A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments
By H. P. Albarelli, Jr
This is a complicated review - the information in this book is so important, and needs to be read, but it's such a difficult book to read.
H.P. Albarelli spent ten years interviewing people and reviewing documents covering the events surrounding the death of Frank Olson, a biochemist working on secret war projects, who was found splattered on the sidewalk outside his New York hotel in early morning in 1953.
Albarelli has done an extensive investigation on the shadowy world this murder exposed. He interviewed people and discovered documents relating not only to the CIA's search for a truth drug, but also MK-ULTRA, the extensive mind control program which included the horrific work of Dr. Cameron in Montreal, numerous poisonings of unsuspecting civilians and institutionalized people in hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, and prisons, both in the United States and around the world.
He also touched briefly on some of the more exotic CIA programs that have already exposed in the media, i.e. remote viewing, parapsychology as weaponry and the work with Uri Geller, SRI and the Esalon Institute, as well as a brief touch on UFO activity. He hasn't brought out new information about CIA programs that are still covert, and in fact, an educated reader can see numerous areas that he has deliberately shied away from.
He paints a picture of the CIA bringing MAFIA, Gestapo, and Nazi people and programs into the United States under the guise of fighting Communism, and does a Herculean job of explaining to us civilians the inner workings of the CIA bureaucracy, at least at it was in those days, and gives us a flavor of what it must have been like.
He has extensive chapters on various Mafia men, and Mafia connections with the CIA, as well as in-depth discussions of the search for a truth serum, and the search for a way to use people's minds as one would use an automobile or computer - a powerful tool that can be used by an operator to do whatever the operator wishes.
For people who are new to this material, it is very difficult to plow through text with lots of unfamiliar proper names, places, acronyms, and government programs and dates. Unfortunately, this book's structure, and the poor editing makes things worse.
One of the tricks I learned early on when reading this kind of expos� material, to help me keep the different people straight, is to go to the index when I come across a name I've seen several times, but can't quite place. I'll just go back and re-read about that person, to remind me of where they fit in the storyline.
One of the people I lost track of, and went to look up, was George Hunter White, connected with the MAFIA, who ran the New York and San Francisco whore houses for the CIA. I went to the index to start re-reading information about him, and the first five index entries were missing in the text!
The only thing I could think of was that the book had been censored after the index was built, and they removed information about White, but forgot to removed it from the index. But it could be just sloppy editing, because I found many entries that were off by a page or two, implying that the book might have been re-arranged after it was indexed.
I also counted more than a few typos. It used to be that professionally published books never had a typo. Now, it seems that many books have a typo or two in them, but they were especially egregious in this book. (At least the subjects and verbs agreed with each other, which is better than some of the books I've read recently.)
The worst problem was with the notes. This book used end notes instead of footnotes, but there is no superscript in the text to indicate what point the end note is referencing!
There are 22 pages of notes, and not a single one of them is marked in the text as to where it is supposed to go!
I also found the basic structure of the book a problem. Part of the story is not only what happened to Frank Olson, but also the coverup and stonewalling, the destruction of information by the CIA. Unfortunately, Albarelli's approach is to repeat the same story over and over, with minor inconsistencies, major lies, or omissions in each story, to relay to the reader the different stories, and how the official story changed over time.
Unfortunately, over the 700+ pages of this book, it just created a terrible confusion, and the same story, with minor differences, is presented from many peoples' point of views, which, in my opinion, made the book unnecessarily tedious. I wanted to skip over a bunch of the repeated material, but forced myself to stick to the text, but I felt like I was slogging through it.
This is a difficult book to get through, but for people who want to have an understanding of what was going on, I think it's important to read. Part of the reason is that the author's obvious affection for some of the Company people in the book give a flavor of the justification that people used amongst themselves, and helps the reader recognize the source of some of the information.