10 OCTOBER 1998, Page 32

Russian pancake

Sir: Jonathan Mirsky was off the point when he attacked Taki (Letters, 26 Septem- ber) for accusing the American journalist I.F. Stone of being a Soviet agent. Mirsky's rebuttal proof is an episode in 1968 when Stone reportedly refused to lunch with a resident KGB agent in Washington. That is as may be. More to the point are the much publicised Venona decryptions of thou- sands of enciphered Russian telegrams from America to Moscow during the sec- ond world war. These messages, broken apart by US Army signals analysts, have been declassified and published in recent years. They show that Stone was a paid agent of the GRU, the Red Army spy ser- vice. His cover name was `Blini' (pancake) and he apparently was as vexatious about money to his masters as Julius Rosenberg.

Stone remains an icon of leftish Ameri- can journalists. One of the conference rooms of the National Press Club bears his name; something that some of us will be attempting to change in the new year. Per- haps Talci will join us.

James Srodes

1010 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC, USA