The Frank Olson Legacy Project
ERIC OLSON NEVER BOUGHT THE CIA'S OFFICIAL LINE ABOUT ONE OF THE DARKEST STORIES OF THE COLD WAR. NOW, AFTER DECADES OF OBSESSIVE DIGGING, HE IS ON THE VERGE OF PROVING THE TRUTH, THE FULL CRIMINAL TALE OF HIS FATHER'S DEATH
BY MARY A. FISCHER
n a November morning
in 1953, Eric Olson was asleep when the two men came knocking on the front
door of his family's home in Frederick, Maryland. Eric, then 9, made his
way to the living room, where his mother sat in stony silence on the couch.
One of the men was the Olsons family doctor; the other Eric recognized
as his fathers boss.
then, in the early years of the Cold War, Eric knew little about his father's
profession except that he was a government scientist whose mysterious
work required him to travel frequently. Frank Olsons Ph.D. in biochemistry
made him a particularly valued member of a team of government researchers
who, in collaboration with the CIA, were conducting top-secret biological-
and chemical-warfare experiments out of the U.S. Armys Camp Detrick,
in Frederick. The work was considered so sensitive and, in time, so shocking
that few outside the small group knew of its existence.
a somber voice, the man from Camp Detrick told Eric, Your father
has died. It seems he fell or jumped from a hotel window.
did what? the boy asked. It didn't add up. His father was usually
jovial and good-natured, and when he had telephoned his wife the previous
night from New York, he was in good spirits and looking forward to returning
home. But there were no more details. It would take two decades before
the circumstances surrounding Frank Olsons bizarre death were exposed
by a congressional investigation, and even then it wouldnt be the
Eric, what began as a brokenhearted son's confusion over his father's
death turned into an all-consuming quest to uncover the truth, one that
has taken him into some of the darkest corners of American history. Over
the years, he came to think of himself as the Hamlet of the CIA,
a man who would do anything to avenge his father's death. One line from
the Play has echoed time and again in his mind, the final words of the
ghost of Hamlet's father: Remember me.
Eric would sacrifice his personal life and a promising career as a clinical psychologist and end up, forty-six years later, when I met him, broke and alone in his run-down childhood home in Frederick, anxiously awaiting the results of the Manhattan district attorneys investigation, which might confirm, once and for all, a shocking government secret and finally bring an end to his life-draining obsession.
or twenty-two years,
the only information the Olsons had was that, a week prior to Frank Olsons
death, he had returned home in a depressed mood from a meeting at a mountain
retreat with Camp Detrick colleagues. He said that something bad
had happened at the meeting, but he would tell his wife, Alice, only that
I made a terrible mistake. Olson left for the office on Monday
morning expressing doubts about his work and planning to resign. The next
thing Alice Olson knew, her husband had been sent to New York, ostensibly
to see a psychiatrist.
days later, his mood had improved and he was eager to come home the following
day. But six hours later he plunged to his death from a window on the
thirteenth floor of the Hotel Statler (now the Hotel Pennsylvania), across
Seventh Avenue from Pennsylvania Station. After a cursory autopsy, the
body was embalmed and shipped back to Maryland for burial.
the funeral, a distinguished-looking stranger stood at the back of the
church. In time Eric learned the man's name, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, and
years later he would hold the man responsible for his fathers death.
Olson family coped with their loss by seldom speaking of it and, Eric
said, by going numb. Alice Olson, then 38, took a job as a
teacher but started drinking heavily and eventually lost her position.
The younger Olson children went on to build careers, Nils as a dentist
and Lisa as a speech therapist. But whatever direction Eric followed,
my world kept collapsing, he told me. I loved my father,
and the mystery of his death haunted and hollowed most of my life.
