RIGHT AWAY SOMETHING HAPPENED. They brought in the prisoners in handcuffs and a woman broke down. She took one look at her brother in handcuffs, went to touch him and found her way blocked by a marshall. She looked confused and then panicked and then she cried, turning her head away, finally burying her face in the body of a woman who had stepped forward to comfort her. This was a spy case and you expect some dramatic moments.

There were two handcuffed men in the hallway of the Alexandria courthouse. One was David Truong, the Vietnamese national, the one who is accused of passing secret documents to the Vietnamese. The other was Ronald Humphrey, and accused spy in a shiny green suit, a USIA emplaye with access to the cable traffic, a man with a women trapped for a time in Vietnam. The government says he took the cables, gave them to Truong who passed them along to the Vietnamese in Paris.

The two men were led into courtroom and everyone sat down. The place was packed, lawyers to the front, spectators to the rear and it was clear right off that this was not your basic espionage case, if there is such thing, but a developing political trial - something of a cause already. The cast is already in place. This is a case, after all, in which both the president and his attorney general are involved. Between the two of them, they have authorized all kinds of electronic surveillance without a warrant and they did it, the AG says in serious, most significant espionage case - so important that not one of the documents listed in the latest indictment was classified secret. Instead, they were classified confidential, which is not to say that you should give them to a foreign power - maybe only to Jack Anderson.

Anyway, right after Truong and Humphery were arrested the phone rang in my kitchen and someone said I should do a column about this Interviuw Truong's sister, they said, and then they went on to say that the government was at it again, Cohen. Cohen did nothing, but he kept hearing from trem and they were saying that the government was trying to get even with the old peaceniks, hurt the pro-Vietnam Vietnamese living here - disrupt, harass, make a case for warrantless surveillance. All of the above, none of the above, I thought.

There is something you have to understand. There are some people, and I am one of them, who instinctively line up with the government. Say government and I think of movies like "The House on 92nd Street" and all that. I see the Statue of Liberty and "purple Mountains' majesty," and I think, really, that when my government says someone's a spy, he's a spy. My government, by gum, does not lie.

But there are others who react differently and some of them are the people with the food sniffers, the ones with the wonderful noses. They have a sense about them, and instinct, an antenna for injustice and conspiracy and plot and too often no one listens to them. There was not a newsman in this town who was not told that the FBI was bugging and taping and infiltrating and burglarizing New Left organizations and we paid no attention. The FBI assured us otherwise - "Would we do that Dick?" - and we all laughed and laughed and we stopped laughing only when we had to sit down at our typewriters and say that the crazies were right all along. My government, by gum lied.

So now these same people, some of them anyway, are in an Alexandria courtroom and they are watching what is going on. They are there with their press releases and they are there with questions and I am there with them because I don't want to be wrong again. I was wrong on the war and I was wrong on the FBI and I amd sick and tired of being wrong.

So the proceedings start and the lawyers stand up and the lawyers sit down and they proffer and represent and in other ways may the English language, but nothing happens. Nothing happens to make things any clearer, to indicate that this is a political trial, as some claim, or the basic espionage case the government says it is. Then the woman who cried goes downstairs to the streets for a television interview and later I talk to her in the hallway. She details the political argument, such things as how the FBI needs to justify a budget increase, and I put it all down in my notebook and I am on the verge of telling her what I think of all this when I remember again all those other women and those other issues and how they said things that I thought made no sense - but did.

Then the woman, who was Monigue Truong Miller, the sister of David Truong went back to the courtroom where in due course her brother will stand trial and Ronald humphrey will stand trial and so, too, some people think, will the U.S. government. your can't blame then for thinking that way.

Of the three, only Uncle Sam has a criminal record.