MAYBE WE came in somewhere in the middle of this movie, but we don't seem to know exactly how or why the whole thing began or exactly what accounts for the accelerated drama and suspense, the crescendo of excitement as a transfixed capital clearly awaits the critical moment when William Casey is thrown out. He should be, he shouldn't, he will be, he won't the White House has had it, the White House is hanging tough. . .Do you feel as though you know what is going on? Are you comfortable that a fair and useful proceeding is taking place whereby Mr. Casey's suitability to continue as head of the CIA is being weighed by some at least dimly defensible criteria? We don't and aren't.

Let us quickly list the things we are not saying here: We are neither defending nor assailing the embattled Mr. Casey himself nor even taking a position on whether he should stay or go -- we don't begin to have informtaion to know. We do not have especially in mind, when we talk of sloppy proceedings, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- this whole drama has a vibrant political and media life outside that committee, not just inside it. We are not even hinting that some personal, political or bureaucratic "sinister force" is at work -- although it does seem pretty plain that someone around here doesn't like Mr. Casey. No, what we are saying is merely this: At least as of the moment, given the amount of public information available and the explanations of their actions offered (or not offered) by some of Mr. Casey's antagonists, the Casey affair itself is its own separae source of disturbance, no matter how disturbing various of Mr. Casey's own contested actions may also be.

These are the questions concernig that odd affair that we think worth seeking answers to, whether he ultimately goes or stays. What has been the new or different evidence of bad judgment on Mr. Caseyhs part, alluded to by some of his latest critics, that goes beyond the questionable financial dealings written about in the press and the appointment of Mr. Hugel? What prmopted the sudden and belated concern with Mr. Casey's shortcomings, especially with those actions that had not, when they were first taken or revealed, seemed especially to trouble some of the people now calling for his head? What changed their minds? What are the criteria by which a man's fitness to lead the CIA are measured? We are somewhat bemused, we must confess, by the new-found moral fastidiousness of the court not rendering jugment on Mr. Casey's fitness. It is no endorsement of misconduct either in congressional testimony or in financial dealings to observe that some of the suddenly expressed shock on the Hill is coming from people who seemed singularly untroubled over the years by elements of misjudgment and moral wretchedness at the CIA that make the stuff revelaed about Mr. Casey so far seem miinor.

So. unless we are dealing with some kind of political hatchet job or vendetta, there must be more What is it?