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103 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book Examines the Dark Center of the American Dream
H.P. Albarelli, Jr. has written a fully detailed, compelling account of the murder of CIA-linked 1950s Army biochemist Frank Olson. The somewhat surprising death of an otherwise little-known Midwestern scientist would become for contemporary historians, journalists, and researchers -- years after the event -- a crucial nexus providing a gathering point for the...
Published on November 15, 2009 by Jeffrey S. Kaye

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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very clever cover-up
This book claims to chronicle the murder of Frank Olson. However, far too often I have the sense that the author acts as an apologist for the murderous and treasonous acts of Sidney Gottlieb in particular. There is a sense I have of a carefully spun tale and not the actual story. Gottlieb was a monster.

It can be said that there are many heretofore undisclosed...
Published on August 6, 2012 by Adam Trombly


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103 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book Examines the Dark Center of the American Dream, November 15, 2009
By 
Jeffrey S. Kaye (San Francisco, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
H.P. Albarelli, Jr. has written a fully detailed, compelling account of the murder of CIA-linked 1950s Army biochemist Frank Olson. The somewhat surprising death of an otherwise little-known Midwestern scientist would become for contemporary historians, journalists, and researchers -- years after the event -- a crucial nexus providing a gathering point for the multitudinous strands connecting a welter of secretive Cold War intelligence and military programs.

The Olson case burst upon the public's consciousness in the mid-1970s, along with other revelations at the time concerning CIA and military domestic spying and medical experimentation upon unwitting victims, thanks in part to a landmark expose by then-New York Times reporter Seymour Hersh. Pursued by Olson's family, attorneys, government commissions, newspaper reporters, and even some CIA agents, the truth behind Olson's death after a hundred-foot fall from a Manhattan hotel window on November 28, 1953, has been obscured over the years by a combination of myth, government misdirection, amateurish or hack "research," and, crucially, a lack of access to essential documentation. Now, after almost a decade of research, writer and researcher Albarelli has produced his magnum opus on Olson's death, and it has been well worth the wait.

"A Terrible Mistake" is part history book, part biography, part memoir, and part mystery tale. In order to understand the story of Frank Olson's life and death, and the cover-up surrounding that death, Mr. Albarelli must take the reader on a journey into the history of Cold War experimentation on mind and behavioral control, implemented by a welter of CIA and military programs whose names have passed into the iconic nomenclature regarding the underworld of American covert activities: Project Bluebird, Project MKULTRA, Project Artichoke, MKNAOMI, and others. In addition, because Olson was a government scientist with top secret clearance working on biological weaponry programs for the Special Operations Division at Fort Detrick, the book also offers a peek into this very little reported corner of U.S. history.

The book is quite long, yet remains a page-turner. I won't reveal the mystery Albarelli solves, i.e., who killed Frank Olson and why, but the long build-up describing the various covert operations of the intelligence agencies, well-documented in the book, builds to a startling pay-off.

In the first half of the book, the author describes Olson's life, the government programs that touch upon his work, Olson's death and its aftermath. The latter part of the book picks up from the initial public revelations surrounding his death, coming over 20 years after it occurred, and the following investigations, including the reopening of the murder investigation by the New York City's District Attorney's office in 1996. Throughout, we are entertained by a kaleidoscopic sequence of characters, including former CIA chiefs Allen Dulles and William Colby, CIA psychiatrists, Watergate burglars (for instance, we learn James McCord was the CIA agent initially sent out to deal with Olson's death), former CIA agents, hotel managers, hired assassins, mobsters, high-priced attorneys, dubious informants, U.S. diplomats and generals, politicians (including a mid-1970s appearance by both Don Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney), and many, many more.

This is not just a book about a dusty, decades-old murder case. With the news of the past few years around U.S. use of torture, as well as recent revelations by Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Human Rights surrounding possible torture experimentation upon detainees held by the CIA, the history of similar activities by the same United States agencies, as narrated in Albarelli's book, has direct significance to crucial news events of our own day.

I strongly recommend this book. The author's honesty and willingness to look at the facts, rather than wishful thinking, or rely upon accepted wisdom, makes this investigatory journey well-worth the reader's time. The book has a fully-documented "Notes" section, which will satisfy the most avid researcher, or those who wish to double-check the author's assertions. Also included is a section with photographs of key documents.

It seems certain that "A Terrible Mistake" will take its place along other classics of its historical genre. But it is also the most fascinating and entertaining book you will purchase for a long time.

