LOS ANGELES -- A college professor and long-time CIA critic has been arrested by U.S. Customs agents who seized his books, microfilm, videotapes and slides moments after he arrived from a trip in Latin America that included a visit to Cuba.
Fred Landis, a political science teacher at Cal State Los Angeles and author of a book critical of U.S. intelligence operations in Chile, was taken into custody Monday at Los Angeles International Airport.
The professor, who arrived from Mexico on a trip that included a visit to Cuba, was released from jail late Wednesday on $2,500 bail.
Customs Service officials said Landis' name was routinely run through a computer upon his arrival and showed an outstanding warrant on an auto theft stemming from a dispute with an Illinois car rental agency. They said the arrest had nothing to do with his opposition to the CIA.
'It (the computer check) indicated that he was a fugitive ... and the warrant was still outstanding,' Customs Service spokesman Jerome Hollander said. 'On that basis he was arrested.
'The inspector then became suspicious that he might be in violation of a section of the U.S. Code dealing with sedition ... The microfilm, plus the fact that he came here from Cuba, probably aroused that suspicion.
'We detained certain items -- videotapes, the microfilmm books and slides -- to see whether they were in violation of that section.'
If the confiscated materials were determined not to be in violation of federal law, they were to be returned to Landis, a Customs spokesman said.
Landis' attorney, Walter King, suggested the arrest may have been a 'set up' to seize Landis' documents.
King said the warrant from Illinois involved a $249 dispute over a rental car with an Avis agency in Champaign, Ill. Landis had returned the rental car to an airport lot in St. Louis and mailed the keys back to the company two days later, King said.
The company had tried to charge Landis for the time the car could not be found and he was fighting the action.
Landis is co-author of a book called 'Death in Washington,' about the 1976 assassination for former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier.
In the book he and Donald Freed alleged the CIA was involved in the murder and in the 1973 overthrow of the Socialist government of Salvador Allende.
The book also named some CIA personnel, including the agency's case officer for Chile, David Atlee Phillips.
Philips and the Association of Former Intelligence Officers have filed a $230 million libel suit against Landis and Freed.