charles would call from Florida to find Alice incoherently drunk. "You have to get a hold of yourself," Charles told her. "If not for yourself, then at least for the children," Ina said sternly.
It was difficult for the children. They would come home from school and discover Alice passed out on the floor. One Christmas Eve, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated and spent the night in jail. Alice lost her job as a schoolteacher due to her drinking. She was in and out of rehabilitation programs. "Sometimes she was a mean drunk," said Eric Olson, who grew up to become a Harvard-trained psychologist. "For a long time the subject of my father was strictly taboo in our house." Both Eric and Nils have said that anytime they brought up the subject of their father, Alice would fly into a rage. "You will never know what happened in that hotel room," Alice would scream at them.
Things continued like this for years until her children were in their early adulthood years and then suddenly in 1973, Alice experienced an epiphany of sorts and, as if preparing for something of great importance to occur, she stopped drinking and in her sobriety began to diligently pick up and reassemble the shattered pieces of her life.
On June 11, 1975 something of great importance did occur. It was early afternoon and Alice had just come home from several grueling hours at the hospital where she had undergone a series of tests ordered by her doctor. Her telephone was ringing and when she answered a close fried asked excitedly, "Have you seen the front page of today's Washington Post?" No, she hadn't, Alice said, but it's right here on the kitchen table.
Alice screamed when she read the front-page article beneath the bold headline, "Suicide Revealed." Her knees buckled and she grabbed the edge of the table to keep from falling. "My God," she said into the telephone, "that's Frank they're talking about. That's my Frank!"
The article stated that in 1953 an unnamed "civilian employee of the Department of Defense" had jumped to his death from a New York City hotel window after he was unwittingly dosed with LSD "while attending a meeting with CIA personnel working on a test project that involved the administration of mind-bending drugs to unsuspecting Americans." The unnamed employee, stated the article, had been taken to New York by a CIA escort for psychiatric treatment. The Washington Post had learned of the incident from a copy of a government report on illegal CIA activities that was to be released to the public the next day.
Within days, additional details about the "meeting with CIA personnel" were published. The three-day meeting had taken place in a remote area of Maryland called Deep Creek Lake and involved the LSD dosing of not just one man but several. According to The New York Times at least three participants in the meeting were given after-dinner drinks laced with a relatively small amount of LSD, about 70 micrograms. But not enough, claimed some medical experts, to provoke a psychotic reaction resulting in suicide, especially a week later. The name of Frank Olson's escort to New York, Robert V. Lashbrook, was also revealed along with that of Lashbrook's superior, the man who allegedly ordered Olson's dosing, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, chief of the CIA's Chemical Branch.
On June 11, after reading the Washington Post article, Alice had telephoned Vincent Ruwet, now retired but still living nearby in Frederick. Alice asked Ruwet if the unnamed "civilian employee" was her husband, Frank. Yes, said Ruwet, it was. "I'm sorry, I couldn't tell you more at the time because of security reasons," Ruwet said. Three months later, during testimony before a Senate committee investigating the CIA's drug programs, Ruwet would carefully say, "Something that has troubled me for 22 years is the fact that, while I never recall having told Mrs. Olson anything that was flatly untrue, I did allow her to think things [that] were not true."
Alice then called Ina in Florida. Her father, Charles, following a brief illness, had passed away about a year before in April 1974. From their time spent in Indian Rocks Beach, the Wicks had grown to love Florida and following Charles's retirement in 1957, the couple moved to Coral Gables and then later to Kissimmee.
Once again, Ina answered her telephone and after a moment said, "Oh, my God." And then, "If only your father were alive to hear this." The next day Alice's physician called her to inform her that the results of her tests were not good. She had cancer, he said, and she would have to begin treatments right away.
Several weeks after Alice learned about the details of the CIA's involvement in her husband's death, she received a letter from a man she knew nothing about: Armond Pastore. In his letter Pastore stated that he had also read and been shocked by the news accounts of Frank Olson's death. Pastore wrote to express his deepest sympathy to Alice and to tell her that he had been the first person to come to her husband's assistance after he was discovered on the sidewalk in front of New York's Statler Hotel where, in November 1953, Pastore had been the assistant manager.
Amazingly, after falling over 170-feet onto concrete, Olson was still alive and conscious. Pastore explained that the bloody and broken Olson desperately attempted to speak to him, but with his massive injuries, no coherent words came out. Olson died while Pastore comforted him and a priest, summoned to the scene by Pastore, administered the last rites.
Pastore, who today is in his 80s and lives on Florida's East Coast, told the author, "In all my years in the hotel business, I never encountered a case where someone got up in the middle of the night, ran across a dark room, and jumped through a closed window with the shades and curtains drawn." With nearly three decades experience in some of Manhattan's finest hotels, Pastore said, "Christ, even when they tossed Kid Twist out the window they opened the damn thing first." (Kid Twist was Abe Reles, a notorious hit man for Murder, Inc. Reles made the fatal mistake of talking to New York prosecutors about mobster kingpin and "lord high executioner" Albert Anastasia, a close associate of Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Santo Trafficante Jr. On Nov. 12, 1941, Reles's dead body was found beneath a sixth-floor window of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island where he was being held as a protected witness under heavy police guard.)
While Alice successfully fought off her cancer, a mind-numbing litany of horror stories about CIA and Army drug experimentation on unwitting American citizens was rolled out in newspapers across the country. Readers were shocked to learn that the government, in response to threats from foreign countries unfriendly to the United States, launched multi-million dollar programs of surreptitious behavior modification and mind-control projects beginning in the early 1950s. The programs lasted until at least the early 1970s. Code-named Bluebird, Artichoke, MK/Shade, MK/Marker, MK/Naomi, MK/Delta, MK/Ultra, Project Often, and MK/Search, the programs involved the CIA secretly subcontracting with over 250 scientists, physicians, colleges, universities, hospitals, state and federal prisons, and private research facilities. On the list were many prestigious institutions including Stanford University, Harvard University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, Georgetown University Hospital, and the University of Maryland.
