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Of embassies, bugs, and spies

THERE is an easy, simple solution to the problem of the new overbugged American Embassy in Moscow and the new overendowed Soviet Embassy in Washington. The United States government can perfectly well say to the Soviet government: you keep the building you have so lavishly bugged in Moscow, we will take back the building in Washington which we should never have let you build there, and then we can start all over again.

It would be inconvenient for the people of the two embassies who would have to go on living in each other's capitals in ancient and makeshift quarters for another decade or so. But Washington is never going to be happy about having the Soviets sitting up there on top of Mt. Alto with their electronic receivers beamed down at the Pentagon in the swamps along the Potomac; nor is the US Embassy staff in Moscow ever going to be comfortable in the new building there which they let the Soviets stuff with listening gear.

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No new or old arrangement would end the spying which goes on between US and Soviet embassies the world around. Presumably that will go on as long as the US and USSR are superpowers deeply suspicious of each other - as is inevitable in a world in which there are only two superpowers. But calling off the double embassy deal would get the US government out of what is primarily a public relations problem.

America's professional diplomats are not as disturbed as is public opinion about the disclosure of all the eavesdropping equipment which the Soviets built into the new US Embassy building in Moscow. They have taken it for granted from time immemorial that in Moscow they are under constant surveillance. They just have to be careful about what they say and where they say it. But that is second nature for a trained diplomat anyway.

There is an equally simple solution to the problem of the US Marines. Just go back to the pre-World War II system of putting embassy security in the hands of professional security people.

The idea of using US Marines to guard embassies goes back only to 1948. Marines have their uses, but those uses should be geared to what they are trained to do. They are trained for combat. Nothing could be better than a squad of Marines if the danger is from an outside armed attack. But they are not trained for police work. There is nothing in the standard training of a Marine to qualify him to judge who should, and who should not, be permitted to enter an embassy.

In countries where mob scenes are possible, such as Iran, a contingent of Marines would be excellent. But the man who oversees the main entrance to a US embassy should be someone such as, say, a veteran ex-New York or Chicago policeman, preferably with a wife.

There is no danger in Moscow of any mob suddenly storming the gates of the US Embassy. The KGB patrols the street outside. No one gets near the door without their permission. Control inside, not protection against the outside, is the need in Moscow. One professional security man would be worth a dozen Marines for that job.

As for spying, it has gone on from earliest time; it will presumably go on short of the millenium. American defenses against it seem to be less solid than in the past and certainly than they should be.

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The most distressing feature of recent spying is that so many are American citizens who spied for others, for pay. Jonathan Jay Pollard spied for ideological reasons. He believed in Israel. But the Walker family spied for pay. So, we presume, did Edward Lee Howard who defected from the CIA to Moscow, and Ronald Pelton, who spied on the National Security Agency.

Perhaps there were hidden ideological motives behind some of this, but we must recognize that there are Americans willing to spy just for money. One cannot assume that citizenship guarantees security.

One can only wish that there were as easy a solution to the problem of Americans willing to sell out their country as there is to the problem of bugged embassies and handsome but vulnerable Marines.

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