THE WHACK ON THE BEDROOM DOOR always came before dawn. "C'mon, girls!" Spencer Lonetree would say to his two sons. "Let's go, ladies!" A few minutes later, the three of them would emerge from a St. Paul, Minn., apartment and begin jogging. Often it was bitterly cold, yet the boys never complained. Their father had been a championship long-distance runner in his youth, and even though he smoked now and liked his beer, he hadn't slowed much. So the boys had to work hard just to keep up. The pace got really tough when they hit the edge of Lake Phalen; there the father would break into a full sprint, taunting again: "C'mon, you girls!"

Clayton Lonetree hated being called that. He would dig in, straining to catch his father as his slower younger brother, Craig, fell farther behind.

At the end of the run, his father would be all over him again: "You were second, Clayton. Second place is for losers!"

Clayton hated being called that too. He had no intention of being a loser. Someday, he would tell friends, he would be somebody. ON JAN. 27, 1987, SGT. CLAYTON JOHN LONETREE WAS charged with committing espionage while a Marine guard at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Several other Marine guards were named as accomplices. Federal investigators said Lonetree and the other Marines had allowed Soviet KGB agents to root through the U.S. compound in Moscow in return for sexual favors from Soviet women.

The accusation sparked a panic. The entire 28-member Marine guard detachment was recalled. The government, primarily the State Department, spent at least $30 million replacing sophisticated communications equipment and shoring up security in Moscow. Caspar W. Weinberger, then secretary of defense, compared the damage to Iran's "seizing of our embassy in Tehran . . . We're very, very distressed. It is a very great loss."

There was only one problem with the extraordinary sex-for-secrets tale: It wasn't true. There never was any great loss of secret information or significant betrayal by the Marines in Moscow. No KGB agents ever roamed the U.S. Embassy, the government has admitted. The State Department now calls the fiasco a "non-occurring event," and admits the information Lonetree gave the Soviets was "not as sensitive as we originally believed."

The story of Clayton Lonetree is not one of Benedict Arnold-style treachery, but of incredible ineptness -- both by Lonetree and the U.S. government. It is a story about how top officials at the State Department helped foster an atmosphere in Moscow that made young Marines susceptible to attention from anyone, including the KGB. It is a story about how the Soviets played upon a young American Indian's gullibility, poor self-image and loneliness.

But most of all, what happened to Clayton Lonetree shows how someone could become so caught up in a web of deceit, intrigue and forbidden love that he would betray his country, how a naive and confused Marine guard could find himself the central player in a real-life drama not at all unlike those in the spy novels he loved. Clayton Lonetree's complex world was one in which there were no heroes, a world where villains were difficult to distinguish from friends, a world that moved so quickly that he did not realize until it was too late that he had committed crimes he could not undo. CLAYTON LONETREE WAS, HIS SUPERIORS WOULD SAY LATER, perfect material for a non-commissioned officer. He followed orders with blind obedience, was tenacious and not too smart. He was also an American Indian, and for diplomatic purposes that made him an attractive candidate for embassy duty in Moscow. The Soviets have a fascination with Native Americans. Soviet propaganda portrays the mistreatment of Indians so regularly that the names of radical Indian leaders like Leonard Peltier and Russell Means are as familiar there as the names Anatoly Shcharansky and Andrei Sakharov are here. What better way to counter the image than to have an American Indian on display in Moscow, in his best Marine blues?

In his first letter home to his father, Lonetree wrote that he was an oddity in Moscow diplomatic circles, that when he attended his first diplomatic reception at the ambassador's residence he found himself surrounded by a group of people who questioned him about life as an American Indian in the United States. "I asked what occupation they were in and they replied they were military attaches from the Warsaw Pact, and they were generals. That night had me thinking a lot about how the relations are in this world. It is really strange." Nothing in Lonetree's past had prepared him for chitchatting over Petrossian caviar and Stolichnaya vodka with Moscow's elite.