Harvard University, Eric earned a Ph.D. in psychology, and even his dissertation,
which developed a new therapeutic technique he called the collage method,
brought him back to the puzzle of his fathers death. Eric said he
became totally mesmerized by subjects dealing with brainwashing,
the psychology of survivors and Nazi experimentation on humans. The nature
of such experiments, he sensed, somehow related to his fathers demise.
events were taking place in the early 1970s that would affect the Olson
family and the whole country. The Pentagon Papers were leaked to the press
by Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst, and for the first
time the American public became aware of the governments dismal
assessment of the prospects for a U.S. victory in the Vietnam War. President
Nixons administration reacted to the leak by authorizing freelance
CIA operatives to break into the office of Ellsbergs psychiatrist
to try to find information that would discredit Ellsberg.
Reports of similar violations involving the CIA led to the formation, in early 1975, of the Rockefeller Commission, headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. In the course of the commission's investigation into domestic spying, a CIA secretary inadvertently offered up a file marked Frank 0lson. It would become sensational news.
life and death played out against a backdrop of some of the most significant
cultural and political events in American history. In 1953, when he died,
the Korean War had just ended and the Cold War had begun. The countrys
intense fear of Soviet Communism allowed the government to rationalize
almost any action. At the time, the anti-red McCarthy crusade was well
under way, and though there was considerable debate about whether Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg had passed nuclear secrets to the Soviets, their fate
was never in doubt. They were executed in June 1953.
1943, when Frank Olson started working at Camp Detrick, the U.S. government
began vigorously pursuing secret chemical -and biological-warfare experiments
when it discovered Japan had its own program. After the war, the CIA expanded
its research by financing experiments in its special-operations division
aimed at producing poisons and germ strains that would be useful in interrogating
or assassinating people. Olson specialized in developing bacteria for
use in aerosol delivery systems; his colleagues devised poisonous paper,
fountain pens and lipstick.
1950 Frank Olson had begun expressing moral misgivings about his work
to his wife and a few of his colleagues. Presumably, he was aware of the
divisions experiment in late 1950 to assess the efficacy of certain
bacterial strains on human beings. The group released live bacteria over
San Francisco. Several people complaining of flulike symptoms rushed to
Bay Area hospitals, and later a number of delayed deaths were attributed
to the test and formed the basis of a lawsuit against the government.
But the case never went forward because there was a lack of direct evidence
linking the test to the sickness.
in mind control became a special fascination in espionage circles in the
early 1950s, when the term brainwashing was coined. Rumors had spread
that North Korea and the Soviet Union were developing mind-control techniques
that could reprogram a person so he would betray state secrets and carry
out political assassinations-a story told in the movie The Manchurian
Candidate. In fact, the North Koreans did perform medical, psychological
and drug experiments on 900 American prisoners of war, according to documents
declassified in 1996. After the tests, the prisoners were reportedly executed.
such a grave backdrop, the CIA sought new methods of interrogation. In
149 separate mind-control experiments, researchers used hypnosis, electroshock
treatments and drugs, including marijuana, morphine, Benzedrine and mescaline.
Test subjects were usually people who could not easily obJect-prisoners,
mental patients and members of minority groups-but the agency also performed
many experiments on other people without their knowledge or consent.
CIA-financed tests at McGill University, in Montreal, the goal was to
wipe out an individual's existing pattern of thought and behavior. Some
patients at the university's hospital were slipped LSD fourteen times
over a two-month period; others endured severe electroshock treatments
over the course of three months. After thirty electroshock sessions, one
depatterned patient was forced into a fifty-six-day drug-induced
sleep, leaving her incontinent. Several lawsuits forced the governments
of Canada and the United States to compensate the victims or their families
agents were still desperately searching for a magic espionage weapon when
LSD came oil the scene in 1952. As one CIA operative put it, This
was the key that was going to unlock the universe. The agency
bought the entire supply of LSD from Sandoz, the Swiss pharmaceutical
company that discovered the hallucinogen. The CIA then launched a massive
covert research project under the code name MK-ULTRA. Dr. Sidney Gottlieb,
the man who ran the top-secret program for more than a decade, was a brilliant
chemist with a passion for square dancing and, as he told a congressional
hearing, exploring how it was possible to modify an individual's
behavior by covert means. Gottlieb himself took LSD and mescaline
several times and considered anyone fair game in the pursuit of science
and national security. Seven months after MK-ULTRA got under way, Frank
Olson became its first casualty.
