Editor’s note: In 1998, WorldNetDaily first reported on the CIA’s secret behavior-modification program MK-ULTRA, which included experimentation with LSD on unsuspecting subjects. Authors H.P. Albarelli Jr. and John Kelly’s new book deals with the mysterious death of one alleged subject, Dr. Frank Olson. In this installment, the authors’ third for WorldNetDaily, Albarelli and Kelly reveal new evidence that suggests a possible link between Olson’s death and several other similar deaths in the same time period.
New evidence emerging from the five-year grand jury investigation into the 1953 death of CIA biochemist Frank Olson reveals concerns about several additional puzzling deaths. At least one of those deaths is noted in the CIA’s record of its own internal investigation into Olson’s fatal plunge from a Manhattan hotel window. That death, detailed in a top-secret CIA report dated December 3, 1953, was Laurence Duggan’s.
A former high-ranking State Department employee, Duggan fell screaming from a 16th-floor window of his Manhattan office on Dec. 20, 1948. Duggan’s lifeless body was found moments later on a Fifth Avenue parapet. He was dressed in a business suit, overcoat, scarf and only one overshoe. Police found the missing overshoe on the floor of his office.
As with the Olson case, New York City police deemed Duggan’s death an “accident or suicide,” and the Manhattan Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that he had “jumped or fallen.” Friends and family of Duggan disputed these findings and claimed that he had been a victim of “foul play.”
Ten days before his death, the FBI questioned Duggan about communist espionage in the State Department. From 1935 to 1944, Duggan served as U.S. State Department chief of the Division of American Republics where he oversaw diplomatic relations with Central and South America.
According to FBI documents, Duggan admitted during questioning that he had had contacts with Soviet intelligence agents but denied being a spy and failed to explain why he didn’t report the contacts. When pressed for further details Duggan walked out of the interview.
Prominent journalists Drew Pearson and Edward R. Murrow vigorously defended Duggan’s reputation after his death and maintained that espionage suspicions about him were totally groundless. Indeed, well into the 1990s, many respected historians defended the Harvard-educated Duggan as a loyal public servant driven to suicide by false accusations.
Then several copiously researched books, including “Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America” by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, were published that amply documented that Duggan was an active Soviet spy for many years. Duggan handed over highly classified information to the Soviets during World War II, including U.S. plans for the invasion of Italy and a possible invasion of Nazi-occupied Norway. Ironically, Duggan’s secret code-name given him by his Russian handlers was “Frank.”
Duggan’s death is noted in the CIA’s investigation into Frank Olson’s death conducted in late-November and December 1953. CIA security official James McCord wrote on Dec. 3 that the two New York City detectives investigating Olson’s fatal fall, James Ward and David Mullee, “were considering the possibility that [Olson] and [CIA official Robert V.] Lashbrook were involved in some committee hearing for they were aware that Sen. McCarthy’s Committee was in town around the time [of Olson’s death].”
Wrote McCord, “[Detective Mullee] stated that the case of DUGGAN of the State Department came to mind, and as a result [the detectives] called the FBI to see whether or not they knew anything about either Lashbrook or [Olson].”
According to FBI documents concerning the Olson case, detective Mullee spoke with Special Agent Edward A. McShane Jr. about his concerns. McShane, a 38-year veteran with the bureau who died last year, told Mullee that Olson’s death was not only similar to Duggan’s but also “brought to mind” the “recent deaths of three other government officials” as well as the “odd suicide of James Forrestal.”
Former Secretary of Defense James Vincent Forrestal died on May 22, 1949, after falling from the 13th floor of the U.S. Naval Hospital at Bethesda, Md. Forrestal’s broken, bloodied body was found clad in pajamas and a bathrobe. The cord of the robe was wound tightly around his neck. He had been hospitalized due to “operational fatigue” attributed to “excessive work.”
