Ed Wilson was a ghost among spies. He served in the Special Operations Division of the CIA setting up front companies, which were used to ship arms and other supplies around the world.
What's interesting about Ed Wilson is that the details of his career at the CIA are so secretive that there are only a few people alive who really know the truth about his identity. And they're not talking. Wilson officially retired from the CIA in 1971, but after his "retirement" he amassed a fortune running the front companies he had originally established for the Agency, which meant he also owned strategic properties all over the globe. Wilson was known for his opulent lifestyle, swanky parties and extravagant gifts. When the Arms for Libya program was exposed in the early 1980s, Wilson's secret identity was used against him.
Ed Wilson claimed he was working for the CIA, the Agency denied this, and he went to prison for over two decades.
I was introduced to the controversial figure of Ed Wilson in Billy Waugh's
autobiography Hunting the Jackal: in which Waugh details his own life-long exploits in covert operations. Waugh, a legendary badass, retired from the military in 1972. He was working for the United States Postal Service in 1977 when Ed Wilson, on behalf of the CIA, recruited him to help train a Libyan special forces unit.
Billy Waugh writes with specific detail about the tradecraft Ed Wilson employed to arrange their clandestine meeting. In that meeting, Wilson protected the CIA by hiding behind a front company: Consultants International.
In my story Patriarch Run, Ed Wilson used similar tradecraft in his attempt to recruit Jack in the struggle against the leftist Sandinista government, a project on which the historical Wilson worked.
During the fictional meeting, Jack was frustrated that "American power was so busy creating tomorrow’s crisis with today’s intervention."
One of the units trained by Ed Wilson's historical operatives in Libya was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), which was led by Ahmad Jibril, the suspect behind the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
Ed Wilson was eventually convicted for selling weapons to Muammar Qaddafi. Among other crimes, Wilson offered the dictator plans for making a nuclear bomb. Wilson claimed he was working for the CIA, gathering intelligence about Libya's nuclear weapon's program.
Jack, in Patriarch Run, is sent to Tehran to keep Qaddafi from acquiring a nuclear device.
One of the details that makes Ed Wilson a sympathetic character is that most of his twenty-two years in prison were spent in solitary confinement. Wilson's multiple convictions were overturned in 2003, after it came out that the United States Department of Justice and the CIA had covered up evidence.
The Judge wrote: “Because the government knowingly used false evidence against him and suppressed favorable evidence, his conviction will be vacated. America will not defeat Libyan terrorism by double-crossing a part-time informal government agent.”
Ed Wilson was freed in 2004 to live on a monthly $1,080 social security check. He died on 10 September 2012. He was eighty-four years old.