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Spy business is not what it used to be

The recent revelations about the CIA's spymaster, Aldrich Ames, would seem to indicate that the spy business sure ain't what it used to be.

Can you imagine John le Carre writing a novel about a government intelligence agency's being so imperceptive as to reward a career espionage official (31 years with the agency) by placing him on station in Washington, D.C., surely one of the country's cost-of-living leaders, and then paying him a mere $70,000 annually?

Eventually, Mr. Ames seems to have decided that since a vow of poverty had not been a prerequisite for the job, he and his employers must be participants in some cosmic practical joke, perpetrated by both the KGB and the CIA on the citizens of their respective countries. And he acted accordingly.

Much is being made of the incongruity in how Ames had ever thought he could possibly explain away the purchase of a Jaguar automobile, a half-million-dollar home and other goodies on his minuscule (by Washington standards) $70,000 salary. What is even more startling is how he ever managed to slip by all those semi-annual polygraph sessions which, reportedly, are required of all CIA personnel.

Finally, one is left to wonder at the ineptness of this arcane anachronistic spy agency, which was so gauche as to publicize the Ames subversion and thereby actively promote public disclosure of its ineptitude, instead of quietly dispatching Mr. Ames via an arranged accident, overdose or induced heart attack, as George Smiley and company would have done.

I say again, the spy business sure ain't what it used to be. Maybe it never was.

Ben Tutoli, St. Petersburg

Something about the Aldrich Ames affair does not compute. We are outraged because those dastardly Russians have recruited a member of our CIA and persuaded him to turn traitor. This, we proclaim, is an international incident.

Yet, oddly enough, in subsequent discussion, it has now been revealed that the most horrendous aspect of Ames' defection has to do with the quietly lethal consequences of his disclosure to the Russians that "two or three" members of their KGB had been "turned" by us and were providing information to us.

Perhaps, then, in the final analysis, all that is different in what the Russians have done and what we have done is that the Russians seem to have managed to dispose of their problem with a lot less notoriety.

Samuel J. Brown, St. Petersburg

I commend the St. Petersburg Times for its excellent editorial, Feb. 24, A mole bites Langley. I found every paragraph enlightening and thought-provoking.

In fact, in order to help our government in Washington to better understand how we, beyond the beltway, feel about this very important and critical expose, I took the liberty of sending copies of this editorial to the offices of: President Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, CIA Director James Woolsey and the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dennis DeConcini.

I also hope many here in the St. Petersburg area have, or will find the time to read this most pertinent editorial.

Vera Farnsworth, St. Petersburg

Re: CIA director should submit to polygraph test, Feb. 21.

I disagree with Stefan Halper that James Woolsey, current CIA director, should take or submit to polygraph testing.

Halper describes the members of the CIA who have taken such a test as an elite group. I think they are an elite group of victims who have been subjected to invasions of privacy by a government agency that has used an unreliable system of measurements to determine varied information to which no one is entitled.

Halper says refusing the polygraph invites speculation and rumor. Instead, I think such a refusal indicates good sense and a refusal to play bad games that are mainly used to harm or to create substance to questions that are humiliating and disgusting.

Such false information has been used to harm people. The false information may have been obtained through a polygraph that was hidden under the guise of other medical testing. These tests are evil, unethical, and the use of results, true or false, are contrary to the protection of the U.S. Constitution.

It is interesting to note that some now claim that the Constitution does not protect privacy. I say it does.

Phyllis A. Jamison, Hudson

Concerning Stefan Halper's column, CIA director should submit to a polygraph test, I strongly concur. If all other employees and agents of the CIA have to take the tests then why shouldn't the director of the CIA take the tests to set an example?

If he will not, he should be thrown out and investigated.

W.

E. Brewster, Pinellas Park

Fooled twice?

I "fell" for the "Help education, support the Lotto."

Casino gambling, for schools?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!

Elaine T. Lambert, Tarpon Springs

East coast 'looking better'

Re: Ban on T-backs.

No longer can one cruise the beach in Clearwater, or buy a racy postcard, let alone show a little skin. They are still worried that we might make too much noise in St. Petersburg. Gosh, what a fun place to visit.

