Central Inlligence Agency Director Stansfield Turner fired two mid-level agency employees yesterday after learning that they had provided unauthorized assistance to former CIA officers allegedly involved in selling explosive devices and other material overseas.
In and interview yesterday Adm. Turner confirmed that he had asked for and received resignations from the two employees adding that he had agonized over the matter and found it "the most difficult decision I have made in 31 years" of military service.
The firings and Turner's willingness to comment publicly run counter to a long CIA tradition of handling such matters quietly. Turner, however, declined to name the employes who were fired.
Another CIA official said yesterday that Turner's action "sends a clear message to everyone that it is a new era and the slightest appearance of wrongdoing will not be tolerated."
Turner said the two employees had done nothing illegal, adding, "They displayed a lack of professionalism and judgement which in my view endangers our agency . . . I lost confidence in the individuals concerned and do not fell that strict control of this agency can be maintained had they been permitted to remain."
A notice of the action was put up on bulletin boards at CIA headquarters yesterday afternoon and sent to every post abroad.
Turner said he personally began an internal investigation after a published report two weeks ago about the alleged activities of Edwin P. Wilson, a former CIA operative who now heads a small Washington consulting [TEXT FROM SOURCE]
Allegations against Wilson, according to informed sources, include charges that he:
Contracted with the Libyan government to supply 500,000 sophisticated detonation timing devices that can be set t o go off at any time up to one year.
Smuggled 500 of the devices in physician's prescription bottles along with explosives hidden in 55-gallon drums on a passenger flight to Europe and Libya last summer.
Speaking yesterday through his attorney, William O. Bittman, Wilson said he "categorically denies" all the charges.
The two dismissed employees, according to sources, assisted Wilson by introducing him to firms that supply the CIA with sensitive equipment. In those introductions the impression was left that Wilson was acting on behalf of the CIA. One of the firms involved was American Electronic Laboratories in Colmar, Pa.
American Electronic supplies about 10 detonation devices to Wilson and received $1,800 in what company officials thought was a regular CIA purchase.
Turner, according to an aide, spent dozens of hours on the investigation, made a secret presentation to the Senate Intelligence Committee last Friday, worked much of last weekend and missed a Cabinet meeting this week because of the probe.
One of the CIA employees fired yesterday unwittingly assisted Wilson in obtaining detonation devices that were provided to the Libyan government as the first phase of a $10 million contract for explosives and related equipment, according to sources.
The second CIA employee was an undercover operative who assisted Wilson with contracts in the sale of other material to a foreign government, the sources said.
Wilson had associates in these transactions who are also former CIA employees.
In both cases, the equipment apparently would not have been provided to Wilson by U.S. companies unless it was thought the sale was in support of CIA activities.
"It's a nightmare situation," one source said, "these specialized companies thinking they are helping the CIA, and Wilson is shipping if off to countries that support terrorism.
"Jummy Carter campaigned to stop CIA abuses and the arms trade and it seems some guerrilla operation has been run by former agents . . . "
The FBI has for six months been investigating allegations tht Wilson exported explosives and sought to recruit Cuban exiles to assassinate a political opponent of the Libyan leader, Col. Maummar Waddafi.
In addition, Wilson will soon be formally questioned by federal authorities in the investigation of last year's Embassy Row bomb-murder of former Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier.
Wilson is not a suspect or target of that investigation, according to Justice Department officials, but authorities want to question him to determine if detonation devices he allegedly exported may have gotten into the hands of Cubans suspected in the Letelier murder.
A tall, swashbuckling man who associates say resembles actor John Wayne in appearance, Wilson, 48, graduated from the University of Portland, Ore., in 1951.
After serving in the Marines, he went to work in the CIA clandestine services. He has variously been described as an explosives expert and logistics specialist involved in supporting the U-2 spy plane missions of the 1950s and 1960s.
Wilson left the CIa in 1971, three years after he had set up COnsultants International of 1425 K. St. NW. the firm he now heads. From 1971 to April of last year he worked with Naval intelligence. He "served as a foreign intelligence, specialist and his duties with the Navy were classified," a Navy spokesman said yesterday.
Turner insisted yesterday on not naming the two employees who were fired and said that his own investigation involved only current CIA employees and not former employees such as Wilson - the subject of the FBI Libyan probe.
He said his investigation of current employees is continuing and may involve more people. Speaking of the two men fired yesterday, he said, "They had no malicious intent , . . they provided services to friends but by so doing inadvertently implicated the CIA."
"Both parents had served us well in the past and had fine potential for the future," he said, adding that in a government agency less sinsitive than the CIA they probably would not have been fired.
"We have to have higher standards . . . There is no evidence that the two actions [of the employees] were connected, that is, the actions were independent of one another and there is no suggestion of a conspiracy."