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Know of a Spy? Army Hot Line Awaits a Call

April 15, 1987|Associated Press

FT. MEADE, Md. — Most of the 2,000 calls to the Army's new spy hot line have been inquiries to see if the service is for real, the official in charge of it says.

But, said William Dwyer, a civilian counterintelligence official, some calls "have brought to the surface matters of concern," including soldiers who drink excessively, have gone into debt or boasted about access to classified material.

Such behavior signals security risks and possible espionage, he said.

"Someone, for instance, who said they were going to visit their family in Minnesota and came back with foreign coins and souvenirs could be suspect," Dwyer said Monday.

The program, which started in March, 1986, grew out of the case of John A. Walker Jr., a Navy warrant officer, who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, and the succession of espionage cases that followed.

Expanded to 4 Bases

Dwyer said the program began as a pilot project and gradually expanded to four bases by November. It is to be in full operation, with publicity in Army publications and notices in paychecks, on April 30.

Army personnel anywhere in the country can call the toll-free, 24-hour number, 800-CALLSPY, to report information. Calls are taken by counterintelligence experts trained to distinguish legitimate tips from crank calls, Dwyer said.

Jerry Berman, director of legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the program goes for "the glitz in the absence of substance."

"The real issue is whether they are just going to end up with enormous amounts of gossip and information supplied by people with grudges."

He questioned who is going to make sure the information is not abused, but Dwyer said the Army is aware of past problems.

The information is reviewed three times by agents to match the information against their knowledge of spy techniques. Reports of inquiries that fail to develop evidence would be destroyed after 90 days, Dwyer said.

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