August 21, 2008

Anthrax: Secret Programs Unveiled

Let's start with a potted version of the Eric Olsen story:
When he was nine, in 1953, he was woken in the night to be told, by two men he barely recognised, that his father had "jumped or fallen" from a hotel window in New York and that his death was a work-related accident. He's spent 50 years trying to find out what really happened. In 1975, the CIA told Olson they had spiked his father's drink with LSD to see how government scientists would respond to being unwittingly drugged. They said he had a bad trip and jumped a week later. Olson didn't believe this story, either, and had his father's body exhumed. A new autopsy pointed to murder. Then his father's friends began to speak out. They said Frank Olson was murdered because he was going to blow the whistle on the US army's use of anthrax in the Korean war. Declassified memos point to some kind of cover-up in the Ford White House.
Wha-a-at? The US government was running a secret anthrax program back in the 1950's? Can you believe it? And wait a minute - "Ford White House"? Wasn't Dick Cheney working there? And Donald Rumsfeld too? OMFG etc.

This is from Eric Olsen's website:
Dr. Frank Olson was an expert for anthrax and other biological weapons and had top security clearance...

Eric Olson has returned to live in the house his father built for the family in Frederick in 1950. Back then, Olson senior was one of the biochemists responsible for the biological weapons center the U.S. army ran nearby. The anthrax letters that killed five and caused illness to several others have haunted Eric ever since. Could there be a connection between his father’s death five decades ago and the acts of terror taking place today? (3.00)

3.15
The deadly disease that frightened America after the terrorist attacks on September 11th seems to have come from the same US Army Laboratory in Frederick where Olson had worked: Fort Detrick.

3.31
The biological weapons lab was founded in 1943. At the time, the Americans feared Hitler might attack the allied troops with a virus or bacteria. They quickly produced gas masks and anthrax weapons, in order to be able to strike back in kind.

3.58
Dr. Frank Olson, an army captain and one of the first scientists at Fort Detrick, worked together with Norman Cournoyer. The two became good friends. Their first sons were born within a few days of each other in 1944.

4.18 Voice of Norman Cournoyer/Friend of Frank Olson:
“We worked about five months in this thing called aerosols to see if we could test gas masks and impregnated clothing to see how good they were. And then one day he was transferred to working on hot agents. He said: 'Norm, how about working for me in the hot stuff?' That's how we always referred to it. N was Anthrax, X was botulism and so forth.”
Frank Olsen was pushed out a window and died on the pavement, desperately trying to speak as blood flowed out of his eyes, nose and ears. The CIA agent in the hotel room phoned a colleague to say Olsen was dead, then told police he had been asleep at the time.
Pictures taken in Frankfurt and Heidelberg will later turn up among Olson’s slides. These cities were home to the US Army’s most important facilities in Germany. There is also a picture of the top secret CIA headquarters in Germany, located in the building of IG Farben in the heart of Frankfurt.

22.56
What is Olson’s new assignment? He is now working in an area that has nothing to do with biological weapons. Here, in the German offices of the CIA, the biochemist is conducting important conversations with US intelligence officers.

23.17
Increasingly, he can be found in the company of other CIA agents, including a certain John McNulty. It has to do with a top secret project to use chemicals, drugs and torture on human beings in order to break their will and make them submissive. Brainwashing.

23.35
The code name for this operation: Artichoke.
"IG Farben", the company that built Auschwitz? Wasn't Prescott Bush involved with them? Why yes he was, and so was Allen Dulles, who became the first head of the CIA.
26.58
At “House Waldhof,” in June 1952, the CIA begins conducting brain-washing experiments, using various drugs, hypnosis, and probably torture. One of the top secret protocols documents a Russian agent being pumped full of medication.

27.19
The goal of the experiments is to manipulate the human mind in order to extract secrets from its subjects. And then to erase their memory, so they can’t remember what happened to them.

27.38
Dr. Frank Olson arrived in Frankfurt on June 12, 1952, from Hendon Military Airport near London. He left the Rhine-Main region three days later, on June 15.

27.53
On June 13, experiments are conducted with “Patient No. 2”, a suspected Soviet double-agent.

28.03 Voice of Norm Cournoyer
“He was troubled after he came back from Germany one time. He came back and told me and he said Norm, I tell you right now you and I never talked about this, but we were both grown-ups and this was rough. He said ‘Norm, you would be stunned by the techniques that they used.’

