A federal jury today found Edwin Gibbons Moore II, a former CIA employee, quilty of trying to sell classified CIA documents to the Soviet Union last Dec. 21.

Moore, a Bethesda resident, was also convicted of unauthorized possession of the classified material and of government property. He faces a maximum penalty of life plus 40 years in a federal prison.

The 56-year-old Moore, whose month-long trial was delayed for several days because he had complained of chest pains, said he wanted to "personally thank" U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman for his "solicitousness" in allowing him to be held in a prison hospital ward during the trial.

Judge Kaufman said he would sentence Moore after receiving a presentence report, expected to be completed within one month. Defense attorney Courtland K. Townsend Jr. said no decision had been made on an appeal.

Moore, employed for most of his adult life as a CIA office worker, had pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to the charges. The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for five hours before reaching a verdict.

According to his own testimony, Moore threw a package of classified CIA documents through the iron gates of a Soviet residence in Washington at dusk on Dec. 21. The package contained photocopies of pages of a January, 1973, classified CIA telephone directory listing the names and office phone numbers of about 300 CIA employees.

The package also contained copies of several other CIA documents, as well as a note offering additional material in exchange for $200,000.

An unsigned note instructed the Russians to respond by dropping off $3,000 in small bills at 2 p.m. the next day, Dec. 22, in front of Moore's colonial brick home in an affluent section of Bethesda. The Russians were told to drop off the remaining $197,000 at 6 p.m. that evening.

According to testimony by FBI agents, however, a Soviet guard at the Soviet residence on Tunlaw Road NW found the package at about 11 p.m. on the night of Dec. 21. Thinking that it contained a bomb, he called the U.S. Executive Protective Service, which handles liasson between foreign diplomats and U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to testimony.

The EPS notified the FBI, whose agents the next day masqueraded as Soviet officials to drop off in front of Moore's house a package containing shredded paper cut to resemble money.

Moore, wearing leather gardener's gloves and carrying a rake as he collected leaves from his front lawn, was arrested by dozens of FBI agents as soon as he picked up the package at 3:20 p.m. that day.

Since his arraignment, Moore has been held in lieu of $150,000 in personal surety bonds.

FBI agents who searched Moore's home after his arrest carted away eight boxes of papers containing thousands of pages from hundreds of documents. A CIA security officer testified that the documents, some of them stamped "secret" and some stamped "confidential," were dated between 1952-1961, and 1967-1973, years in which Moore was employed as a GS-9 clerk in the CIA Office of Research and Reports.

Although Moore spent the years between 1961-67 away from the CIA, fighting charges that he had burned down parts of a North Carolina motel he owned, the FBI also found a 1965 CIA history of the Soviet Union at his home.

Also found was a classified notebook that a former colleague of Moore said had been taken from a CIA safe sometime between 1957 and 1959.

Moore's testimony to the jury was that all of the materials seized from his from had been provided to him by someone named "Joe," who recruited Moore to work with him on behalf of a CIA project against the Soviet Union.

Moore told the jury that "Joe" had "appeared" to him one dark night on the veranda of his ancestral home he was then in the process of dismantling in Elm City, N.C. "Joe" later told Moore to take the documents to his Bethesda home, Moore testified.

Prosecutors also linked Moore to an unsigned letter addressed in 1975 to then-CIA Director William E. Colby in which the writer threatened to "defect . . . to the opposition" unless veteran CIA staff employees were retroactively promoted. The prosecution claimed that the 1976 espionage attempt was the fulfilment of the 1975 threat.

A defense psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Crowley, testified that he believed Moore suffered from paranoia, and that the "Joe" story was a delusion Moore actually believed.

Two prosecution psychiatrists, however, testified that although they believed Moore had paranoid symptoms, he could still be held responsible for his acts.

The circumstances of the case have raised a number of questions about the effectiveness of the measures the CIA employs to protect its internal security. Moore, for instance, somehow managed to obtain box loads of closely guarded documents and store them in his house. At the same time, Moore was kept on as a CIA employee - with continued access to documents - long after the CIA's own psychiatrists had found that he was suffering in varying degrees from paranoia.

It was the second conviction for CIA-related espionage in a week. Last week, Christopher Boyce was found guilty in Los Angeles of selling secret information to the Soviet Union in an unrelated case.