Lonetree's life before joining the Marines had been as difficult as Soviet propaganda might have portrayed it, and it was not unusual for a Native American. His parents had met in 1961 at an Indian center in Chicago where his father, then 19, was youth director. His mother, Sally Tsosie, was 16, and had just arrived in town from the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona where her parents had earned a meager living as sheepherders. Two months later, Tsosie was pregnant with Clayton.

From the beginning, the Lonetrees had a troubled relationship. Although Spencer found work as a singer and Indian hoop dancer, for financial reasons the family was forced to move in with his parents in a small Wisconsin town.

"They knew English and were more aggressive than Navajo," Tsosie recalls. "I didn't feel comfortable." Two years later, she gave birth to another son, Craig, but by that time, she and her husband had decided to part.

Without the father, the family returned to Chicago where Sally Tsosie found work. Before long, she was pregnant again. She drove with her sons to Farmington, N.M., and asked Jack Drake, founder of Navajo Missions Inc., for help. "Sally told us she was pregnant and was looking for someone to take the baby," Drake recalled. "We took her in and gave her a job as a cook."

This time, Tsosie gave birth to a girl. She named her Valerie, and gave her the name Lonetree, although Spencer Lonetree said he was not her father. Clayton was the only member of the Lonetree family ever to show Valerie much kindness.

Four months after Valerie was born, Tsosie returned to the Navajo reservation, leaving behind all three children. She would say later that she simply couldn't provide for them financially. Clayton was 5 years old, Craig was 3. At the mission, as many as 10 children lived in a cottage with guardians called "parents," but there was a certain amount of turnover. "It was difficult to get attached to the adults there because they were always coming and going," Craig Lonetree recalls. The boys often cried themselves to sleep.

Five years after his sons had first started living at the mission, Spencer Lonetree invited them to St. Paul for the Christmas holidays. When they arrived, he hired an attorney and threatened to sue his wife for custody.

Life with father was difficult. He exerted extraordinary control over the boys. "I sat them down and told them, 'This is how it is going to be. This is how we are going to do the laundry, cleaning, dishes, even how to vacuum,' " he recalls. "I made them watch the news each night, too."

In retrospect, Spencer Lonetree feels he may have been too tough. He tells a story: Once, Clayton and Craig shattered a windowpane at their apartment while playing. Rather than tell their father, they broke into a neighbor's place, removed a windowpane there and replaced the broken one in their own home before their father got home.

"I wanted my sons to make it in the white world. I wanted them to achieve and make something of their lives. I drove them hard. I told Clayton to shoot for becoming a U.S. senator. I didn't want them using the fact they were Indians as a crutch."

At Johnson High School in St. Paul, enrollment 2,000, Clayton Lonetree discovered he was unable to fulfill his father's goal of never being second. "He was backup quarterback, and that would characterize his life," recalls Fred Brett, an assistant principal at the school. Brett liked Lonetree. "He showed up and did well enough to pass . . . and that was better than a lot of other kids." Clayton was persistent. He never missed football practice and pushed himself as hard as the first quarterback. He also worked two jobs after school.

Driven to please his father, abandoned by his mother, and unable to be more than second best, Lonetree found solace in a bizarre way: He became mesmerized by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. A teacher, June Dahl, became alarmed one afternoon when she spotted him carrying a notebook covered with swastikas and the words "The Holocaust is a lie!" Inside, she found the names and telephone numbers of neo-Nazi groups and an essay filled with racial epithets. Dahl told Brett about the notebook, but the assistant principal thought the doodles were the stuff of "teen-age-boy fantasies."

In 1980, while he was still a senior in high school, Lonetree signed up for the Marines. It was part of a plan that he and his father had worked out. A stint in the Marine Corps would look good if Lonetree later decided to run for political office.

After graduating in early June, Lonetree drove south to visit his mother and sister before he entered the Marines. He arrived at the Navajo mission with gifts for Valerie, and while visiting with her he fell in love for the first time. NANCY SNYDER WAS 15 WHEN SHE FIRST MET CLAYTON

Lonetree. She had come to the Navajo mission to visit her sister and brother-in-law, who were cottage parents. "Everyone loved Clayton," she recalls. "He used to let the children sit on his lap, and he'd push them in the swings. They all thought he walked on water."

