Some of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost is intentional, but could some of it be accidental?
Congressional leaders came away from a session yesterday at the Soviet Embassy thinking that they had seen a private Gorbachev -- a blunt, tough-talking leader pleading his case for freer trade.
But as they met reporters outside, they learned that the entire event had been televised live by Cable News Network.
"The Soviets had to know," said Robert Asman, an NBC News producer running the U.S. side of the camera operations at the embassy. "They allowed us to stay, and they saw the lights were still on."
What happened was that a cluster of reporters in the "pool," the small group representing the huge summit news media corps, arrived at the embassy and were ushered into the room for a brief photo opportunity. While they were there, Gorbachev said: "The press is still in the room, so maybe I am going to say more when the press is out of it."
Shortly afterward, pool reporters were ushered out, and Gorbachev continued talking.
However, the television cameras -- one U.S. and two Soviet cameras under a television pool arrangement -- continued running.
"A little wind is taken out of your sails when you realize everything that went on in the meeting had been televised," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.).
Asman said Soviet press officials appeared willing to allow television cameras more access than is customary for the Washington news media. He cited an embassy luncheon Thursday when Gorbachev met with intellectuals, actors and others. Cameras were allowed for the entire luncheon.
"Clearly, the Soviets' policy, at least for now, is much more lenient," he said.