Centeral Intelligence Agency Officer
I happened across your record on Fred Woodruff, the CIA officer who was killed in Georgia.
It just happens that I have retained for the last couple of years a retired officer in the Georgian army who was one of the bodyguard's to Edward Schevardnadze during that time. He has been my bodyguard.
Somehow the subject of Woodruff came up, and he said, “Oh, yes. Freddie. Very nice man. Wanted to do great things for Georgia. I told him not to leave Tbilisi because we could not protect him then. But he did not listen. I knew it was not safe for him.” So he and I talked about Fred for a while.
He told me that he wasn't absolutely sure, but that there was strong evidence that Igor Georgadze who is now wanted by Interpol was the one in Tbilisi who gave the order to kill Fred. Fred seems to have learned something about Ames that made him curious, and Ames had met with Giorgadze who was probably a contact. So he did what any spy agency would do to preserve such a high level asset as Ames.
I asked him about Giorgadze and how they knew what he was. He told me that the inner circle around Schevardnadze figured it out from a number of things at which point Giorgadze fled to Russia. He fled first to a Russian military base, and was, from there, transported out by the Russian military. That Giorgadze was able to escape by that route is a nearly absolute confirmation that Giorgadze was KGB, and a high ranking officer as well, who had a hotline to the Kremlin, to get such treatment. A regular guy who was fleeing because he was afraid of being falsely accused and shot would probably have gone south into Turkey. In any case, such a person would never have run straight to a Russian military base as their first choice.
He also said that Georgia has asked for Giorgadze's extradition a number of times. They can locate him, reporters can easily find him and interview him. But Moscow protects him and says that the KGB can't find him.
It makes sense to me. I don't know if anyone wants to know that, but maybe someone might care about it.
August 1993 Press Report:
On August 8, 1993 an officer of the political department of the US Embassy in Tbilisi Fred Woodruff, considered to be a CIA representative, was shot in a car on his way back to Tbilisi after a trip to the Kazbegi district in North-East Georgia. According to an official version, that tragic event occurred for the banal purpose of robbery, thus symbolizing the state of chaos and grave criminal situation in Georgia.
Nevertheless the Director of the CIA James Woolsey who arrived in Tbilisi immediately after the event and escorted the corpse to the US, assured the Georgian officials that the tragic fact would not have any negative impact on the development of the US-Georgian interrelations.
Press Report of August 1993:
GEORGIAN OFFICIAL DENIES GOGOLADZE'S SUSPENSION
In a telephone interview with an RFE/RL correspondent in Moscow on 12 August 1993, Georgian Deputy General Prosecutor Vakhtang Gvaramia denied reports that Eldar Gogoladze had been suspended from his position as head of security for Shevardnadze. Western agencies reported on 11 August that Gogoladze had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation of the murder of US official Fred Woodruff on 8 August near Tbilisi. Gogoladze had been driving the car in which Woodruff was killed. In addition, Gvaramia labeled as “misinformation” unverified reports that the bullet that killed Woodruff was fired from inside the car.
Press Report of February 1994:
Anzor Sharmaidze, 21, was found guilty of shooting American Diplomat Fred Woodruff and convicted for 15 years of prison. Sharmaidze confessed his guilt but said the killing had not been intentional.
Congressional Record: 20 April 1994
Senator Jesse Helms
Another question suggests itself: Did Mr. Ames betray anyone to the KGB in his new posting, as he allegedly did while counterintelligence chief?
Last August, in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the CIA's Fred Woodruff was shot dead while riding in the car of the chief of the Georgian security service. A terrible accident was the improbable verdict. But a week earlier, Mr. Ames had been in Georgia. In addition to his mission to provide U.S. training to Georgian security forces, Mr. Woodruff was allegedly investigating Georgia's role as a conduit of heroin from other ex-Soviet republics to the West.
Some informed Georgians think that Mr. Woodruff had come to believe that the men Washington had sent him to cooperate with were in fact involved in the heroin shipments. Had Mr. Woodruff reported this, Mr. Ames would have been the first man in the CIA to receive his report.
It is public knowledge in Georgia that the security forces of Edward Shevardnadze's regime are involved in the republic's rampant drug business. So severe has the problem become that even Mr. Shevardnadze recently felt obliged to undergo a heroin test to prove his credibility.
