The cold war’s darkest secret
January 2, 2005 5:48 PM   Subscribe

The death of Frank Olson on November 28, 1953 was a murder, not a suicide. 2. This is not an LSD drug-experiment story, as it was represented in 1975. This is a biological warfare story. Frank Olson did not die because he was an experimental guinea pig who experienced a “bad trip.” He died because of concern that he would divulge information concerning a highly classified CIA interrogation program called “ARTICHOKE” in the early 1950’s, and concerning the use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War. 3. The truth concerning the death of Frank Olson was concealed from the Olson family as well as from the public in 1953. In 1975 a cover story regarding Frank Olson’s death was disseminated. At the same time a renewed coverup of the truth concerning this story was being carried out at the highest levels of government, including the White House. The new coverup involved the participation of persons serving in the current Administration. This is his son Eric's search for his father.
posted by hortense (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by angry modem at 6:21 PM on January 2, 2005

I want to believe.
posted by keswick at 6:23 PM on January 2, 2005

5. The friggen country is shaped like a boot!
posted by Dreamghost at 6:28 PM on January 2, 2005

It's great that you guys are totally up on the Obligatory Irony tip, but you might check out some of the history of LSD research under the CIA in such well-researched books as Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain's Acid Dreams.

Fascinating and unsettling reading -- and no tinfoil hat required.
posted by digaman at 6:35 PM on January 2, 2005

By far the best (and somewhat balanced) story about Frank Olson I have read is Michael Ignatieff's April 1, 2001 story in the NYT Sunday Magazine. It has slipped into the Times archive, but if you are interested in the subject and have access to microfilm or database, it's well worth looking up.
posted by sacre_bleu at 6:40 PM on January 2, 2005

But, digaman, if you don't wear your tinfoil hat, how will you keep out the government's mind rays?
posted by chakalakasp at 6:47 PM on January 2, 2005

The NYT article is in the site index
posted by hortense at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2005

The government lies and murders and conceals? Nothing new here. Move along.
posted by fleener at 6:57 PM on January 2, 2005

posted by joelf at 7:03 PM on January 2, 2005

Digaman beat me to the punch on Acid Dreams, but I second that reccomendation. Its conclusion--that the development of LSD had unprecedented implications for countercultures, both the counterculture of the CIA and the youth--is staggering, but The Men who Stare at Goats seems to confirm the thesis a bit.

Speaking of which, shouldn't we be wondering to what use all that fantastic information is possibly going right now? It seems a foregone conclusion that somebody somewhere is in a dark room wondering how possible it might be to deploy psychoactive chemicals in an urban (rather than rural, ala Vietnam) environment.

On Preview: I wish I could look at this stuff as belong to the land of tin-foil hats, but as weird as it all is...
posted by goodglovin77 at 7:05 PM on January 2, 2005

wow, just finished reading The Men who Stare at Goats and then two threads related to it come along at once.

the olsons story is pretty interesting, whether it's true or not is up for debate.
posted by knapah at 7:12 PM on January 2, 2005

Thanks for pointing that out, hortense. It's good stuff.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:28 PM on January 2, 2005

before Goat Watching there was Robert Jay Lifton.
Eric Olson has collaborated on some books with him.
posted by hortense at 7:38 PM on January 2, 2005

I suppose I'd have to do extensive research to come up with a guilty or innocent verdict -- and the Internet is no longer (it was once, I swear) a trustworthy source.

But, based on this, and America's Cold War ruthlessness, I believe in the murder verdict.

Also based on the fact that taking LSD did not make me want to committ suicide. The opposite, in fact.
posted by kozad at 8:14 PM on January 2, 2005

Oh, excuse for a little rainy day conspiracy theory noodling~

...*tin-foil sartorially folded and cranially deployed*...

...Since Olson was a microbiologist...and if the above theory says the gubment "silenced" him...could there be any corollary between the old conspiracy theory about silencing one microbiologist once-upon-a-time...and the new conspiracy theory regarding the odd deaths of a number of microbiologists in recent times?

...*leaving tin foil hat on and mentioning that I'm NOT interested in pursuing a career in microbiology at present...just in case Carnivore, Altivore, Echelon is reading*...
posted by Dunvegan at 8:24 PM on January 2, 2005

From the New York Times article by Ignatieff:

"Olson was also taken to see John Mulholland, a New York magician on the C.I.A. payroll, who may have tried to hypnotize him."

Do they still have magicians on the payroll? I have heard all the stuff about the "remote viewers" and psychics employed by the CIA during the cold war and the hypnotism angle doesn't surprise me, but magicians?
posted by mokujin at 12:21 AM on January 3, 2005

Well, I thought they probably meant his day job was a magician, like card tricks and stuff like that..
I would think slight of hand stuff would come in handy in some situations.
posted by Iax at 1:26 AM on January 3, 2005

I think it would be very easy to inflict serious psychological trauma on someone who is on LSD, which is one of its greatest dangers, but that is also why the conventional wisdom is to take it with someone you trust. I can say from personal experience that is good advice. But I can also say from personal experience that someone can screw with your head pretty easily while tripping, so it's not such a stretch to imagine someone inducing someone else to commit suicide on acid. I can see it, especially if the dose is high. It's also not a good idea for people who have serious emotional or mental problems to take LSD, which is the premise behind the idea that Colson committed suicide; it's not a faulty premise in itself. That being said, I've done some research into this before, and I think Olson was murdered, one way or another.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:29 AM on January 3, 2005

Colson == Olson

It's late ...
posted by krinklyfig at 1:30 AM on January 3, 2005

Does this mean the truth is actually out there? I've had my doubts.
posted by nathanrudy at 7:31 AM on January 3, 2005

Isn't Frank Olson the subject of the Dead Kennedys song "I Am The Owl"?
posted by basilwhite at 7:49 AM on January 3, 2005

ParisParamus thinks you're all a bunch of conspiracy freaks!
posted by RockCorpse at 8:31 AM on January 3, 2005

I always wondered why a drug the CIA was trying to use for Mind Control became "hip, now and with-it", let alone an expression of rebellion and consciousness raising. It's not the drug itself mind you, it was fun to watch my friend's toe grow as big as my head with every heartbeat, but there's nothing "revolutionary" about it. Think of all the '60s acidheads who are now counting-down-to- retirement stockbrokers and such.

And on preview, saith krinklyfig: I can also say from personal experience that someone can screw with your head pretty easily while tripping [...]

When tripping really hard, don't go off alone with chyx who claim to be Satanic witches.

It's also not a good idea for people who have serious emotional or mental problems to take LSD

That depends on who, how much, and under what circumstances. I'd say it's not predictably safe, but one can get lucky, sometimes. As long as one takes reasonable precautions regarding "Set & Setting" and mild-to-moderate dosage, even bummers wear off.

Just remember: if two hits is enough 12 is too many. Trust your Uncle Davy on this one.
posted by davy at 7:25 PM on January 3, 2005

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