Ex-CIA Agent Framed by the CIA and Federal Prosecutors
By Hans Sherrer
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
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
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Wilson has
identified at least 17 current and former federal
officials who concealed their knowledge of the
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
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.