The Olsons Sue the CIA
Alice and her now grown children contacted a Philadelphia-based law firm to explore suing the CIA. The firm's partners, David Kairys and David Rudovsky, quickly agreed to take the case and began conducting initial research and drawing up the necessary paperwork. Amazingly, despite the wide publicity about Frank Olson's death, nobody from the CIA, the Army, or anyone with the federal government had officially or unofficially contacted or spoken with Alice Olson. In fact, following the June 11 Washington Post article, the CIA stonewalled the media and refused to say anything more than that its own Office of Security, led by Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick and General Counsel Lawrence Houston, had investigated Olson's death in 1953 and concluded it to be "a tragic accident."
On July 10, 1975, the Olson family, joined by their attorneys, held a press conference in the backyard of Alice's Frederick home overlooking Fort Detrick (the installation's name was altered from "Camp" to "Fort" in 1954). Every major newspaper and television network in the nation covered the event. Reading from a lengthy prepared statement, the Olsons demanded that the government provide them with full disclosure of all relevant information about Frank Olson's death. Additionally, they demanded a fair financial settlement. Stated Alice, "We intend to sue the CIA for the wrongful death of Frank Olson. In doing so we hope the full story of [his] death will emerge. We hope that the CIA will be held publicly and punitively accountable for its actions. We hope that this legal process, painful as it will certainly be for this family, will lessen the chances that other families, other persons, will have to suffer such abuses."
The Olsons also called for a renewed investigation on the parts of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the New York City Police Department. As a result, there followed an almost comical flurry of bureaucratic posturing and finger pointing. Dr. Dominick DiMaio, the assistant medical examiner, who had received Frank Olson's body in 1953 and still worked for the city, told The New York Times on July 12 that he "was reopening the case, which was closed in 1953 without a definite finding." But then, DiMaio said "that his office had no police powers," but the Times reported that "the Manhattan District Attorney, Robert Morgenthau, said he had begun looking into the death."
On the same day, the Washington Post reported that DiMaio was "reopening the case...on the basis of published reports of the circumstances surrounding" Olson's fatal plunge. Yet, three days later, on July 15, the Post reported that "neither the New York City Police Department nor the medical examiner's office has actively reopened" the Olson case. Dr. DiMaio told the Post that "he lacked the investigatory powers" and was "simply waiting for new information from the police." In Catch-22 fashion, a spokesman for the New York Police Commissioner said, "Our official position is that until we've been notified by the medical examiner's office that they've found anything different, we are not investigating." Underscoring the apparent confusion reigning over the situation, it was reported that District Attorney Morgenthau's office "was checking to see" if it had jurisdiction and "whether the statute of limitations had expired." Compounding matters was one of the Olson family attorneys who told reporters that he had been informed that the case "had been officially reopened." At any rate, within days the press seemed to lose interest in the issue and, more to the point, none of the three Manhattan enforcement agencies reopened anything regarding the Olson case.
Meanwhile more news accounts about bizarre government experiments continued to be reported by newspapers nationwide. Particularly disturbing to many readers were stories about secret U.S. Army activities. These articles revealed that over 7,000 service people were given LSD, mescaline, unidentified "anticholinergics," BZ, a hallucinogenic about eight times stronger than LSD, and other drugs in tests conducted at various U.S. and foreign bases. One of the unfortunate service men used as a guinea pig was Specialist Fourth-Class Wendell L. Queen. Queen recounted that in a series of experiments conducted during the 1960s he was asked to swallow "a variety of liquids and pills" some of which caused him to hallucinate and feel like he was "floating through the air." One time, Queen told reporters, doctors placed "a tiny drop of liquid on his right arm" that caused him to hallucinate wildly for six days. After the first day, Queen had to be "held down by leather straps" in a hospital bed.
Former Army researcher, Dr. Walter Weintraub, told reporters in 1976 that most of the soldiers who participated in LSD experiments were not told they were getting the drug, sometimes in doses as high as 600 micrograms. Dr. Gerald Klee of the University of Maryland said, "The Army was always coming in with cockeyed schemes that we thought were either unethical or not scientifically valid."
Within days following the Olsons' backyard press conference, a deeply embarrassed federal government reluctantly realized that it couldn't ignore the family any longer. The government had a monstrous public-relations disaster on its hands that many insiders claimed, if left unchecked, could seriously threaten national security. Debate about a proper response to the Olson case within President Gerald Ford's White House was varied. High-ranking White House officials close to the President along with several of Ford's national security advisors had reviewed the CIA and Defense Department files on Frank Olson and were deeply concerned about many things they read. One White House memorandum to Ford read: "...[in any trial concerning the Olson incident] it may become apparent that we are concealing evidence for national security reasons and any settlement or judgment reached therefore could be perceived as money paid to cover up the activities of the CIA."
On July 21, four days after the Olsons' attorneys filed a wrongful-death suit against the CIA under the Federal Tort Claims Act, Alice and her three children were invited to the White House to meet with President Ford. Ford apologized to the family and told them that the CIA's experiments were "illegal and unconscionable." Further, Ford told the family that he had instructed CIA director, William E. Colby, to provide them with any records the CIA possessed pertaining to Frank Olson's death. Alice Olson later said that Ford "promised he would take all necessary steps to prevent such things from happening again."
Three days after the White House meeting, Eric, Lisa, and Nils Olson, accompanied by their attorney David Kairys, met with Colby at the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va. Oddly, Colby later wrote in his 1978 book, Honorable Men, "One of the most difficult assignments I have ever had was to meet with [Frank Olson's] wife and his now grown children to discuss how to give them the CIA records and thus open up and overcome a 20-year secret that had such an impact on their lives."
