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Ex-CIA Officer Appeals Conviction

October 5, 1999 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ Former CIA officer Edwin P. Wilson, jailed since 1983 for illegal arms smuggling to Libya, has filed an appeal accusing federal prosecutors of knowingly using a false affidavit to convict him.

Wilson’s claims are accompanied by hundreds of secret government memos that his lawyers obtained.

Wilson’s main job for the CIA before he retired in 1971 was setting up front companies abroad while posing as a rich American businessman. He lived his cover to the hilt and made himself a multimillionaire in the process. He was arrested in 1982 after being lured out of Libya by a government informant and was sentenced to 52 years in prison.

The appeal is of a 1983 conviction for shipping 20 tons of C-4 plastic explosives from Houston’s Intercontinental Airport to Libya. Even if his appeal were successful, Wilson would still face prison time on two other convictions. But his defense attorney, David Adler, believes similar evidence exists that could throw out a Virginia conviction of Wilson for illegally exporting guns to Egypt.

Adler said the secret government memos detail lengthy efforts to hide the use of the false affidavit and prosecutors’ failure to release information that would have aided Wilson’s defense during his 1983 Houston trial on charges of selling tons of explosives to Libya.

Wilson claims that his dealings with Libya, for which he was convicted, were the result of a CIA request that he ingratiate himself with the Libyans after he officially retired from the agency.

The affidavit by then-CIA Executive Director Charles Briggs, the agency’s No. 3 official, said the agency had not asked Wilson either directly or indirectly to provide any service to the agency after he retired.

A four-volume appeal filed Sept. 8 includes more than 800 pages of exhibits that allegedly show government lawyers knew the crucial affidavit was false the night before it was presented in court.

The documents show that Wilson in fact had some 80 contacts with the CIA from his retirement through 1978 and provided a variety of services, including arranging gun sales to a Saudi Arabian security agency and the shipment of two desalinization units to Egypt.

Documents also show prosecutors then spent nearly eight months discussing whether to disclose that fact to the court and Wilson’s lawyers.

The evidence was enough to prompt an unusual courtroom admission earlier in March from Justice Department attorney Arlene Reidy.

``We have a lot of documents already that I think show that there was a clear problem with the affidavit’s accuracy and that the individuals involved were well aware of that problem,″ Ms. Reidy told U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, according to a transcript.

The former CIA general counsel, Stanley Sporkin, now a federal judge in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday there was no intention to cover up. Rather, he said, officials had a difference in philosophies about how to handle the information about Wilson’s activities.

``It would be wrong to think this was in bad faith,″ Sporkin said.

The Justice Department has until mid-January to respond to the appeal. If Wilson’s conviction was overturned, he could be retried.

The secret documents were obtained by Wilson’s defense under the Freedom of Information Act and through court discovery. They were resealed by Hughes on Sept. 23, but The Associated Press had obtained copies before the order was signed.

Speaking from federal prison in Allenwood, Pa., Wilson said the alleged conspiracy against him was motivated by ambition.

``A few greedy people in the government saw an opportunity to make a name for themselves,″ Wilson said. ``The longer I was in prison, the more they had to cover it up and it keeps going higher.″