WASHINGTON — Top State Department and CIA officials told members of Congress on Tuesday that they will wait for at least a year before deciding whether to tear down or reconstruct the new U.S. Embassy in Moscow, which is so riddled with listening devices that it cannot be occupied.
Rep. Daniel A. Mica (D-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on international operations, said he has been assured of the falsity of published reports that the Reagan Administration has firmly decided to tear down and rebuild the top five floors of the eight-story embassy.
Instead, Mica said, the Administration wants to spend $20 million to $30 million to rehabilitate the existing embassy--so deteriorated that Mica said it is a "firetrap"--and use it for at least the next five years.
It will take at least that long to bring the new and unoccupied embassy building up to strict security standards, Mica said.
He said preliminary estimates of the cost of ridding the new embassy of built-in listening devices and meeting those security standards are $90 million, "give or take 10%."
"That is $90 million because of some big mistakes," Mica said, citing the decision to permit Soviet contractors to precast some of the elements of the new embassy away from the building site and free from U.S. inspection.
Those precast structural elements proved to be laced with complex and sophisticated listening devices.
Mica said he was told by John C. Whitehead, the deputy secretary of state, and by Robert M. Gates, deputy director of the CIA, that the government will order intensive studies over the next year to determine how the security problem can best be handled.
Mica said that the existing embassy, built before the 1917 Communist revolution, "is in fact a firetrap and a safety hazard."
"But people will have to live and work in it for five years, and I think it will be longer than that," Mica said.
Mica said he was told that options now range from tearing the entire building down and starting over to "deconstructing" and then rebuilding its top floors.