Why a Fort Detrick Bioweapons Lab Scientist Was Murdered

bioweapons lab scientist

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • One of the first scientists assigned to Fort Detrick’s secret biological warfare laboratory during WWII was bioweapons expert Frank Olson
  • In 1953, Frank Olson died after plummeting to the ground from a high-rise hotel room window in Manhattan
  • Days earlier, he had been secretly drugged by the Central Intelligence Agency, which claimed Olson’s death was a suicide
  • Decades later, it was revealed that Olson didn’t jump from the window — he was deliberately murdered after the CIA became concerned that he might reveal disturbing top-secret operations

Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, is a U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC) installation most well-known for being a center for biomedical research and development.

Now home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases where deadly agents like Ebola, smallpox and anthrax are studied, Fort Detrick spans 13,000 acres and 600 buildings surrounded by suburban sprawl — but when it was first developed nearly eight decades ago, the location was chosen for its isolation.1

Remoteness, at the time, was key, because Fort Detrick was to be a center for the development of highly secretive germ warfare. During World War II, biological agents were deemed to be a significant threat.

“Scientists converged at Camp Detrick in 1943 to develop defenses to protect our troops from this threat,” according to the U.S. Army. “The research program at Fort Detrick pioneered the laboratory facility designs, equipment and procedures used for infectious disease research that are in place today in laboratories worldwide.”2

One of the first scientists assigned to Fort Detrick’s secret biological warfare laboratory during WWII was bioweapons expert Frank Olson.3 In 1953, Olson died after plummeting to the ground from a high-rise hotel room window in Manhattan.

Days earlier, he had been secretly drugged by the Central Intelligence Agency, which claimed Olson’s death was a suicide. Decades later, it was revealed that Olson didn’t jump from the window — he was deliberately murdered after the CIA became concerned that he might reveal disturbing top-secret operations.

History of Murder at Fort Detrick

After Olson was discharged from the army in 1944, he continued research into aerobiology at Fort Detrick. For years, he was involved in testing biological agents, including exposing animals to toxic clouds during Operation Harness, engineering dust to float like anthrax during Operation Sea Spray, and traveling to Fort Terry on Plum Island, where deadly toxins were tested off the U.S. mainland.4

“This was the period when senior army and CIA officers were becoming deeply alarmed at what they feared was Soviet progress toward mastering forms of warfare based on microbes.

Their alarm led to the creation of the special operations division,” The Guardian reported, in an edited extract from “Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.”5 Olson became the chief of the special operations division, which worked jointly with the CIA. According to the extract:6

“Dr. Olson had developed a range of lethal aerosols in handy sized containers. They were disguised as shaving cream and insect repellants. They contained, among other agents, staph enteroxin, a crippling food poison; the even more deadly Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis; and most deadly of all, anthrax …

Further weapons he was working on included a cigarette lighter which gave out an almost instant lethal gas, a lipstick that would kill on contact with skin and a neat pocket spray for asthma sufferers that induced pneumonia.”

By 1953, Olson stepped down as chief of the special operations division due to the high pressures of the job, but continued to work with the CIA. “He stayed with the division, which was officially part of the army but functioned as a CIA research station hidden within a military base,” the Guardian noted.7

He began to work alongside Sidney Gottlieb, the CIA’s “poisoner in chief,” who presided over the CIA’s top-secret MK-Ultra project, which engaged in mind control experiments, human torture and other medical studies, including how much LSD it would take to “shatter the mind and blast away consciousness.”8

Olson engaged in experiments that involved poisoning animals and monitored human torture sessions in Germany and other countries. The extract reads:9

“In CIA safe-houses in Germany,” according to one study, “Olson witnessed horrific brutal interrogations on a regular basis. Detainees who were deemed ‘expendable’ — suspected spies or moles, security leaks, etc — were literally interrogated to death in experimental methods combining drugs, hypnosis and torture, to attempt to master brainwashing techniques and memory erasing.”

Son:  OlsonWas Drugged by the CIA and Murdered

It’s believed that CIA officials became suspicious of Olson after he had misgivings about the interrogations he had witnessed, as well as objections to the alleged use of biological weapons during the Korean War. In 1953, he attended a retreat at a cabin on Deep Creek Lake in Maryland, along with a small number of CIA and special operations division scientists.

