The Frank Olson Legacy Project
M E M 0 R A N D U M
In the 1950/60 period
that is relevant to the events surrounding your father, I was a senior
BBC writer/producer employed by the Science Department. Dr Sargant was
engaged by me as a consultant for a number of programmes. A relationship
developed between us that became close and remained so until his death
The first lesson I learned during what has been a quarter of a century of writing about secret intelligence is that deception and disinformation are its stock-in-trade, along with subversion, corruption, blackmail and sometimes assassination. Agents are trained to lie and to use and abuse friendships. They are the very opposite of the dictum that gentlemen do not read each other's mail.
I first encountered their behaviour while investigating many of the great spy scandals of the Cold War: the betrayal of Americas atomic bomb secrets by Klaus Fuchs and the compromising of Britain's M15 and M16 by Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. Each made treachery and duplicity his byword. I also was one of the first writers to uncover the CIA's obsession with mind control, a preoccupation the Agency was forced to confirm ten years after my book on the subject, Journey into Madness, appeared. Denial is the black art all intelligence services long ago perfected.
Nevertheless, in getting
to the truth, I was greatly helped by two professional intelligence officers:
Joachim Kraner, my late father-in-law, who ran an M16 network in Dresden
in the post-World War II years, and Bill Buckley who was station chief
of the CIA in Beirut in the 1980s. Both constantly reminded me that a
great deal can be heard from what Bill called murmurs in the mush;
a deadly skirmish fought in an alley with no name; the collective hold-your
breath when an agent or network is blown; a covert operation which could
have undone years of overt political bridge-building; a snippet of mundane
information that completed a particular intelligence jigsaw. Through them
I made contacts in a number of military and civilian intelligence agencies,
Germany's BND and France's DGSE; the CIA; Canadian and British services.
Later that network extended to include members of Israel's security services
including senior members of Mossad.
It is these contacts who have helped to reinforce the belief of both William Sargant and Bill Buckley that your father was murdered. I am assured that because of the highly unusual circumstances of your father's death, the details have remained on file with several of the above-mentioned agencies, specifically the Mossad. The circumstances surrounding the death are taught as a case study at the Mossad Training School outside Tel Aviv. This has been confirmed by two former Mossad agents, Ari Ben-Menashe and Victor Ostrovsky.
Let me now turn to the specific information that both William Sargant and Bill Buckley provided me with on separate occasions over a number of years. At that time they were both alive and spoke on the usual understanding we had: that what they had to say would not be directly sourced to them. Both made a specific request that I should not publish in any form what they told me about your fathers death because, as they believed they were among the few who knew the true circumstances, publication of such information could almost certainly be traced back to them. Given the circumstances they outlined, the outcome for either of them could be severe.
At the time we spoke
of your father, Dr Sargant was Director of Psychological Medicine at St
Thomas Hospital, London, England. He was also a consultant to the
British Secret Intelligence Service (MI5/6), largely because of his work
in the eliciting of confessions by the Soviets. His conclusions can be
found in his textbook Battle for the Mind; it remains a standard
work on the subject of mind control
Because of my own family
connections (detailed above), I was able to gain the trust of Dr Sargent.
This developed during the time I used him in various documentary programmes
for the BBC. It was during that period (1968169), that I first began to
explore with him his own relationship with both M15/6 and the CIA. He
told me lie had visited Langley several times and had met with Dr Sydney
Gottlieb, Richard Helms and other senior CIA officials. During those visits
he had also met with Dr Ewan Cameron and, on one occasion, he had met
Dr Lashbrook and your father, Frank Olson.
Subsequently Dr Gottlieb
and Frank Olson visited London and, according to Dr Sargent, he accompanied
them to Porton Down, Britain's main research centre for biological/chemical
research. Dr Sargent's interest in the work going on there was to study
the psychological implications of mind-blowing drugs such as LSD.
During this period (1953/5),
Dr Sargant had met several more times with Dr Ewan Cameron, both in Washington
and in Montreal, Canada. Cameron was engaged in secret experimental work
for the CIA (details of that can be found in my book Journey into Madness).
Sargent said he knew
that Frank Olson and Cameron knew each other and that Frank Olson also
shared his (Sargant's) view that some of the work Dr Gottlieb was funding
Cameron to do through the Human Ecology Foundation (a CIAfront Organisation,
was bordering on the criminal.
