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Arms Figure Would Not Tell of His Finances

From a Times Staff Writer

A middleman in the CIA’s 1986 arms purchase from associates of Oliver L. North, citing national security and his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, refused last week to disclose his finances to a Georgia court.

Arms dealer James P. Atwood, who is battling a half-million-dollar legal judgment, testified that “very real threats (were made) against my life for things I had done in the national security.”

“I have to choose my words very carefully,” he said.

In the Dec. 22 hearing, Atwood’s lawyer said: “A government agency, I’m not authorized to give the name . . . is very much involved.”

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Atwood had been taken to court by his partners in a failed venture to sell damaged British cars in Guatemala. They asked Chatham County Superior Court to help them collect damages against the former Army colonel.

Atwood bitterly attacked the media for disclosing his role in the 1986 arms sale, saying false reports endangered him. He refused to elaborate.

The court gave Atwood until next Monday to produce U.S. government evidence that national security would be damaged by an inquiry into his finances.

A second figure in the arms deal, former CIA officer Thomas Clines, successfully cited national security claims in 1986 in refusing to give testimony in an unrelated lawsuit.

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