WASHINGTON (CN) - The CIA killed one of its own scientists during the Cold War by secretly dosing him with LSD, then claiming his 13-story fall from a hotel window was suicide, the man's sons claim in Federal Court.
Eric and Nils Olson, whose father Dr. Frank Olson was a bioweapons expert with the CIA during the early years of the Cold War, sued the United States, claiming the CIA assassinated their father in 1953 and covered it up.
"In 1953, negligently supervised CIA employees administered LSD to one of the CIA's own scientists, Dr. Frank Olson, without his knowledge or consent, and, a few days later, murdered Dr. Olson by pushing him from a thirteenth story window of a hotel in New York City," the complaint states.
That assassination was a result of Olson's work in the highly classified MK-ULTRA program, which sought to develop chemical and biological materials for clandestine operations, the Olsons say. The program included testing LSD as a truth serum and a mind control agent on human subjects.
The MK Ultra project has since been exposed in numerous works of investigative journalism, and books.
Olson's sons say their father "witnessed extreme interrogations in which the CIA committed murder using biological agents that Dr. Olson had developed."
They claim the agency became concerned that Olson's misgivings about the experiments may have driven him to commit security violations.
The Olsons say the CIA spiked a bottle of Cointreau with LSD at an agency meeting, dosing their father without his knowledge, making him a "guinea pig for this 'experiment' into the effects of LSD on humans."
The agency then shipped Olson to New York City, telling his family that he required psychiatric treatment and could be dangerous, his sons claim.
They say a doctor gave their father bourbon and several sedatives in his New York hotel room which Olson shared with another CIA doctor, Robert Lashbrook.
"The men had two martinis each before bed that evening," the sons say. "At approximately 2:30 in the morning on Saturday, November 28, Dr. Olson fell thirteen stories to his death from the window of room 1018A - the hotel room he was sharing with Dr. Lashbrook."
They add: "The circumstances surrounding Dr. Olson's wrongful death are substantially similar to a 'secret assassination' technique described in a manual that, upon information and belief, the CIA published the year of Dr. Olson's death. The manual suggested '[f]or secret assassination ... the contrived accident is the most effective technique' because '[w]hen successfully executed, it causes little excitement and is only casually investigated.'"
The Olsons say the CIA told the family that his death was a suicide, covering up his experimental dosing of LSD and a large bruise on his temple - an injury they say indicates that Dr. Olson had been knocked unconscious before he fell to his death.
The sons say the CIA cover-up of their father's death also caused their mother's descent into alcoholism. And they claim that their "replacement father figure" sexually molested them for years.
The Olsons say they were told by numerous high-ranking federal officials, including President Gerald Ford, that Dr. Olson's death was a suicide, though in 1993 former CIA Director William Colby gave information to the family that resulted in the exhumation and autopsy of Dr. Olson's body, leading to the discovery of the bruise on his temple.
"On April 27, 1996, former Director Colby, who had previously indicated that the CIA had not actually disclosed all relevant information, disappeared under suspicious circumstances," the Olsons say. "His body was found nine days later."
The Olsons seek damages for negligent supervision, to be determined at trial.
They are represented by Scott Gilbert.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.