Ransom paper, part 1

Ransom paper, part 2

Ransom paper, part 3

Ransom paper, part 4

Ransom paper, part 5

Ransom paper, part 6

Ransom paper, part 7

Ransom paper, part 8

Ransom paper, part 9

Ransom paper, bibliography

  The Frank Olson Legacy Project

Corey Ransom paper, part 6

Reacting to the revelations of human rights abuses and cover up in American biomedical research, the Senate Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare lead by Senator Edward Kennedy convened in September of 1975. The committee’s mission was to "determine the nature and extent" of human subject testing carried out by the Department of Defense and the CIA in past and present, and to extend the jurisdiction of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavior Research, to the Department of Defense and CIA .

A number of witnesses testified at the hearings including the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, the Surgeon General for Research for the Department of the Army, Elizabeth Barrett, the Olson family, Vincent Ruwet, and Mr. and Mrs. William Chaffin. The Commissioner of the FDA and the Surgeon General of the Army reassured the panels that the alleged wrong doings of the past had been discontinued and that contemporary human research was done under the guidance of modern ethical codes such as the Nuremberg codes and the Helsinki Codes. Providing a humanistic counterpoint to the testimony of government officials, Barrett and the Olsons relayed the stories of Harold Blauer and Frank Olson respectively. William Chaffin told of his experiences as an Army LSD test subject in the 1960’s. Edward Flowers (who testified at a later date, November 7th) told of his experiences at a CIA contract hospital in Lexington, Kentucky where he provided himself as a test subject in exchange for payment of intravenous heroin.

Perhaps more important than the testimony was the review and public release of the documents which the CIA had turned over to them several months earlier. Included were documents from the CIA’s Inspector General and Security Branch’s internal investigations, which had been carried out in secrecy, immediately following Frank Olson’s death. Also included, and providing further insight, were documents covering the series of cover-ups. A name frequently appearing in these documents was that of Dr Sidney Gottlieb.

To the Olsons, Gottlieb had meant very little to them until recently. He had been present at Frank’s funeral, and accompanied Robert Lashbrook (the man who had shared the NYC hotel room with Frank) on a visit to Mrs. Olson. They had known Sid Gottlieb to be a coworker of Frank’s, but not until the issue of declassified documents did they learn that Gottlieb was an agent of the CIA. Gottlieb, was in-fact, the head of the Chemical branch of the Technical Service Staff (a.k.a. Technical Services Division or Office of Technical Services), which was the CIA’s scientific research and development arm. The TSS was the CIA branch which had cooperated with Ft Detrick’s SOD on project MKNAOMI developing covert biological warfare agents and delivery systems.

Gottlieb was the connection between Ft Detrick and the CIA behavioral control drug program, revealed in the Rockefeller Commission Report. Not only was Gottlieb working with SOD on MKNAOMI, but he also was working on a completely separate behavioral control project. Documents released to the Olsons and the Kennedy Commission, showed Gottlieb was made head of project MKULTRA on April 13th 1953 by Director Allen Dulles and Clandestine Services Chief Richard Helms. His assignment was to develop a capability "in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.’ Project MKULTRA continued the drug assisted interrogation programs begun under project BLUEBIRD but with much greater freedom and scope. The scope of project MKULTRA was expanded from simple drug-assisted interrogation to behavioral control. Gottlieb was given wide ranging freedoms in conducting research and experimentation, and had an enormous budget to work with. Gottlieb’s MKULTRA projects would include intricate, extravagant and often times risky experiments, all within the seclusion of the compartmentalized TSS.

Such was the case with the experiment involving Frank Olson. Gottlieb and his CIA assistant Robert Lashbrook (the man who accompanied Frank Olson to NYC) decided at the Deep Creek Lake retreat to test their new wonder drug on the unsuspecting Army scientists. Their objective was to "…ascertain the effect a clandestine application would have an a meeting or conference." After dinner on the second night of the retreat, Gottlieb laced a bottle of Cointreau with LSD from which all (but two) men attending the conference poured drinks. In the following twenty minutes, the atmosphere of the conference changed and Gottlieb revealed that he had administered LSD. According to a document released from the Inspector General’s investigation "they [those attending the conference] all agreed that it was an interesting experiment and there was no adverse comment."

However, the testimony of Vincent Ruwet suggested otherwise. Ruwet, who was present at the retreat and unknowingly subjected to LSD, remembered the resulting trip as "…the most frightening experience I ever had or hope to have." Ruwet, who would face an "agitated" Frank Olson the following Monday, further explained, "perhaps this was complicated by the fact that I did not know what was wrong with me, I suspect Dr. Olson had the same feelings." The retreat was canceled earlier than planned because of a lack of focus, "We went home to Frederick, Maryland, Friday afternoon. I suspect we all had a bad weekend. I did."

