The suspicious wires found at Republican national headquarters last week do not belong to the musical intercom system in the building and were probably installed for some other purpose, according to an official of the company that operates the system.
This appeared to contradict the conclusion of D.C. police who conducted a sweep of the RNC offices Sunday in a search for evidence of possible electronic eavesdropping. Police officials have said in a formal announcement that the wires "proved to be unspliced wires from an intercommunication system which fed music into the office."
But Allen T. Smith, vice president of Muzak of Washington, said after a personal inspection that the wires tucked into the ceiling of Republican National Committee cochairman Mary Crisp's Capitol Hill office are not the type or quality of wire used by his company. Muzak installed the system when the building was constructed in 1970 and has maintained it ever since.
"These are not our wires," Smith said. "They [the suspect wires] are very small, very unsophisticated wires." He said it was "highly remote" that anyone installed the Muzak system.
The loose wires were first discovered last Wednesday afternoon by two private investigators hired by Crisp to check for possible signs of electronic surveillance. One of them, Richard E. Govignon, told a Republican aide at the time that the wiring was not part of the Muzak system.
"He said, 'we've located the Muzak wires, and it's not a Muzak wire,'" recalled Cathie Hogan, an assistant to Crisp.
Police investigators who inspected the system over the weekend, however, said they could hear music on the suspect wires and concluded they were part of the music system.
Two Washington Post reporters who accompanied Smith on his personal inspection Monday afternoon, as well as Republican officials, were unable to hear any music on a headphone attached to the wire, as police reported they had been able to do.
Sgt. Gabriel Brandani, who directed the D.C. police investigation, said yesterday that was no surprise. He said he and his technical team had "disconnected" the wiring from the Muzak system themselves.
Brandani, who heads the unit responsible for overseeing all police electronic surveilance in the city, said he could not describe the connection because he did not inspect it himself. He refused to make available the officer who reportedly discovered the tie-in with the Muzak system.
Brandani at first agreed yesterday afternoon to consult with his subordinate to clear up the question and told a reporter to call back 15 minutes later. When this was done, however, Brandani said:
"I just decided I don't need to give you any more information. You're not on my side. You're trying to get Watergate out of nothing."
Despite the new questions raised about the police investigation, there is still no evidence that the wiring discovered last week was part of any bugging apparatus. Muzak's Smith suggested it could have been part of some amateur installation of a desk-to-desk voice intercom.
"The unprofessionalism of the installation indicates that someone was playing a radio or an intercom was needed," he said.
Smith strongly doubted, however, that police actually picked up music from the inexpensive wiring itself. He said they might have heard it by "induction" from the gray Muzak wire that crosses the thinner, ivory-colored mystery wires.
"I don't think they ever heard music on those white wires," he said. If someone had wanted to extend the Muzak system without informing his company, he said, "you could use lamp cord more conveniently and efficiently."
Crisp and two previous occupants of her office said in interviews this week they have no knowledge of any appliances or devices that might have been attached to the unexplained wires that stretch from above a baseboard near Crisp's desk, up the wall, and through the ceiling to a point over the hallway where they end in a tied bundle.
Smith's findings further muddle an already tangled sequence of events that began last Wednesday when Crisp called in two private investigators, Govignon and technician George Lesser, after she reported hearing "beeping" noises on her home and office telephones.
Govignon is a former Army counter-intelligence officer who is now security chief for Commercial Credit Corp. of Baltimore. Lesser works for the Interstate Bureau of Investigation Inc. in Baltimore. They told GOP officials they found the loose wiring and detected a magnetic force field near Crisp's desk. They regarded both discoveries as inconclusive, but suspicious enough to warrant more intensive investigation.
In the confusion that followed last Thursday and Friday, GOP officials who were notified of the results say they ordered a follow-up inspection of the entire fourth floor at the RNC, offices at 310 First St. SE by Interspec Inc., a private Connecticut Avenue security consulting firm. But actual arrangements were not made until a reporter called Republican National Chairman Bill Brock Friday to question him about the discoveries in Crisp's office.
The RNC's security chief, Winston Norman, a former D.C. homicide detective, contacted Sgt. Brandani early Saturday morning.Brandani dispatched officer Larry Engene Sterling, who entered the building around 9:30 a.m., carrying a brown vinyl athletic bag.
Sterling was taken to Crisp's fourth floor office by GOP security man Jasper Mills and was left alone there.
