Sunday, September 12, 2004

Two Guys Stuck in a Thirty-Year Rut 

Dept. of Plus Ça Change: The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, MD, is believed to be the likeliest source of the anthrax that killed five people in 2001 -- a case in which the DoJ, we blush to remind you, has yet to make an arrest. We were already familiar with the disturbing tale of Frank Olson, a germ-warfare specialist at Fort Detrick who died under suspicious circumstances in 1953, but we were nonetheless surprised to discover, while perusing this new article from the Baltimore Sun, that the government cleanup crew included two of our very favorite Harvey Keitel imitators:
After decades of dogged inquiry, Eric Olson now has a new verb for what happened to his father, Frank Olson, who worked for the Army's top-secret Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, where he developed bioweapons and experimented with mind-control drugs.

Eric Olson found the verb in a 1950s CIA manual that was declassified in 1997 -- one more clue in a quest that has consumed his adult life.

The verb is "dropped." And the manual is a how-to guide for assassins.

"The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface," the manual says, adding helpfully: "It will usually be necessary to stun or drug the subject before dropping him."

Eric Olson believes his father -- who developed misgivings about his work and tried to resign -- was murdered by government agents to protect dark government secrets.

To find out what happened in the Statler Hotel on the night of Nov. 28, 1953, Eric once spent a sleepless night in the room from which his father fell. He confronted his father's close-mouthed colleagues. He had his father's mummified body exhumed. And he built a circumstantial case that Frank Olson was the victim of what he calls a "national security homicide."

The government has long denied the charge of murder. But it has admitted what might be called negligent manslaughter. Its version: that Frank Olson crashed through the window in a suicidal depression nine days after he was given LSD without his knowledge in a CIA mind-control experiment . . . .

Whether the truth is homicide or suicide induced by a reckless drug experiment, the Olson saga is a cautionary tale in an era that echoes the early days of the Cold War. In the war on terror, America again appears tempted to use extreme measures.

In Olson's case, it took the government until 1975 to admit to the LSD experiment. When an investigation of CIA abuses exposed the facts in 1975, two White House aides named Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld helped set up a meeting at which President Gerald Ford apologized to the Olson family.

The goal, according to a declassified White House memo, was to avert a lawsuit in which it "may become apparent that we are concealing evidence for national security reasons."
For additional information, visit Eric Olson's website, the Frank Olson Legacy Project.

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