At least five Marines have been transferred to the United States from the security force at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow since a former embassy guard there was charged with spying for the Soviets, Pentagon sources said today.
The sources, who asked not to be named, said the Marines had been transferred to the Quantico Marine Base in northern Virginia pending completion of an "administrative inquiry."
The sources asserted that the transfers are not directly connected to the investigation of Sgt. Clayton J. Lonetree, the former Marine guard now being held at Quantico on espionage charges.
"The Marines are looking into some violations of military regulations," one official said. "No charges have been filed against anyone yet, and nobody is being confined to quarters."
"This isn't another case of espionage," a second official added.
Robert Sims, the Pentagon's chief spokesman, declined today to discuss details of the transfers or to say how many men had been moved. But he also said none of the moves involved allegations of espionage.
"I don't know of anything that relates this to any other situation or cases that have come up recently," Sims said.
"It is absolutely unrelated to the Lonetree case or any espionage case. It was an administrative reassignment, pure and simple," he added.
The Washington Post today quoted U.S. Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman as saying the investigation of Lonetree "had revealed that other things were happening," requiring that "several" other Marines be sent to the United States.
A Pentagon source added the transfers "have taken place over a period of recent weeks under varying circumstances."
"Not all of those transferred back to the States were transferred at once or for the same reason," the source said, adding that at least five Marines but possibly more had been reassigned.
Involved With Translator
The Marine Corps has charged that Lonetree, while an embassy guard in 1985 and 1986, provided Soviet agents with the identities of U.S. intelligence officials on the embassy's staff along with floor plans of the U.S. embassies in Moscow and Vienna.
Sources have said Lonetree became involved with a female Soviet translator who worked at the embassy.
Lonetree, 25, was returned to the United States in December. If court-martialed and convicted on the espionage charge, he will face a possible death penalty.
The Marines assigned to the Moscow embassy live and work under strict military regulations, including a rule barring females from entering their quarters and another discouraging them from close contacts with the Soviets. Some of those Marines transferred from the embassy may have violated such rules.