Alice Olson, however, did not attend the meeting at the CIA because of on-going cancer treatments that greatly weakened her. In the same section of his book, Colby inadvertently, or perhaps intentionally, revealed that Frank Olson had been a CIA employee at the time of his death, a fact that had been concealed for over 28 years. Wrote Colby: "Indeed, even the CIA professionals, myself included, were shocked and shamed to learn of the true circumstances around this CIA officer's death."
Former Olson family attorney, David Kairys, recalls that at the meeting "Colby was very cold, with a pro-forma apology, and then a surprise invitation that we join him for lunch in his private dining room."
The "Colby Documents"
The Olsons came away from the meeting with Colby with nearly 150-pages of CIA documents related to their father's death. At last, they thought, here are the answers we have waited decades for. Finally, they told themselves, here is the key to unlocking years of guilt, confusion, and mystery. They were wrong.
The "Colby documents," as the pages soon came to be called, were not the revealing Rosetta Stone the family expected. Instead, what they had been handed, the Olsons quickly realized, was a heavily redacted, perplexing puzzle that in its few decipherable and connecting parts raised far more questions than it answered.
Says attorney Kairys, "The documents made security, secrecy, and containment, rather than the well-being of Frank Olson, seem the driving force for the government's actions... There was the look and feel of a cover-up, although what they were covering up wasn't clear. The [New York] medical examiner and police paperwork were too scant and shallow. The CIA documents didn't have anything with an overview, any strategy discussion, or any medical or psychiatric details. It was clear that this was big, but nothing discussed the risks, the pit falls, the overall strategy."
Several of the documents greatly upset the family. Alice Olson was outraged to read the claim that her that her husband had suffered from serious depression and suicidal tendencies prior to his being given LSD at Deep Creek Lake. Worse still, the documents claimed that Alice had been treated by a psychiatrist for depression months before Frank's death and that she had suggested that Frank also see a psychiatrist.
"It made me sick to my stomach to read lies like that," Alice said. "We feel that out family has been violated by the CIA." Adding insult to injury, Alice was further sickened to learn from the documents that family friend, Vincent Ruwet, had been instructed by the CIA just after Olson's death to "keep an eye on the widow."
Confused and angry, the Olsons tried to contact Colby to ask for an explanation. But none was given. "The documents have to stand on their own two legs," said a CIA spokesman. "We're just not going to make any statements."
Eventually, the government offered the Olson family a $1,250,000 settlement to compensate for the loss of Olson. But the offer was compromised at the last moment when one member of Congress, U.S. Rep. John H. Rousselot, R-Calif., refused to vote in favor of the needed legislation. In the end, the Olson's attorneys were offered the reduced amount of $750,000.
"We presented this offer to the Olsons," Kairys recounts. "They had to make a pretty quick decision because of the government's posture on things. They decided to accept it... Alice clearly wanted it over."
Not long after receipt of the settlement, Alice and her children began reading newspaper accounts about CIA assassination plots emanating from Congressional investigations, and hearings launched in 1976 and 1977. Stories like those concerning Fidel Castro shocked them and added greatly to their confusion about Frank's death. Particularly disturbing to the family was that many of the government officials prominently mentioned in the documents given to them by Colby were also quite conspicuous in the assassination stories emerging from the hearings. Nowhere was this more evident than in accounts about the CIA's collaborative efforts with the Mafia to kill Castro.
The CIA's Assignment to the Mafia: Kill Fidel Castro
In August 1960, Col. Sheffield Edwards, the CIA's Office of Security director who, according to the Colby documents, had overseen the agency's contemporaneous inquiry into Frank Olson's death, was summoned to meet with Richard M. Bissell Jr., CIA deputy director of Plans. Bissell, a scholarly looking former economist recruited from the Ford Foundation in early 1954 by Allen Dulles, had a sensitive assignment for Edwards: Kill Fidel Castro and, if possible, his brother Raul and Che Guevara. Declassified CIA documents state that Bissell also asked Edwards "if the Office of Security had assets" who could assist in the task that Bissell said required "gangster-type action."
Col. Edwards consulted with members of his staff – James O'Connell, Bernard Doran, Bob Cunningham, and Victor Rush White, all Security Office employees who, at various levels, had participated in the CIA's cover-up of Frank Olson's death – about how to best accomplish Bissell's assignment. During one meeting held among White, who had been a New York-based field agent for the CIA for five years and was now Security Division Support chief, Cunningham and O'Connell, Cunningham said that, if it was gangster-types Bissell wanted, someone should get in touch with George Hunter White (no relation to Victor Rush White). Cunningham, who had been an FBI agent in New York and a former owner of the Daily American, an English-language newspaper in Rome, also remarked that in addition to George White, Edwards should also consider contacting White's former boss, Garland Williams.
O'Connell, who was the Security Office's Operational Support Division chief and was called "Big Jim" by his friends, acted on Cunningham's suggestion and informed Edwards that he was going to contact George White. White, a former OSS counter-intelligence officer during World War II with at least two controversial wartime assassinations under his own belt, was a supervisor with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, precursor to the present day DEA. White was also a covert contract employee for the CIA. Since the early 1950s, White had managed a number of gangster-type assets, or "special employees," for both the FBN and CIA. At the time of Frank Olson's death, White operated a CIA-funded safe house that was used for surreptitious LSD and other drug experiments. That safe house was located at the corner of Barrow and Bedford Streets in Greenwich Village, about 10 minutes away from the Statler Hotel where Olson had died. Additionally, White in his CIA capacity also functioned as the middleman for LSD deliveries between the CIA and several researchers in New York City including Dr. Harold A. Abramson, a highly noted allergist who during World War II had worked with both White and Frank Olson. Dr. Abramson had been the "psychiatrist" that Olson was taken to see in New York.