Forrestal’s death was ruled a suicide, but the matter for many people, including members of Forrestal’s family, remained far from resolved. Forrestal’s brother, Henry, told reporters at the time of the death that he “believed that someone threw my brother out the window” and that he considered it quite strange that his brother died “just a few hours before I was to take him home.” Additionally, James Forrestal’s spiritual adviser, Monsignor Maurice Sheehy, told reporters that an unidentified Navy warrant officer at the hospital told him that Forrestal “didn’t kill himself.”
Over the past several decades, speculation has focused on the possibility that Forrestal might have been an unwitting victim of the greatly overlooked top-secret Project CHATTER, operated by the Office of Naval Intelligence. CHATTER was a precursor program to the CIA’s Projects Bluebird, ARTICHOKE and MK/ULTRA. CHATTER was modeled on bizarre Nazi experiments conducted at concentration camps and OSS truth drug programs. The object of the project was to devise the means to “eliminate free will in targeted individuals,” causing them to do anything desired, including assassination and suicide.
At least two of the three deaths of “government officials” noted by McShane to detective Mullee, but not specifically identified in documents, may have been those of James Speyer Kronthal and John C. Montgomery. Both men died under unusual circumstances only months before Frank Olson.
Kronthal, a high-ranking CIA official, who worked under the cover of a post at the State Department, was discovered dead in his Georgetown home in Washington, D.C. on April 1, 1953. Kronthal’s fully clothed body was found with an empty vial beside it by two CIA employees, Gould Cassal and McGregor Gray, after they went to his home to see why he had not come to work.
According to D.C. police files, shortly before his death Kronthal wrote letters to CIA directors Allen Dulles and Richard Helms. The contents of those letters have never been revealed. An autopsy of Kronthal’s body failed to reveal the cause of death or the contents of the empty vial. Police ruled the death a suicide.
Kronthal during World War II and after worked closely with then-OSS official Allen Dulles in Bern, Switzerland. Kronthal was an Army captain assigned to the OSS, precursor to the CIA. At the time of his death, the Washington Post wrote that Kronthal was “mentally upset” because of “work pressures.”
But there was more to the story. In 1975, Rockefeller Commission investigators learned that long-concealed CIA files revealed that Kronthal was a Soviet spy who had been blackmailed into service by the KGB and that Kronthal had had dinner privately with Allen Dulles on the evening of his death. According to informed sources, Rockefeller Commission director David W. Belin was debriefed in 1975 on the facts surrounding Kronthal’s death by CIA Security Office officials. Ironically, Belin died in a freak fall in a hotel room in November 1998.
James C. Montgomery, ostensibly head of the State Department’s Finnish desk but believed to actually have been a CIA employee, died of strangulation on Jan. 24, 1953, in his Washington, D.C., home. His nude body was found with a bathrobe cord around his neck. Montgomery’s death was ruled a suicide by D.C. police, but U.S. Congressman Fred E. Busbey of Illinois called for a full House investigation into the death. Busbey told the Washington Post six-days after Montgomery died, “There are stories being bruited about that the police have been told not to talk.” Busbey’s fellow House members declined to take up an investigation.
The third “death” mentioned by McShane might have been a reference to the “attempted suicide” of CIA security analyst Frederick E. Crockett. On April 8, 1953, just seven days after Kronthal’s death, Crockett was discovered semi-conscious in his gas-filled D.C. apartment on Wisconsin Avenue. Police ruled that Crockett had attempted to kill himself. The CIA told reporters that “there was no reason to believe” that Crockett’s attempt to kill himself had anything to do with Kronthal’s death. Crockett survived the incident and lived until Jan. 17, 1978.
Asked to comment about these deaths and their possible connection to the investigation into Frank Olson’s death, a spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office declined to comment, citing a “long standing policy of not discussing or commenting about on-going investigations.”
This article is drawn from the forthcoming book, “A TERRIBLE MISTAKE: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Cold War Experiments” by H.P. Albarelli Jr. and John F. Kelly.