DAYS: Eric Olson, front left,
with his family in the 1950s.
n June 11, 1975,
The Washington Post published several front-page articles on the
results of the Rockefeller Commission's investigation of the CIAs
covert projects. One story reported that the agency had infiltrated and
spied on seventeen antiwar and black political groups, but another article,
headlined SUICIDE REVEALED, caused the biggest sensation.
The story described how a civilian employee of the army had
jumped to his death from a New York hotel window after being drugged with
LSD during a CIA meeting. The dead man was not identified by name, and
if the circumstances of the reported suicide had not closely matched what
the Olsons already knew, they would never have known that the CIA had
remembers well the Posts revelations: I sat for long hours
talking about this with friends. Everybody was shocked at the idea of
a deliberate LSD drugging. I mean, LSD? The CIA? The whole thing was so
bizarre, and that it came out of the blue was really stunning. But the
shock blinded people to the deeper truth. Everybody was saying, You
got the truth now-now, take it easy. Back off.
But he couldnt. The fact that his family had not been notified of the discovery, and that his father's name had been withheld, convinced Eric that the full story was still being repressed. He had to take some action. A month after the Post story appeared, the Olson family held a press conference in their backyard to demand full disclosure of the facts and to announce their intention of suing the CIA. The backyard swarmed with reporters, including Lesley Stahl of CBS News and Rolling Stones Hunter S. Thompson.
after the news came out, President Ford invited the Olsons to the White
House, where he apologized on behalf of the federal government and set
in motion a Congress approved compensation of $750,000. CIA director William
Colby also felt compelled to offer an apology, and in the summer of 1975
he met the three grown Olson children in his office on the seventh floor
of the agency's headquarters.
recalled that Colbys manner was cold and controlled, and he
seemed very tense and awkward. In his memoirs, Colby, a fierce warrior
who had parachuted behind enemy lines in World War 11 and later directed
the notorious Phoenix
Program that killed 20,000 Vietcong sympathizers, called his meeting
with the Olsons one of the most difficult assignments I have ever
lunch, Eric, then 30, got into a heated argument with Colby over the meaning
of the Vietnam War, which had lust ended. The whole war was obscene
and immoral, Eric said. Colby became upset. We could have
won it, the CIA director insisted. With more weapons, we could
have won the war. At the end of lunch, Colby handed Eric
a large stack of documents, the complete Frank Olson file, Colby said,
which would reveal everything.
first the Olson family welcomed the official apologies and the compensation
as closure to the case, and they signed a waiver releasing the CIA from
any further liability. However,
after closely reading the CIA file, Eric realized his quest to uncover
the deeper truths was not over. Although the file laid out more of the
details of what had happened, it contained so
many discrepancies that he concluded Colby had given him a false cover
to the documents, Frank
Olson and eight other scientists met at Deep
Creek Lodge, in the western Maryland mountains, and shared after-dinner
drinks of Cointreau that Sidney Gottlieb had secretly spiked with heavy
doses of LSD. For Olson it was the proverbial bad trip. He became troubled
and agitated, almost psychotic, a colleague said later. When
his state of mind didn't improve four days later, his immediate boss at
Camp Detrick and Robert Lashbrook, Gottlieb's deputy, flew him to New
York, where he was placed under the care of an allergist (not a psychiatrist)
who had close ties with the CIA. Olson told the doctor that the CIA was
out to gethim and was spiking his coffee with Benzedrine in
its efforts to pacify him.
checked Olson in to the Hotel Starlet on November 25, and the two men
shared a small room, 1018A, with two beds. The CIA file goes on to create
the impression of an unstable persona, stating that on that same night,
Olson became delusional and staggered around the city's streets till dawn.
