Within a year, three witnesses in an
investigation died. Rafael Villaverde. a Cuban refugee.
disappeared at sea after his speedboat exploded off the
coast of Florida; Kevin Mulcahy. an electronics expert.
was found dead in an isolated motel in the Shenandoah Valley-apparently
a victim of exposure; and Waldo Dubberstein, an archaeologist
and expert on the Middle East, died of a shotgun blast to
his head-a presumed suicide.
All three had worked for the CIA and,
in the mid 1970s. became involved in mysterious conspiracies
plotted by a former CIA agent named Edwin P. Wilson. A series
of investigations by various federal agencies, begun in
1976 led to Wilson's indictment in 1980 and disclosed the
following pieces of a murderous puzzle.
Villaverde, who had served the CIA as
a saboteur in Cuba, was recruited by Wilson as a hired gun
and promised a million dollars for an assassination in Egypt.
Mulcahy, a CIA specialist in secret communications technology.
was hired to supervise the smuggling of electronic and military
equipment. Dubberstein, an ex-CIA man whose subsequent work
for the Pentagon included compiling the daily military intelligence
summary for the Secretary of
Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff a position that
gave him access to the ultra secret
Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP), the precise order
of battle for nuclear war was paid by Wilson to sell
his country's secrets.
Assassin, smuggler and spy: Why had these
men accepted such nefarious assignments?
The answer each gave was that he had
been recruited by Wilson under the pretense that he was
still a CIA executive. In the espionage world. misrepresenting
one's side or organization in order to get an opponent to
cooperate is called a "false flag- recruitment. When
the recruit realizes he has been duped, he was too far compromised
to easily withdraw his cooperation.
Wilson, who had been fired from the CIA
in 1971, artfully used the false flag trick for eight years
to penetrate deep inside the U.S. intelligence establishment.
In addition to Villaverde, Mulcahy and Dubberstein, Wilson
attracted to his false flag no fewer than three dozen intelligence
and weapons specialists. including CIA officers on active
duty. senior military officers and civilian weapons designers
with top-secret clearances. Through these connections, he
obtained secret CIA cables from the Far East, NSA computer
procedures for detecting submarines and missile, assassination
devices from CIA suppliers and exotic secret weapons from
the Navy and CIA testing base at China Lake in California.
Wilson also clandestinely exported to Libya all the components
(including technicians and specially developed exploding
plastics from the CIA) for manufacturing terrorist bombs
disguised as ashtrays and other innocent looking objects.
Even worse, the explosive in the ashtrays had distinctive
characteristics and a 'signature' that could he traced back
to, the CIA.
The damage Wilson has done to U.S. intelligence
cannot be assessed merely in terms of stolen secrets and
weapons technology. It runs to the very foundations of the
CIA: its credibility. The directors of Central Intelligence
share a common nightmare: the penetration of the U.S. intelligence
system through the recruitment of its own agents by an enemy.
Such moles burrowing from within and familiar with its sources.
methods and vulnerabilities, would be in a position to compromise
even the most carefully guarded state secrets. The defense
against such a penetration is "quality control,"
a euphemism in the CIA that includes examining employees
with lie detectors. investigating their associations and
travel. auditing their finances and, if necessary, wiretapping
and other surveillance.
Yet all these techniques of "quality
control" failed to detect Wilson's recruitment of CIA
personnel. At least two CIA officers on active duty moonlighted
for Wilson (one of them used his CIA credentials to recruit
an entire team of Green Berets for the Libyan dictator,
Muammar Qaddafi). In addition. Wilson hired four part-time
CIA contract employees and a dozen former CIA officers,
many of whom still had CIA clearance and consulting status.
Moreover, even after being fired from the CIA, Wilson maintained
a close association with two of the agency's top executives-Thomas
G. Clines, the director of training for the clandestine
services, and Theodore G. Shackley, who held the No. 2 position
in the espionage branch. Both of these men sat in on meetings
that Wilson held with his operatives and weapon suppliers
and, by doing so, helped further the illusion that his activities
had the sanction of the CIA an illusion crucial to
keeping his false flag attractive.
Clines not only met with Wilson informally,
but Wilson used his legal and office facilities to set up
corporations for Clines' personal use, Clines had also been
the control officer for one of the Cuban exiles whom Wilson
recruited as an assassin. In reviewing the evidence in 1977,
Adm. Stansfield Turner. then the new director of the Central
Intelligence Agency, concluded that Clines had been working
"in collaboration" with Wilson, and permitted
him to resign quietly from the agency. Subsequently, Wilson
secretly funneled $500,000 from a bank in Geneva into one
of the shell corporations, money which Clines used to finance
deals to ship US arms to Egypt. (Clines repaid money after
Wilson's indictment in 1980.)