Their romance began gradually. "We went for long walks, and we talked about how we were both bummed out at our parents, you know how you are as teen-agers." Lonetree told Snyder that he had love-hate feelings toward his mother and his father.

One reason Lonetree had been drawn to Snyder, he told her, was because of her blond hair and other Aryan features. When he discovered that Snyder had been born on April 20, "he got really excited because it was Hitler's birthday," she says. "Clayton really had a thing about Hitler. He told me he was Hitler reincarnated." He admired Hitler, he told her, because the dictator had been a bastard, an unwanted child, but he had risen up and rebuilt Germany. He had overcome tremendous odds to be somebody.

"Clayton told me that he wished he were white," Snyder says. "He said to me, 'I was raised white, but I'm not.' He was really not proud of being an Indian, and I told him he should be proud of his heritage. Clayton had a way of faking a sense of pride, but deep down he was insecure. I don't think I've ever met anyone as lonely as he was."

Before Lonetree left, he and Snyder promised each other that they wouldn't date anyone else. They planned to marry after Snyder finished high school.

She returned to her parents in West Palm Beach, Fla. She wrote Lonetree long letters and made him jewelry in art class. He telephoned her every Friday night. Even after he finished infantry training and was sent to Guanta'namo Bay, Cuba, he telephoned. If Snyder wasn't at home when he called, he assumed the worst. A typical conversation went like this:

"You were on a date, weren't you?"

"No, Clayton, I was at a girlfriend's house!"

"Do you still love me?"

"Yes, I do!"

"Are you certain you weren't on a date?"

His jealousy angered her. She hadn't even gone to her senior prom. What more did he want? When he visited, she confronted him during a walk on the beach.

Lonetree apologized. "I just don't want you to ever leave me," he told her. "He started crying, and he told me, 'I don't want you to ever leave me like my mother did. I'd kill myself.' "

After she graduated, Snyder joined the Marines, hoping to be with Lonetree. She was sent for two months of infantry training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he was stationed. Both were thrilled. They became engaged, but Snyder grew wary. She didn't like her fiance''s attitude toward women. He told her to give him her paychecks. It was a husband's job, he said, to keep track of the finances.

Snyder began to challenge him. She questioned his fascination with Hitler and his passion for spy novels. "He kept trying to get me to read these spy books." Eventually, she became interested in someone else. IN LATE 1984, LONETREE APPLIED FOR THE ELITE MARINE Guard School in Quantico, but was rejected because he didn't score high enough on the aptitude tests. His father wrote Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.), asking him to write a letter of recommendation to the Marines on Clayton's behalf. The Lonetrees had a rich military tradition. Clayton's great-uncle, Mitchell Red Cloud, had won the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Korean war, and two of Clayton's uncles had fought in Vietnam. Wasn't it possible, Spencer Lonetree speculated, that the Marine test was biased against Native Americans?

After receiving a letter from Boschwitz, the Marines gave Lonetree another test. This time he passed, and after leaving guard school, he was sent straight to Moscow.

Lonetree has refused to talk about what happened in Moscow and at his later posting in Vienna. Although he did not testify at his closed court-martial, he did make detailed confessions to military investigators, and he has talked extensively with family members and his attorneys. From the confessions, court documents, transcripts from the court-martial made available to The Washington Post, interviews with those who know him intimately and interviews with other sources, a picture of Clayton Lonetree's life in Moscow and Vienna can be reconstructed.

Lonetree found Moscow a cold and lonely place. State Department employees tended to be sophisticated, well educated and from privileged backgrounds. Few of the single women in the Foreign Service seemed interested in dating a Marine "grunt." There wasn't much comfort to be found in the living quarters, either. The Marine barracks were old and dirty, the plumbing troublesome. Once, Marines in the barracks went for 30 days without hot water for showers. There were other, more subtle, irritations: The Marines were often treated as second-class citizens. They didn't get as much access as other Americans in the compound to the special embassy telephones used to make personal calls back to the States, and they were prohibited from going to certain bars and nightclubs in the city.

