WASHINGTON — Military investigators, after a month of interrogating convicted spy Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree, are increasingly doubtful that Soviet agents ever entered the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Pentagon officials said today.
The officials, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not identified, said Lonetree has steadfastly insisted during debriefings that he passed information to Soviet agents after becoming involved with a Russian woman, but that he never allowed any outsiders into the building.
The assertion by the 26-year-old Marine guard appears to be supported by the results of lie-detector tests and psychological reviews, the sources added.
Although no final conclusions have been drawn by investigators, "there is a feeling now that he is leveling with us," one source said.
Lonetree, convicted in August of passing embassy floor plans and the names of CIA agents to the Russians, was at one point accused, along with another Marine, of allowing KGB agents to prowl inside the embassy during repeated late-night forays.
That charge was ultimately dropped before Lonetree's court-martial began because it was based on a statement that was recanted by the second Marine, Cpl. Arnold Bracy, and military investigators couldn't obtain any corroborating evidence.
Even though Lonetree and Bracy were never tried on the charge, Pentagon and State Department officials remained convinced that Soviet agents had penetrated the building. The State Department adopted a "worst-case" approach to the security breach, turning to couriers to handle classified messages rather than using the embassy's electronic communications gear.
According to the sources, that worst-case assumption is now being questioned.
Lonetree agreed after his conviction to cooperate with U.S. counterintelligence agents in return for a five-year reduction in his 30-year sentence and a grant of immunity from further prosecution.