According to declassified CIA documents, George White told O'Connell that his best "assets" were tied-up on other assignments at the time, but said White, if O'Connell were looking for reliable "gangster-types" for activities in Cuba he should contact Johnny Rosselli. White explained that Rosselli was close to Santo Trafficante Jr., and that Trafficante knew his way around Cuba better than any American. "Rosselli is your port-of-entry to Trafficante," White said.
A suave, silver-haired, blue-eyed mobster, who had been married to movie actor June Lang, Rosselli had the good looks of a Hollywood star himself. He frequently spent time on the beaches of Miami and the Tampa Bay area augmenting his perpetual tan. Rosselli also did business with the Trafficante family, which despite Castro's rise to power in late 1959, still maintained sizable gambling holdings in Havana. Rosselli and Santo Jr. and his wife Josie occasionally dined together at the Columbia, a well-known Cuban restaurant in Tampa's Ybor City, and often traveled to Las Vegas and Cuba together.
White had first encountered Rosselli in the late 1940s in the presence of Harry J. Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and Bryan Foy, a Hollywood producer who was widely known as "King of the Bs," meaning he made a small fortune from making low-budget films. Anslinger, who had a near insatiable desire for Hollywood to transfer the exploits of his drug-busting agency to the big screen, was making one of his many film pitches to Foy, the executive producer of Eagle-Lion Studios. Rosselli was working as an assistant producer for Foy. (Foy, Eddie Foy's son, was Ronald Reagan's executive producer at Warner Brothers.)
Later in September 1950, White encountered Rosselli again. At the time, White, now a supervisory agent in the FBN's New York office, had been temporarily detailed by Anslinger to work as a "special investigator" for the Congressional Crime Commission headed by U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver. White and the commission's chief counsel, Rudolph Halley, a former U.S. attorney for Manhattan, had secretly interrogated Rosselli at a Chicago hotel before Rosselli was scheduled to testify before Kefauver's committee. According to once confidential FBN records, Rosselli, for years following his lengthy session with White and Halley, would periodically communicate with White to share information and assist the FBN with what White described as "certain sensitive tasks." Several such tasks involved Roselle's good fried, Hank Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, and Ed Reid, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York journalist, who was close to White and Halley.
O'Connell, in response to the recommendation, told White that Rosselli sounded exactly like the type of fellow the CIA was looking for. What do you think the best approach to Rosselli would be, O'Connell asked.
White, who at the time was working in San Francisco operating yet two more safe houses for the CIA, suggested that O'Connell call former FBI agent Robert Aimee Maheu. Maheu now operated a private investigation and public-relations firm with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. White knew Maheu from his days in New York and from his dealings in 1954 and 1955 with Las Vegas editor Hank Greenspun. Maheu, in turn, had known Rosselli since early 1955, when the two met in Las Vegas through their mutual association with Edward P. Morgan, a powerful Washington, D.C. attorney, who once headed the FBI's anti-subversive section. In April 1955, Morgan defended Greenspun against a suit brought by the federal government against the editor and his Sun newspaper. The suit charged Greenspun with violation of an obscure and rarely invoked federal law prohibiting newspapers from publishing anything that would "incite murder or assassination." Greenspun's alleged crime was his authorship of several Sun columns that harshly criticized U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of conducting a self-aggrandizing and bogus "Red-hunting racket."
White, who apparently was unaware that Maheu, since late-1953, had periodically been retained by the CIA's Office of Security for "support with certain operational activities," assured O'Connell that Maheu could be trusted to make the kind of discreet approach to Rosselli that was needed. For reasons unknown, perhaps because he already knew that O'Connell was aware of it, White did not tell O'Connell that he had also had direct dealings with the Trafficantes in Tampa and in Cuba going back to 1946. Indeed, White had traveled to Havana on several occasions and stayed in the same hotel as Santo Trafficante Jr. and Johnny Rosselli. In February 1953, 10 months before Frank Olson's death, White spent two days in Havana before flying to Ecuador where he brokered a secret arms deal for the CIA.
Although he didn't mention it to George White, contacting Maheu was a relatively simple task for O'Connell. Maheu and O'Connell had both been FBI agents in New York. After being hired by the CIA in 1951, O'Connell had been assigned in 1954 to be Maheu's contact person for "contract activities" Maheu was enlisted to perform. Also, apparently by sheer coincidence, O'Connell, at the time of his conversation with White, was scheduled to meet socially with Maheu in less than two weeks. Maheu, who had moved his personal residence from New York to Virginia, was throwing "a big Maine-style clambake" at his home. His guest list included the names of several notorious individuals, including Johnny Rosselli.
"Why don't you bring Sheff Edwards with you," Maheu said to O'Connell when he called to invite him. "He might meet some interesting people."
According to Maheu, Edwards and O'Connell attended his clambake and within minutes of their arrival "the CIA was rubbing elbows with the Mafia." Wryly recalled Maheu, "Sheff Edwards had cornered Rosselli for a little chat." (Here it would be remiss not to point out that the CIA in its 1967 Inspector General's Report on the plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, says that: "Edwards himself did not meet Roselli [sic] until the summer of 1962.")
Prior to the clambake, Maheu had readily agreed to assist O'Connell in his Cuba-related assignment. Allegedly, according to the CIA, O'Connell carefully instructed Maheu to tell Rosselli only that he had been retained by a client who "represented several international business firms that were suffering heavy financial losses in Cuba as a result of Castro's actions." Said O'Connell, "Tell him your clients are convinced that Castro's removal is the answer to their problem and that they are willing to pay a price of $150,000 for its successful accomplishment." O'Connell also reportedly told Maheu to make it clear to Rosselli that the U.S. Government was not, and should not, become aware of the operation.