[Full disclosure: the author mentions me in his Acknowledgments section. I had no role in the writing of his book, and my earlier contact with the author amounted to literally a few e-mails. When I wrote the author later and wondered why I was included in the Acknowledgments section, it apparently was due to his appreciation of my own investigations into the current torture scandal, as published in various places online. I thank him for that, but wish to make it clear here that this review is solely based upon my own reading and reaction to this book.]
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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! How Unbelievable!, November 24, 2009
This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
Wow! This book is amazing, stunning, shocking and frightening. I was anticipating the story and solution to Dr. Frank Olson's mystery, but there is so much more - - and with exacting details from incredible sources. It is disgusting that our government would employ men like those that killed Frank Olson. But it is also obviously stupefying when we Americans accept the CIA's 'explanations' such as that 'unsavory characters' must be dealt with intelligence matters. Albarelli's exensive documentation of the connections between Olson's killers and the JFK assassination is certainly worthy of a full-blown federal investigation. But is also becomes clear why that will not happen due to the equally strange FBI connections to those same men.

It seems ironic, or maybe a classic example of poetic justice, that Frank Olson died partially due to abhorrent government experiments. But the revelation by Albarelli of the experiments overseas that directly provoked Olson's murder, and in particular in Pont St. Espirit, France, should spark international outrage.

A Terrible Mistake is the writing of a master investigator and should be read by each American. Albarelli's book helps us grasp fully, and realize our questions about our government are legitimate, with respect to why terrible mistakes have been and continue to be made in the name of freedom and democracy.

R. Pacific
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars While journalism on the radio and TV begin to pander to special interest groups, Albarelli delivers an investigative gem, December 12, 2009
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
In a world where talk radio and cable television news programs have polarized into a voice for either the political right or the political left and where newspaper journalism is in decline as the whole industry has been loosing readership, H. P. Albarelli has come forward with a milestone of investigative journalism in his recent book A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments. The day when you could follow and rely on your favorite newspaper and columnist to uncover and report on the events of the day and to follow the big news stories are vanishing. It's hard to find anyone who digs as deep and spends the time to cover a story as well and in such depth as this author has.
America learned about the abuse of power that the Intelligence agencies had previously enjoyed when the Church Committee, or as it is formally known as the United States Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities published its reports. To this day, intelligence agencies are held to a strict code forbidding collection and retention of information on American citizens by oversight reviews as a result of these investigations and the ensuing public outcry. The Rockefeller Commission was a Presidential Commission on CIA activities in the Untied States and more specifically the CIA mind control program MKULTRA, also held in the mid 1970's. It's because of these commission reports that the Olson family and eventually the public learned of a mysterious death as a result of LSD dosing by the CIA. Imagine the CIA was giving themselves and their friends LSD as they looked for ways to fight the communists and the cold war with the very same thing they took for fun. It was both a tool to use against the enemy and something that the MKULTRA program director gave himself two dozen times. Can you imagine the paranoia that must have existed within the intelligence communities when they learned that the Soviets had several tons of LSD while they were blowing their own brains out? This story is too good to miss.
The book reads like a mystery yet is non-fiction. It is so full of information that was undoubtedly hard to get with many declassified reports, FOIAs and interviews with principal characters spread through out the 900 some pages. It sometimes can make your head spin with the varied story threads of the CIA's secret cold war experiments the author delves into after stetting the stage with who was Frank Olson and why was he is so important to us. It does give a historical context to the book and central theme of whom and why did someone kill a government employee with Top Secret clearance working on the front line of the Cold War.
This country owes a great deal of gratitude to the Olson family for the pain and suffering they have endured as they struggled to find the truth behind the death they would later learn to be a murder. It's because of their struggle that we know what we do about the extremes this country took to fight the cold war. The family again struggled to have justice served with a murder indictment that never came. We also need to thank the extensive investigative journalism efforts of H.P. Albarelli.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A research masterpiece!, December 24, 2009
This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
I wholehearedly echo the effusive praise that previous reviewers have voiced for this book. It is, beyond any doubt, the best-researched and most well written book I have encountered about the history of the secret programs that took place during the cold war(and I have read fairly extensively on the subject.)

Albarelli's work is impeccable -- every source is documented completely and indexed very well, and his writing is engaging and compelling. Although the subject matter is very dark, the author's sharp wit and always-appropriate humor help to counterbalance the shock and horror the book exposes, making it a joy to read.

As a reader who was already somewhat familiar with the Olson case, I was absolutely glued to the text, and found it difficult to put it down before finishing every last note and reading through all the appendices.

Albarelli manages to take a convoluted case, with many names and much information, and make it easy to follow; this is no small feat! He spent nearly a decade researching and writing this book, and that is evident in the level of precision and care with which the material is presented.