Two nights later, according to Lashbrook, he was awakened shortly after
midnight by the sound of crashing glass and the window shade flapping.
Olson was lying faceup on the sidewalk. Lashbrook did not immediately
telephone a hospital or the police. He placed his first call to his boss,
1975 on, waves of revelations raised more suspicions about the circumstances
of Olson's death. In time Eric went to New York and spent a night in room
1018A of the old hotel. He was so restless and agitated that
he hardly slept, but he saw how completely ridiculous the whole
scenario was. For one thing, Eric reasoned, if his father had truly
been mentally deranged, why did Lashbrook take him to a room thirteen
floors up? Then, too, the way the window was positioned blocked
by a radiatorit seemed unlikely his father could have crashed
through it, as the CIA claimed. Olson would have had to dive out the window
after picking up a running momentum. But the room was too small to do
Pastore, the night manager of the hotel in 1953, wrote to the Olson family
twentyfive years later on stationery from the Diplomat hotel in Ocean
City, Maryland, where he was working, and told them he was convinced the
CIA was lying about what had happened. He said that moments after Olson
plunged to his death, the hotel operatorconnected a call through the switchboard
from a man in room 10 1 8A. The operator overheard him say, Well,
The man on the other end replied, Thats too bad.
FATHERS AND SONS: Stephan Olson, right, doesn't want to relive Erics fate.
hough Eric's research
was going well, showing that he wasn't a conspiracy lunatic,
the rest of his life started to deteriorate. He developed ulcers, and
once, in terrible pain, he had to be rushed to the hospital. His relationships
with women were usually short-lived, and friction with his brother, Nils,
who Financed much of the operation, intensified. Nils didn't buy the government's
version of events, either, but he kept more of a distance from the case
and worried about his brother's level of perspective. To learn
what really happened to their father, Nils told me, You had to go
into a black hole and leave the known universe, and I wasn't willing to
Eric abandoned his work as a clinical psychologist to focus, he said,
like a laser beam on his father's case, which by the early
1990s had become a full-blown industry involving scholarship, media relations,
travel, inves- and the management of a network of witnesses. It was a
full-time operation, but he wasnt being paid for any of it, which
meant Eric soon had to add fund-raising to his areas of expertise.
He solicited nearly everyone he came in contact with and shrewdly, through
the Fund for Constitutional Government, in Washington, set up a tax-exempt
account to receive contributions.
by year, though, he sank deeper into debt, borrowing money from friends
and from Nils and juggling high balances on half a dozen credit cards.
By the mid- I 1980s, he had used up his share of the government's settlement
money (some of which he had used to start up a psychology research clinic
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1978).
the Olson family, everything associated with the CIA, it seemed, even
the settlement money, was tainted with tragedy. Nils used part of his
money to buy a house and build a dental clinic; Lisa, then married and
pregnant with her second child, intended to invest in a logging business,
but she never got the chance. In 1978, en route to upstate New York in
a small plane to see the mill, Lisa, her husband and their 2-year-old
son crashed into a mountain and died.
by the deaths of his sister and her family, Eric coped by escaping to
Europe, making repeated trips to Sweden, the home of his father's parents,
where he eventually met a woman with whom he had a son. But even when
he was 7,500 miles from home, the unresolved questions about his father's
case tortured him, and with his sister's death, Eric said, things
got to be too much, because then the tragedy went into the next generation.
Thats when I really became determined to find the truth. He
returned to the States six years after Lisa's death to interview the men
he believed knew what had actually happened in the hotel room the night
his father died.
Eric, Nils and their mother met Sidney Gottlieb in 1984, they were already
aware from Senate investigations that he not only had drugged Frank Olson
but also had worked in assassinations. Gottlieb admitted to congressional
investigators that he had personally delivered anthrax to the Congo in
1960 to be used for assassinating President Patrice Lumumba. (The plot
failed.) When Eric first heard this, he became convinced that his father
was not an LSD suicide but rather a CIA assassination, murdered
because he had become a security risk. I mean, you can't have an MK-ULTRA
unless you're willing to terminate people who threaten to expose it.