On Sept. 14, 1960, Maheu and O'Connell sat down with Rosselli in the dining room at Hilton Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Maheu introduced O'Connell by his real name but identified his employer as a private investigations firm. Although Rosselli was less than thrilled with what Maheu had to say, he did suggest that he could contact a friend who might be willing to help. Rosselli said that his friend's name was Sam Gold. "Sam knows the Cuban crowd really well," said Rosselli. "If anybody can help you, Sam can."
A week later, Maheu, O'Connell, and Rosselli met again, this time in Miami's opulent Fontainebleau Hotel. Joining them was a man who Rosselli introduced as "Sam Gold." Gold told the group that he had a friend named Joe who could "serve as a courier to Cuba and make arrangements [to kill Castro] there." Coincidentally, Joe was staying in the hotel. O'Connell would later testify, in September 1978 before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, that he did not know that Sam and Joe were respectively mobster boss's Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante Jr. It wasn't until "several months later," O'Connell recalled, that he learned who they were after he saw a newspaper article "identifying the leadership of the Mafia." Said O'Connell, "In that article there were pictures of Sam Gold, who was identified as Momo Giancana and Joe was identified as Santo Trafficante."
According to once-secret CIA Security Office files this author obtained through Freedom of Information Act filings, at one of their next encounters with O'Connell and Maheu, Giancana and Trafficante "suggested that they not resort to firearms" to kill Castro, but, instead use "some sort of potent pill that could be placed in Castro's food or drink" thus creating "a much more effective operation."
How Giancana and Trafficante knew to even think about "potent pills" or how they knew that the CIA had such lethal little helpers is anyone's guess. Records reveal that the requested pills that were soon handed over to Santo Trafficante Jr. were concocted by Fort Detrick's Special Operations Division under its ultra-secret program with the CIA, code-named MK/NAOMI. According to the CIA's own files, the deadly capsules given to Trafficante were obtained from the man who had been partially responsible for Frank Olson's LSD dosing, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb.
Further, and as reported about the same time the plots to kill Castro were revealed, in September 1960, Gottlieb, under the alias Joseph Baum, traveled to the Belgium Congo to personally deliver similar type lethal substances for use in the assassination of rebel leader Patrice Lumumba. In the capital city of Leopoldville, Gottlieb was to rendezvous at the Numero Dix nightclub, owned by Joseph le Moko, a notorious French murderer and drug trafficker whose real name was Jo Attia, with a CIA "gangster-type asset" code-named QJ/WIN. Assassin WIN had been in place waiting for Gottlieb for about two weeks, as was another backup operative code-named WI/ROUGE. No special introductions or recognition arrangements were necessary at Numero Dix because Gottlieb had previously encountered QJ/WIN in New York in 1952 and 1953 when the enigmatic assassin worked as a "special employee" for both the Narcotics Bureau and CIA. Later, CIA director Richard Helms would remark about QJ/WIN, "If you needed somebody to carry out murder, I guess you had a man who might be prepared to carry it out." (QJ/WIN is sometimes erroneously identified by the aliases: Mozes/Moses Maschkivitzan; Jean Voignier; Michael Mancuso; and Jose/Michael Mankel. Complicating WIN's identity is the fact that there was more than one CIA contract-agent who operated under this moniker that was originally intended to include "principal agents and sub-agents.")
The entry of QJ/WIN into the CIA's assassination program also marked, at about the same time, the entry of another individual who Frank Olson had known from earlier contacts in Germany. This was William King Harvey, another former FBI agent who joined the CIA's staff in the late-1940s after falling into serious disfavor with J. Edgar Hoover. From 1951 to 1959, Harvey was head of the CIA's Berlin branch. Olson first encountered Harvey at the CIA's offices in the former I.G. Farben headquarters in Berlin. Harvey's soon-to-be wife, Clara Grace Follich, oversaw the CIA's chain of German safe houses that were used occasionally by the agency's and military's highly secret Artichoke and Pelican Teams, dispatched from the United States to interrogate defectors and captured Communist double agents.
Apart from the fact that the 1960 plot, and eventually seven additional attempts, to kill Castro failed miserably, what is amazing about the once highly classified accounts of Santo Trafficante's involvement in the CIA assassination operations is that nowhere in the voluminous CIA records, or its Inspector General's report, is it ever mentioned that in July 1959, Trafficante was picked up by Cuban authorities in Havana and imprisoned pending expulsion from the island. Even more amazing is that Trafficante, while awaiting deportation from Cuba, was visited in prison in early September 1959 by Jack Ruby, who was reputedly in Cuba as part of a shadowy gun-running operation involving a number of American soldiers of fortune who had fought with Castro's rebel forces. Indeed, nothing about Ruby's visit to Trafficante was known until after a copy of a top secret CIA message dated Nov. 28, 1963 – six days after President John Kennedy's assassination – was released years later through a Freedom of Information Act request. The message had been sent to President Lyndon Johnson's national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy. The message was sent four days after Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
Also not mentioned in any of the CIA's files about Trafficante is that before he was imprisoned in Cuba, Trafficante, accompanied by several Cuban associates, made a rare trip to Manhattan in October 1957, to meet with Murder Inc. chief, Albert Anastasia, to discuss "certain deals" that were ongoing between Miami and New York. According to Narcotics Bureau documents, Anastasia also had other things on the agenda for the meeting. For months he had been putting feelers out to Trafficante that he wanted a piece of Trafficante's Cuban-based narcotics operations and now he wanted to seriously discuss the subject. FBN documents state that "if Anastasia didn't get what he wanted from [Trafficante]" he was prepared to reveal "certain information" that he was privy to "concerning a 1953 Manhattan hotel murder made to look like a suicide."