As an ex-KGB general-turned-reformer who returned to his native Georgia, Mr. Shevardnadze ought to be able to help the Clinton administration clear up any connection between Mr. Ames's visit to Georgia last year and the murder of CIA station chief Woodruff. If Mr. Ames was betraying America's war on drugs to the KGB, then the Clinton administration and the West are starting into a deep and dark abyss.
The venality of Aldrich Ames contrasts sharply with the intense, if twisted, ideological treason of a Kim Philby. How many other unhappily salaried Western intelligence officials cooperating with the ex-KGB in the war on drugs have also been tempted by the rich pickings of betrayal in the postideological age?
Press Report: October 1995:
GEORGIA – KGB Accused of Killing CIA Officer.
CIA officer Fred Woodruff was supposedly killed in a random shooting by a teenage Georgian serviceman in August 1993. But at a 13 October news conference in Tbilisi, former Georgian State Security Service chief, Irakli Batiashvili claimed Woodruff was murdered by the Russian KGB. This declaration may simply be part of a media operations campaign against Moscow which is protecting Lieutenant General Igor Georgadze, former senior KGB officer (IN, N. 16/50), head of the Georgian State Security Service (SSS) until a month ago, and now held responsible for recent terrorist attacks, including the 29 August assassination attempt against Prime Minister Eduard Shevarnadze.
October 16, 1995:
Former Georgian Security Service chief Irakli Batiashvili claims that CIA operative Fred Woodruff, slain near Tblisi in 1993, was murdered at the instigation of the Russian intelligence service. The teenage Georgian soldier arrested, charged, and convicted of killing Woodruff said at his trial that he was tortured into “confessing” that he had shot at random into the car in which Woodruff was riding, OMRI Daily Digest reports.
Courtesy of CNN: 28 July 1996:
Security chief says predecessor arranged American's murder
MOSCOW (CNN) — Shota Kviraya, the security chief in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, has accused his predecessor of arranging the murder of an American believed to be a CIA agent.
The Segodnya newspaper reported Kviraya's charges against Igor Giorgadze. The American, Fred Woodruff, was killed while traveling with three Georgians outside Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, in 1993.
A 21-year-old former soldier confessed and was convicted of shooting Woodruff. The soldier later recanted, saying he had been tortured.
MOSCOW (Jul 27, 1996 11:53 a.m. EDT) — The security chief of the former Soviet republic of Georgia has accused Russian secret services of ordering the 1993 killing of an American believed to be a CIA agent, a newspaper reported today.
Fred Woodruff was shot in the head while traveling with three Georgians outside Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. The U.S. government ruled it “a random act of violence.”
Georgian security minister Shota Kviraya accused his predecessor, Igor Giorgadze, of arranging the murder on Moscow's orders, according to the respected Segodnya newspaper.
Giorgadze has been charged in connection with a car bomb attack against President Eduard Shevardnadze last August. He has fled Georgia and is said to be in Moscow.
A spokesman for the Foreign Intelligence Service, one of several offices that replaced the KGB, called the allegations “groundless, absurd and malicious.”
The service “is not involved in terrorism — it fights against terrorism together with other countries, including the United States,” spokesman Yuri Kobaladze told The Associated Press.
A Georgian court in 1994 convicted a 21-year-old former soldier in Woodruff's killing and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor. Anzor Sharmaidze initially admitted he shot Woodruff, but later retracted the confession, saying it was made under torture.
Woodruff, of Herndon, Virginia, was killed August 8, 1993, by a single bullet fired from an AK-47 assault rifle. He was riding in a jeep driven by Shevardnadze's personal security chief, Col. Eldar Gogoladze, who was promptly suspended.
Kviraya said Gogoladze and a Georgian businessman working as a Russian agent also were in on the plot, the newspaper reported.
Woodruff officially was identified as a regional affairs officer posted in the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi. U.S. newspapers reported that he was the CIA station chief in Georgia, and CIA Director James Woolsey Jr. flew to Tbilisi from Moscow to bring home his body.
The U.S. government has tried to help Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who is perceived as a pro-Western leader committed to democratic reforms in a volatile region.
The exposure of CIA spy Aldrich Ames raised questions about Woodruff's death. Ames reportedly visited Georgia in July 1993, the month before Woodruff was killed.
But an FBI investigation indicated “that this attack was a random act of violence and was not politically motivated,” the State Department said in March 1994.
CQ HOMELAND SECURITY – SPYTALK
October 12, 2007
Who Killed Fred Woodruff
Fred Woodruff’s ashes are sealed in a wall of a post-office-like boxes in a remote corner of Arlington National Cemetery. From here, a distant horse-drawn caisson and bugler blowing taps for grieving families seem like scenes from a silent movie.