They made people talk! They brainwashed people! They used all kinds of drugs, they used all kinds of torture.”
Remember that guy who tried to assassinate Reagan when George H. W. Bush was Vice President? Wasn't he a friend of Neil Bush? Remember that guy who killed John Lennon? Oh, But this is ancient history and the world has changed. Hasn't it?
Frank Olson was also in Berlin early in August 1953.

41.38
In Zehlendorf he photographs the headquarters of the American army.
Is Frank Olson on a secret Artichoke mission? Several top-level communist agents were being interrogated in Berlin at the time. It was a time of intense political and military tension in the divided city, just weeks after the civilian uprising in the Soviet sector. At the army headquarters in Berlin, Olson apparently witnessed brutal interrogation methods.

42.19 Voice of Norman Cournoyer/Friend of Frank Olson
“After he came back from Germany the last time he sounded different. When he talked to me he said, I can probably tell you things, that I can’t tell other people, because they are still in top secret material. The people he saw in Germany went to the extreme. He said: ‘Norm, did you ever see a man die?’

I said ‘No.’

He said, ‘Well, I did.’

Yes, they did die. Some of the people they interrogated died. So you can imagine the amount of work they did on these people.”

43.10 Voice of Norman Cournoyer/Friend of Frank Olson
“He said, that he was going to leave. He told me that. He said, ‘I am getting out of that CIA. Period’.”
He got out all right. But the secret programs never stopped and never came to light. And the people who ran them went on to bigger, if not better, things.
48.43
The conspiracy originated at the top, in the White House, initiated by Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney. It had just been learned that the CIA allegedly drugged its employee Frank Olson with LSD before his supposed suicide.

Rumsfeld and Cheney, heads of the White House chiefs of staff, at the time recommended to President Gerald Ford that he apologize to the family in the name of the government, and to support retribution. In order to prevent worse things from happening. That’s the content of this White House memo:

49.21
“There (is...) the possibility that it might be necessary to disclose highly classified national security information in connection with any court suit or legislative hearings.”

49.38
Ten days later, Ford hosted the Olson family and apologized. This allowed him to remain silent about state secrets – and the true reasons for Frank Olson’s death.

49.52 Voice of Eric Olson
“What this means for me is that a national security homicide is not only a possibility, but really it is a necessity, when you have a certain number of ingredients together.

If you are doing top secret work that is immoral, arguably immoral, especially in the post-Nuremberg period, and arguably illegal, and at odds with the kind of high moral position you are trying to maintain in the world, then you have to have a mechanism of security which is going to include murder.”

50.26
The two politicians who collaborated in the conspiracy in 1975, Rumsfeld and Cheney, are back in power. As vice president and secretary of defense of the government of the United States. The Frank Olson case, it seems, is far from being closed, even 50 years later. That, at least, is one thing of which Olson’s son is now certain.
Now let's take a look at this interesting little story from UK journalist David Rose in September 2007:
My secret life began, as if scripted by P G Wodehouse, with an invitation to tea at the Ritz...

Over the eclairs and Darjeeling a day or two later, Bourgeois explained that while the service - "the Office", as it is invariably termed by insiders - had always had a few, very limited contacts with journalists and editors, it now felt the need to put these arrangements on a broader and more formal basis. After eight decades in which the very existence of MI6 had been an official secret, the Tory prime minister, John Major, had just avowed it in the House of Commons for the first time - part of a process of incipient glasnost, Bourgeois said.

From time to time, he went on, it might be possible to "give me a steer", and if things worked out we might progress from meeting for tea to luncheon. Of course, he would be extremely constrained as to what he might ever be able to say about real, individual spy cases. If potential MI6 sources started to think their handlers might start blabbing about them to the papers, the Office's work would soon become impossible. Nevertheless, there would be things I might find interesting that would not compromise sources or security. Anyway, here was his number.
Of course, there were conditions:
Our conversations would not merely be off-the-record, and hence attributable in print to an unnamed MI6 official. In public I would have to pretend they had never happened, and if I wanted to quote or paraphrase anything Bourgeois said, I would have to use a circumlocution so vague as to make it impossible for any reader to realise that I had spoken to someone from the Office at all. Should I breach these conditions, Bourgeois made clear, I could expect instant outer darkness: the refusal of all future access. MI6, in other words, would maintain a priceless advantage, a quality regarded as essential in intelligence operations of many kinds - what spies call "plausible deniability". And if, heaven forfend, the service told me something that turned out to be mistaken, or even tried to plant sheer disinformation for who knows what purpose, there would be no comeback, no accountability. I could put up, or shut up.

