In its search for information about the travels of President Carter's debate briefing book in 1980, the FBI came naturally to question Justine Marks, who was executive receptionist for the Reagan campaign that year. According to a story by Martin Schram and Bob Woodward in The Post Wednesday, she told them that, yes, she did recall something resembling the Carter papers' being brought to the Reagan campaign, by someone she recalls as "a young, clean-cut man." This is not the sort of description on which you issue an all-points bulletin, and the FBI asked her to try to remember more, but it wasn't coming back to her.

So, she told The Post, the FBI suggested that she undergo hypnosis to refresh her memory. She declined: "I find hypnosis an unnatural state, like a fortune teller. . . . I would consider this differently if it were a murder, but I think the briefing book thing is Mickey Mouse, and I told the agent no."

She suggested she's somewhat disturbed by the possibility that she is obstructing the investigation, and maybe she should be. After all there could emerge from this desultory affair something more substantial and less amusing than Mickey Mouse: some evidence of serious misconduct on the part of a person who holds or has a chance of holding considerable power. But however benign hypnosis may be, there's something unnerving about surrendering control over part of one's consciousness while representatives of the state poke around for submerged memories. Getting at the truth is important, but it's probably more important that we have an occasional demonstration such as this one that there still exist persons who know when and why and how to tell an agent No.