The job itself was a reflection of the awkward situation the Marines were in. The guard duty was tedious, but worse, the Marines often felt that the embassy staff did not appreciate the work they did. For example, many of the State Department employees complained when the Marines demanded to see their identification badges -- they expected to be recognized when they entered the embassy. Even the 200 Soviet workers at the embassy compound seemed not to take the Marines seriously. Testimony at Lonetree's court-martial indicated that foreigners could simply stroll past the guard posts by raising their hands to their waists -- a gesture that meant they had come to babysit the waist-high children of embassy employees. A Marine guard testified he was told "more-or-less" not to check the identification of such foreigners.

Lonetree and the other guards got the message. Nearly everyone in the embassy guard knew about what had happened to Marine Cpl. John Steven Hlatky Jr., who had refused to admit a Soviet hairdresser into the compound after she had been expelled for being found in a sensitive area off-limits to foreigners. When Hlatky stopped her at the gate, she complained that she had been invited inside by the wife of an admiral. Hlatky called the admiral's wife and politely explained the situation. The admiral's wife exploded. When Hlatky refused to budge, she called the office of Ambassador Arthur A. Hartman. A few minutes later, a high-ranking State Department official appeared at the gatehouse and personally escorted the beautician inside.

At first, Lonetree was wary of the Soviet employees who worked inside the embassy. His instructors at the Marine Guard School had warned him about the dangers of fraternization. When writing home, he would draw pictures on his stationery. At the bottom of the page he would draw intricate sketches of Red Square, and at the top of the page he would draw a B-1 bomber releasing its load.

Lonetree's views began to shift. He realized security wasn't taken as seriously as he had thought it might be. Fraternization didn't seem to be such a big deal. Several Marines were dating Soviet women. At a Christmas party, Marine Sgt. Joe Wingate was photographed in the ambassador's residence with his arms around two Soviets, one of whom was later identified as a colonel in the KGB.

Lonetree was lost in solitude. He wrote Nancy Snyder, but she had married another Marine. He went out on a few dates with an Irish woman from another embassy, but it didn't work out. And then one morning he noticed a striking, fair-skinned woman in her late twenties walking inside the compound. "He thought she was the most beautiful woman that he had ever seen," says Lawrence D. Cohen, one of Lonetree's attorneys. Lonetree stopped the woman and demanded to see her identification card. "He was surprised when he discovered she was a Russian," Cohen said.

Violetta Sanni was a Ukrainian Jew who worked as an interpreter at the embassy. She was single and lived with her divorced mother and sister.

Clayton followed her home that night when she left the compound. During the next week, he continued to tail her until he finally worked up enough courage to speak to her on the subway. She was friendly, and he walked her to her apartment. The next day he was at the embassy gate when she left, and once again he accompanied her home.

Violetta told Lonetree she enjoyed talking to him, but that she was worried about the KGB. She might lose her job if she continued to see him. Her mother was worried, too. They were, after all, Jews.

Lonetree began covering his tracks. "I would utilize countersurveillance techniques in leaving the embassy and going to Violetta's house," he said later in a confession. "These techniques included changing modes of transportation, vary my routes, backtracking and wearing different coats and changing them. I used the countersurveillance to avoid being followed by the KGB." The Marine Corps hadn't taught him such tricks. He had learned them from spy novels.

In November 1985, Lonetree took his girlfriend to the Marine Corps Ball, the premier social event for Marines. No one, it appears, was shocked. No one cautioned Lonetree about his budding romance.

According to his attorneys, neither Lonetree nor Violetta rushed the romance. After three months of dating, she arranged for Lonetree to come to her apartment while her mother and sister were away. It was there that they became lovers, but their romance was hardly the romp of spy fiction. During the next three months, they would manage to be alone only three more times.

Whether Violetta loved Lonetree or was merely seducing him for the KGB is unknown. Lonetree told his attorney that it was Violetta's mother who had contacted the KGB because she was afraid her family would be punished. CIA agents say it would be naive to believe that the KGB didn't screen every Soviet employed at the embassy and that Lonetree was entrapped by the oldest ploy in the book.

