The Press: Tassman at Work

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Correspondents for Tass, the official Russian news agency, often behave more like Communist agents than reporters. But, though some U.S. newsmen suspect Tassmen, many of whom have little journalistic training, of being spies, they are rarely caught at it. (In Canada, one Tassman skipped home in 1945, just before he was named as a member of the Canadian spy ring.) Last week in The Netherlands, a Tassman was jailed on espionage charges.

As Tass correspondent in The Hague, Leo C. Pisarev, 37, was different from other foreign correspondents. He lived with two Russian Embassy families, spent much of his time cultivating minor government officials and took his "contacts" to the best-restaurants. Recently, he began concentrating his entertaining on a low-salaried government employee. Pisa-rev's questions about Dutch classified information were so insistent that the government man went to The Netherlands' security police. From then on, the Dutch employee regularly reported Pisarev's questions to them.

Just before Christmas, Pisarev gave the employee a cash gift. Then Pisarev asked for Dutch counterespionage plans. When his contact pretended to balk at the suggestion, Pisarev threatened him: "You've already taken money. You're implicated ... If you cooperate with us, you'll have a high position in the new regime."

Last week the security police prepared a set of fake counterespionage papers, and told the contact to arrange a meeting with Pisarev. While Dutch agents waited in the night shadows, Pisarev and the government employee met near a bridge. As soon as Pisarev pocketed the papers, the police grabbed him and carted him off to jail. After a hearing, Pisarev will probably be expelled from The Netherlands and sent home to Russia.