The marble plaque on Woodruff’s unadorned vault in a stone canyon of the austere columbarium identifies him only as an Army enlisted man, specialist 5th class, who was born in 1947 and died in 1993. There is no mention of where he died, or in what war.
It seems an appropriate ending for a CIA man.
Woodruff was murdered 14 years ago in the former Soviet Black Sea republic of Georgia. He was riding in an old Russian-style Jeep with the security chief for then-Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze and two women with their own murky intelligence connections.
The official story was that Woodruff was shot by a 20-year-old drunken soldier at a highway checkpoint outside the capital of Tblisi. The youngster was quickly rounded up, tried and jailed.
But Michael Pullara, a Woodruff-family friend and Texas lawyer who has been investigating the murder on his own dime, has come up with an entirely different version of the case, complete with planted evidence, a frame-up and a professional assassin.
The facts he’s dug up, with the help of a retired FBI counterintelligence agent and sympathetic sources here and in Georgia, explain not only who fired the bullet into Woodruff’s brain, but why the State Department and CIA have acquiesced in a frame-up that sent an innocent man to jail — and let the real killers go free.
The trail leads to the Russians, he says.
“I know who did the murder. The murder was ordered,” Pullara said by phone from Houston last week. He declined to provide a name, but said he had followed the trail to a professional assassin who runs a murder-for-hire organization in the Caucasus. The organization actually printed fliers claiming it rubbed out Woodruff, he said.
Shevardnadze’s security chief, Eldar Gogoladze, who drove Woodruff to his appointment with death, rounded up three drunken soldiers he had passed on the road and delivered them to the police, exclaiming that he had caught the culprits, Pullara and his investigators learned. Police later returned to the murder scene and fired one of the soldier’s AK-74 rifles into the jeep to leave incriminating cartridges.
The case stunk from the get-go. No less than Georgia’s chief of state security, a position akin to FBI director, said within days of the arrests that it looked like a frame-up. He lost his job soon after.
“I am convinced that Anzor Sharmaidze — the man who was convicted of Freddie’s murder — is not guilty of this crime,” Pullara told me. “I believe there are two tragedies: Freddie’s murder and the imprisonment of an innocent man. I am not alone. The fact that an innocent man sits in prison has been very troubling to other family members.”
Indeed, Woodruff’s sister Georgia (just another odd coincidence in the case) told me by phone from Arkansas: “I can’t do anything about Fred’s death. But this kid, I can do something for him.”
Pullara has a theory: Russian Defense Ministry officials connected with the heroin trade wanted to make a bloody point to American intelligence by killing Woodruff: Stay out of Georgia.
In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse only two years earlier, the CIA, the Pentagon and American oil companies were pushing aggressively into the newly free Black Sea nation, a seething cauldron of ethnic violence and corruption.
Delta Force operatives were active in the Pankisi Gorge, adjacent to Chechnya, which was in full rebellion against Moscow. Other highly classified U.S. intelligence programs were under way there.
Georgia itself was fighting internal, pro-Russian insurgencies. Shevardnadze was partnering up big time with the Clinton administration, to the intense annoyance of Moscow.
Georgian security forces, helped by the United States, were monitoring the transshipment of southwest Asia heroin across the region. Interdictions that threatened a multitude of ex-Russian KGB and Georgian gangsters involved in the trade were on the rise.
Woodruff was also pushing a Black Sea Basin intelligence consortium to rope the spy services of other former Soviet republics into a pro-U.S. network.
Pick your murder suspect, says former CIA operative Robert Baer, who was heading up a counternarcotics task force at the time.
“It could’ve been the Russian mob, it could have been rogue elements in the GRU (Russian military intelligence) . . . ” said Baer, whose 2002 memoir, “See No Evil,” provided material for the George Clooney’s spy thriller, “Syriana.”
It could have been all of them, in a Rubik’s Cube of criminal combinations.
The FBI had harder information, from “assets involved with Russian organized crime,” said an investigative source, who “would go back to Moscow for monthly meetings between organized crime and governmental officials.”
The “assets” reported that a top Russian official was overheard saying “that they had problems with an American CIA agent in Georgia by the name of ‘Woodford.’ [sic] They said that they needed to do something about ‘Woodford’ or his Georgian contact, Eldar Gogoladze,” the driver of the death car.
And they may well have known what Woodruff knew about them.
