CIA Director William J. Casey and his clandestine cartographers have hit upon a new way of coloring the world.

It's quite scary. An awful lot of it is RED.

At least that's what Casey said in a recent speech in Chicago to the American Legion. He said he asked his mapmakers to draw up a map of the world showing those "nations under a significant degree of Soviet influence."

"When this map was finished," Casey announced, "50 nations were in red. Only 10 years ago, in a similar map I had prepared, only half as many of the nations of the world were colored in red."

Details? Don't ask the CIA for any. "We can't provide any of those statistics," CIA spokesman Dale Peterson said. "Both maps are classified. I've checked into it very carefully. The information used for those maps was classified."

Actually, Casey gave some details in the speech. But they don't quite add up to 50. And they don't suggest a monochrome shade of red.

The way the CIA director explained it, four nations had "extricated themselves from the Soviet grasp" since 1972 while 25 others "either fell under an increased degree of Soviet influence or faced an insurgency backed by the Soviets and their proxies."

Twenty-five minus four plus 25. That would make 46, wouldn't it?

"I think he Casey meant only to generalize," Peterson replied.

Not all of the nations on the list, it seems clear, must be under the Soviet thumb to qualify for the crayon. Casey specifically mentioned 11 "faced with insurgencies throughout the world today, supported by Cuba, Libya, the Soviet Union or South Yemen."

Presumably those 11 include some with governments that might be regarded on other maps as under a significant degree of U.S. influence, such as El Salvador.

And what of Lebanon, which Casey singled out in his speech as one of those countries where terrorist groups are trained with at least tacit Soviet approval? The maps were drawn up early this year. Did the Israeli invasion change Lebanon's coloring?

Peterson would not discuss such details. He did cite "gradations" in the coloring on the maps, reflecting "several categories" of Soviet influence. But he would not say how many there were or what they were.

Casey, however, seemed to be outlining one grouping when he warned in his speech of the threat emanating from "the ability of the Soviet Union, largely through its intelligence arm, the KGB, to insidiously insert its policy views into the political dialogue in the United States and other foreign countries. The KGB is adept at doing this in a way that hides the Soviet hand as the instigator."

Could it be that the United States is one of the 50 nations, colored pink perhaps? Peterson was willing to help narrow the field this much at least. He checked the map.

"The United States is not pink," he announced happily. "It is white."