WASHINGTON -- The Soviet KGB penetrated "some secure areas" of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during a recent fire that damaged the structure, U.S. officials said yesterday.
However, there was "no loss of intelligence-related material that would have endangered anyone" and "no CIA areas were compromised," an official said, indicating that the Soviet secret police did not get hold of highly sensitive information on intelligence sources.
The penetration occurred after Soviet firefighters were summoned March 28 to control a fire that swept through the main embassy building and damaged the central section of the top floors.
The damaged area reportedly included secure sites where top officials go for conversations that they don't want to be picked up by Soviet bugs.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, confirming the thrust of an article in yesterday's Washington Times, relayed information from the State Department that "the Soviets did have unescorted access to the embassy for an extended period during the fire."
He said, "We have had to consider the building compromised in terms of classified operations pending completion of a security assessment and recertification by interagency specialists.
"We have expressed our concerns to the Soviets about this matter."
Other officials said an interagency security assessment team, including intelligence-agency representatives, had been in Moscow for two to three weeks but hadn't completed its work.
The Times reported that four Soviet KGB agents dressed in protective gear and posed as firefighters. Americans working in Moscow are instructed to assume that the presence of Soviet security is pervasive.
The KGB penetration was the latest in a series of security breaches at the embassy.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted yesterday to approve the administration's plan for partial reconstruction of a new office building nearby that was found to have been riddled with surveillance bugs. The plan calls for tearing down the top two floors and then adding four floors at a cost of about $215 million.