A federal judge in Houston has thrown out the 20-year-old arms smuggling conviction of a former CIA agent, outlining in scathing terms how federal officials knowingly used a false affidavit at his trial and concealed the act through years of appeals, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Edwin Wilson was convicted in Houston in 1983 of smuggling arms to Libya at a time when the threat of Libyan terrorism was major news. Congress was mounting investigations into controversial CIA activities around the globe, and CIA administrators were actively trying to deflect criticism.
Wilson, now 75, has been in prison ever since, serving a 52-year sentence. His conviction was vacated in a decision made Monday and announced Tuesday.
Wilson claimed he shipped 20 tons of plastic explosives out of Houston Intercontinental Airport at the request of the CIA. The federal government denied this, and at the heart of the case against him was a CIA affidavit submitted by prosecutors stating Wilson had not done any work for the CIA since his retirement in February 1971.
But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes spelled out in his order vacating Wilson’s conviction, that the CIA forwarded a memo to the U.S. attorney’s office a few days after he was convicted — but before he was sentenced — alerting them that they had since discovered at least five projects Wilson had worked on for the CIA after 1971 — including a planned trip to Iran with the CIA’s deputy director.
The CIA forwarded the memo to the U.S. attorney’s office, Hughes said, but after debating the issue for months, decided not to inform Wilson’s attorneys. Wilson appealed, but the government failed to acknowledge that the affidavit was false.
The Justice Department has until Feb. 6, 2004, to initiate a new trial against Wilson.