The Frank Olson Legacy Project

“The Diaries Of a CIA Operative”

 

 

 

 

By John Jacobs, Washington Post Staff Writer;
Free-Lance reporter Paul Avery contributed to this article.

 

September 5, 1977;
Page A1

 

 

Read the Spin Magazine interview with George White’s assistant Ike Feldman.

 

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 4, 1977 -- He was a "rock-em, sock-em cop not overly carried away with playing spook," according to a friend who knew him at the time. But the diaries and personal papers of the Central Intelligence Agency operative who ran "safe houses" in San Francisco and New York in which drug-addicted prostitutes gave LSD and other drugs to unsuspecting visitors tell a different story.

The diaries were kept by Col. George H. White, Alias Morgan Hall, a colorful federal narcotics agent and CIA "consultant" who died two years ago. They reveal new details, including names and dates, about the safe house project, dubbed "Operation Midnight Climax," which was part of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program in the 1950s and 1960s to manipulate human behavior. Curiously, White's widow donated his papers to the Electronics Museum at Foothill Junior College, a two-year school set amidst the rolling Los Altes hills 40 miles south of San Francisco. The papers are a rare find for anyone interested in the espionage business and show White dashing about the world, busting up narcotics rings in South America, Texas and San Francisco's Chinatown.

They also provide documentary evidence that White met to discuss drugs and safe houses with such CIA luminaries as Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, head of the Chemical Division of the Technical Services Division and the man who ran MK-ULTRA, and Dr. Robert V. Lashbrook, a CIA chemist who worked with LSD. Other high-ranking CIA officials mentioned prominently include Jame Angleton, C. P. Cabell and Stanley Lovell. Gottleib and Lashbrook have been subpoenaed to testify Sept. 20 before a Senate subcommittee investigating the MK-ULTRA project.

"Gottlieb proposes I be CIA consultant and I agree." White wrote in his diary June 9, 1952. A year later it was confirmed: "CIA - got final clearance and sign contract as 'consultant' - met Gottlieb . . . lunch Napeleon's - met Anslinger."

Harry C. Anslinger was White's boss and the No. 1 man in the Federal Bureau fo Narcotics. It could not be learned from the diaries whether Anslinger knew that one of his top narcotics agents also was working for the CIA, in fact, was tape-recording and observing men to whom prostitutes gave drugs after picking them up in bars. But a July 20, 1953, entry by White strongly suggests Anslinger knew: "Arrive Wash. - confer Anslinger and Gottlieb re CIA reimbursement for 3 men's services."

These entries fit in with a 1963 internal report by then-CIA Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick about the MK-ULTRA project. That report, made public in 1975, discussed the safe house operations and the connection to the Bureau of Narcotics:

"TSD (Technical Services Division) entered into an informal arrangement with certain cleared and witting individuals in the Bureau of Narcotics in 1955 which provided for the release of MK-ULTRA materials for such testing as those individuals deemed desirable and feasible."
The report added that while "covert testing" was being transferred to the bureau, its chief would disclaim any knowledge of it.

"The effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign," Kirkpatrick wrote, "is of great significance, and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories."

In 1953, White rented a house at 81 Bedford St. in New York City's Greenwich Village under the name of Morgan Hall, the same one he used serveral years later to set up the Telegraph Hill apartment at 225 Chestnut St. in San Francisco.

His diaries show that Gottlieb and Lashbrook met him at the Bedford Street apartment. A June 8, 1953, entry said: "Gottlieb brings $4,123.27 for 'Hall' - Deposit $3,400." A Sept. 16 entry added: "Lashbrook at 81 Bedford - Owen Winkle and LSD surprise - can wash."

In 1955, White moved the safe house to San Francisco, and he took over as regional head of tha Bueau of Narcotics. Apparently, the Chestnut Street duplex also was used by the bureau to lure narcotics dealers and then arrest them. In 1956, White and narcotics agent Ira C. Feldman, who posed as an East Cost mobster, arrested seven San. Franciscans as part of a heroin ring.