Trafficante and Anastasia met on the evening of Oct. 24, in Room 1009 of the Warwick Hotel on West 54th Street. The next morning, after Trafficante had hastily departed for Tampa, two gunmen dressed in suits and wearing sunglasses pumped 10 rounds into Anastasia as he sat getting a haircut in the Park Central Hotel on 7th Avenue. His killers were never apprehended and the murder remains officially open in the lengthy cold-case files of the New York District Attorney's office.
The fates of Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli would be no less violent than Anastasia's. Around midnight, on June 19, 1975, a week before he was scheduled to testify before a U.S. Senate Select Committee investigating CIA assassination plots, along with Frank Olson's death, Giancana was murdered in the basement of his home. His killer symbolically shot him seven times, once in the back of the head, once in the mouth, and five times in a semicircle under his chin.
On Aug. 7, 1976, after he had secretly testified three times before the same Senate committee that would have heard Giancana, Johnny Rosselli was found dead by three Florida fishermen. His body had been stuffed into a rusty steel drum found floating in the waters off Miami. Rosselli had been shot, stabbed, and mutilated, his legs cut off at mid-thigh. There was a nylon noose around his neck and his mouth was taped shut. Senate investigators say that Rosselli refused to utter Trafficante's name during his committee sessions and would only refer to Santo as "Mr. X." Santo Trafficante Jr. died on March 17, 1987, at the age of 73, from a heart ailment.
For Frank Olson's adult sons, the story of their father's death had become much like an onion: Peel one layer away and there was another and so on and so forth…
After the Olson family read the many published accounts about the CIA's assassination exploits, they couldn't help but to think that there may have been more to Frank's death. Perhaps, they thought, the story that they had been given was not the complete truth. Cryptic documents in the records given to them by CIA Director Colby certainly seemed to support this. One document, particularly puzzling to the Olsons, concerned a top-secret report written by a CIA Security Office agent dispatched to New York the day of Frank Olson's death. This was the agent that Sheffield Edwards had Olson's roommate Robert Lashbrook wait for in the Statler Hotel.
The report reveals a curious incident that occurred the evening after Olson's death. Dated Dec. 3, 1953, the report details the agents first interview with Lashbrook that took place in Room 448 of the Statler Hotel at 7:50 a.m. on Nov. 28, four hours after Olson's death. After Lashbrook had identified Olson's body at the Bellevue Hospital Morgue, the agent met with Lashbrook again at the Statler "at about 12:30 p.m."
The agent's unsanitized report states that sometime later that afternoon Lashbrook was instructed through a telephone call with Dr. Sidney Gottlieb "to meet with Dr. Harold Abramson [the physician who treated Olson] at 9:15 p.m.... to obtain a report from Dr. Abramson that he was to take to Washington."
At about 5 p.m. that day another CIA Security agent met Lashbrook and the first agent across the street from the Statler in Pennsylvania Station, where the second agent had just arrived form Washington, D.C. by train. The new agent, identified in the report only as "Agent Walter P.T. Jr.," then relieved the first agent and at about 9:15 p.m. accompanied Lashbrook to Dr. Abramson's office. There Abramson and Lashbrook met behind Abramson's closed office door, but the agent "overheard a portion" of their conversation. The agent's report states that Lashbrook told Abramson "that he thought it would be best if he dictated to Dr. Abramson" what Olson's psychiatric condition had been and that this was done with the assistance of a tape- recorded conversation between Olson and Abramson, presumably made during Olson's New York visits.
After this task was completed, the agent's report states that while Lashbrook and Abramson "were apparently having a drink," Dr. Abramson "was heard to remark to Lashbrook that he was 'worried as to whether or not the deal was in jeopardy' and that he thought 'that the operation was dangerous and that the whole deal should be reanalyzed.'"
The Olsons' attorney, David Kairys, told the author, "The account of the Abramson-Lashbrook meeting was remarkable for what it said and what it didn't say. Had the Olsons not settled when they did and had I pursued the case further, obviously this report, among about four or five others, would have become central in any investigation."
Despite their mounting suspicions in the late-1970s, there was little recourse open for the Olsons. As a condition of their financial settlement they had signed an agreement precluding them from taking any further action against the CIA or federal government. The Department of Justice attorneys had insisted that it be part of their settlement. And there was the fact that the Olsons wanted to believe that, however vague it might be, they had the truth. After years of anguish and self-questioning they wanted closure. But the more Frank's sons, Eric and Nils thought about the whole story, the less anything seemed right. For the brothers, the story of their father's death had become much like an onion: Peel one layer away and there was another and so on and so forth until all that you were left with was a difficult stink on your hands.
Eric Olson says that his growing doubts were the cause of "fierce battles" within his family. "My mother wouldn't confront the contradictions in the Colby documents," Olson said in an interview for this article. "Part of her knew the discrepancies and distortions were significant, but she didn't want to know what they might signify. Having been down that road very far myself, and having experienced the agony and torment involved in knowing, I understand why she didn't want to go there. I couldn't live without knowing, but I suspect she feared that, for her, the reverse might be true. Some breeches of the social contract are so egregious as to be, quite simply, unendurable."
By early 1980, Eric was convinced "that my father was dropped out the window like so much garbage – the only conclusion that really worked." But it would be another 13 years before he acted on that conclusion.
Nils Olson took a different, more pragmatic approach than his older brother. While sharing Eric's suspicions, Nils felt that the opportunity for further investigation had passed. Like it or not, the family had agreed to put aside its concerns and settle with the government. For Nils, pursuit of the many lingering mysteries posed by the Colby documents was tantamount to surrendering all other priorities in life. With a wife and two children, and a promising career as a dentist, Nils didn't want to step into that gaping abyss. Lisa Olson never had the chance to confront the quagmire facing her brothers. Shortly after the family's settlement with the government, Lisa died in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of her young son, Jonathan, and her husband.