In another odd coincidence, the CIA traitor Aldrich Ames had been in Tblisi several weeks before Woodruff’s murder.
Ames, whose signature act was selling Moscow the names of the CIA’s spies in Russia, was then working for Baer on a CIA counternarcotics task force. He would have seen all of Woodruff’s intelligence reports.
Ames might have elicited even more sensitive details from Woodruff when they went out drinking together — and were spotted arguing — at a Tblisi hotel bar a month or so before Woodruff was killed, according to witnesses who were interviewed by the FBI.
A multitude of sinister forces, Baer said, had an interest in liquidating Woodruff.
And the suave Eduard Shevardnadze had good reason to look the other way when Woodruff was murdered.
So did Washington, which was deeply concerned about anything that would undermine the fragile regimes of either Russia’s pro-West President Boris Yeltsin or Shevardnadze, who had been the Kremlin’s foreign minister before returning to his native Georgia when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
“He was sitting on a volcano,” Baer said of Shevardnadze. Some of the same gangsters now suspected in the murder of Woodruff, investigators say, tried to assassinate Shevardnadze, twice, in 1995 and 1996. His relations with Washington chilled after he tilted back toward Moscow, however, and in 2003 a nonviolent coup d’etat called the “Rose Revolution” chased him from power.
At the time Woodruff’s murder, however, Washington was desperate to keep him in power.
“Shevardnadze was the only Caucasus leader who had committed to the main oil-export pipeline, connecting the Caspian to the Mediterranean; America could not afford to lose him,” Baer wrote in “See No Evil.”
Railroaded at Trial
Anzor Sharmaidze recanted his confessions at trial, to no avail. His soldier buddies, in the hands of the police, repeated their stories fingering their comrade.
FBI Special Agent Dell Spry, assigned to the Woodruff case back then, was allowed to interview Sharmaidze in jail.
“I quickly formed the opinion he was not the one who did it,” Spry recounted for me last week. “I actually saw a videotape of his ‘confession.’ He had been beaten pretty severely.”
Spry, who retired from the FBI last year, now works for Pullara, on behalf of Woodruff’s sister and daughter, to exonerate the former soldier and bring the CIA man’s real murderers to justice.
Why do they do it? Pullara says he’s spent $100,000 of his own money on the case. Maybe a book he’s working on will recoup some of it, but it’s not likely. He doesn’t have a publisher.
Pullara told me Woodruff’s father was one of his favorite professors at Harding College in Arkansas. He knew Fred slightly, too.
When he first read about Fred’s death in The New York Times, he said, he was just fascinated.
“I never expected to actually know someone who became a spy and got murdered on a lonely road in the former Soviet republic of Georgia,” Pullara, a civil trial lawyer who specializes in complex commercial litigation when he’s not working the Woodruff case, told me by e-mail last week.
But the case looked fishy to him from the beginning.
“The idea that within 12 hours the police had identified the murderer and arrested him in the middle of two civil wars was even more extraordinary. And so I sort of kept it in the back of my mind, and ultimately decided, sort of as a quiet service to the family, that I would see if I could learn a little bit about what actually happened to Freddie and share it with the family, just as a gift to them.”
CIA Chief’s Mission
R. James Woolsey, then the director of the CIA, flew to Tblisi in August 1993 to collect the remains of Fred Woodruff and escort them home.
Woolsey met for a half hour with Shevardnadze and his then-chief of state security, Irakli Batiashvili, in a discreet area in the international zone of the airport, Pullara said, based on his interviews with the former Georgian president and his security chief.
“They said that after Shevardnadze read the statement of official regret, Woolsey talked to them about future cooperation between the United States and Georgia, about setting up the Black Sea basin intelligence-sharing initiative, and about how there would not be anything that would happen that would interfere with the close relationship between the United States and Georgia.”
As they were driving back to the city from the airport, according to Pullara, “Shevardnadze was basically stunned. He just kept on shaking his head and finally said, ‘The American never mentioned the murder.’ ”
They “took this as tacit instructions and permission to just round up the usual suspects and make it go away,” Pullara said.
Woolsey told me that’s not right.
He said the room was crowded, so he pulled aside Shevardnadze, who he knew well from previous European negotiations, to talk privately about the Woodruff case.
“I took him to the side, with an interpreter, and said, ‘It’s really important that we get to the bottom of this, our law enforcement people working with your law enforcement people.’
“So anybody who was part of the group that was clustered around,” the former CIA director said, “would not have heard what I said. I did stress to him the importance of getting clear what happened.”