At the time, I pushed my misgivings to the back of my mind, accepting Bourgeois's assurance that eventually MI6 would like to have an ordinary public press office like the Home Office or Department of Health. After all, as he pointed out, "the friends" across the Atlantic, the US Central Intelligence Agency, had long had such a bureau - an entire public affairs division - without apparent harm.
Fifteen years later, according to Rose, "every national paper and broadcasting outlet has one - and usually, only one - reporter to whom each agency will speak". And Rose, who is no longer part of the program, makes this confession:
To my everlasting regret, I strongly supported the Iraq invasion, in person and in print. I had become a recipient of what we now know to have been sheer disinformation about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his purported "links" with al-Qaeda - claims put out by Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress. I took these stories seriously because they were corroborated by "off-the-record" intelligence sources on both sides of the Atlantic...

More recent media briefings seem equally questionable.
Which brings us back to anthrax. Rose was one of two Observer reporters (the other was Ed Vulliamy) who first linked Iraq to the 2001 anthrax attacks. Here's their story from October 14 2001:
American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York believe they have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack - and have named Iraq as prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores.

Their inquiries are adding to what US hawks say is a growing mass of evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved, possibly indirectly, with the 11 September hijackers...

Leading US intelligence sources, involved with both the CIA and the Defence Department, told The Observer that the 'giveaway' which suggests a state sponsor for the anthrax cases is that the victims in Florida were afflicted with the airborne form of the disease....

In liquid form, anthrax is useless - droplets would fall to the ground, rather than staying suspended in the air to be breathed by victims. Making powder needs repeated washings in huge centrifuges, followed by intensive drying, which requires sealed environments. The technology would cost millions.

US intelligence believes Iraq has the technology and supplies of anthrax suitable for terrorist use. 'They aren't making this stuff in caves in Afghanistan,' the CIA source said. 'This is prima facie evidence of the involvement of a state intelligence agency. Maybe Iran has the capability. But it doesn't look likely politically. That leaves Iraq.'

Scientists investigating the attacks say the bacteria used is similar to the 'Ames strain' of anthrax originally cultivated at Iowa State University in the 1950s and later given to labs throughout the world, including Iraq.

According to sources in the Bush administration, investigators are talking to Egyptian authorities who say members of the al-Qaida network, detained and interrogated in Cairo, had obtained phials of anthrax in the Czech Republic.

Last autumn Mohamed Atta is said by US intelligence officials to have met in Prague an agent from Iraqi intelligence called Ahmed Samir al-Ahani, a former consul later expelled by the Czechs for activities not compatible with his diplomatic mission.

The Czechs are also examining the possibility that Atta met a former director of Saddam's external secret services, Farouk Hijazi, at a second meeting in the spring. Hijazi is known to have met Bin Laden.
Nearly all of that information turned out to be pure bullshit. But while there was a healthy air of skepticism running through the Observer piece, the editors of the Wall Street Journal went full bore the next day on their terrified US audience:
Several circumstantial links to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network are already known. Some of the World Trade Center hijackers, including suspected ringleader Mohamed Atta, visited an airfield near the site of the Boca Raton, Florida, anthrax mailings.

The anthrax package sent to a Microsoft office in Reno, Nevada, was mailed from Malaysia, another al Qaeda haunt. One of the September 11 hijackers, Khaled Almihdhar, visited Malaysia earlier this year, appearing in a surveillance tape with another suspected associate of bin Laden. The terrorist's followers also met in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, in January 2000 as part of the plot to bomb the USS Cole in Yemen later the same year.

As for the package sent to NBC in New York, it was postmarked on September 18 from Trenton, New Jersey. That state, especially Jersey City, was the home of the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center in 1993, a plot also linked to bin Laden associates.