I am sure that if I were a European planning my vacation, I would be interested in this to protect my moral values _ not. Is this supposed to make me feel safer? In many countries, women don't even worry about their tops, let alone bottoms _ and yet, sexual assault crimes, as with all other acts of violence, are considerably lower than in the United States. Perhaps because they are less uptight about the human body, the people are less inclined to act up.

The east coast of Florida is looking better and better.

Kara Cowan, St. Petersburg

System needs examination

The Florida judicial system needs to be examined. The sentencing of Lauren Sill is a prime example of how the judicial system has fallen down on the job.

Ms. Sill was sentenced to a 2{-year prison term. She took an oath to protect the very estates from which she stole. She stole over $400,000 from various estates. Judge Claire Luten gave her the minimum sentence this crime carries. To the heirs of the Joseph Thomas estate, this sentence is nothing more than a slap on the hand _ a show for the public so it would not think the judicial system of Florida is corrupt. Would the same 2{-year sentence be handed down to a scam artist who bilked elderly people out of their lives' savings? Ms. Sill did just that, except for one difference: The people she bilked out of their lives' savings are dead.

As an heir to the Joseph Thomas estate, I can say in all honesty that not one heir of this estate earns a salary that comes close to what Ms. Sill could make as an honest lawyer. We are all hard-working people, as was my uncle. It was my uncle's final wish to leave his savings to his great-nieces and nephews. Lauren Sill ignored his wishes and instead wrote check after check to herself. For over four years, probate court turned the other way and its silence gave her permission to continue the process.

Lauren Sill is not the only guilty party. I hold the Florida legal system responsible also. Florida attracts many senior citizens. Unless something is done, this could happen again and again.

At Ms. Sill's sentencing, she blamed the local press for her problems. She pointed her finger at the Times, which kept her actions in the public eye. I applaud the Times. Luckily for the people of Florida, the Times did not follow the path of the court system. It did not ignore the problem.

Margaret Jendrejzak, Kenmore, N.Y.

Clinton's demanding task

Re: Feb. 23 Clinton-bashing letter regarding the closure of the Largo nuclear weapons plant. Would these good conservatives have the government unnecessarily keep the plant open so that they can be provided with "that nice healthy paycheck that workers at the plant are now denied"? Where is that difference between that and welfare payments? Are they in favor of "pork barrel, make work projects"? Wouldn't they be among the first to complain if the president needlessly kept a government sponsored facility open somewhere else? Haven't people like this clamored for the president to "cut the budget, get rid of the pork, cut it to the bone"?

They also complain that President Clinton might be using some of the savings to fund programs like Head Start. Undoubtedly, they are in the forefront of those demanding strong action to control the ever-growing menace of crime. It seems to me that Head Start is one way to get young children headed in the right direction, with a chance to become productive members, and not expensive burdens to society.

As they correctly pointed out, Clinton did indeed garner 43 percent of the vote. Yet it was a plurality and, like it or not, our constitutional system has determined that Bill Clinton is the only president we have through 1996. We should all remind ourselves that if he succeeds at his very demanding task, we all succeed. How about cutting the president some slack and let him get on with attending to the urgent problems of the nation and all the people.

Ruth Campanelli, Tampa

Give Republicans credit

Re: HRS poised to lose juvenile justice role.

Thanks for the article Feb. 24 which focused on legislation that will finally strip HRS of its authority over juvenile criminals and create a new Department of Juvenile Justice.

Your sub-heading correctly pointed out, "After long resisting efforts to strip the department (HRS) of programs for young offenders, the governor gives in." However, the article neglected to point out that Republicans in the Legislature have consistently pushed for many of the reforms with respect to both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

Your readers deserve to know the degree to which both Gov. Chiles and the vast majority of Democrats in the Legislature have repeatedly obstructed serious criminal justice reform legislation. Only in this election year and after unprecedented negative publicity about crime are Republicans finally able to drag Chiles kicking and screaming into accepting at least some of the changes we need to make our state safer.

In the name of objectivity and fairness the St. Petersburg Times should give credit where credit is due on the crime issue _ to Republicans in the Legislature.

James Wangle, Tallahassee

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