Agent Framed by the CIA and Federal Prosecutors
By Hans Sherrer
Denied Magazine, Vol. 2, Issue 1
The strange case of former CIA agent Edwin
Wilson provides a rare proof of the legal and moral corruption pervasive
throughout the U.S. Department of Justice and the shortage of compassion
endemic in the federal judiciary.
In 1983, Mr. Wilson was convicted of what was
up to that time the United States' largest illegal arms trading case. He was convicted
of selling 22 tons of C-4 explosives to Libya, and he has spent the last 17 years in federal
prisons. Currently confined in Pennsylvania, Wilson
is awaiting a decision by Texas Federal Judge Lynn Hughes on two motions. One
is to vacate his conviction, and the other is a contempt motion.
The two motions relate to the submission by
federal prosecutors during Mr. Wilson's trial of what the government now admits
was a false affidavit. The false affidavit was made by the CIA's third
highest-ranking official during the latter part of Wilson's trial at the request of federal prosecutors. Edwin
Wilson left the CIA in 1971, and the affidavit stated that except for one
instance after he left, Wilson
"was not asked or requested, directly or indirectly, to perform or provide
any services, directly or indirectly, for the CIA."
During his trial, Edwin Wilson used the
"CIA Defense" that he had an ongoing relationship with the CIA, and
the agency knew about and approved of his arms trading as a way for him to
cultivate and maintain information contacts valuable to the agency. The
affidavit by the CIA's Executive Director undermined Mr. Wilson's defense, and
the jury relied on it to convict him.
Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain
documents years after his conviction that prove what he knew all along: the
affidavit was false and the prosecutors concealed that information from Wilson,
his lawyers, as well as from the trial and appellate judges. The Department of
Justice has admitted in court briefs related to Wilson's two pending motions that not only was the affidavit false, but also that lower level CIA
officials notified the prosecutors immediately after his conviction that the
affidavit wasn't true. The CIA eventually provided the U.S. Department of
Justice with a report detailing that Edwin Wilson was known to have had nearly
100 contacts with CIA officials after he officially left the agency and that he
was a valuable source of information for the agency. Among other things, Wilson uncovered a plot to assassinate President Reagan.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Wilson has identified at least 17 current and former federal
officials who concealed their knowledge of the affidavit's falseness.
One of the motions being considered by Judge
Hughes seeks that those 17 officials be held "in contempt for interfering
in the administration of justice" by concealing their knowledge that the
affidavit was false and that Mr. Wilson continued to work with the CIA for more
than a decade after officially leaving the agency. Since he was covertly working
with the CIA as he said he was at his trial, Wilson didn't have the requisite criminal intent necessary
to be guilty of allegedly committing the crime for which he has been imprisoned
for the past 17 years.
Three of the 17 officials who are known to
have concealed the truth about the affidavit's falsity were Department of
Justice lawyers who became federal judges. Stephen Trott
is currently with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Dr. Lowell
Jensen is the Senior Federal Judge of California's Northern District, and Stanley Sporkin is a retired
judge for the District
Two of the three federal judges have tried to
minimize their wrongdoing in their public comments about the case, and the
third, Judge Jensen, has declined to publicly comment.
Although the U.S. Department of Justice
admits that the affidavit on which the jury relied to convict Wilson was false, the Department is taking the position that
his conviction shouldn't be vacated on procedural grounds. The Department of
Justice maintains that although Wilson's lawyers objected to the affidavit's introduction as
evidence to the jury, he didn't specifically object during his trial to its use
by the government on the grounds that it was false. Furthermore, federal
prosecutors are opposing the overturning of Wilson's conviction on the grounds that his prosecutors
didn't know the affidavit was false at the time they introduced it as evidence,
even though they admitted they learned of the affidavit's falsity within days
of his conviction and concealed that information for years. If the prosecutors
had disclosed that the affidavit was false when they learned of it, Wilson could have made a motion to vacate his conviction
before he was sentenced.
Instead of trying to correct the wrong of obtaining
Edwin Wilson's conviction and his imprisonment for 17 years by their use of an
admittedly false affidavit by a top CIA official, federal prosecutors continue
to fight to keep him in prison at the age of 72.
In retrospect, it appears that Edwin Wilson
was a political pawn sacrificed by high CIA officials in an effort to try to
maintain the public illusion that the Reagan administration wasn't complicit in
covertly providing arms to nations such as Libya, publicly branded as unfriendly to the United States. The Department of Justice is not pursuing justice in
Edwin Wilson's case, but it appears to be trying to avoid the public and legal
embarrassment that would result from Wilson's exoneration and the financial compensation he might
be awarded for his years of being wrongly imprisoned. One's personal opinion
about the nature of Wilson's conviction doesn't change the wrong perpetrated on
him by the very people with whom he was, in effect, working -- the CIA and the United States government.
Edwin Wilson's pending motions were filed in
the fall of 1999 by David Adler, who has a one-man law practice in Houston, Texas. As this is written, no one knows when Judge Hughes
will rule on these motions.
Source: "DOJ admits false data on
ex-agent: Arms dealer's appeal could touch three ex-government lawyers who
became judges." Jason Hoppin, The
National Law Journal, June 12, 2000, p. A9.