"I am exceedingly skeptical of the view that Frank Olson went through that window on his own... I think the evidence is rankly and starkly suggestive of homicide," --Super sleuth James E. Starrs
Alice Olson died on Aug. 19, 1993. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance and this time she was unable to defeat it. Not long after Alice's death, Eric and Nils Olson met with James E. Starrs, a professor of law and forensic science at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Starrs, who sports a neatly trimmed white beard and has a propensity to lecture in the fashion of Sherlock Holmes, is widely known for his investigations into the deaths of Lizzie Borden's ax-murdered parents, rebel desperado Jesse James, and the assassination of Louisiana Gov. Huey Long. Recently Starrs joined the renewed investigation into the infamous Boston Strangler case. The Olson brothers asked Starrs to exhume their father's body and to conduct a forensic autopsy of his death. Starrs agreed and assembled a team of 15 expert physicians and scientists to assist him.
On June 2, 1994, Frank Olson's corpse, still bearing the coroner's toe-tag from 1953, was dug up and taken to a specially equipped laboratory in Hagerstown, Md. Almost immediately, the team began reporting what Starrs characterized as "startling results." Said Starrs, "There are so many fractures in the skull that it was not possible that [Frank Olson] received this type of injury simply from falling out of a window. It would not be possible unless he were on a trampoline. You don't bounce like that. When you hit pavement, you hit pavement."
Starrs's experts were unable to find any evidence of the multiple facial lacerations described in the New York medical examiner's 1953 report. In fact, Starrs said that he found no disfigurement on Olson's face, noting that Olson's face was remarkably well preserved because of embalming procedures.
Additionally, Starrs's toxicologist, Dr. Bruce Goldberger of the University of Florida, an internationally recognized specialist, found no traces of LSD in Olson's body. To confirm his findings, Dr. Goldberger sent samples of Olson's hair and tissue for retesting to two state-of-the art facilities, the National Institute of Health Sciences in Japan and the Northwest Toxicology Laboratory in Utah. Again, the results were negative.
Finally, Starrs's team discovered what he termed "a highly suspicious blunt force wound" on Olson's "frontal skull." The team's pathologists thought it was "likely to have been caused by a blow with a hammer or similar blunt object." When finished with his investigation, Starrs concluded, "I am exceedingly skeptical of the view that Frank Olson went through that window on his own... I think the evidence is rankly and starkly suggestive of homicide."
Armed with the results of Starrs's investigation, in 1995, Eric and Nils Olson retained high-powered Washington, D.C. attorney Harry Huge to represent them in their efforts to obtain a renewed criminal investigation into their father's death and to possibly sue the federal government for misrepresentation or deliberate concealment of the facts. One of Huge's first steps in this direction was to draft a 15-page memorandum arguing why the investigation should be reopened.
In April 1996, New York District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, who had first looked at the case in 1975 and was still on the job in Manhattan, decided to convene a grand jury and open a criminal investigation into the death of Frank Olson. Morgenthau assigned the case to his newly formed Cold Case Unit headed up by seasoned assistant district attorney Steve Saracco. A 56-year old former Marine Corps officer with a law degree from Villanova University, Saracco is an avid reader of enigmatic author Thomas Pynchon and has the uncanny ability of reciting off the top of his head obscure lines from the writers books as if they were mere nursery rhymes.
On Sept. 21, 1997, the New York Post published the first news report of Morgenthau's reopened investigation under the sensational headline, "CIA Under Suspicion." Reporter John O'Mahony wrote that Morgenthau's office had reopened the "44-year old probe" and quoted Eric Olson, "We have had extremely good and close communication with the D.A.'s office for a year and a half, and they're working very hard on [the case]." CIA spokeswoman Carolyn Osborn told O'Mahony that the agency "is cooperating with the D.A.'s inquiry" and that "she thought there was little likelihood probers would find CIA wrongdoing."
On Aug. 23, 1998, the Sunday supplement to the London Mail published an article by Kevin Dowling and Phillip Knightly that stated Saracco had "requested [the grand jury to] hand down indictments for murder and conspiracy to murder" if it found the evidence he had uncovered compelling. The article stated: "[Saracco] says that the men he wants named in the indictments will include some of America's most respected CIA veterans and, if the grand jury agrees to his request to widen his investigation, former officers of the British Secret Intelligence and Security as well." Although the report was sensational and intriguing, Saracco denied ever saying anything of the sort to the two writers.
Said Saracco to this author in November 2000, "This case has been around for a long time, and it may well take some more time to get to the bottom of what actually happened in that hotel room and to determine why it happened." Explained Saracco, "From hard-fought experience, I know the difficulties of cases like this. Each one comes with its own unique set of complexities. Much of the so-called evidence in the Olson case is, to put it politely, the product of years of supposition, embellishment, and sometimes-journalistic liberties. That is not to say there isn't a case here, not at all. It is only to say, and to emphasize, that one must be extremely careful in assuming anything to be factual."
Many facets of Frank Olson's hagiography underscore Saracco's cautioning words as it has evolved since 1975. Perhaps one of the best examples is the oft-repeated connection between Frank Olson and well-known magician John Wickize, or as he is much better known by his alias, John Mulholland. Over the years it has been repeatedly reported that while in New York on Nov. 25, 1953, Frank Olson visited Mulholland's office. Indeed, the Mulholland "visit" has become one of the bete noir pieces of "evidence" that writers love to include in accounts about the mystery surrounding Olson's death.
It occurred most recently in an April 1, 2001 New York Times Sunday Magazine article by Harvard University human-rights administrator, Michael Ignatieff. In an emotionally driven piece that centers on his former college classmate, Eric Olson, Ignatieff writes, "[Frank] Olson was also taken to see John Mulholland, a New York magician on the CIA payroll who may have tried to hypnotize him." Continues Ignatieff, "Ruwet told CIA investigators that in Mulholland's presence Olson became highly agitated. 'What's behind this?' he kept asking his friend Ruwet." The alleged visit is also mentioned by former BBC producer and investigative journalist Gordon Thomas in his 1989 book, Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse. Thomas writes that during the visit, Olson "became agitated when he thought Mulholland was going to make him vanish like one of the magicians rabbits."