More generally, as Dick Cheney said last Friday on PBS's "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," "We know that [bin Laden] has over the years tried to acquire weapons of mass destruction, both biological and chemical weapons." Mr. Cheney added that the U.S. has obtained "copies of the manuals" that al Qaeda "actually used to train people" in how "to deploy and use these kinds of substances."

Which brings us to who might have supplied bin Laden's gang. The likeliest answer is some government... The leading supplier suspect has to be Iraq. Saddam Hussein used weapons-grade anthrax against his own Kurdish population with lousy results, before turning to more efficiently lethal chemical weapons. U.S. intelligence sources believe Saddam has stockpiled thousands of pounds of biological agents, including anthrax.
When the Saddam link failed to pan out, Ed Vulliamy (presumably relying on the same secret sources) wrote another Observer story fingering a new culprit:
Neo-Nazi extremists within the US are behind the deadly wave of anthrax attacks against America, according to latest briefings from the security services and Justice Department. Experts on "survivalist" groups and extreme-right "Aryan" militants have been drafted into the investigation as the focus shifts away from possible links with the September 11 terrorists or even possible state backers such as Iraq.

"We've been zeroing in on a number of hate groups, especially one on the West Coast," a source [said].
So is Ed Vulliamy still with the program? Probably not. After six years as UK foreign correspondent, Ed Vulliamy left the USA with evident feelings of bitterness:
It is incumbent upon journalists, I think, to distrust conspiracy theories. But the problem with the conspiracy theory of the machine that lifted George 'Dubya' Bush to high office is that it never lets you down; you wait for the trip wire, but walk on. This is hardly the place to recount my inspections of that mechanism but I did spend many weeks listening in Texas and days at the Securities and Exchange Commission sifting through box files, to become acquainted with its workings.

I wanted, just for instance, to find out which company bought Dresser Industries, once the world's biggest oil services company, of which Prescott Bush (Dubya's grandfather) was director and for which George Bush senior opened up the West Texas oil basin. It was Halliburton, recent beneficiary of a contract in Iraq, where Vice President Dick Cheney made his fortune after being Bush senior's Defence Secretary. And on it goes...

For nearly a decade a group of people exiled from power during the Clinton years had been making plans. Their names are now more or less well known: Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, Douglas Feith. In a series of papers they devised a blueprint for unchallenged and unchallengeable American power, military and political, across the globe, with the Middle East and Iraq as fulcrum. All that was needed to realise that dream - said a document produced by one of their many think-tanks, the Project for the New American Century - was 'a new Pearl Harbour'...

This is no time to recount the drive to war in Iraq, the third turning of that gyre, except to say that all the authors of the 'Project for the New American Century' are now senior members of, or close advisers to, the Bush administration.

4 comments:

gandhi said...

Other breaking anthrax news today:

The FBI gives reporters a two hour scientific briefing but even their top scientist admits that the case "will be like the conspiracy theories that still exist over the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy."

NYT coverage here. Same FBI scientist admits: “There’s always going to be a spore on a grassy knoll.”

NYT's Scott Shane on the man who "solved the anthrax puzzle". Whoo hoo, etc.

gandhi said...

Also, an interesting theory fingering former Enron man and US Army head Thomas E. White.

mapeg said...

gandhi,

Found your great piece on Dr Frank Olsen, Codename Artichoke, Cheney & Rumsfeld in 1975. I've been hoping one of you long-time posters at Glenn Greenwald's site would bring this up.

Anyone who has read and retained just some of the Artichoke story cannot possibly believe that Ivins was anything but a scapegoat.

Thank you so much for posting this here. You did such a great job of putting it all together, why not post the whole thing at Glenn's site?

gandhi said...

thanks mapeg, but I don't think there's a need to copy this stuff verbatim to glenn's site. He's a big boy and does a pretty good job of wading through comments - unlike many other hi-profile bloggers who stay aloof from their own comment threads. I've noticed a few of my links and ideas crepping into his posts, whether that's thanks to me or not, and I'll let him make the call on whether to use this info.

I remember seeing a guy commenting about how his father was an anthrax scientist killed by the CIA and I must admit that I originally wrote him off as a lunatic! Just goes to show how steep the learning curve is, and how hard it is for people to get their heads around this stuff. the perps (Cheney et al) are sick fuckers, and a decent person has a hard time even imagining such depravity.

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