NYTimes When Justice Runs Amok By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN Published: April 27, 2005 There's nothing visually fancy about "The Traitor: The Edwin Wilson Story," tonight on ABC's "Nightline." Some clips from the early 80's show a prosecutor, Ted Greenberg, looking self-impressed and about 14, at a news conference. Smudged courtroom sketches show a distressed defendant - that's Edwin Wilson. The camera then runs down corridors of the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., and Mr. Wilson, 77, appears in an interview with Brian Ross, the chief investigative correspondent for ABC News. Mr. Wilson looks stooped, rueful, exhausted. But then there are the documents: a half-dozen or so, some bathed in golden light; excerpts float out of the text to center screen, in the newsmagazine way. The excerpts are arresting. And with them, the program elegantly closes its case: namely, that Mr. Wilson, who served more than two decades in prison (10 in solitary confinement) for selling weapons to Libya, was convicted in 1983 on the strength of a false affidavit. During his trial Mr. Wilson admitted that he sold weapons and 20 tons of plastic explosives, but he said he was working for the C.I.A. at the time. In response, a high-ranking C.I.A. official produced an affidavit saying that Mr. Wilson "was not asked or requested" to "perform or provide any services, directly or indirectly, for C.I.A.," and Mr. Wilson was convicted. While in prison - when he wasn't pacing and doing push-ups, which he says he did for hours in his cell to keep his sanity - Mr. Wilson requested government documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Finally, after 14 years, he came across what he needed: a memo called "Duty to Disclose Possibly False Testimony," in which Justice Department officials considered that the affidavit was bogus. At the top of the memo someone had written: "The affidavit is inaccurate." David Adler, Mr. Wilson's lawyer, suggests on camera that the document had been released by the government inadvertently. Saying "the government knowingly used false evidence against him," a federal judge, Lynn Hughes, overturned Mr. Wilson's conviction last Sept. 14. In his first interview since his release from prison seven months ago, Mr. Wilson laughs desolately at how he was once demonized as the most dangerous man in America. The judge also wrote in his ruling: "In the course of American justice, one would have to work hard to conceive of a more fundamentally unfair process ... than the fabrication of false data by the government, under oath by a government official, presented knowingly by the prosecutor in the courtroom with the express approval of his superiors in Washington." And the documentary goes so far as to allow Mr. Adler to assert that the erroneous conviction made the careers of Mr. Wilson's prosecutors. Stanley Sporkin, who was the C.I.A. general counsel at the time, was appointed a federal judge, as were Steven Trott and D. Lowell Jensen, Justice Department officials involved in the case. Larry Barcella, another prosecutor, went on to investigate government corruption as an independent counsel. Mr. Greenberg is currently a senior counsel at the World Bank. Each of these résumé statements is accompanied by an accusatory close-up of the man in question. What to think about them is left to the viewer. Likewise, the viewer is left with serious questions about the Wilson case, which is far from resolved at the end of the program. Consider just one: If Edwin Wilson was working for the C.I.A. when he sold weapons to Libya, why was the C.I.A. overseeing the sale of weapons to Libya? Despite the open questions, this is a simple, confident, low-dazzle documentary with no fear - a reason to watch "Nightline."