Ruwet testified on the events following the return to work that Monday: "…[Frank Olson] informed me that he had decided to resign from his position with the Civil Service, and he seemed to be quite concerned about committing a security break. He felt that his performance at the meeting was not very good. I suggested to Frank that he go home and rest and we could talk again the following day. My own condition at that point, I guess was what you might call marginal, but I did have control. The following morning [Tuesday] he came in, and he was disoriented and it was pretty obvious to me that he needed help. I got in touch with the agency…"

Ruwet had contacted Robert Lashbrook (who in turn contacted Gottlieb) seeking help for Olson from the CIA. Lashbrook and Gottlieb decided to take Olson to Dr. Harold Abramson of NYC for treatment. This decision was particularly interesting since Abramson’s specialization was in Allergies and Immunology. He did not "hold himself out as a psychiatrist." This was a point of particular interest to the Olson family (in preparing their wrongful death lawsuit) that Gottlieb would seek psychiatric help for Frank from an Allergist. Viewing early reports from the Security Branch’s investigation shows just as much confusion for the investigators. Investigators went out of their way to research qualifications for a practicing psychiatrist, and they attempted to trace Abramson’s relationship with the TSS. While Abramson had never held himself out as a psychiatrist, he was found to be on a list of contracted physicians hired by TSS to research LSD and in possession of the drug. Sidney Gottlieb would later testify that Abramson had been one of the earliest to investigate LSD (independently) and was one of the first experts on the drug to be contracted by TSS.

When Gottlieb had decided to send Olson to Abramson, it was because he was "providing somebody who knew more about LSD than anybody we [TSS] knew." This is a suitable explanation, as Abramson was quite experienced in the effects of LSD, however, it is also likely that Gottlieb chose Abramson to keep the case compartmentalized within TSS personal. This would have kept Gottlieb’s superiors from meddling with his program and prevented accidental leakage of information. Once Olson died, the cat was out of the bag, and Gottlieb was not able to keep the Olson case within TSS.

There was more than just a possibility of a cover-up. There were, in-fact, a series of cover-ups concerning the Olson case. These cover-ups may explain the confusing and conflicting reports found in the documents on the case released by the CIA. Frank Olson’s suicide, aside from the tragedy of the loss of human life, created a bureaucratic nightmare for those in the TSS all the way to the top of the CIA. From the moment Frank crashed through the window, a series of cover-ups was created. Lashbrook, leaping from bed, allegedly startled (though this is a point of contention for skeptics,) immediately dialed not the operator, but his superiors at the CIA (both Gottlieb and Abramson.) Minutes later the first security problem arrived, the New York Police Department, they found Lashbrook still in his underwear, and on the phone in the bathroom.

The police, suspecting foul play, began interrogating Lashbrook and searching for evidence. Lashbrook’s official government documents and identifications did not deter the NYPD detectives’ questioning, they wondered what could "…be so secretive that Lashbrook would have been justified in being so uncooperative with police officials."

The following day, Gottlieb reported up the chain of command at CIA headquarters in Washington. CIA director Allen Dulles immediately dispatched agents of the Security Branch, CIA "fix it" men, to contain the situation and to begin the internal investigation. The Security Branch agents, already pleased in finding that the Police had successfully killed journalistic curiosity, quickly closed the NYPD investigation. They then concentrated on the internal investigation, which was headed by the Inspector General of the CIA, Lyman Kirkpatrick. This investigation would mark the first time that details of project MKULTRA and the experiment involving Olson left the compartmentalized security of the TSS.

Those involved in the operation were now in a precarious position within the Agency and began diving for cover. Early in the investigation, before the internal (TSS) story was agreed upon, Lashbrook and Abramson downplayed the significance of LSD in the suicide. In a conversation overheard by a Security Branch agent, Lashbrook and Abramson were discussing mental instabilities Olson could have possibly been displaying prior to the suicide that could be fingered as the ‘cause’ of his breakdown.

They speculated (suggested?) that up to a year prior to the suicide Frank could have displayed symptoms such as guilt (over receiving medical benefits for his ulcer, something Olson professed to Ruwet after the LSD test), worries over inadequacy at work, job related stress and marital problems. They further discussed an idea that Olson’s wife had suggested hospitalization in the prior year. These were attempts made by those closely involved to deflect blame and to justify the risks taken in administering LSD in an unwitting experiment. In the end, the Inspector General found the LSD experiment to be the likely cause of Frank Olson’s mental illness which resulted in his suicide. He would recommend disciplinary action be taken against Gottlieb, Lashbrook, and Gibbons (the head of TSS and Gottlieb’s supervisor) for inadequately managing risk within the project.

With the Police investigation held off and the internal investigation complete, the last security obstacle was the family and the up-coming insurance investigation. The Olson family had been told that Frank had killed himself. However, many of the details had obviously been withheld, and they were told only that the stress of his work had led to his nervous breakdown. While acknowledged as suicide to Mrs. Olson and the family, Frank’s death was officially listed as a ‘classified illness’ on his death records, to satisfy insurance investigators. In addition, listing Frank’s death as work related would qualify the Olson family for Civil Service benefits, and deter insurance investigators. To expedite the payment of benefits, the Security Branch and TSS pushed the bureaucracy involved in dispensing the Civil Service benefits, thus explaining the unusually quick turn-around time (three days for approval of benefits.)

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