Gottlieb met the Olsons, he had retired from the CIA and lived with his
wife in an isolated mountain region of Virginia, where he had taken up
yoga and organic gardening. By the time Gottlieb left the agency in 1973,
he had destroyed all the files on MK-ULTRA, which left no additional trail
for congressional investigators to pursue.
recalled, Gottlieb said he was very anxious about our visit and
had dreamed we arrived on his doorstep with guns and immediately shot
him. Gottlieb claimed he was a changed man who regretted his overzealous
behavior, but he emphatically denied Frank Olson was pushed out the window.
Whenever I brought up the idea of murder, Eric said, he
got angry and told us, If you don't believe what I'm telling you,
theres no reason to be here. At the end of the meeting,
Eric became furious at a comment Gottlieb made: I can see youre
still wrapped up in your father's death. I recommend that you join a support
group for children whose parents have committed suicide.
Lashbrook, the CIA agent who had slept in the bed next to Olson's, had
also retired by the time the family visited him in Ojai, California. He
was a nervous wreck and kept claiming to forget things, Eric said.
The meeting yielded no new information until time worked to our
advantage and Lashbrook forgot the cover story. According to Eric,
the former agent told his visitors that Gottlieb had been in New York
with Olson the week before he dieda detail Gottlieb had neglected
has never been suspected of involvement in Olson's death. The theory shared
by Eric and various investigators is that Lashbrook was purposely kept
out of the loop because, as Olsons primary caretaker, he would have
been an obvious suspect (and presumably would have objected on moral and
legal grounds). Speculation is that Laslbrook may have been ordered out
of the main room and into the bathroom, where police found him after Olson
died on the street.
has, however, given conflicting accounts of what he saw in the hotel room.
In his original statement to the police, he said he was awakened by a
flapping window shade after Olson went out the window. But that same morning
he had told a psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Gibson, another version. According
to Gibson, Lashbrook said he awoke in the middle of the night and
saw Olson standing in the middle of the room, out of bed. Lashbrook
started to find out what was going on, Gibson recalled, "when
Olson ran toward the window and hurled himself crashing through the window.
I tried to ask Lashbrook about these contradictions, but when I knocked
on the door at his home in Ojai, a middle-aged woman answered the door
and, upon learning I was journalist, slammed it shut. Later I called his
lawyer, to no avail.
first official support for Erics assassination theory came, like
many things in the case, serendipitously. In 1994, while on an airplane,
a friend of Nils's read an article in Spin magazine about a retired Federal
Bureau of Narcotics agent named Ike Feldman who had worked on the MK-ULTRA
project. In the article, Feldman said he wasnt sure if Olson jumped
or was pushed. In the 1950s, Feldman had worked for George White,
an aggressive, hard-drinking drug agent who ran the infamous CIA-financed
safe house in New Yorks Greenwich Village. Under the direction of Gottlieb,
in yet another type of behavioral experiment, the agents hired prostitutes
to lure men into the Pads, as White called them, and then
gave the men drug-faced drinks. While the couples had sex, it has been
reported, White would sit behind a two-way mirror, sipping martinis and
Eric found Ike Feldman in a Long Island phone book, but Feldman refused to talk. Eric kept calling back until Feldman finally agreed to meet him. When I spoke to Feldman in September, he went further with his impressions than he had in the past. I heard that Frank Olson was talking to people he shouldnt have, Feldman told me, adding that, given the secret nature of MK-ULTRA, Its very logical he was pushed.
