|The Frank Olson Legacy Project|
Corey Ransom paper, part 5
In the weeks following the breaking of the Olson story, the government began damage control. On July 21st 1975 President Gerald Ford hosted the Olson family at the White House to offer a presidential apology for the "circumstances of Dr. Olsons death."
President promised full release of all existing information concerning
the case and had White House lawyers meet with the family to discuss the
financial claim the Olsons were making against the government. The
then Director of the CIA, William Colby, also met with the Olson family
to offer an official apology from the agency. The meeting was a tense
affair, which ended in a political debate between Colby and Eric Olson
over the meaning of the Vietnam War. Colby would later claim that the
meeting had been "one of the most difficult assignments I have ever
same week the Olsons met with the President, the United States Army disclosed
that in the 1950s the Chemical Corps had a parallel, chemical-assisted
interrogation research program similar to that of the CIA. The July 20th
1975 edition of the Washington Post reported that the Army had conducted
hallucinogen research on more than 1,500 subjects between 1956 and 1967
and included an interview with a former GI, Wendel Queens, who had been
a willing participant in the tests. The Army program, expanded from intelligence
applications, eventually led to the development of a battlefield "super
hallucinogen" known as BZ which was also (in addition to LSD) tested
on humans. The Army tests focused on the effects of hallucinogens on battlefield
personnel both for offensive uses as well as protection and countermeasure
The Army sponsored research however, was actually much wider than merely in-house proving ground experiments. The Army had, over the years, contracted out research to federal and state prisons, state and private mental institutions and universities and colleges. The Army announced on August 12th 1975 that one such contractor, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, had been responsible for the death of one of its test subjects.
The subject, professional tennis player and teacher Harold Blauer, had checked into the State Psychiatric Institute after suffering a nervous breakdown triggered by the divorce of his wife. Over the course of his stay Blauer was the recipient of a battery of injections, later revealed to be the potent narcotic Mescaline. The initial injections yielded mild symptoms at first, increasing in severity with each new injection. Documents released by Blauers daughter in 1975 show that he had become "very apprehensive [and] considerable persuasion [was] required" in administering additional injections. Another line in Blauers nurses notes read, "slept bad last night---knew drug was coming." Blauer, set to be released from the hospital Friday, January 9th 1953, received his final series of in injections that Thursday. Blauer is reported to have said, "I dont need any more medication Im going home tomorrow. Im being discharged, Im all better."
Blauer received his final injection of mescaline, and within six minutes
he was frothing at the mouth, teeth clenched, eyes darting. After a seventy-three
minute series of seizures, Blauer lapsed into a coma, and almost an hour
later, he died. Following Blauers death, his widow brought a $275,000
wrongful death lawsuit upon the State of New York, but later, for unspecified
reasons, settled out of court for around $18,000. At the time of the lawsuit
(from late 1953 to 1955), it was known that Harold Blauer had been the
subject of an experimental drug treatment. In 1975 Blauers daughter
Elizabeth Barrett claimed that her mother (who had since died) had always
claimed that her husband had been unwittingly dosed with LSD. Barrett
also claimed that Blauer had never consented to the drugs he was given.
A spokesman for the New York State Psychiatric Hospital responding to
the 1975 media attention stated, "as far as we know, permission was
obtained voluntarily," but he later reported that he could not locate
documentary proof. It would not be until the 1970s that the government
would be linked as the programs financial backer.
The breaking of the Blauer case was an important revelation. It further illustrated the fear and paranoia of those in the military/intelligence community facing an enemy thought capable of using drugs and behavioral control. The early evidence of brainwashing coming from behind the iron curtain and the powerful impression LSD made on military and intelligence officials influenced them to create parallel and overlapping research and development programs to counter those of the enemy. Even more frightening was that this fear could drive those researchers to construct reckless, crass developmental programs that included unethical experiments on humans.
It is particularly ironic that such experiments, violating human rights through testing of powerful drugs on unwitting American citizens, occurred less than ten years after the signing of the Nuremberg Codes. These codes had been constructed by following the Nuremberg war crimes trials of Nazi scientists to avoid the atrocities committed during the Second World War. They were intended to provide science with an enunciation of ethical standards for application in medical and biological testing involving human subjects. Several years later these codes were being routinely violated by the CIA and several branches of the Armed Forces in experiments involving human subjects.
Additionally, many of these experiments, including the CIA drug-assisted interrogation programs were continuations of programs begun by those same Nazi scientists convicted at Nuremberg.