But the case did go away. The hapless soldier Sharmaidze was quickly sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of drunkenly slaying Woodruff.
This despite Batiashvili’s consistent allegations, repeated at a 1995 press conference, that Fred Woodruff had been murdered “by the Russian KGB.”
In 2004, the two soldiers who fingered their comrade for the murder recanted to the state prosecutor, saying they had been tortured into making false statements. Other, terrified witnesses told of a conspiracy to assassinate the CIA’s man in Tblisi.
“Based on the information known to me, it is my professional opinion that the murder of Fred Woodruff was a thoroughly planned and professionally executed assassination,” Batiashvili added in an affidavit gathered by Pullara and his investigators.
Batiashvili went on to describe the cover-up. He swore that his deputy told him that he had “personally witnessed the police take Anzor Sharmaidze’s AK-74 assault rifle to the location at which the murder had allegedly occurred; fire the rifle (and) recover the brass cartridge that had been ejected from the rifle.” It was “part of the manufactured evidence that was used to convict Sharmaidze of the Woodruff murder,” he said.
Last week Batiashvili himself went to prison for seven years on charges akin to sedition.
Foggy Bottom Silence
Spokesmen for the CIA and the State Department would not comment publicly on their handling of the Woodruff affair.
A senior former intelligence official, however, speaking only on condition of anonymity, said that Batiashvili’s charges of Russian involvement and other exculpatory information was “news to me. . . . I hadn’t heard that before.”
The official said CIA headquarters did not launch a counterintelligence investigation into whether security had been compromised in the affair. Aldrich Ames, now serving a life sentence, told his debriefers that he had nothing to do with it.
It was the FBI’s responsibility to investigate the case, the senior former intelligence official said, not the CIA’s.
“We left it in the hands of the station [in Tblisi] to deal with it. . . . But yeah, anything the station found out, everybody would have been most interested in.”
Maybe not that interested.
CIA officers were swarming over Georgia, training its intelligence and security forces, but none of them gleaned anything about Woodruff’s fate, the former senior intelligence official suggested.
Or from Batiashvili’s 1995 press conference bombshell about the KGB murder conspiracy, the official cover-up, and the sacrifice of a young Georgian soldier to the higher purposes of stability in the fragile former Soviet Union.
Instead of what looks like studied indifference, the former senior intelligence official said, the CIA “should welcome” new evidence in the case.
“It would be good to get to the bottom of this.”
“It shouldn’t be that hard to find a way to solve this,” the official added, “without causing major problems.”
A State Department official agreed to research Foggy Bottom’s position on the Woodruff affair, specifically whether it would welcome new evidence in the case.
A day later he called back to ask me whether Pullara was writing a book and pulling a “publicity stunt.”
At the end of the week, he hadn’t been able to tell me what the department’s position on new evidence was.
A CIA spokesman “declined to comment” — on the basis of anonymity.
Perhaps the long ago affair is destined to remain a cold case, like Woodruff’s unheralded ashes themselves, stored in a remote corner of Arlington National Cemetery.
Ironically, some key Georgian officials privately favor retrying the case, according to Pullara, who has made several trips to Tblisi over the past dozen years.
The lawyer is doing his part. In late 2003, Pullara filed suit in Tblisi on behalf of Woodruff’s sister and daughter, demanding that the authorities release Anzor Sharmaidze. The suit was turned down, then reinstated by the Georgian Supreme Court. A federal prosecutor was directed to reinvestigate the case.
Now what the Georgians need from Washington, Pullara says, is a public slap on the back, “a green light” to take the case wherever it goes. It could be the first step in a long journey out of their swamp of official corruption and murder.
Fred would want it that way, Pullara says.
“He would not want an innocent man punished for a crime he did not commit.”
Woodruff’s surviving sister Georgia agrees. “I don’t want somebody in prison who’s not guilty,” she said in a wide Arkansas twang.
Not everyone in the family agrees, she confided.
Fred’s widow, Meredith, rebuffed her overtures to help keep the case alive.
Meredith had just retired from the CIA herself, Georgia said.
“I asked her, ‘Doesn’t it make you feel sad that somebody’s in prison who didn’t do it?’”
“She said, ‘No, I never think about it.’ ”
Meredith Woodruff could not be reached for comment.
Freddie Russel Woodruff
Specialist 5, USA – CIA Officer
Arlington National Cemetery Columbarium: Court 3, Section LL, Stack 14, Niche 5
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard