Fugitive former CIA agent Edward L. Howard, who has been sighted in Helsinki, Finland, has not entered the Soviet Union and has telephoned his wife from abroad, officials in the intelligence community said yesterday.
Two sources familiar with the worldwide manhunt for Howard said the call may indicate that Howard is uncertain about defecting to the Soviet Union.
But another source familiar with the case said there is no basis for this statement based on Howard's telephone call.
Whatever transpired in the conversation between Howard and his wife is being held closely as Federal Bureau of Investigation officials continue their surveillance of Howard's home in Santa Fe.
It is not known from where Howard called or whether his wife was in Sante Fe at the time.
The telephone call clearly surprised federal law enforcement officials in the wake of Howard's farewell note to his wife, Mary, and another note to his boss in the New Mexico state legislature, where Howard worked after being fired by the Central Intelligence Agency in June 1983.
"Sell the house, jeep etc. and move in with one of our parents and be happy," Howard wrote to his wife late last month, adding that he would miss her and their 2-year-old son, Lee. "I think of him and you each day until I die."
Howard, a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service, joined the agency in 1981.
He was being prepared for undercover duty in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow when a routine polygraph examination revealed that he had not discontinued recreational drug use that he had acknowledged when he hired by the agency.
The FBI has alleged that Howard traveled to Vienna, Austria, in 1984 and made a deal to sell CIA secrets to the KGB, the Soviet secret police.