Words don't suffice to express how deeply impressed I am by this work -- it is truly astounding.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Seminal Work, December 22, 2009
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
I won't reiterate the encomiums voiced by the other reviewers on here so far, or reiterate the story. Let me just add a few important points. First, Albarelli has done a phenomenal job. Despite the fact that this book is "only" about what happened to Frank Olson (an impossible enough task), it is unequivocally the best researched book on the subject of the government mind control programs that has been written to date. It is also exceedingly well-written, in every way it could be -- that is, Albarelli develops his subject very carefully from every relevant aspect, he writes clearly and compellingly, and he somehow manages not to lose the reader through the huge mass of names and material.

I say these things as someone who has not only trained in the law (I have a J.D. but do not practice), and who has published scholarly work myself -- on legal subjects and outside of that field, and who built her reputation and credibility on those bone fides, but also as someone who has long studied this particular topic, knows the difficulties in it and has seen much bad scholarship, and who is extremely picky about what should be viewed as credible and reliable.

Having said all this, I have only two minor criticisms of Albarelli's book. The first is the manner in which the references are listed. References are listed sequentially in the back of the book by chapter. This method makes it difficult to find things and verify them.

My second criticism is this: Albarelli earned my trust (and that's not easy to do), but although the end is satisfying and startling, I couldn't help but wonder how it was that he simply believed his final sources where he chose not to believe many others along the way. I understand that the sources' information cleared up all the mysteries, but why should I believe these two un-named alleged former CIA men over and above all the others?

The answer is that Albarelli has already made the case long before he brings out his star witnesses, but that was something I had to think about.

I can't complain too much about these things since the book is such a masterpiece overall. A stupendous accomplishment. Bravo Mr. Albarelli and bravo TrineDay!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GAME-CHANGER: COMPLETELY RECONFIGURES ONES VIEW OF COMPARTMENTALIZATION THUS RESHUFFLING ALL OF CIA HISTORY, March 12, 2010
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
Ten Stars.

This book is incredible!!! It really shows like nothing else I have seen before how CENTRAL the MKULTRA Bluebird, Artichoke stuff was. I am continuously amazed at how VIRTUALLY ALL the key players of CIA then and later during JFK assassination were in some way or another involved in these 3 programs from at the latest 1953. It really repositions these programs in terms of ones schema of CIA history, because it shows that the idea of compartmentalization, can obscure as much as reveal: your Kirkpatrick's might know one angle of a program and your Edwards' might know another, but they both knew important stuff very very early. Given the latter's role along with Houston in later "investigations" of the CIA, it is impossible for the readers new gleaning about the MKULTRA part not to affect his her view of the whole of CIA's later history.

