2012-09-23 02:31:39 UTC
Edwin Wilson dies at 84; former CIA operative
Edwin Wilson was convicted in 1983 of shipping arms to Libya and served more
than 20 years in prison before his conviction was overturned.
Times Staff and Wire Reports
September 23, 2012
Edwin Paul Wilson, a former CIA operative who was branded a traitor and
convicted of shipping arms to Libya but whose conviction was later overturned
after he had served more than 20 years in prison, died Sept. 10 in Seattle. He
The cause was complications from heart-valve replacement surgery, his family
Wilson, who posed as a rich American businessman and set up companies that
served as fronts for the CIA, was convicted in 1983 for shipping 20 tons of
powerful explosives to Libya. At trial, he said he did it to ingratiate himself
with the Libyan government at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency.
A federal judge threw out his conviction in 2003, ruling that prosecutors
knowingly used false testimony to undermine his defense.
Wilson had been convicted of selling arms and explosives to Libya in the late
1970s and early 1980s, and of other crimes.
He served most of his 22 years in prison in solitary confinement. After his
release in 2004, he moved to Edmonds, Wash., north of Seattle, to live with his
While in prison, he sought to prove his innocence by using the Freedom of
Information Act to request government documents. Even after his release, the man
once described as "a death merchant" and "terrorist" worked to clear his name.
"I can't think of one thing I did that I have any guilt about," Wilson told
seattlepi.com in 2006. "I didn't hurt anybody. I didn't get anyone killed."
Born May 3, 1928, to a farming family in Nampa, Idaho, he grew up poor. He
worked as a merchant seaman and earned a psychology degree in 1953 from the
University of Portland.
He served in the Marines in Korea, and after he was discharged he joined the CIA
in the mid-1950s.
After leaving the CIA in 1971, he made millions in the arms trade and bought a
sprawling farm in northern Virginia.
As of 1982, Wilson was in hiding in Libya but was lured out and brought to New
York for arrest.
A federal court in Virginia convicted him of exporting firearms to Libya without
permission and sentenced him to 10 years. He was convicted in Texas in 1983 and
received a 17-year sentence for similar crimes.
A New York court sentenced him to 25 years, to run consecutively with the Texas
and Virginia sentences, for attempted murder, criminal solicitation and other
charges involving claims that Wilson conspired behind bars to have witnesses and
His survivors include two sons and a sister.
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