Nearly 60 years after a U.S. government scientist plunged to his death from a New York City hotel window, his two sons have filed a lawsuit against the CIA alleging the agency was directly responsible for the death and a cover-up that followed.
Frank Olson, a biological weapons expert, died on impact after falling 13 floors from a room at the Statler Hotel. This was nine days after the CIA gave him LSD in a glass of Cointreau without his knowledge.
The lawsuit filed by Eric and Nils Olson in U.S. District Court on Wednesday alleges the CIA assassinated Olson in to keep him quiet on a number of interrogations and deaths he witnessed around the globe as part of his role in bioweapons development. The suit doesn’t give details on where or when those incidents occurred.
The CIA maintains Olson killed himself in a depression brought on by the mind-altering drug he had been given.
In a statement released Wednesday, Eric Olson wrote: "The evidence shows that our father was killed in their custody. They have lied to us ever since, withholding documents and information, and changing their story when convenient. We were just little boys and they took away our lives — the CIA didn't kill only our father, they killed our entire family again and again and again."
On Nov. 19, 1953, Olson was dosed with the drug as part of a mind control experiment. According to the lawsuit, he told a colleague he wanted to resign five days later. Instead, he went to New York for a psychiatric evaluation. It was early in the morning of Nov. 28 that he crashed through the window of the hotel room he shared with CIA agent Robert Lashbrook.
Over the years, the Olson sons uncovered details that kept them driving toward a CIA conspiracy theory. It wasn’t until the government declassified documentation in 1975 that the CIA revealed it had given LSD to Olson at a secret meeting in Deep Creek Lake, Md. When Olson’s body was exhumed in 1993 for reburial, a second autopsy by a forensic scientist concluded Olson had likely been struck on the head before falling from the window.
Eric Olson’s suspicions were further raised when an official manual of the CIA was declassified in 1997, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface,” the handbook read. “It will usually be necessary to stun or drug the subject before dropping him."
The family has planned to sue since 1975, according to a New York Times article written that year by investigative reporter by Seymour Hersh.
The lead attorney in the suit, Scott Gilbert, told the Guardian, "It's unfathomable that our own government could stand by as its agents, operating on United States soil, killed an American citizen in cold blood, destroyed his family, and then allowed those directly responsible to walk away without so much as a blemish on their personnel files. Instead of putting its energy and resources into doing what is right, the United States -- including this administration -- has sought to bury this and hide the truth."
The CIA did not comment on the specific case, but said the project that Olson worked on, had been fully declassified by 1977.
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