There, while the team was having drinks, Gottlieb and his deputy Robert Lashbrook, spiked several drinks, including Olson’s, with LSD. When Olson returned home, he expressed to a colleague that he wanted to leave his job. According to the extract:10

“By this time MK-Ultra had been under way for seven months. It was one of the government’s deepest secrets, guarded by security that was, as Olson had been told when he joined the special operations division, “tighter than tight”.

… Olson had spent 10 years at Fort Detrick and knew most, if not all, of the special operation division’s secrets. He had repeatedly visited Germany and brought home pictures from Heidelberg and Berlin, where the US military maintained clandestine interrogation centres …

Perhaps most threatening of all, if US forces did indeed use biological weapons during the Korean war — for which there is circumstantial evidence but no proof — Olson would have known. The prospect that he might reveal any of what he had seen or done was terrifying.”

In the weeks that followed Olson witnessed additional disturbing experiments conducted by government scientists, including a 20-year-old soldier who died one hour after being dosed with the nerve gas sarin. Gottlieb recommended that Olson travel to New York City to be evaluated by Dr. Harold Abramson, a physician who was well-connected with the MK-Ultra project.

After meeting with him on multiple occasions, during which Olson expressed difficulties sleeping and concentrating since the drugging, Abramson recommended that Olson check in to a Maryland sanatorium for hospitalization. That night, Olson and Lashbrook stayed together in the Manhattan hotel, from which Olson fell to his death at 2:25 a.m.11

During the 1970s, the CIA acknowledged that Olson had been drugged days before his death and paid a $750,000 financial settlement to his family, but still maintained that Olson had committed suicide.

It wasn’t until decades later that Olson’s sons had his body exhumed and examined by a forensic pathologist, who suggested that Olson suffered a blow to the head before exiting the window of the hotel room and stated, “I think Frank Olson was intentionally, deliberately, with malice aforethought, thrown out of that window.”12 Olson’s son Eric later told the press:

“The death of Frank Olson on 28 November 1953 was a murder, not a suicide. 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 in the early 1950s, and concerning the use of biological weapons by the United States in the Korean War.”13

Stripped of License in 2019, Now Testing COVID-19 Vaccine

Fort Detrick remains a center of controversy and was stripped of its license to study highly restricted pathogens by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019. The move came after a CDC inspection found its recently installed chemical-based decontamination system may not be adequately treating the facility’s waste water, which could mean that deadly pathogens could potentially escape.

Two breaches of containment were reported in 2019.14 In addition to mechanical failures by the decontamination system, the CDC inspectors cited researchers failing to follow proper rules. In 2009, Fort Detrick was also temporarily shut down after pathogens were discovered in storage that weren’t recorded in its inventory.

Regulations for tracking biological agents were tightened after the 2001 anthrax attacks — which also have a tie to Fort Detrick. The Independent reported:15

“The FBI’s chief suspect in the 2001 case, Bruce Ivins, was a senior biological weapons researcher at Fort Detrick. He killed himself in 2008, shortly before the FBI was planning to charge him with the attacks.”

In November 2019, the CDC partially lifted the suspension at Fort Detrick, but their studies involving SARS-CoV-2 were reportedly never affected. Further, the CDC announced that the full operational status had been restored as of late March 2020.16 U.S. Army researchers at Fort Detrick have since begun testing potential COVID-19 vaccines on animals, with plans to begin human trials next.17

Other COVID-19 testing is also underway, with Fort Detrick reportedly having received its first vial of COVID-19 from the CDC in late February 2020. “We can test about 300 drugs or compounds in each plate,” virology researcher Sheli Radoshitzky, Ph.D., told Fox News. “We add the compounds using this robotic system and then we transfer the plates into bio-containment where we add the virus.”18

In short, just months after being shut down for containment breaches, Fort Detrick is not only in possession of SARS-CoV-2 but is actively building up a stockpile of the virus to further test treatments and vaccines.19

Fort Detrick Is Spying on Coronavirus, Medical Devices

Fort Detrick is also home to the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI), which is an intelligence unit focused on global disease outbreaks. NCMI employs virologists, toxicologists, medical doctors and other experts, who use communications intercepts, satellite imagery and even social media to gather intelligence, which it provides to the U.S. military and other branches of government.

