- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 18, 2015

A conservative cable news pundit, whom federal prosecutors accused last week of fabricating a life story of being a former deep-cover CIA officer, now sits in jail, unable to publicly address the felony charges against him.

But in a December 2013 email query by The Washington Times, Wayne Shelby Simmons categorically denied accusations in a below-the-surface campaign, principally from former CIA officer Kent Clizbe.

CIA knows I’m here,” Mr. Simmons told The Times, adding that he had documents to prove he had served as an “outside paramilitary special operations” officer from 1973 to 2000.

Mr. Clizbe, now backed by the U.S. Justice Department, says Mr. Simmons is a consummate con man who duped all of Washington.

The arrest of Mr. Simmons, who gained notoriety as a non-payroll Fox News analyst, has shaken up the conservative retired military community in which he was a card-carrying member. Some wonder whether the Obama administration is targeting a prominent critic.

“This administration does not like Fox,” said one retired officer, noting Mr. Obama’s repeated criticism of the channel.

During the George W. Bush administration, the Pentagon classified Mr. Simmons as a retired military analyst. He, like the others, received special war briefings from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Simmons‘ Facebook page is stocked with photos of him with prominent Fox News personalities and conservative activists.

In late 2013, Mr. Clizbe and a second former government worker were circulating their findings that Mr. Simmons was a fraud.

The Times sent Mr. Simmons an email inquiry, to which he replied with a categorical denial and asserted that he had government files proving his covert CIA work. He said one of his two accusers was a “troubled former CIA contractor.”

“That means that he did something inside and was walked out of the gate,” Mr. Simmons told The Times. “They also took his computer (his revelation). He’s been under fire for some time on other issues listed on Google. I’ve appeared on Fox since Fall, 2002. Deployed to [Afghanistan] for DOD. All of a sudden these two guys show up? Some of my colleagues are convinced that it is related to my outspoken membership on the Citizens Commission on Benghazi. I’m not certain. It is angering and pathetic.”

He said the conservative media “were all credible enough to recognize a false accusation and not publish. We do not know their motives.”

Mr. Simmons added: “These two guys showed up out of the blue making those claims. We did not know they were working together until I ran an Intel Op against one of them and made the link to the other. I have been vetted at the very highest level of multiple agencies including DOD and SECDEF’s office. There are many folks like me out there who cannot protect themselves because they did not keep Op files to prove activity. I did. CIA knows I’m here.”

Mr. Simmons‘ denial seemed plausible because the Pentagon had classified him as a retired military analyst and identified him as former Navy/CIA. He gained a security clearance and spent time at NATO headquarters in Afghanistan as an intelligence adviser.

In a third email to The Times, he cited the fact that he was a Pentagon-approved retired military analyst.

“Please note. I’m listed as CIA. DoD did the vetting,” he said. “I did not just miraculously show up at GITMO 3 times to assess the terrorists. DoD vetted me. Other members of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi are concerned that they may be attacked next. False accusations are difficult to defend especially from where I come from.”

Pentagon representatives last week did not respond to queries.

Mr. Simmons‘ website states: “Wayne joined the U.S. Navy in 1973 where he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency to become part of an Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Group. He spearheaded Deep Cover Intel Ops against some of the world’s most dangerous Drug Cartels and arms smugglers from Central and South America and the Middle East.”

In 2012, Mr. Simmons co-wrote a novel, “The Natanz Directive,” that carries this blurb from Mr. Rumsfeld: “Wayne Simmons doesn’t just write it. He’s lived it.”

‘Nothing rang true’

The federal indictment says Mr. Simmons made up his biography. It charges him with seven counts of making a false statement, committing major fraud against the U.S. and wire fraud. If he is convicted of all the charges, he could face a 35-year prison sentence.

The indictment states that on two occasions he received a secret security clearance from the U.S. government by falsely stating a CIA background. The lies got him two jobs with two defense contractors in 2008-2009 and in 2010, the year he went to Afghanistan as an intelligence adviser.

The indictment also says in 2011 he swindled an unidentified woman out of $125,000 for a real estate investment that did not exist.

An Annapolis resident, Mr. Simmons was convicted on federal charges of illegal possession of a pistol and rifle. In rejecting his appeal, a federal court opinion referred to a previous felony conviction in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Prosecutors said he explained away his arrests by falsely claiming the crimes were related to CIA work.

Mr. Clizbe, like Mr. Simmons, is a conservative pundit and author. But there was no chemistry between the two after they met in 2010.

Mr. Clizbe, whose work includes “headhunting” for employers and vetting candidates, writes that he was immediately skeptical. He said that in late 2013 he wrote an unpublished article accusing Mr. Simmons of being a fake.

“I met, spoke with, corresponded with, and shared the results of my vetting with Fox News, other media figures, high-level CIA retirees, the Benghazi group Simmons was closely associated with, and many others,” Mr. Clizbe said. “No one was interested in printing this story then. The ‘conservative’ media has huge problems. Wayne Simmons is a great poster boy for those problems.”

As recently as April, Fox News radio identified Mr. Simmons as a “Fox News contributor.” In a 2009 clip from Fox News, he called the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, “a pathological liar” during a segment on CIA interrogation techniques.

Fox News spokeswoman Carly Shanahan said Mr. Simmons was never more than a guest on the network and that the reference to him as a “Fox News contributor” was an error. “He was never a paid commentator,” she said Thursday.

The Washington Times learned of the accusation from a third party and then queried Mr. Simmons. He has appeared in four articles in The Times since the war on terrorism began; he was quoted as a military analyst in two reports on Afghanistan. He also co-wrote a Commentary article, and a review of his novel was published.

Mr. Clizbe’s website says he himself was a CIA case officer in the 1990s and then a contractor after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In 2013, Mr. Clizbe wrote, “I knew it within three minutes of meeting him: Wayne Simmons was a fraud.

“Real CIA operations officers can immediately categorize a colleague, as in any bureaucracy or highly structured organization,” he wrote. “A couple of butt-sniffing questions, and you put the guy in a box: When did you go to the farm? Where were you home-based? Where was your first tour? Did you do the war zone? When did you retire? Were you management? What were your targets? Did you know _____? Takes less than five minutes of conversation to have a clear assessment of your new friend. And it takes the same length of time to determine if your new friend is a fraud. Nothing Simmons talked about rang true. Nothing.”

Mr. Simmons made the second of two court appearances Friday at U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. A magistrate ordered him held and appointed a public defender after Mr. Simmons said he lacked the funds to hire an attorney.

If the government charges are correct, it raises the questions: How did he receive a Defense Department security clearance if he fabricated his resume? And what did Mr. Simmons really do from 1973 to 2000?

Andrea Noble contributed to this report.

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