It all makes for intriguing reading, but there is no evidence that the Nov. 25 visit ever occurred.
The genesis of accounts of the alleged visit is found in two reports among the many pages of the Colby documents. First, there is the once-secret Dec. 3, 1953 CIA Security Office report that reveals that when Robert Lashbrook was taken to the 14th Police Precinct station house by police following Olson's death, detectives there "asked him to turn out his pockets." There is no written police accounting of what Lashbrook produced, but the Security Office report provides an inventory. Lashbrook had "airline tickets for the trips that he and the SUBJECT had taken within the past few days and a receipt on plain white paper for $115.00 dated 25 November 1953 and signed JOHN MULHOLLAND. The receipt indicated 'Advance for Travel to Chicago'" Also found in Lashbrook's pockets were a post card with Vincent Ruwet's home address and telephone number on it, "some hotel bills," a slip of paper with the address of Chestnut Lodge in Rockville, Md., another with Dr. Abramson's home and office addresses and telephone numbers, and finally a sheet of paper with several New York City addresses and telephone numbers with the dates 25 November and initials G.W., M.H., and J.M. alongside them. According to the Security Office report, detectives at the 14th Precinct copied all of this information on a separate sheet of paper and then asked Lashbrook who "G.W., M.H., and J.M. were." Lashbrook, according to the report, "indicated that he preferred not to identify them because of security reasons and the matter was pressed no further by the detectives."
The second source of the erroneous visit reports is the affidavit concerning Olson's death given on Dec. 7, 1953 by Lt. Col. Vincent L. Ruwet. In that detailed statement, Ruwet briefly states that while with Olson and Lashbrook in New York on Nov. 25, he and Olson "accompanied Dr. Lashbrook, at Dr. Lashbrook's suggestion, on an official visit which he had to make." Stated Ruwet, "During this visit Dr. Olson again became highly suspicious and mixed up. When this became apparent we tactfully cut the visit short and left." Ruwet does not provide any additional details on the "visit" or Olson's reaction.
The "visit" to Mulholland's office was first reported in 1978 in the book, The Search for the 'Manchurian Candidate' by former State Department official John Marks. It is one of several errors, all minor, in an otherwise masterfully researched and written book. Marks mentions Mulholland only briefly writing: "Before Olson's appointment with Dr. Abramson... he and Ruwet accompanied Lashbrook on a visit to a famous New York magician named John Mulholland, whom [the CIA] had put under contract to prepare a manual that would apply 'the magicians art to convert activities.' An expert at pulling rabbits out of hats could easily find new and better ways to slip drugs into drinks, and [Sidney] 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."
This account neatly mirrors Ruwet's affidavit with the one exception of the insertion of Mulholland's name, which, as Marks' footnotes clearly state were "gleaned" from Ruwet's testimony. Additionally, in a February 1999 conversation with Principal Films producer David Presswell, Marks said that he was forced to surmise the Mulholland visit from the available facts because Ruwet and Lashbrook refused to be interviewed for his book and Mulholland died in 1970.
None of this, of course, is meant to detract from the importance of Mulholland's place in the Frank Olson story. That he played a role in the story, as is well documented from the contents of Lashbrook's pockets, is indisputable, but what has been remarkably and completely overlooked in any idle or focused surmising about the Olson case is any nexus, or connections, between all of the persons identified through the contents of Lashbrook's turned-out pockets. To Saracco it does not make sense to surmise a visit to Mulholland and not to the safe house operated by George White (alias Morgan Hall: "M.H.") only minutes away from the Statler Hotel and Abramson's office? Why not a visit to that Greenwich Village safe house that involved not only White but any of its various on-site operatives and perhaps even Mulholland himself? After all, immediately beneath the section of the Colby documents where Mulholland, G.W., M.H., and J.M. are mentioned is a large redacted (read: censored) section that could very easily explain details of a safe house visit.
Another apt example of Saracco's evidentiary concerns, one much more germane to what actually occurred in that New York hotel room, is the state of Frank Olson's mind when he visited New York. Readers of Frank Olson's spiraling saga have been told repeatedly that he was but an innocent workbench researcher who was unwittingly caught up in the diabolical machinations of a CIA and military establishment run amok. Oddly, in over 25 years, nothing has been told of substance about Frank Olson the man; remarkably, not one investigative reporter that has thrown a saddle onto his story has reported anything that remotely comes close to providing a glimpse of the inner man. As to Olson's psyche at the time of his death, close examination of the record reveals that the dominant line of belief cannot be verified by published extant facts. Clearly, something was seriously wrong with Frank Olson. One does not have to rely at all upon the CIA's documents, or on Olson's alleged act of suicide, to reach that conclusion.
End of Part One. Click here to read Part Two of this article.
About the Author
H.P. Albarelli Jr. is an investigative reporter and writer who lives in the Tampa Bay region of Florida. Other articles he has written about Frank Olson's death, as well as about the post-9/11 anthrax investigation, biological warfare, and other subjects, appear on the World Net Daily web site. Other writings by Albarelli may be found in WITNESS, a literary journal, and Tampa's alternative newspaper, The Weekly Planet. A graduate of Antioch Law School, Albarelli has worked as a researcher, scriptwriter, and technical consultant on several television documentaries including A&E's recent Investigative Report on Frank Olson produced by London's Principal Films. In 1977-80, Albarelli worked in the White House under the Carter Administration and then later served on the Senior Policy Staff for the Service Employees International Union, AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. Albarelli is a former board member of the London-based Transnational Information Centre and has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Albarelli's book, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder Of Frank Olson And The CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments, will be published in 2003.