Shortly after he and Violetta became lovers, she introduced him to her "Uncle Sasha." He was a lawyer, she said, interested in U.S. culture and well connected within the Communist Party. Uncle Sasha remains the most mysterious figure in the Lonetree saga. He has been identified as Alexei Yefimov, a high-ranking Communist Party member believed to be a KGB agent. Nonetheless, he has also been identified by a high-ranking State Department official as an informant for U.S. intelligence services.

Following classic KGB procedures, Uncle Sasha asked Lonetree innocuous questions about life in the United States, particularly the plight of American Indians. They talked endlessly about World War II and Hitler. What did Clayton know about Karl Marx or Joseph Stalin? Now those were real leaders -- thinkers -- not like Hitler, Sasha said. Lonetree began reading. He bought a book, Essentials of Leninism, and kept it with another text, The Complete Spy.

After several discussions with Uncle Sasha, innocent queries about political philosophy gave way to probes about embassy life. Had Lonetree ever been inside the ambassador's office? Was it difficult maintaining security there? The questions were asked in the company of Violetta, during pleasant walks the three would take in a park. Then one day Uncle Sasha pulled a list of questions from his pocket. "{It} had been prepared by a friend of his . . . a general on the Central Committee," Lonetree said in a confession. "I knew after this meeting that Sasha worked for the KGB."

Lonetree did not report the contacts with Sasha or his relationship with Violetta. "I was trying to hide her," he said in a confession. He was worried that if he turned in Uncle Sasha, the KGB would punish his lover, and he knew the Marine Corps would prohibit him from seeing her.

But there was another reason Lonetree failed to report Uncle Sasha. This was exciting. He was somebody. "It was like he was part of a James Bond movie in his mind," says Michael Stuhff, one of Lonetree's attorneys.

On March 10, 1986, Clayton's 18-month assignment in Moscow came to an end. He had been seeing Violetta for six months. He asked to be assigned to embassy guard duty in Vienna, the unofficial spy capital of the world. It was here, at the historic crossroads of Europe, with its famed operas, Vienna woods and blue Danube, that the real and fictional spies that Clayton Lonetree had read about came to conduct their clandestine affairs.

Shortly after he settled in, Uncle Sasha arrived, bringing a love letter and photographs from Violetta. He promised more if Lonetree cooperated. Once again, Uncle Sasha followed standard KGB procedure by first asking for unclassified material that on the surface would seem useless. Lonetree responded by delivering an old embassy telephone book that had been tossed in a trash can. Uncle Sasha paid him $1,800. Why not use it to buy something pretty for Violetta, he suggested. Lonetree bought her a $1,000 handmade Viennese gown.

Uncle Sasha's next request was for a floor plan of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna. Lonetree delivered. It was a drawing similar to those posted near stairwells for use during emergency exits.

Uncle Sasha quickly paid another $1,800, then offered Lonetree something more valuable than cash. If he could deliver file photographs of U.S. Embassy employees thought to be CIA agents, then the KGB would arrange for him to be smuggled back into Moscow for a visit with Violetta. Lonetree gave him three. "When I gave the photos to Sasha, it looked like he was pleased; in fact, his impression was as if he had found a gold mine," Lonetree said in a confession.

By now, though, the stress was beginning to show. Sgt. Darrell Enderlin noticed that Lonetree had developed a serious drinking problem. "The first time I fired him as a squad leader, he was upset and he cried," recalls Enderlin. "He really wanted the job."

Lonetree knew he was in serious trouble. His first thought was to blackmail Uncle Sasha by photographing him in bed with a woman other than his wife. Lonetree hired a Viennese woman to seduce Uncle Sasha, but the trap didn't work. According to statements by Lonetree's attorneys, Lonetree then decided to kill Uncle Sasha and obtained a pistol. He took it with him to their next meeting, but he began to worry: What would happen to Violetta?

