Nation: Keeping the Secret

WHEN the bombing-halt negotiations neared the final stage, Washington officials categorically refused to give interviews and, in some cases, even to take phone calls. For that matter, all but a select few had no firsthand knowledge of the frenetic, hyper-secret maneuverings. Said one participant: "Fewer men are fully clued into these contacts than were involved in the Cuba missile crisis."

When the peace talks began in May, the State Department established a separate communications channel with Paris and drew up the nation's most exclusive readership list. Once the final phase began about a...