During the research
and writing of Journey into Madness, Dr Sargent and I met on many occasions,
perhaps as many as 20. During that time he gave me much valuable material
relating to the work of Dr Cameron and insights into what he knew of Dr
Gottlieb, Richard Helms and, of course, the death of your father.
By then, Dr Sargant
was physically not a well man but his memory was still good. He could
remember exact details with compelling clarity; for instance we once had
a somewhat esoteric; conversation on how Patty Hearst (whom he had seen
during her trial as an expert witness) would have survived some of the
techniques that the CIA had developed in mind control.
From time to time, he
referred to the death of your father and, as I clearly recall, he said
his paperwork on the case had been handed over to the competent authorities
in the British Secret Intelligence Service.
Time and again Dr Sargant
expressed the view that, from all he had learned from the M15 and his
own contacts in Washington, there was a strong prima facie case that Frank
Olson had been murdered. Sargant believed that Frank Olson could also
have been given a cocktail of drugs that included more than LSD. He said
he knew that Dr Gottlieb had been researching into slow-acting depressants
which, when taken, could drive a person to suicide.
He also believed that,
from his own meetings with Frank Olson, there was a very real possibility
that your father could become a whistle-blower if he believed that what
was happening was wrong.
After my book was published,
I continued to meet with Dr Sargent. At that time, I was hoping to see
a new edition of the book published (this was not to be) and I wanted
to get Dr Sargant's permission to use all he had told me in a new edition.
He said I could only publish what he had said after his death. He died
in 1988. This Is the account he gave me of your father's death which I
now feel free to make public.
Sargent was satisfied
that the CIA team were doing similar work that M16 were conducting in
Europe - executing without trial known Nazis, especially SS men. (One
of the survivors of the British hit squad is Peter Mason who
lives in Montana: I know nothing about him).
Sargant saw Frank Olson
after his brief visit to Norway and West Germany, including Berlin, in
the summer of 1953. He said he was concerned about the psychological changes
in Frank Olson. In Sargent's view Olson, primarily a researchbased scientist,
had witnessed in the field how his arsenal of drugs, etc. worked with
lethal effect on human beings (the expendable SS men etc.).
Sargant believed that for the first time Olson had come face to face with
his own reality.
Sargant told me he believed
Frank Olson had witnessed murder being committed with the various drugs
he had prepared. The shock of what he witnessed, Sargent believed, was
all the harder to cope with given that Frank Olson was a patriotic man
who believed that the United States would never sanction such acts. Part
of that assumption was formed by Sargent because he had come to see Frank
Olson as a somewhat naive man: "locked up in his lab mentality"
was, I recall, one of the phrases Sargant used.
I remember Sargent telling
me that he spoke several times in 1953 with Frank Olson at Sargent's consulting
rooms in Harley Street, London. These were not formal patient/doctor consultations
but rather Sargent trying to establish what Frank Olson had seen and done
Dr Sargent's own conclusion
was that Frank Olson had undergone a marked personality change; many of
Olson's symptoms soul searching, seeking reassurance etc. were
typical of that, Sargent told me.
He decided that Frank
Olson could pose a security risk if he continued to speak and behave as
he did. He recommended to his own superiors at the SIS that Frank Olson
should no longer have access to Portion Down or to any ongoing British
research at the various secret establishments Olson had been allowed prior
free access to.
Sargent told me his
recommendation was acted upon by his superiors. He was also certain that
his superiors, by the nature of the close ties with the CIA, would have
informed Richard Helms and Dr Gottlieb of the circumstances why Frank
Olson would no longer be given access to British research. Effectively
a substantial part of Frank Olson's importance to the CIA had been cut
When Dr Sargant learned
of Frank Olson's death I recall him telling me it came in a priority
message from the British Embassy in Washington Sargant came to the immediate
conclusion that Olson could only have been murdered. I recall him telling
me that in many ways the staged death was almost classic.
BILL BUCKLEY, Station
Chief of the CIA in Beirut (1983).
Again through my family
connection and the contacts I had established independently with various
Intelligence services, I came to know Bill Buckley. (see pp Chap 4, Journey
into Madness). At various stages in our friendship the question
of Frank Olson's death came up.
I told Bill what Dr
Sargant believed. Bill said that Sargant was right but that he was sure
that Richard Helms and Sydney Gottlieb would have ensured that nothing
would ever be proven. Buckley described both men as expert in hiding or
I hope this helps to
set the record straight.
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