Foreign agents who get paid to intercept and interpret cables from our State Department to embassies abroad must be having a rough time these days.

Some of the sleuths are going nuts trying to figure out the real meaning behind what seems to be a flendishly clever bit of cable camouflage. The idea is that the message in question is designed to cover up something very important by making it seem silly and uninteresting to the uniformed. The message deals with telling State Department employes how to dress in hot weather.

What with the cold war heating up, and the governments of the United States, Egypt and Israel stuck up in the Maryland mountains, the pressure on both friend and foe to find out what is happening in Washington is intense.

The item baffling foreign agents is a telegram called Document R 302402 Z. It was sent out with an "unclassified" designation, making suspicious types believe it has to be very secret and important. Every U.S. embassy and mission on earth got the message.

The fact that the message is subtitled "APPROPRIATE DRESS" in all the more mysterious. Some foreign agents cannot believe that the department is generating all that cable traffic simply to advise American diplomats when to wear neckties and formal dresses and when to go opennecked and backless.

Apparently the cable grew out of complaints from the American Foreign Service Association (outlined here Aug. 31) over the lack of a hot weather dress code for State Department workers. In response, State has fired off this cable resulting in chaos in some decoding rooms of certain foreign powers:


"FOLLOWING IS THE TEXT OF DEPARTMENT NOTICE ON APPROPRIATE DRESS . . . The Department has no prescribed dress requirements for employes. Instructions for preparation of Foreign Service efficiency reports forbid comments on personal or physical qualities that do not affect performance or potential. Employes are expected to dress neatly and comfortably. No rigid criteria are suggested. Employes should exercise common sense and good judgement in determining when representation requirements of the Department suggest that more formal attire should be worn, and when alternative attire might be appropriate."

The cable to "mission chiefs" advises them that, when the question of how-to-dress comes up in relation to local climate, they should discuss the matter with an AFSA shop steward. You can see why the Russians are troubled.

Amnesty: Americans Against Union Control of Government plans to sue the U.S. Postal Service if any fired employes are granted amnesty. Cearly 200 have lost their jobs for engaging in illegal wildcat walkouts.

The Postal Service and its unions are negotiating (Friday is the deadline) for a new contract to cover 550,000 workers. Members of the three AFL-CIO unions involved rejected the 3-year contract their leaders tentatively signed with the USPS. The contract calls for raises of up to 19.5 percent, and provides layoff protection for workers. The unions want more money and the USPS wants the right to fire workers "surplused" by auto-mation. An arbitrator will decide the issue, in all likelihood.

Union leaders and USPS brass have talked, quietly, about amnesty for the fired workers. But the conservative AAUCG, an off-shoot of the Public Service Research Council, says it will take the Postal Service to court if it grants amnesty to anyone fired for striking.