Private electronics experts Wednesday discovered suspicious wires and a magnetic field that could have been used for electronic eavesdropping in the office of Republican National Committee cochairman Mary Crisp.
Republican Chairman Bill Brock said last night that he will have the party's Capitol Hill headquarters checked by other electronics professonals today because he felt the initial sweep was inconclusive.
Brock said that he did not know how seriously to take the discovery. Last night, however, party officials asked the D.C. police and the FBI for assistance, a party spokesman said.
In a telephone interview last night, Crisp said she has arranged for experts to sweep her office and her apartment at the Shoreham Hotel because she had been hearing "beeping" sounds on her home phone since April. She had heard similar sounds on her office phone over the past two weeks, she said.
Crisp said she had no idea why anyone would want to eavesdrop on her conversations. But she said in a third-person reference to herself, "There has been some controvery about Crisp."
Crisp, an ardent feminist from Arizona, increasingly has become a target of the party's conservative wing because of her outspoken support for the Equal Rights Amendment and public comments attributed to her in support of Rep. John B. Anderson (R.Ill.), the independent candidate for president.
Two weeks ago, in a letter to National Committee members, Crisp said she would not seek a new four-year term as the party's co-chairman.
The initial evidence of possible eavesdropping was circumstantial. The man Crisp hired for the sophisticated "sweeping" job was former Army reserve intelligence officer Richard E. Govignon. After several hours of detailed inspection and electronic tests, Govignon said in an interview, he found two things in Crisp's fourth-floor GOP office at 310 First St. SE "that just didn't seem kosher" and "suggested a possibility it was bugged."
One of the discoveries was a two-strand electrical wire concealed in the ceiling panels above Crisp's office and those of the secretary's adjoining office. The wire terminated near the outer wall of Crisp's office in a dangling, unconnected frayed end that suggested it had been connected to something else, he said. Neither end of the wire was connected to telephone equipment in Crisp's office.
"It could have been spliced to anything -- a mike, a recorder," said Govignon, now a Baltimore security specialist.
A second discovery was evidence of an electromagnetic field picked up by the security man's detection equipment and focused -- apparently from outside the building -- on the airspace around Crisp's desk.
Govignon said the field was detected in four different readings taken by his equipment and that the field "looked like it might have been a beam" generated by microwave equipment.
Microwave beams have been employed for years by U.S. and Soviet intelligence agents as a means of picking up conversations through windows from remote locations.
Govignon said the magnetic field disappeared when a person accompanying him during the test stepped in front of a window in Crisp's office. The field reappeared when the person stepped away from the window, he said.
Govignon said he walked to the window and looked straight ahead -- across First Street, the entrance to the Capitol South Metro stop and a parking lot behind the Old Congressional Hotel. At the third-floor level of that building, which is now used as a Congressional office annex, Govignon said, he saw a man in a white shirt returning his stare from about 150 yards away.
"The man I saw looked at me, turned around and disappeared from sight," Govignon said.
Crisp's outspoken deviations from party platform positions has in recent months generated increasing pressure to muzzle her, mostly from the conservative wing of the party that is the stronghold of Ronald Reagan.
After Crisp was quoted by a Chicago newspaper earlier this month, as endorsing Anderson -- an endorsement she later denied making -- Brock sent her a terse memo suggesting that she "adopt the lowest profile possible and eliminate further contacts with the press."
Crisp said in an interview last night that she "took this initiative [arranging for the electronic sweep] because I was suspicious of a beeping sound on my home phone. I didn't have any idea what it was indicative of."
She said she spoke to operators about it at the time and they told her it probably was being caused by other incoming calls.
"I am not of a suspicious nature," she said. "I am not prone to paranoia. I just don't think in those terms." But she said that in the last two weeks, the beeping noises occurred again on two separate telephone conversations on her office phone.
"That really bothered me," she said, adding that on one occasion the person with whom she was talking suggested, "This conversation is being recorded."
Crisp declined to identify any of the people with whom she was talking while the beeping noise occurred.
Crisp said she discussed the beeping noises with two friends who are "astute professional people in Washington" and that they advised her to have her home and office checked for evidence of electronic surveillance. She said she spoke to "someone I respect who is involved in intelligence" and that person recommended that she contact Govignon.
She said she told Govignon, "I want a job done -- a sweep of my apartment and office." She said she did not notify other officials at the Republican National Committee that she was having her office there examined. "It was done strictly on my own responsibility.
Govignon said the wire he found went the full length of Crisp's office "and just before it went into a hallway, there was a splice on it -- not connected to a light or anything, and off it came a pair of Siamese cuts.
"If you were an electrician, you wouldn't put something like that in the ceiling -- not encased or anything," he said.
Govignon said he was not able to estimate how recently the wire had been installed, nor was he able to trace it to its source, because "my contract was only to check out Crisp's office, and I had no authority to go anywhere else."
Then, working with a piece of equipment called a Dektor, he monitored electromagnetic currents in the office and ran into a "a magnetic field we couldn't explain. It was not under a light or anything . . . . It was just in the middle of the room, belt-high . . . . and focused on a point just to the left of her desk.
"I'd never seen anything like that. I don't know of anything in an electrical system that would have created that."
The essential elements of Govignon's account were confirmed last night by Republican National Committee officials, who said it had been told to one of the committee's lawyers by Govignon on Wednesday night.
Brock said he had not heard of the findings of the private electronics expert until early last night when he was called by a reportr. Brock checked with the office and called the reporter back saying that he was going to order a sweep of the offices today.
"It's about time the Republicans got bugged," Brock said jokingly referring to the celebrated bugging of the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate discovered eight years and one day earlier on June 17, 1972.
An official of the Republican committee said last night that the committee's legal counsel had been informed Wednesday night of what had been found in Crisp's office.
It was not clear why Brock was not informed for two days.