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In a stinging rebuke of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency, a federal judge in Houston has vacated the 1983 conviction of a former CIA operative who had been convicted of conspiracy to export tons of C-4 explosives to Libya in 1977. Judge Lynn Hughes last week accused the government of knowingly using false evidence and suppressing favorable evidence in order to convict Edwin Wilson, now 75. U.S. v. Wilson, nos. H-82-139, H-97-831 (S.D. Texas). Wilson was employed by the CIA from 1955 to 1971. His defense at trial was that he was acting with the knowledge and approval of the agency, claiming that he had continued to work for it after he left its “official” employ. At trial, he was not permitted to testify about the specifics of his alleged agency work. His conviction, Hughes found, hinged on the Briggs affidavit that then-U.S. Attorney Ted Greenberg offered to the court, although he knew it was untrue. Charles Briggs, who was the No. 3 man at the CIA at the time, swore under penalty of perjury that “Wilson was not directly or indirectly associated with the CIA or acting with the CIA’s knowledge and approbation when he arranged and concluded the C-4 shipment from Houston to Libya.” A plan to deceive? Hughes took more than three years to rule on the motion [NLJ, April 14]. His opinion lays out a carefully crafted plan by the CIA and the U.S attorney’s office to deceive the trial court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. When the CIA exhaustively searched its records, it discovered 80 nonsocial contacts between Wilson and the CIA, including more than 40 occasions on which Wilson furnished services to the CIA between 1972 and 1978, including such things as trading weapons or explosives for Soviet military equipment. Prior to the trial, some CIA officials began to have second thoughts about the perjury and expressed their misgivings to U.S. attorneys and DOJ officials, CIA memos reveal. Stanley Sporkin, then the CIA’s general counsel, objected to the word “indirectly” and to using the affidavit at all. Greenberg responded that use of “the Declaration was vital to the case and he intended to use it,” according to a CIA memo. Even government lawyers began to have misgivings, according to Hughes’ opinion. Days after the trial, but before sentencing, Mark Richard, a deputy assistant attorney general, told Lowell Jensen, head of the Justice Department Criminal Division, that he thought they should make full disclosure to the defense and/or the court of what was in their files regarding the work Wilson had done for the CIA. The judge noted that in a later memo, Richard concluded that “disclosure is, unfortunately, necessary. [But] I suspect that I am in the minority.” “He was,” said Hughes. Though a letter was drafted to the defense attorney and the judge, it was never sent. Three government attorneys involved in these decisions later became federal judges. Jensen is a senior judge in the Northern District of California, based in Oakland. After his conviction, Wilson spent years making Freedom of Information Act requests before recovering just one document that contradicted the Briggs affidavit. That document convinced Hughes to appoint David Adler, a Houston solo practitioner and a former CIA operative, to represent Wilson. Wilson culled through more than 300,000 documents before filing his motion in September 1999. Wilson was originally sentenced to a total of 52 years for the Texas conviction and two others in Virginia and New York, the sentences running consecutively. Adler thinks that because this sentence was vacated, Wilson will soon be eligible for mandatory release. U.S. Attorney John DePue represented the government in opposing the motion. He did not return calls seeking comment. Adler said that DePue indicated in a conference call with the judge that he doubted the government would seek to retry Wilson, but that the government is considering whether to appeal Hughes’ ruling. “What the government did was a major step outside of the bounds that’s allowed,” said Adler. “It’s criminal. If I did what they did, I’d be going to jail.” Post’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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