Questions about what Sterling did during that visit have increasingly preoccupied Republican committee officials, most of whom were unaware of the visit until later in the day.
RNC communications director Michael Baroody said he became concerned after security chief Norman told him that he and Sterling had "hooked it up."
"That conveyed to me the clear visual impression of somebody hooking up wires to a speaker, reconnecting what was disconnected," Baroody said later. Afraid that Sterling's visit might compromise the results of a privately contracted investigation by Interspec Inc. on Saturday night, Brook and his top aides decided to suspend Interspec's work until they obtained an explanation from D.C. police.
RNC legal counsel Donald H. Ivers said the police refused to supply one. He said Sgt. Brandani arrived at Republican headquarters around mignight Saturday and informed them instead that the police were taking over the investigation.
"Brandani told us what was done (by Sterling) Saturday morning was a preliminary investigation," Ivers recalled of the meeting in Baroody's office. "He indicated he [Sterling] checked the wires and they were aware of what Sterling had done. He said he would not discuss their methods and techniques."
Said RNC press secretary Linda Gosden, who was also present: "He [Brandani] made it clear that it was up to Brandani as to who Brandani and Sterling would talk to -- that this was a police investigation and it wasn't for us to control that."
Sterling returned to join Sgt. Brandani's team for the early Sunday morning inspection. Brandani said in one of several conversations with reporters that it was Sterling who informed him that the unexplained wiring was connected to the musical system. Brandani acknowledged that he never confirmed this for himself.
"I was at one end [of the office -- where Crisp has her desk] and my men were up in the ceiling," he said. "Where they [the wires] were connected in the ceiling, I don't know." But at one point, he said, "one of my men [whom Brandani later identified as Sterling] said, 'Wait a minute, sarge, it's connected up here. You've pulled out one lead.'"
Later inspections by Republican officials and reporters turned up no evidence of the mystery connection referred to by Brandani.
At one point, Brandani said he could hear faint music on the wire with a headphone at Crisp's end of the office. GOP aides and other officers on the technical team heard it, too, both there and near the Muzak speaker in the secretarial area.
Baroody and Crisp's aide, Cathie Hogan, described the music as very faint.
"I know what you're talking about when you say 'by induction,'" Sgt. Brandani later told a reporter. "It didn't really sound like that to me. It sounded a little bit more than something laying next to a (Muzak) wire it seemed to me."
In any case, he said his team pulled the connection Sterling reported all the way out sometime before they left.
"I wished I'd left it alone," the sergeant said after the Monday afternoon visit by Muzak's Smith and two reporters. "I didn't think there were going to be people coming behind us."
As for Sterling's visit Saturday morning, Brandani said yesterday:
"He hooked a headset to those two wires in her [crisp's] office that were cut off [at the baseboard]. He heard the music right off. That's the only thing he touched. He called me back 30 minutes after I made the assignment."
Brandani said he couldn't understand all the questions about the reported connection to the Muzak system, since he was satisfied that the loose wiring had been there for years and would never have been used for eavesdropping, even by an amateur.
However, he added, "If we hadn't heard the music to it, I would have been a lot more suspicious. If he [Sterling] had told me there were just two wires cut off, I would have been suspicious. I would have said, 'Wait a minute' . . . But you can't go imagining things. When you start to imagine a mike at one end [of a wire] and a listening post at the other, that doesn't get you anywhere."
Republican officials said yesterday they were still not entirely satisfied and are still awaiting a full police report. In addition, press secretary Gosden said: "[Chairman] Brock wants some answers to some questions."
The suspected bugging of Crisp's office culminated a period of extremely high tensions in the Republican hierarchy as Ronald Reagan's conservative vanguard was moving to displace the more moderate party leadership under Brock. One official said the atmosphere was "almost to paranoia."
Crisp is an outspoken proponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, which Reagan opposes. Earlier this month she also made some public and highly favorable comments about the candidacy of Rep. John Anderson (R-Ill.) independent candidate for president.
Some Reaganites took the Crisp remarks as an endorsement of Anderson and an unforgiveable breach of party loyality.
Brock has been largely unsuccessful in keeping his cochairman in line and sent her a sharp memo early this month suggesting that she "adopt the lowest profile possible" and "eliminate further contacts with the press."
But pressure from the Reagan supporters proved unrelenting, and Crisp subsequently told RNC members that she does not intend to seek another four-year term as cochairman.