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Document Creation Date: 
December 22, 2016
Document Release Date: 
June 15, 2010
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Publication Date: 
August 29, 1982
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PDF icon CIA-RDP90-00552R000100500003-4.pdf118.36 KB
Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2010/06/15 :CIA-RDP90-005528000100500003-4 ARTICLE APPF~RED ON PQGE_ E S NEW YORK TINS 29 AUGUST 1982 Wilson's Case Could Define The Power of Spies on Trial By PHILIP TAUBMAN WASHINGTON-If the case of Edwin P. Wilson, the former American intelligence agent accused of illegally aiding Libyan terrorists, goes to trial later this year, the issue of classified information is certain to play a pivotal role in the proceedings. In pretrial hearings and motions, Mr. Wilson's attorney, Herald Price Fahtinger of New York, has threatened to introduce as evidence national se- curity secrets which he says will "shake the C.IA. to its foundations." The Justice Department is expected to present its initial response early in September in papers due to be filed in Federal court here. Not long ago, such threats would have posed serious, even insurmountable, problems for prosecutors handling a criminal case involving sensitive national security in- formation. The prospect that classified information woilld be revealed in the course of a public trial often outweighed law enforcement interests, hampering and in some cases actually bloclting prosecution. The defense tactic, called graymail because of its similarity to blaclanail, was the bane of the Justice De- partment. Former Attorney General Griffin B. Bell, in "Taking Care of the Law," a recently published book , about his service in the Carter Administration, describes the problem of graymail as "appalling." Theoretically, that should no longer be the case. In 1980, Congress enacted the Classified Information Pr~oce- dares Act. The legislation established special guidelines for dealing with sensitive information in criminal cases, including closed pretrial hearings to determine.whether such evidence would be relevant and admissible. In addi- tion, if a judge Hiles that the material should be admitted, the-law gives the Government the right to appeal before deciding whether to modify or drop prosecution. ' The Wilson case promises to be the first major test of the new law. Before leaving Government employment in 1976, Mr. Wilson had worked as an American intelligence ; agent for 22 years. Mr. Wilson specialized in creating and operating fictitious companies used by intelligence agen- cies to launder money and disguise covert operations. He was involved in the U-2 spy plane project and the Bay. of-- Pigsinvasion of Cuha in 1961. _ - Ia 1976, according to the Justice Department, Mr. Wilson and a another former C.I.A. employee, Francis E. Terpil, reached an agreement with Col. Muammar el- Qaddafi, the leader of Libya, to sell their expertise in in- telligence and military matters to help train terrorists. Ths two former agents were first indicted by a Federal grand jury in 1980 on charges of illegally shipping explo- saves to Libya and conspiracy to commit murder. Mr. Wii- sonwas apprehended two months ago. Mr. Terpil remains a fugitive, reportedly living in Beirut. Mr. Wilson's lawyers say they will contend that the C.I.A. sanctioned and supported Mr. Wilson's operations in Libya. The intelligence agency has repeatedly denied any official involvement in the scheme. but Wilson assod- ates have claimed that several senior agency officials were aware of the Libyan venture when it began and asked participants to collect information about Libya and its sponsor, the Soviet Union. Mr. Fahringer has said his c>}ent has evidence of just such complicity. If so, it is likely to include classified documents and information about the operations of the C.I.A. Even if Mr. Wilson lacks such hard evidence about an agency role in Libya, he may possess other sensitive ~ information acquired during his career. Even a partial reconstruction of his Government service, for example, would likely involve sensitive subjects such as th~ meth- ods used to operate intelligence-gathering networks. The identities of current and former covert agents could also be relevant to his case. Few issues concern the C.I.A. more, and President Reagan recently signed legis- lationthat makes the naming of agents a crime. It was such concerns that scuttled critinal cases be- fore enactment of the gravmail law. Mr. Bell, in his book, cites one: "We had to drop the prosecution of two Interna- tional Telephone and Telegraph Corporation executives for testifying falsely about helping the C.I.A. is Chile be- cause ajudge balked at accepting a proposed Govern- mentprotective order on national security material." Perhaps the best known case involved Richard Helms, the former Director of Central. Intelligence who . faced potentia3 charges of perjury for misleading aSea- ate committee about his agency's covert involvement in Chile in the early 1979's, when the C.I.A. tried to block the election of Salvador Allende. Though Mr. BeII denies is his book that graymail was a factor, the Carter Adminis- tration agreed to let Mr. Helms plead no contest to misde- meanorcharges. Earlier this year, the Justice Department delayed prosecution of a former Mexican Government official sus- pected of involvement in a car theft ring in California be- causethe C.I.A. said the man had been an important i~tel- ligencesource. Though the suspect was eventually indict- ed, the United States Attorney in San Diego, William H. Kennedy, was dismissed by President Reagan when he complained in public about the delay. The Wilson case, C.I.A. officials say corl5dently, should not produce such problems: An irnernal investiga- tion of his activities has conv}nced them he has no star- tling secret information that would compromise or em- barrass the agency. Federal prosecutors and investiga- tors still examining his ties to former senior agency offi- cialssaythey are not so sure. STAT. STAT Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2010/06/15 :CIA-RDP90-005528000100500003-4