U.S. fugitive and renegade CIA agent Frank Terpil is still living in Havana and easily recounting his days helping former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi to murder his political enemies, according to a recently released British documentary.
Co-producer Michael Chrisman said Terpil, 74, was interviewed at his Havana home in December and gave the impression of leading a somewhat bored life, “with little to do (and) spending much time frequenting Havana watering holes nursing a drink.”
He has a much younger Cuban girlfriend, and asks friends and visitors to supply him with the occasional English language book, said Chrisman. The Showtime documentary is titled “Mad Dog: Inside the Secret World of Muammar Gaddafi.”
The interview focused on Terpil’s relations with the Libyan dictator, killed in a 2011 revolt, and not on his links to his Cuban hosts because “he was no doubt taking a gamble upsetting them by doing the interview,” the co-producer added.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Terpil, a CIA operative who resigned from the agency in 1970, is one of more than 70 U.S. fugitives reported to have received safe haven in Cuba. Many are viewed by Havana as victims of U.S. political persecution, such as black-rights militant Joanne Chesimard.
He fled the United States in 1980 to escape a U.S. indictment on charges of conspiracy to murder and delivering more than 20 tons of plastic explosives to Gadhafi and turned up in Lebanon but eventually settled in Cuba.
Cuba’s General Intelligence Directorate recruited Terpil, gave him the code name of Curiel — guinea pig — and used him in 1987 to try to recruit a CIA worker in the former Czechoslovakia, retired agency analyst Brian Latell wrote in his book, Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, the CIA and the Kennedy Assassination.
The Canadian government announced in 1995 that its embassy in Havana had been told that Cuban authorities had arrested Terpil, but provided no details on the reasons for the detention or what happened to him afterward.
One foreigner living in Havana said that in 2000 a Cuban friend at a ballet performance pointed out a man sitting nearby and identified him as Terpil. The man was accompanied by a younger Cuban woman, the foreigner said.
Terpil fled the United States after U.S. federal prosecutors accused him and business partner Ed Wilson of conspiracy to commit murder and the sale of plastic explosives to Libya. A New York State court earlier had sentenced him to 53 years in prison after trying him in absentia on charges of conspiring to smuggle 10,000 submachine guns.
Chrisman said that during the Havana interview for the documentary, produced by Fresh One Productions for Showtime, Terpil admitted he helped Gadhafi run a campaign to track down and assassinate the Libyan dictator’s enemies abroad.
“I would say Murder Incorporated, yeah, murder for hire. Gadhafi thought that anybody who was a dissident, they were going to be eliminated,” Terpil said. In one case, he added, the dictator wanted the head of one of his foes brought to him in a cooler.
“Terpil expressed no remorse or misgiving as he told his story matter-of-factly, with an edge of morbid humor, about his time helping to run and supply Gadhafi’s international terror campaign,” said a news release for the documentary.
Chrisman said Terpil also recounted hiring two Cuban exiles from Miami, telling them they were to assassinate Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. The Cubans backed out when they realized the real target was a Gadhafi foe, he added.
A Brooklyn, N.Y. native, Terpil has claimed that he was forced to resign from the CIA after the agency learned that when he was posted in India he ran a hard-currency scam through Afghanistan, for his personal profit.
He has acknowledged working for dictators such as Uganda’s Idi Amin, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua, as well as the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt.
And he has sometimes claimed, and at times provided evidence, that he had CIA approval for some of his allegedly rogue operations. He was a close friend of Ted Shackley, a CIA deputy director of covert operations who died in 2002.