On Dec. 12, 1986, Uncle Sasha introduced Lonetree to Yuriy V. Lyson, a high-ranking KGB agent in Vienna. He was to become Lonetree's new "handler." Uncle Sasha also explained that Lonetree would need to undergo training with the KGB in January when he made his secret rendezvous with Violetta and that he should ask for a leave from the Marine Corps between Jan. 5 and Jan. 22. Uncle Sasha, Lyson and Lonetree would meet again on Dec. 27, outside a historic Vienna church, to finalize plans.

On Dec. 14, Lonetree marched up to the Vienna CIA station chief during a Christmas party at the U.S. ambassador's residence and confessed: "I'm in something over my head. I need to talk to you about it." Federal investigators later asked Lonetree how he knew the identity of the CIA chief in Vienna, since this is classified information. Lonetree stared at them blankly and then explained: "Uncle Sasha had told me his name."

LIKE THE CHARACTERS IN HIS SPY NOVELS, LONETREE HAD concocted a daring -- some would say suicidal -- mission to redeem himself. He hoped the CIA would be so impressed with his plan that it would consider using him as an agent.

At the time, the CIA wanted desperately to capture Edward Lee Howard, the only CIA operative known to have defected to the Soviets. Howard and his wife, Mary, had been hired by the CIA in 1981 and had undergone two years of extensive training to operate in Moscow as a team. Just before they were to leave, the agency discovered that Howard had once used drugs and had been involved in petty thefts. The CIA abruptly fired him, and within a year, Howard had become a spy for the Soviets.

Howard's espionage went undetected for nearly two years until the CIA was tipped off in 1985 by a high-ranking KGB agent who was providing information to the United States. But before he could be captured, Howard defected to Moscow, where he exposed the names of several CIA contacts, including an invaluable source: a Soviet defense researcher named Adolf G. Tolkachev. As a result of Howard's revelations, Tolkachev reportedly was executed, several American intelligence agents at the embassy were expelled and methods used by the CIA to contact its "moles" were betrayed.

Lonetree knew about Howard through Uncle Sasha, who held him up as an example. According to Sasha, Howard was frequently taken to a safe spot outside the U.S. Embassy compound where he could identify his former CIA colleagues as they came and went. This detail had given Lonetree an idea for extricating himself from his own mess.

If the CIA would help, Lonetree would return to Moscow to visit Violetta and meet with the KGB as planned. But instead of helping the KGB, Lonetree would ask to visit Edward Lee Howard -- American to American. Once the KGB agreed, Lonetree thought either he would draw Howard out into the open for the CIA to snatch him or he would eliminate Howard himself. At the same time, Lonetree believed he could rescue Violetta, James Bond-style, and get her out of the Soviet Union. He would be a hero, not a traitor, and he would have Violetta, too.

"It was just nuts," recalled attorney Stuhff. "But Clayton was dead serious about it."

For nine days, Top Secret cables were sent between Vienna and the CIA's Langley headquarters discussing Lonetree's plan. Eventually, the CIA decided the idea was too risky. Lonetree was passionately in love with Violetta and remained convinced, despite everything, that she loved him. The CIA couldn't be certain that Lonetree wouldn't defect to be with her. The cables also indicated that CIA officials rejected the plan because it was felt Lonetree should "face his punishment."

Eager to keep Lonetree talking, the CIA didn't let its skepticism show. The agency had assured Lonetree of complete "confidentiality." Agents told him he had nothing to fear by being truthful, Lonetree's lawyers said in court papers. According to those papers, the agents encouraged Lonetree's plan to capture Howard, even though they had rejected it, by discussing the possibility that he might act as a double agent. One CIA agent admitted that he used language implying that it would be best for Lonetree to continue his discussions with them uninterrupted by independent counsel. He said he found Lonetree "passive" and "docile," easily manipulated by others in the name of friendship. CIA agents never told Lonetree he would be taken into custody. Without "spooking" him, they decided to quietly turn him over to the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) to face criminal charges for espionage.

