It is now 25 years since the Cuban missile crisis -- which supposedly ended with the Soviet Union backing off in the face of determined brinkmanship by the Kennedy administration. But the American public has still not officially been told the whole truth about this nerve-wracking confrontation between the two superpowers.

The State Department's determined cover-up has even kept top White House officials in the dark, by withholding secret documents that detail the delicate negotiations in the fall of 1962.

The reason for this continuing cover-up: Soviet offensive weapons now in Cuba are far more numerous -- and sophisticated -- than the 42 medium- range ballistic missiles that caused all the ruckus.

Secret and top-secret documents we have seen make it clear that the "historic" agreement between President Kennedy and Soviet chairman Nikita Khrushchev was given a "spin" by the White House to make it look like a diplomatic triumph.

In fact, the U.S.-Soviet agreement was a compromise. Confronted by unarguable U.S. military superiority -- and Kennedy's evident determination to use it -- Khrushchev grudgingly agreed not to deploy the missiles he was sending to Cuba and to remove those already there.

But the Soviet leader flatly refused to pull out the IL28 Beagle bombers based in Cuba, despite repeated U.S. insistence.

First, in a letter to the Soviets, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson listed the weapons the United States considered to be offensive. Bombers were on the list. In a memo to the president on Nov. 5, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy reported on a meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin, saying he told the Soviets that "certainly it was very clear that the bombers, the IL28s, had to go."

Khrushchev would not budge on the bombers. Secretary of State Dean Rusk sent Stevenson this top-secret memo on Nov. 7: "Soviets take position that Kennedy-Khrushchev agreement related only to missiles . . . . Our primary purpose is to get the MRBMs {missiles} and IL28 bombers out, and we would go far in reducing the list of offensive weapons in order to achieve this purpose."

On Nov. 20, Khrushchev wrote to President Kennedy, complaining that, in their correspondence the month before, Kennedy had not made "a single mention of bomber planes." Khrushchev said the IL28s were so old they couldn't be classified as offensive weapons, and anyway, "we intend to remove them within a month."

The Soviets eventually did remove the IL28s, and the U.S. quarantine of Cuba was lifted.

But the Soviets now have more and better warplanes in Cuba than they did then: a dozen Tu95 Bear bombers (some with nuclear capability) and about 40 MiG23 or MiG27 fighter-bombers, all of which can carry nuclear bombs. Intelligence officials have told Congress they cannot determine whether the Soviet planes in Cuba have nuclear bombs.

Furthermore, U.S. intelligence has confirmed that at least six nuclear missiles were sent to Cuba in 1972 and 1974, and the Cienfuegos naval base is linked by rail to a nuclear warhead storage site.

To observe the 25th anniversary, may we suggest that the State Department finally let the American public in on the truth about the Cuban missile crisis?