Shackley had known Wilson and Clines
since the early 1960s, when they had all worked on preparations
for the invasion of Cuba. He explained during an internal
investigation by the CIA that he had not wanted to be a
captive of the CIA system, that Wilson had served as an
outside contact. Yet, according to federal prosecutors who
examined the CIA's files on Wilson, Shackley had not filed
reports of his contacts with Wilson and his associates,
nor had he recommended that they be debriefed by the CIA's
domestic contacts office the usual channel for such
intelligence. Further, Shackley had intervened on Wilson's
behalf within the intelligence community on at least two
occasions and ridiculed Kevin Mulcahy as an "irrational,
paranoid, alcoholic and unreliable informant," after
Mulcahy reported some of Wilson's illicit deals to the FBI
and CIA in 1976. The CIA's investigation failed to overcome
the defenses of this Old Boy network: Indeed, even after
Mulcahy informed on Wilson, CIA officers continued working
for Wilson. So much for the idea of quality control.
Wilson was anything but inconspicuous.
To many, he was Washington's answer to the Great
Gatsby. His 2500-acre farm, bordering on the estate of Sen.
John Warner and Elizabeth Taylor in the hunting country
of Virginia, was the site of weekend barbecues that attracted
senators, congressmen, admirals, generals, CIA officers
and other high government officials. Wilson's three private
planes were usually available to ferry VIPs wherever they
wanted to go. He also had properties scattered around the
world, an apartment in Geneva, a hunting lodge in England.
a seaside villa in Libya and real estate in North Carolina,
Lebanon and Mexico.
The cash seemed to flow as freely as
the hospitality in Wilson's world. Paul Cyr, for example,
who then worked for the Pentagon, came to the Wilson farm
for turkey shoots and wound up accepting cash bribes for,
among other things. allowing Wilson to plant bugs in the
Army Materiel Command. (In 1982, Cyr pleaded guilty to accepting
bribes from Wilson and agreed to cooperate with the federal
prosecutors.) Another Wilson associate said he had seen
cash distributed to a long list of congressmen and government
officials, and that "whatever else you call it, blackmail
was the name of the game." The same man maintained
that Wilson had installed tape recorders in his Washington,
D.C., office. in his limousines and at the farm, and added.
"I assumed that almost everything said was recorded."
During these festive weekends. no one
asked where or how Wilson got the money to play the Great
Gatsby. But it certainly was not family money. Wilson came
from an impoverished farm in Idaho and had to work as an
attendant in a laundry room to put himself through college
in Oregon. In 1952. he enlisted in the Marines, and in 1955,
he joined the CIA as a S70-a-week security guard. For the
next 16 years, he worked as an undercover agent. When he
finally left the CIA in 1971, he was earning only $20,800
a year. From then until 1976, he went to work for a secret
naval intelligence operation. called Task Force 157, for
an equally modest salary. In an interview, Wilson explained
that he had worked for the Navy for "patriotic reasons...
not money." Yet, despite his meager salaries, Wilson
amassed a fortune.
According to IRS data released in July
1983, Wilson made at least $21.8 million from servicing
Libya alone, Libya funneled this huge sum of money into
Wilson's account in return for special equipment and personnel
that could be used to implicate the CIA in Qaddafi's assassination
plots and other conspiracies.
his defense, Wilson's attorneys argued that Wilson had in
fact been working all along for the CIA. The U.S. Attorney
E. Lawrence Barcella. however, tore this defense to shreds
by showing that Wilson was unable to provide any details
of his relations with the agency, not even the obligatory
cryptonym of his operation or the name of his case officer.
A federal court in Virginia convicted Wilson of exporting
firearms to Libya without permission and sentence him to
10 years in 1983. He was then convicted in Texas of
exporting explosives to Libya and sentenced to 17 years
and, in New York, he was convicted him of attempted murder,
criminal solicitation, obstruction of justice, tampering
with witnesses, and retaliating against witnesses, and sentenced
him to 25 years, to run consecutively with his Virginia
and Texas sentence.
spent the next 20 years in prison. Then, on October
29, 2003, Judge Lynn N. Hughes of Federal District Court
in Texas threw out the 1983 conviction after finding that
prosecutors knowingly used false testimony to undermine
his defense. Juge Hughes found that the crucial
CIA claim that Wilson had not worked for the organization
since his dismissal in 1971 had been undermined by a CIA
memorandum. This finding left opened the question
of whether Wilson was rogue at the time of his nefarious
UPDATED OCTOBER 2004