A CIA agent took Lonetree to the Strudelhof Hotel coffee shop, where NIS agents were waiting. Rather than introducing them as criminal investigators, the CIA agent referred to them as "colleagues" from the intelligence community and urged Lonetree to continue his cooperation. In fact, the CIA had already turned over Lonetree's "confidential" statements to the NIS without telling him. It hardly mattered. Within minutes, he was spewing out his story about Violetta, Uncle Sasha and KGB agent Yuriy Lyson. WITHIN THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY, THE NAVAL INVES- tigative Service had long been regarded with disdain. NIS agents spent their time investigating minor thefts, unexcused absences and homosexuality on ships and bases. Whenever a major crime was committed, the FBI was called in. The NIS's track record has been so poor that in 1985, legislation was introduced in Congress to abolish it. Instead, the Navy decided to revamp the agency. Lonetree became its first big case.

The NIS sent in David Moyer, a veteran agent from London, to conduct the first tape-recorded interviews. In the first interrogation, Lonetree said he intentionally tried to give Uncle Sasha useless documents and only told him things he believed the KGB already knew. Lonetree said he cooperated with the KGB because he feared for Violetta's safety. After that interview, Lonetree voluntarily signed two long statements confessing to these acts.

Moyer and the other NIS agents weren't satisfied. "We didn't feel -- well, I didn't feel that the sergeant was being completely truthful and candid with us during either the first or the second statement," Moyer testified later. "Based upon my experience, the Soviets wouldn't have sent a man {Uncle Sasha} all the way from Moscow to Vienna to introduce a very senior KGB case officer {Lyson} . . . unless he {Lonetree} had given them valuable information -- extremely valuable information -- back in Moscow. They normally don't do that. Again, based upon my experience and a supposition on my part."

NIS agents decided to push Lonetree for a third confession. NIS's European polygraph examiner, Thomas Edward Brannon, had arrived to help, and it was decided that he would confront Lonetree. That interview was not tape recorded.

Moyer testified that these were the conditions under which the third confession was obtained: "Special Agent Brannon said words to the effect, 'Clayton, talk to us, say something, say something, hell, just say something, even tell us a lie.' At that point Clayton got choked up and said, 'What do you want to hear?' We said, 'Clayton, just tell us the damn truth, but say something. Now, did you in fact take documents from any of these embassies {Moscow or Vienna}?' At that point, Clayton said, yes, he did . . . His head was down. He had tears coming down when he looked up . . . It was very intense. Sgt. Lonetree, at that point, began to cry, and he appeared to be starting to hyperventilate, taking deep breaths rapidly, and at that point, we told him to collect himself. He went into the bathroom and put some water on his face." Brannon also testified about the incident but claimed that Lonetree had volunteered to lie.

After that session, Lonetree signed a third confession admitting for the first time that he had stolen Top Secret documents in Moscow. "I believed in my mind that he had probably been involved in this activity {espionage} in Moscow before he came to Vienna," NIS agent Brannon recalled later in testimony. When Brannon was asked why he was so confident of this, his only reason was: "Common sense."

It would take the government several months to realize that nearly everything in Lonetree's third confession was untrue, and, in many cases, that it would have been physically impossible for him to have done what he confessed. By that time, the NIS had used the third confession to spark the sex-for-secrets scandal, which proved impossible to squelch. THE NIS MADE ANOTHER SUPPOSITION: LONETREE MUST have had a partner. He didn't seem bright enough to have acted alone. The suspect they chose was Marine Cpl. Arnold Bracy, who served in Moscow with Lonetree and had gotten into trouble for unauthorized contact with Soviets.

On March 17, 1987, the NIS sent a message to its agents at the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms, Calif., instructing them to interview Bracy immediately. The message set a 72-hour reporting deadline. Agents David Hurt and James Pender misunderstood the statement to mean they had only 72 hours to find Bracy, interrogate him and wrap up their entire investigation. In fact, the message meant only that they were supposed to file a report within 72 hours after they finished interviewing Bracy. As a result, they interrogated Bracy for more than 16 hours, during which time they administered five lie detector continued on page 48 continued on page 28 tests. At the end of the interrogation, Bracy signed a statement that said he allowed KGB agents to roam through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. "We've got ourselves a spy!" Bracy recalled one agent gushing later. But within seconds -- even before he left the room -- Bracy was recanting the "confession."