Leo Jones, a friend of White, owned the company that installed the bugging equipment at the apartment. The equipment included four DD4 microphones disguised as wall outlets. These were hooked up to two model F-301 tape recorders monitored by agents in a "listening post" adjacent to the apartment. Jones also sold White a "portable toilet for observation post."

It was an L-shaped apartment with a beautiful view of San Francisco Bay, and White, who kept pitchers of chilled martinis in the refrigerator, also had photos of manacled women being tortured and whipped.

"We were contacted by George White," Jones said in an interview. "It was a combined project of the CIA and Bureau of Narcotics . . . It was always referred to as the pad, never the apartment, and was modeled after Playboy magazine, 1955 . . . I heard about prostitutes. Feldman had acquired three or four to set himself up with cover."

White's diaries indicate that Gottlieb continued to visit, flying out from Washington several times a year at least until 1961. Another visitor was John Gittinger, a CIA psychologist who testified last month before Senate investigative committees that he met with "Morgan Hall" on numerous occasions to interview prostitutes about their drug and sex habits.

White retired from the bureau in 1965 and became the fire marshal at Stinson Beach, a resort area in Marin County, north of San Francisco. Among his papers is a Sept. 30, 1970, letter to Dr. Harvey Powelson, then chief of the department of psychiatry at the University of California at Berkeley. He told Powelson that he had worked for a "rather obscure department of the government (that would like to remain obscure)."

That obscure department. White wrote, "was then interested in obtaining some factual information and data on the use and effect of various hallucinogens, including marijuana tetrahydrocannabinol and the then brandnew LSD. Tests were made under both clinical and nonclinical conditions on both witting and unwitting subjects."

White said in the letter to Powelson he was interested enough to try the drugs himself. "So far as I was concerned, 'clear thinking' was nonexistent while under the influence of any of these drugs," he wrote. "I did feel at times that I was having a 'mind-expanding experience,' but this vanished like a dream immediately after the session." He said the tests were observed by psychiatrists, psychologists and pharmacologists.

Not all of White's diary entries involved clandestine meetings with narcoties or CIA agents - or addicts and prostitutes, for that matter. He duly recorded that Eisenhower and Nixon won in 1952 and that the Brooklyn Dodgers took the National League baseball pennant in 1955.

And when his pet bird died, it hurt, he wrote. "Poor little bastard just couldn't make it," a 1952 entry says. "Tried hard. I don't know if I'll ever get another bird or pet. It's tough on everyone when they die."

White, born in 1906, started out as an itinerant journalist, working for newspapers in San Francisco and Los Angeles before becoming a narcotics aent in the early 1930s. During World War II he was in the Office of strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA. where he acquired the rank of lieutenant colonel and made future contacts. After that, he went back to his narcotics work, interrupting it in the early 1950s to become an investigator for the Serate committee headed by Sen. Estes Kefauver that looked into organized crime.

One interesting detail links White to the 1953 case of Dr. Frank Olson, and Army employee who was working with the CIA at Camp Detrick, Md. Olson had been given LSD without being told, and 10 days later jumped to his death from the 10th floor of a New York City hotel. At the time, Lashbrook was in the room with Olson, who had gone to New York to be treated by Dr. Harrold Abramson, a psychiatrist who had worked for the CIA.According to CIA documents, Lashbrook called Gottlieb, his supervisor at the time, and then went to the police station to identify the body. He was asked to "turn out his pockets."

He had written on a piece of white paper the initials "G. W." and "M.H." Lashbrook was asked to identify whose initials they were, but expunged CIA documents said he could not for security reasons. However, knowledgeable sources who have seen the CIA documents said Lashbrook identified "G. W." as George White and "M. H." as Morgan Hall, White's undercover name. The piece of paper also contained the address 81 Bedford St. which White's diary shows to be the New York safe house.

White apparently knew Abramson, because a Sept. 20, 1954, diary entry contained a reference to Gottlieb and Abramson. Return to Search Results
 

One interesting detail links White to the 1953 case of Dr. Frank Olson…