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False Evidence Cited in Overturning Arms Dealer's Case

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  • Kasten, Kathy
    False Evidence Cited in Overturning Arms Dealer s Case By Dana Priest A federal judge in Houston has overturned a former CIA operative s 1983 conviction for
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 30 12:54 PM
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      False Evidence Cited in Overturning Arms Dealer's Case
      By Dana Priest

      A federal judge in Houston has overturned a former CIA operative's 1983
      conviction for selling explosives to Libya, saying the Justice Department
      "knowingly used false evidence against him" and suppressed the fact that the
      CIA had employed him to trade weapons or explosives with Libya in exchange
      for sophisticated Soviet military equipment.

      Edwin P. Wilson, a CIA officer-turned-arms dealer, will not be freed
      because he is serving lengthy sentences for two other convictions -- selling
      firearms to Libya without permission and conspiring from prison to have
      prosecutors and witnesses against him killed. But his attorney, David Adler,
      said yesterday that the opinion could help persuade courts to reopen those
      cases, as Wilson has asked.

      In a scathing opinion released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes
      identified "two dozen lawyers who actively participated" in the decision to
      withhold information from the court that convicted Wilson on charges of
      shipping 20 tons of C-4 explosives to Libya -- the largest illegal weapons
      deal in U.S. history.

      Hughes, a Reagan administration appointee in the Southern District of
      Texas, also faulted top CIA and Justice Department officials for allowing a
      pivotal -- but untrue -- affidavit from the CIA's then-executive director,
      Charles A. Briggs, to be used in court. The affidavit denied that Wilson did
      work for the agency after he left as a full-time employee in 1971.

      In fact, the CIA used Wilson in various ways after 1971 to collect
      intelligence on Libya, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Hughes found after
      reviewing documents that Wilson obtained and filed with his motion to
      overturn the conviction. Agency employees had more than 80 contacts with him
      in those years, Hughes found, and Wilson had a close relationship with two
      senior CIA officials -- Thomas G. Clines, then the deputy director of
      operations, and Theodore G. Shackley, then the associate deputy director of

      Wilson, now 75, has never denied that he made the explosives deal; his
      defense was that it was part of his cover to gather intelligence.

      "In the course of American justice," Hughes wrote , "one would have to
      work hard to conceive of a more fundamentally unfair process with a
      consequentially unreliable result than the fabrication of false data by the
      government, under oath by a government official, presented knowingly by the
      prosecutor in the courtroom with the express approval of his superiors in

      By the time the trial started, the judge said, "prosecutors knew that the
      CIA had employed Wilson in 1974 and 1975 to trade weapons or explosives with
      Libya in exchange for sophisticated Soviet military equipment like MiG-25

      "Honesty comes hard to the government," Hughes wrote in his 24-page
      opinion, which also accused the Justice Department of purposely making his
      job difficult by moving "the walnut shells constantly, hoping the pea will
      not be found."

      "It has been found," he declared.

      Adler has filed a motion before Hughes's court in Houston asking that 17
      current and former CIA and Justice Department officials be held in contempt.

      Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said yesterday that the
      department "is reviewing the decision and our options."

      The CIA declined to comment on the ruling, but agency spokesman Mark
      Mansfield said: "The CIA didn't authorize or play any role whatsoever in
      [Wilson's] decision to sell arms to Libya. That decision was his, and that
      is why he went to jail."

      Wilson worked full time for the CIA from 1955 to early 1971, mostly as an
      undercover officer. According to Hughes's opinion, he worked after that in
      various capacities for U.S. intelligence agencies and had ties with 12 CIA
      front companies. Shackley met Wilson "on a regular basis" and used Wilson's
      information about the international arms market and the Libyan government.
      Wilson also provided documents about Libya's assassination teams and its
      nuclear weapons program.

      The Briggs affidavit presented at the trial, however, said Wilson "was not
      asked or requested, directly or indirectly, to perform or provide services,
      directly or indirectly, for CIA" after his retirement in 1971.

      Three days after the trial, but before Wilson was sentenced, Hughes said,
      a CIA investigator sent a memorandum to the agency's inspector general
      highlighting "the untrue paragraphs from Briggs' affidavit" and listing five
      CIA projects Wilson had worked on after 1971, including a planned trip to
      Iran with the deputy director of operations to develop an agent there.

      Two days later the CIA forwarded the memo to the U.S. attorney's office,
      and a lawyer at the Justice Department then sent a memo, titled "Duty to
      Disclose Possibly False Testimony," to the deputy assistant attorney general
      of the criminal division.

      According to a CIA memo declassified in 2000, CIA lawyers repeatedly asked
      the lead prosecutor, Theodore Greenberg, not to use the affidavit in court.
      He used it anyway, believing it was "essential to win the case," according
      to the memo.

      The Justice Department never turned all its information over to Wilson's
      attorney. It was unearthed by Wilson over the years through documents
      released to him under the Freedom of Information Act.

      "America did not defeat the Axis because it locked up Japanese Americans,"
      Hughes wrote. "America did not defeat the Soviet Union because it tried to
      lock up its philosophic fellow-travelers here. America will not defeat
      Libyan terrorism by double-crossing a part-time, informal government agent."
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