The agents said that they acted properly during the marathon session. Bracy said that they threatened him, accused him of lying and continually suggested ways that he and Lonetree could have conspired together.

State and Justice Department officials soon discovered there was actually only one night that Lonetree and Bracy were on duty together when they could have allowed any unauthorized access to the embassy. Then, the Los Angeles Times reported that NIS agents had changed the results of polygraph tests given to Bracy, making it look as if he had lied. Shortly thereafter, several other Marines interrogated by the NIS claimed that their statements were "totally changed" by NIS agents or that they were coerced into confessions of acts they did not or could not commit. The Justice Department was so nervous about NIS handling of the entire Lonetree matter that it refused to get involved.

The NIS continued to insist that Bracy and Lonetree had worked together, but investigators had so mishandled the case against Bracy that on June 12, the Marine Corps dismissed all charges against him. "Cpl. Bracy is innocent not because of any technicality or lack of evidence," his Marine Corps attorney, Michael L. Powell, said at a press conference. "He is innocent because the things they said he did didn't occur. They did not happen. They were fantasy in the minds of {NIS agents} Mr. Hurt and Mr. Pender. Fantasy." LONETREE WAS RETURNED TO QUAN- tico in January 1987 and held in solitary confinement after the NIS finished with him in Europe. He telephoned his father from the brig. "Clayton told me not to worry," Spencer Lonetree recalled. "He said he was in trouble and was probably going to be discharged, but it was an administrative matter, and it wasn't that serious. He really didn't think he was in too much trouble." The father and son made a pact: They would run together in the Marine Corps Marathon in November.

Lonetree told his cousin, Tony Lonetree, a newspaper reporter who visited him, that the government was making a "mountain out of an anthill." When Lonetree's attorneys told him that the government planned to seek the death penalty, Lonetree, who had been kept in isolation for seven months, was stunned.

Lonetree's court-martial began July 22 in Quantico. The most intriguing news to come out of it was the disclosure that Uncle Sasha -- Alexei Yefimov -- had been giving information to U.S. agents at the same time he had been recruiting Lonetree for the Soviets. Shaun M. Byrnes, former director of the Moscow embassy's internal political unit, testified that Yefimov had approached the embassy in 1983 and offered his services as an informant. At the time, Yefimov told U.S. officials he had been authorized by the KGB to provide information to the Americans. Yefimov had met with Byrnes 22 times and provided valuable information about internal Soviet politics, Byrnes testified. The embassy broke off communication with Yefimov after Lonetree fingered him as Uncle Sasha. Yefimov's true role in the intelligence community remains a mystery.

A jury of eight Marine officers found Lonetree guilty of all charges on August 13 last year but did not sentence him to death. He was given 30 years in prison. Because of a series of recent polygraph tests, the State Department and the intelligence services involved in the case are now satisfied that Lonetree has told the truth about the extent of his espionage. AT HIS COURT-MARTIAL, PROSECUTORS claimed Lonetree had "never outgrown" his adolescent feelings of anti-Semitism and admiration of Adolf Hitler. They said Lonetree had told fellow Marines before going to Moscow that he "wanted to be a KGB spy," and had knowingly betrayed his country.

But if Lonetree hated Jews, how did he find it so easy to fall in love with Violetta? More important, if he wanted to be a KGB spy, why did he turn himself in to the CIA when he had the opportunity to return to Moscow for KGB training?

Lonetree's attorneys claimed the CIA had set him up: He was used as a patsy to give the shadowy Yefimov credibility with the KGB to protect his double-agent status. But if that is true, why did the CIA offer up Lonetree to the NIS for prosecution, and why did Byrnes publicly identify Yefimov as an informer.

Lonetree remains in the brig at Quantico, silent behind its barbed wire and sandbags. Only he knows many of the answers to the mysteries that remain in his case, but one thing is certain:

Shortly after he was taken to the brig, he asked his lawyers if they could get a message to Violetta. He wanted her to know this -- he still loves her. ::