In short this book is a game-changer for even folks who are well-read on this topic and its wider implications for US Cold War Policy and society. I recommend people get this book now. Never has such an ostensibly esoteric book been so general in its ramifications. Especially recommended for readers of these two absolutely foundation shaking books:
Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon : Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil
JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing tale of intrigue and surprise, May 28, 2010
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
Hank Albarelli's new book "A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secrect Cold War Experiments" is a spell-binding tale that recalls a time in our history when terrible things were done in the name of patriotism. It takes us on a journey and tells the story of many previously unknown people, places, and events that occurred during the Cold War. I found myself feeling shocked and surprised by what I learned about the goings on at the CIA and elsewhere in our government. This is a true story that has been previously untold and will shock and surprise you. You will learn about things that will seem unbelievable, and you will be amazed at the number of people who were in on the schemes that changed many lives. This book is incredibly well researched and written, and is the result of years of meticulous work. In addition to the amazing amount of research that Mr. Albarelli did, he also tracked down some of these little known individuals and interviewed them regarding their memories of what happened during this time. This is a real work of scholarship while at the same time, being highly readable and entertaining. I highly recommend it for both history and non-hsitory buffs alike and promise that you will not be able to put it down until you come to the end of a remarkable journey!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, April 12, 2011
By 
George Bailey (Bedford Falls, NY) - See all my reviews
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I agree completely with all the previous reviewers that this is an extraordinary work - an essential piece of American history. You MUST read this book. Americans cannot fully understand how our federal government operates today without understanding the fact that there are defense and intelligence agencies which are able to operate outside the limits of our laws, constitutional or otherwise. These agencies are beyond the law and beyond your vote. They control the flow of critical information needed by our ELECTED representatives to make decisions regarding foreign policy, and in some cases, domestic policy. WIth the passage of the Patriot Act they can cloak any of their activities under the assertion of National Security or State Secrets. They can silence any American, and they can disseminate misinformation without detection. This book is proof that there are highly educated people within our government who are willing to perpetrate criminal, immoral, and inhuman acts upon American citizens. Yet, these criminals will never be prosecuted for their crimes. American Exceptionalism is an illusion.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant ,riveting, engrossing !, February 20, 2010
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This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
From time to time,there comes along a book which captures your attention and will remain in your memory forever.The reasons for this may have to do with its special topic, style,contents,research or insights.Such a book is H.P.Albarelli's superb book on the murder of Dr.Frank Olson and the CIA's secret Cold War experiments.After a very long period of research-ten years,to be precise-we are presented with one of the greatest mysteries which happened during the ideological conflict between the major superpowers.On November 28,1953,Dr.Frank Olson,who was a biochemist working with the CIA,fell to his death from a hotel window in New York.This event was described in and endless number of works, but was never investigated fully because of some reasons.Most of them had to do with the fact that many documents pertaining to this occurrence were still classified-and,unfortunately, many still remain so.However,Mr.Albarelli has decided to research to mystery surroundung the case and has come up with many significant and nnew conclusions.I will not reveal them, since I would like that the reader read and form his own judgement about them.One thing is very succinct:the CIA committed most horrible crimes against its own workers and American citizens.This fact is not new, but after reading the the book,one gets the impression hat the CIA was the factotum about all that concerned the security and defense of the USA.In the name of fighting America's enemies, evething was permitted, at least as far as the CIA' bosses were concerned.Thus, an innumerable array of crimes were perpetrated against civilians around the world and inside the USA.These crimes included secret experiments with LSD,projects whose aim was to see how brainwashing would affect the minds of others, etc.Men women,prisoners,prostitutes,scientists and foreigners were drugged with various Frankenstein-like stuff and chemicals without their knowledge or consent, causing them to become insane or other personality disorders.Some of them died as a result,while others prayed to die.Secret operations such as MKULTRA,BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE joined the rank of other monstrous and outlandish ideas like the notorious PHOENIX program of the seventies.All of these were illegal, as the committee investigating them during the middle of the seventies of the previous century established.The term chosen quite appropriately for the CIA of those days was:"A ROGUE ELEPHANT".Mind control research was one of the ways that got the blessing of the highest govenment officials.
There are six parts in this book.The first one is a reconstruction-in the best possible way-of what happened before,during and after the bizzare accident.The second part,named "From brainwashing to LSD",renders the history of the above-mentioned secret operations.The third part covers a number of individuals who played the major part in Olson's death, and so on.You will meet hideous characters, among them Dr.Sidney Gottlieb,who could easily be named the American Dr. Mengele.Why this is so, you will have to find out for yourself.But Gottlieb was not alone.There were higher officials who condoned those tragic and terrible acts and Mr.Albarelli spares no one.
The research which was done in writing this masterpiece is,indeed, beyond any imagination and, in fact, I cannot recall a book where for a tiny event such as Olson's death (which for a historian it can be a microhistory),such an effort was invested in examining tens of thousands of document pages,testimonies,investigations,depositions or court procedures.
The book has appendixes about mind control victims and photos of relevant documents.Does the USA employ the same tacticts to day in fighting against its enemies? What about biological and chemical warfare these days? What about the scientists working for secret government project today? We cannot know the answers to theses questions.One thing is clear ,after reading this book:in the name of warfare, American doctors and other scientists perpetrated horrible crimes which were not only a contravention of the Hippocratic oath, but also were committed in spite of the Nurmberg code from 1947.
My only criticism concerns the one(s) responsible for proofreading the text.These typos are to be found on pages 187,201(Vogeler and not Volgeler) and 634(all right, and not alright).But all these are are trifle matters.I heartily recommend to read the book to any intelligent reader who would like to learn more about a fascinating episode-one of so many-concerning the Cold War and the way a government branch went berserk when it employed all the illegal means to get to the end.Indeed, Mr.Albarelli's book merits five stars.
I wish I could give it some more!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's an education in a book!, November 24, 2010
This review is from: A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments (Hardcover)
A Terrible Mistake is more than just Frank Olson's story. Olson died from a 10 story fall out a hotel window to a New York City sidewalk during the 1953 holidays. A terrible tragedy endured by the Olson family. This reader accepted mainstream press accounts, over the years, that it was a LSD-induced suicide jump. H.P. Albarelli's book destroys the cover story, and much to this reader's surprise, actually reveals the culpable parties! The final 100 pages unveils how the CIA operated at times and its associations with criminal elements. Pierre Lafitte may be the most interesting character in the book? This reader assumed the story was over with the 1975 government apology by President Ford. It's not the case, the story continues right up to the 21st Century. A Terrible Mistake is also much more than just a whodunnit, it's a detailed account of the progression of biowarfare research and the LSD story from the earliest days of the CIA and Fort Detrick. It's amazing the importance a small town in France, Pont St Esprit, played in the Frank Olson tragedy. LSD was the cause and a cover story all at once to hide the elimination of someone repulsed by disgusting biological experimentaton on innocent people. It's an education in one book--a must read!
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