Denis Kaufman, a retired NCMI officer, told NBC News, “The value that NCMI brings is that it has access to information streams that the World Health Organization does not have, nor does the Centers for Disease Control or anyone else.”20

NCMI reportedly warned that COVID-19 would become a global pandemic at least a month before it was declared one, and is engaged in monitoring the ongoing pandemic, including whether foreign governments are covering up the nature of the disease.

NCMI has also collaborated with the National Security Agency (NSA) to extract “medical SIGINT [signals intelligence]” from the intercepted communications of nonprofit groups, looking into topics such as “SARS in China, cholera in Liberia and dysentery, polio and cholera in Iraq.”21 One source of intelligence could be the surveillance of medical devices and body monitors. As The Intercept reported in 2016:22

“The joint effort to mine ‘medical SIGINT’ is particularly noteworthy 13 years later, as medical devices and body monitors are increasingly connected to the internet, opening up new possibilities to expand intelligence gathering beyond epidemics and bioweapons and into more focused forms of surveillance.

The NSA’s deputy director, Richard Ledgett, said in June that the spy agency was ‘looking … theoretically’ at exploiting biomedical devices like pacemakers in order to surveil targets, even as he admitted that there are often easier ways to spy.”

Texas Bio Lab Collaborated With 70 Countries, Wuhan Lab

The Galveston National Laboratory (GNL), which is part of the University of Texas, is a level 4 laboratory that studies highly dangerous pathogens. It is now being investigated, as it had approximately 24 contracts with Chinese universities and technology companies, along with ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and exchanges between national security scientists and research sharing.

Meanwhile, the idea that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a bioweapons laboratory in Wuhan, China is gaining traction. In a statement released by the University of Texas, it’s stated that GNL has collaborated with more than 70 countries on biosafety and biosecurity. This could be a red flag, as noted by Stephane Segal, a political economist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), to Fox News:23

“Increased collaboration between the United States and China is consistent with a general trend toward greater cross-border collaboration in science globally; however, the data also show a heavier reliance on bilateral collaboration with one another than with any other single country.

At the same time, the U.S. intelligence community has accused China of exploiting scientific collaboration and ‘stealing innovation.'”

In fact, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, sent a warning to 10,000 academic institutions warning of foreign threats to U.S. biomedical research in 2018. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, even more scrutiny is being placed on the ties between Wuhan and U.S. academia. Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security chair for the Hudson Institute, told Fox News:24

“The scope of China’s exploitation of our open universities, including medical, biology, and other scientific labs, is only recently coming into focus … At the end of 2019, the FBI and the NIH announced they were investigating 180 separate cases involving more than 70 institutions.

In almost all cases, the alleged theft of biomedical research information was done by Chinese citizens or Americans of Chinese descent. Bit by bit, China found ways into government scientific labs.”

There are only 14 biosafety level (BSL) 4 labs in the U.S. BSL 4 laboratories are also found in China, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, The Czech Republic, France, Gabon, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

In testimony in 2007 about high-containment biosafety laboratories presented to the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in October 2007, Keith Rhodes, chief technologist at the Center for Technology and Engineering, pointed out that BSL4 labs in the U.S. increased from five to 15 between 2001 and 2007 alone, and that no one is actually responsible for tracking the proliferation of BSL 3 and 4 labs in the U.S. or determining the risks associated with them.25

Considering the potential for a massively lethal pandemic, I believe it’s safe to say that BSL 3 and 4 laboratories pose a very real and serious existential threat to humanity. U.S. biowarfare programs employ some 13,000 scientists,26 all of whom are hard at work creating ever-deadlier pathogens, while the public is simply told to trust that these pathogens will never be released, either involuntarily or voluntarily.

Cover-ups like the one that occurred with Frank Olson are only set to increase in those cases, as those involved in biowarfare-related research are in jeopardy of prison. Should the pathogens escape, as may have happened with COVID-19, involved researchers and public health authorities stand to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, which is the penalty that the Anti-Terrorism Act calls for.

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