CBS News paid fugitive arms merchants Frank E. Terpil and George Gregory Korkala $10,000 for a 1981 interview on the television program "60 Minutes," according to New York prosecutors, who have won a court order for CBS to turn over unused portions of the interview.
The network, which is appealing the order by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Galligan, released a statement yesterday acknowledging that it paid an intermediary to set up the "60 Minutes" interview.
"CBS News paid money to an intermediary who located Terpil and Korkala and arranged the interview. The money was paid to the intermediary in London after the interview had taken place in Beirut," the network said. Neither the network nor the district attorney's office would identify the intermediary.
Both Korkala and Terpil have been convicted in absentia of conspiring to sell 10,000 machine guns to undercover New York policemen posing as Latin American revolutionaries. Both also were indicted in November, 1981, for allegedly selling weapons and explosives to Uganda, and Terpil was indicted in Washington, D.C., in April, 1980, for shipping explosives to Libya.
Terpil, a former CIA employe, is still at large.
Korkala is in custody in New York, where he is being retried. Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said yesterday that he is seeking the entire CBS videotape of the interview to use in the retrial.
Mike Wallace, the CBS correspondent who conducted the interview, said yesterday that it is "not abnormal and it is within CBS guidelines" to pay an intermediary a consultant's fee to set up an interview. In this case, he said, the intermediary was paid $12,000 plus expenses.
But Wallace said he "had no idea" that the intermediary passed on $10,000 to Terpil and Korkala.
Asked about the subpoena, Wallace said, "They obviously want the outtakes"--segments of the interview that were not used on the air--"and I'm at a loss to understand what outtakes have to do with the payment to the intermediary."
In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Crossen said, "Based upon the evidence . . . it is apparent that CBS News paid Gregory Korkala and Frank Terpil for the "60 Minutes" interview. The payment followed a series of negotiations involving CBS correspondent Mike Wallace, CBS producer Barry Lando and an intermediary, and Gregory Korkala.
"Following these negotiations, a total of $12,000 was transferred to the bank account of the intermediary. Two thousand dollars of the total was retained by the intermediary as a finder's fee."
Crossen said the intermediary transferred $10,000 to Korkala's bank account to be divided between Korkala and Terpil.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Crossen said he believes CBS cannot refuse to turn over the material because it did not rely on confidential sources and because Terpil and Korkala were paid.
"We didn't make the argument in court that this was paid-for entertainment, but that argument could be made," he said.
"To the extent that it is an issue of journalistic ethics, we don't address that. But we are arguing that the payment is relevant to the legal issue. Terpil and Korkala wanted people to see what they said . . . .The interview was not intended to be confidential . . . . Any part could have been broadcast, and there was no confidential source involved . . . ," Crossen said.
"It was a paid-for, on-the-record interview," he said.