Publisher: ibooks, inc
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 5/5/2004
Summary: Recommended. A story of greed, bringing to mind the Karl Marx quote that a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him.
This book relates events in the life of one Edwin Wilson, specifically his business relationship with Libya’s Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s regime and the supply of weapons.
The author’s slant on the Edwin Wilson story is to run a parallel story on U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella, the man who brought him to justice. Wilson wound up being sentenced to 15 years in prison for smuggling handguns and M-16 rifles to Libya and another 17 year sentence for shipping the explosive, C-4.
This is not the best of Peter Maas’ books-“The Valachi Papers” and “Serpico” hold that honor–but in MANHUNT, Maas captures an underlying tone emanating from the life of Wilson that reverberates in the lives of others of similar ilk. Really the first of the post-Watergate era traitors exposed to notoriety, Edwin Wilson was a man who felt entitled. It is that one characteristic -a proclivity to feel entitled-that links Wilson to all the other spies and traitors shuffling their to a courtroom over the last twenty or so years.
Graduating from college in 1951, becoming an officer in the U. S. Marines, stationed in Japan and sent to Korea after the fighting was over, he spent his time leading patrols along the demilitarized zone. In 1955, he damaged his knee and was sent back to the states. By October 1955, he was sworn into the CIA with a civile service rating of GS-5 with a salary of $3,670 per year. Maas points out that this amount was not even half of what Wilson earned during his college summers when he ran a combine on the western farmlands of Idaho.
Money, as events proved, was to be the focal point of Wilson’s life. Starting out as just another security guard in the CIA’s Office of Security, he eventually, in 1960, moved into clandestine services. The International Organizations Division of the CIA was responsible penetrating student groups, the media and labor unions. It was here that Wilson laid the foundation for becoming a career contract operative for the CIA. In 1964 he was assigned to Special Operations, which is really the “A” in CIA. He became head of a CIA proprietary company, Maritime Consulting. What this company did was simply facilitate the shipment of high-end technology equipment to countries in which the CIA had a “plan for betterment”. While carrying out CIA directives, Wilson managed to finagle people, paper and policy in such a way that he was able to skim monetary profits for himself.
While most Americans have a general low opinion of government workers, there is also a willingness to accept some of these public servants as patriotic, conscientious toilers for the public good. So it is somewhat surprising when a public servant is revealed as an outright crook. It should not be surprising of course. There are those herded ten-percent in any walk of life who believe themselves entitled. It is a fascinating attitude, relying upon the mental magic of seeing oneself as a victim to fully blossom into acts and deeds. Edwin Wilson was one of the herded ten percentors.
The CIA’s strategy of erecting business “fronts” to ease implementation of the prevailing political agenda resulted in more than a hand full of Edwin Wilsons. Edwin Wilson took self-profiteering to an Olympus level. Prior to his arrest, he was encamped in Libya, far from the arms of a reluctant Justice Department that wanted to bring him to justice. The fact that he was brought to justice can be laid at the doorstep of one man-U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella. If it were not for Barcella, there was a very good chance Wilson would play out his CIA, national-security-business role indefinitely. For sophisticated traitors like Wilson, the juice of the role was like the ingredients of a made-for-TV-movie script with an alternate ending in which the protagonist proclaims nefarious deeds as endeavors for the safety and security of the United States, or spilling the secret beans on everyone if hauled off to court.
After reading MANHUNT, you get the feeling that there was more to Edwin Wilson than Maas presents-not much more, but something. While greed can explain Wilson selling weapons to the terrorist sponsoring Libyan government, greed does not fully explain why he would allegedly attempt to hire a hit-man to kill his former wife and the man who hunted him down, U. S. Attorney Larry Barcella. Maas does not flush-out the core Edwin Wilson. However, he has given us the surface with enough pits and troughs to mark the breed.