o long as Alice Olson
was alive, Eric and Nils took no major initiative. By the mid-80s,
although she had recovered from alcoholism, her sons were afraid the next
step they had in mind might be too traumatic for her. But after she died
of pancreatic cancer in 1993, they agreed it was time to dig up their
June 1994, after Frank Olson had been in the ground for forty-one years,
Professor James Starts, a well-known criminologist and forensic scientist
at George Washington University, exhumed his body. Starts had an unusual
resume. Over the years, he had dug up various notables, including Jesse
James and Dr. Carl Weiss, the alleged assassin of Senator Huey Long.
the morning of Frank Olson's exhumation, a small group of reporters and
family friends gathered on the hillside of the cemetery, which overlooks
Camp Detrick. Nils followed Startss advice and did not attend, but
Eric couldnt stay away. He was 11 excited but trembling
as the huge crane clawed at the earth for nearly two hours, finally raising
the dirty, rusted casket, which was taken to a nearby police lab.
don't think you should see this, Starrs cautioned Eric as the casket
was about to be opened. From experience Starts knew the chances were good
that a gruesome, shrunken cadaver lay inside.
seeing this! Eric insisted. He had never been allowed to see his
father's body at the funeral, and it was an opportunity, albeit an unusual
one, to finally have closure.
an interview with me, Starrs said he was very surprised by
what he found. Frank Olson's skin was brown and shrunken, but he was clearly
recognizable and looked good. Seeing his father's body after
so much time, Eric said, was one of the great moments in my life.
I actually felt relieved, because I finally had some resolution.
Eric present, Starts performed a thorough autopsy, and his findings were
significant. What he found, he concluded, was rankly and starkly
suggestive of homicide. For one thing, Starrs found no cuts on the
head or neck, which would be expected if the official versionthat
he had shattered the window as he jumpedwas correct. The most stunning
discovery, however, was a large bruise over Olson's left eye, which suggested
to Starrs that he had been hit on the head with a blunt object before
he went out the window.
had finally opened up, and I knew we were in high gear, Eric said.
But the optimistic feeling was not destined to last.
discovery of the bruise took on even more significance three years later,
when Eric came across two remarkble declassified CIA documents. The first
revaled that in
1953 the CIA planned to assassinate fifty-eight key Guatemalan leaders.
The second was an assassination
manual that described the circumstances of his father's death almost
exactly. It told operatives how to create a contrived accident
by Miring someone on the temple and then dropping the subject from
a high window. As he read, Eric became physically ill. He sat almost
paralyzed, as if he were seeing his father's murder described in
a manual that had guided the hands of his killers.
with Starts's explosive findings and all the circumstantial evidence Eric
had collected, hope soon turned to depression, when his lawyer reminded
him of an obstacle that seemed impossible to get around. In August 1994,
high-powered Washington lawyer Harry Huge agreed to represent the Olsons,
but he pointed out that the waiver the family had signed in 1976 as part
of the settlement agreement meant they had forfeited their right to sue
the government. But there might be one way around that, Huge said: if
Eric could prove fraud-lies-on the part of the government.
was only one way to do that. Eric and his lawyer had to prove Frank Olson's
death was a homicide. They decided to try persuading Manhattan district
attorney Robert Morgenthau to reopen an investigation into a case that
had occurred in his district forty-three years earlier. Much to their
amazement, Morgenthau agreed. He assigned the case to two crack prosecutors
from the office's cold-case unit.
week after they reopened the case, however, the problems began, when former
CIA director William Colby, a key witness, vanished. His body eventually
washed up after a reportedly suspicious boating accident. Next, the prosecutors
wanted to interview Robert Lashbrook, but he vigorously fought their subpoena.
He went so far as to tell the sheriff who came to his house in Ojai to
serve the subpoena that he didnt know anyone by the name of Robert
Lashbrook. (Lashbrook was finally forced to give a deposition.)
main target of the D.A.s investigation, however, was Sidney Gottlieb,
but before the office had a chance to assess the extent and character
of his involvement, he
Frank Olsons skin was brown and shrunken,
but he was recognizable.
ric Olson moved back
into his childhood home in Frederick after his mother's funeral, and he
has never left. The house, says Nils, is a shithole, and hes
right.The plaster is cracked and falling from the ceiling, and the place
smells of mildew.
