With all the free inquiry that Americans enjoy, there is still a lot of Cold War history not yet told. Kathy Kadane, a tenacious investigative reporter who works for the States News Service, got ahold of one fascinating loose thread in a story {''U.S. Officials' Lists Aided Indonesian Bloodbath in '60s''} that this newspaper published on May 21. A good deal more pulling on that thread waits to be done.

Kadane reported that in the years leading up to 1965, diplomatic and intelligence officials in our Jakarta embassy supplied the names of perhaps 5,000 members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to the Indonesian army under then-general, now-president Suharto, whose forces hunted Communists down in a massacre that crushed the party and left hundreds of thousands dead. The movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" caught some of the fury.

This fearsome slaughter, at that pre-Cambodia moment the greatest since Hitler and Stalin, was familiar at the time. It was and still is widely regarded as the grim but earned fate of a conspiratorial revolutionary party that represented the same Communist juggernaut that was on the march in Vietnam. Either the army would get the Communists or the Communists would get the army, it was thought: Indonesia was a domino, and the PKI's demise kept it standing in the free world.

Knowing little of Indonesia, I have to admit that this was the way I always thought about the events of 1965. I was prepared to accept Kadane's well-documented disclosures about the American Embassy's helping role as the kind of thing that thoughtful people then had adequate strategic reason to engage in and that thoughtful people now should be slow to second-guess. After all, though the means were grievously tainted, we -- the fastidious among us as well as the hard-headed and cynical -- can be said to have enjoyed the fruits in the geopolitical stability of that important part of Asia, in the revolution that never happened.

A little shaking of the head, a little wondering about the bloody ways of history, a little relief that it happened a long time ago and in another country, and besides the Indonesians are dead: this may be about as far as retrospect will take most of us. Not too many people these days can summon up the outrage that was the common coin of protests in the Vietnam War period.

Just the other day, moreover -- and a few weeks after this recent story -- Indonesia and China formally closed the rift that had arisen from the massacre, undertaken as it was on the theory that China was guiding local Communists bent on taking over Indonesia. Still-president Suharto indicated he no longer sees China and Communism as threats. China's foreign minister said he had no idea whether Indonesia has a Communist Party anymore.

If only for the record, it is worth noting that most of us remain some distance from a full understanding of what really happened in Indonesia 25 years ago. For instance, in news accounts of the Chinese-Indonesian accord and in recollections one hears from Indonesia hands, the supposed triggering event of 1965 is uniformly described as the ''attempted coup'' of Sept. 30 against then-president Sukarno.

In the one account I read, which used contemporary embassy and CIA reports, however, the action of the officers (who did in fact capture and kill six generals) is depicted as a much more unfocused, wayward and decidedly unpivotal event that the army arbitrarily decided to use as a pretext for wiping out the PKI. Decided to use, that is, at American instigation and with soup-to-nuts American encouragement and support.

This rendering is found in historian Gabriel Kolko's ''Confronting the Third World,'' published in 1988. His typical revisionist blame-America-first point of view makes me distrust his conclusions, but his sourcing and documentation make me wish someone whose politics are more mainstream would sift through the material and provide an independent account.

At the request of Rep. Theodore Weiss (D-N.Y.), the House Intelligence Committee is looking into Kathy Kadane story's allegations that the Jakarta embassy fingered the PKI 5,000. The New Yorker magazine further suggests there is a ''policy question'' of whether Congress should restrict the sharing of American intelligence with ''client states.'' I detect no ground swell to put this tangled and troubled matter in the hands of the politicians. It is a good one to turn over to the historians.