World News

The spy who couldn’t get into the cold

Catherine Fox March 26 1979
World News

The spy who couldn’t get into the cold

Catherine Fox March 26 1979

The spy who couldn’t get into the cold

William Hartley's problem was that he couldn’t get into the cold. His career as a spy had just begun when there he was last week, stripped of his cloak of anonymity, tucked away in jail as a result of a bureaucratic blunder. The CIA won’t say what William Hartley does for a living. It will say that he doesn't do one thing—smuggle marijuana. But for nearly a week Hartley sat in jail, charged with illicit drug trafficking.

It was the classic case of mistaken identity. The highly secretive Drug Enforcement

Agency (DEA) thought it had finally cracked the huge west Texas drug-smuggling ring it had been tracking for months. All clues seemed to point to Hartley, who had just moved to northern Virginia from Texas.

Last fall, a man identified as William Hartley was seen with drug traffickers in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He was also seen unloading a plane-load of marijuana in Texas a month later. In November government officials followed a plane into Mexico and later found it back in Texas, empty, but still bearing traces of marijuana. So they set about trying to find the pilot. Gas station attendants and motel owners along the border told investigators that a man named Bill Hartley was signing gas tickets and guest registers. The officials checked with aviation authorities and found that a William Hartley, of Dallas, had a student pilot's

licence. The search soon led them to the CIA, where one William Hartley had just gotten a job. He was promptly handed over to the DEA.

CIA spokesman Dale Peterson now says that Hartley had been attending a training course during the time he was accused of spending in Texas and New Mexico. But, because he was still new with the agency, he was left in jail for almost a week until the nervous CIA confirmed that his alibi was airtight, and charges were quietly dropped.

In their defence, DEA officials said that at least four people who were shown photographs of the CIA'S William Hartley fingered him as the drug-smuggling pilot. But the mystery of the other William Hartley, who must at least resemble the novice spy, remains

Catherine Fox