Eavesdropper in a 'pine stump'

By airing new spy charges against the US Embassy in Moscow, the Kremlin appears to be signaling annoyance at a recent spate of Western newspaper stories about Soviet spying in Japan, France, Spain, New Zealand, and elsewhere, Monitor correspondent David K. Willis reports. Western sources in Moscow see the Soviet attitude as: "If you in the West want to break the unwritten rule of silence about espionage, then we have some details we can leak, too."

The new Soviet charges came on the back page of the government newspaper Izvestia Thursday, under a headline reading "Failure of Operation Pine Stump." The paper alleged that two US diplomats "in the not so distant past" drove out of Moscow saying they wanted to see historic buildings. Instead, they allegedly entered a closed area and deposited in a grove of aspen trees a plastic tree stump containing a sophisticated radio intercept device worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The device picked up superhigh frequencies from a nearby defense base, and relay the information in code to receivers up to 270 miles away, such as aircraft or space satellites. Farmers saw the diplomats car leaving the area and the stump was easily found: It was made to look line a pine stump -- the wrong type for an aspen grove.

Izvestia named the men as "Weatherbee and Corbin." The US Embassy in Moscow said it had no comment, but sources said two men with the names Weatherbee and Corbin worked in the embassy in the early 1970s.

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