PUBLISHED: 22:24 EST, 28 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:24 EST, 28 November 2012
A new lawsuit has dredged up a 60-year-old Cold War mystery surrounding the death of an Army bioweapons researcher who was given LSD by the CIA.
The government says Frank Olson jumped to his death in 1959 after he was given the hallucinatory drug as part of a top-secret CIA mind control program codenamed MK-ULTRA.
Dr Olson’s sons now claim they have evidence that he did not commit suicide, but was instead pushed out of a 13th story New York City highrise window by CIA operatives who feared he was getting cold feet about the intelligence agency’s tactics.
Eric and Nils Olson, of Frederick, Maryland, are seeking unspecified compensatory damages in the lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday.
Their lawyer, Scott D Gilbert, said the brothers also want to see a broad range of documents related to Dr Olson’s death and other matters that they say the CIA has withheld from them since the death.
Mr Olson was a bioweapons expert at Fort Detrick, the Army’s biological weapons research center in Maryland.
The lawsuit claims the CIA killed Dr Olson when he developed misgivings after witnessing extreme interrogations in which they allege the CIA committed murder using biological agents Olson had developed.
The CIA had a program in the 1950s and ’60s called MK-ULTRA, which involved brainwashing and administering experimental drugs like LSD to unsuspecting individuals. The project was investigated by Congress in the 1970s.
Olson consumed a drink laced with LSD by CIA agents on November 19, 1953, the suit says. Later that month, after being taken to New York City purportedly for a ‘psychiatric’ consultation, Olson plunged to his death.
At the time – when Eric and Nils Olson were 9 and 5 years old, respectively – the CIA said he died in an accident and did not divulge to his family that Olsen had been given LSD.
Top secret: Research into biological, chemical and nuclear weapons soared in the early days of the Cold War, including the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program
But in 1975, a commission headed by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller released a report on CIA abuses that included a reference to an Army scientist who had jumped from a New York hotel days after being slipped LSD in 1953.
Family members threatened to sue, but President Gerald Ford invited the family to the White House, assuring them they would be given all the government’s information. CIA Director William Colby handed over documents and the family accepted a $750,000 settlement to avert a lawsuit.
In an email, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said that while the agency doesn’t comment on matters before U.S. courts, ‘CIA activities related to MK-ULTRA have been thoroughly investigated over the years, and the agency cooperated with each of those investigations.’
Destructive: The CIA believed it could use LSD as a mind control agent to help interrogate captured operatives
She noted that tens of thousands of pages related to the program have been released to the public.
In a statement, Eric Olson said that the CIA has not given a complete picture of what happened to his father.
‘The evidence shows that our father was killed in their custody,’ he said. ‘They have lied to us ever since, withholding documents and information, and changing their story when convenient.’
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