I met Eric there this past June, he was in good spirits, but it was only
a temporary state. He had just ended a phone call with Stephen Saracco,
one of the Manhattan prosecutors assigned to his father's case, and was
reassured that the D.A.s investigation was going forward, despite
Sidney Gottliebs death.
else in Erics life is going as well, and at age 55, broke and beaten
down from pushing his father's case this fit, he is shipwrecked.
He is often lonely, he said, and emotionally frayed. The floor of his
car is littered with unopened bills, and creditors hound him by phone
daily. After I left, his phone was shut off for nonpayment.
owes much of his $150,000 debt to credit-card companies, friends and Nils,
with whom he is finally rebuilding a relationship. His visits with his
I 10-year-old son, Stephan, who lives in Sweden, are limited to when Eric
can pay the airfare. He has been dating his present girlfriend, Stephanie,
for more than a year, but friends sense she may be getting fed tip with
Erics fixation on the case. As she put it when we met in June, He
is it, and it is him.
hasn't worked in his chosen field of psychology since 1993, but an old
friend from Harvard said, He works harder than anyone I know.
When people suggest he get a job, his reply is not completely crazy: It's
my pressure on the system that moves this case forward. It takes tremendous
effort, and if I don't do it, it won't get done.
press time, it appeared that Eric's efforts were finally paying off. Although
the Manhattan prosecutors have not concluded their investigation, indications
are they are expected to find that the motive and circumstantial evidence
in the case add up to Olsons death being a homicide and not a suicide.
Such a finding would be extraordinary for its suggestion that the CIA
might have murdered an American citizen. The final step in Erics
long journey is also on a fast track, as h is lawyer plans to file a multimillion-dollar
wrongful-death lawsuit against the agency this spring. Eric has no illusions
about the outcome. The CIA will never admit to anything, Eric
said. A financial settlement is the only way we can hurt them and
get a pound of flesh.' Assistance for the plaintiffs may come from
a surprising source. Former CIA director Jim Woolsey indicated to me that
he might consider becoming involved in the civil case but
would do so only once it's clear I'm not going to be called for
questioning as part of the D.A.s investigation. Until then I want
to hear nothing further about this.
Eric anxiously waits for the next phase to happen, Frank Olson, mostly
a bag of bones with a bruised skull, remains locked in a metal cabinet
in James Starts's Office, ready to be reburied once the case is finally
it all been worth it? Without question, Eric said. Though
it has not felt that way sometimes, as the price was refacing the fact
that my father was thrown out the window like so much garbage. But vindication,
certainlyas my suspicious have been confirmed beyond my wildest
dreams. A snake under every rock, and rocks as far as the eye can see.
When I undertook this, I didnt know I would have to move heaven
and earth to know the truth, and I didn't know I would have to refight
the Cold War.
grasp why I did it, one only has to think of Hamlet. Was lie free to turn
away from his fathers death? Must not a murder be avenged, justice
obtained? My fathers murder forces us as a nation to confront a
terrible history of American life that is painful and disorienting. One
wishes it would go away. Through confronting it, though, I have gotten
my father back and the country will also regain a censored chapter of
its past, which I believe it needs to know.
Recently, something his son, Stephan, said made Eric wonder if he would do it all over again. Papa, please don't die in a mysterious way, the boy said. "I don't want to get into the hard place you are.
Mary A. Fischer is a GQ senior writer. She has written often about abuses by the U.S. national-security state during the Cold War, but few stories are as moving as that of Frank and Eric Olson, father and son. Eric has spent his adult life obsessed with the death of his father, who had been an unknowing participant in early CIA experiments with LSD. His investigation into his fathers death has left Eric broke and demoralized, says Fischer. But I have to think his father would have been very proud of him and moved by him.