In my class at Walt Whitman High School in the late Sixties was a girl called Lisa Moore. She was a large, gentle creature with sad brown eyes and buck teeth. Her father worked for the CIA. This was nothing special. Most fathers in our neighbourhood worked for the government. We lived in Sumner, Maryland, a wooded suburb of Washington, DC.

Some fathers were senators, others congressmen, some (like my father) were government scientists. We used to sledge outside the home of E Howard Hunt, later famous as a Watergate co-conspirator. We used to play in the woods near where, one December afternoon in 1975, the FBI showed up to arrest Lisa Moore's father.

My older brother found federal agents parked in our drive when he came home that evening. We lived several blocks from Mr Moore, but parking was tight as a veritable army had shown up to arrest him. As the agents sped dramatically down the street to swoop on the house, my brother and several friends followed. It was he who rang the Washington Post to say a spy had just been arrested. My brother and the Washington Post can be forgiven for thinking then that Mr Moore was a more interesting spy than he proved to be. As it turned out, he wasn't so much a spy as simply broke.

These were expensive times, and CIA salaries clearly did not run to extravagances. The average senior at Walt Whitman High School felt poor if he did not have his own car. I seem to recall that, like me, Lisa Moore took the school bus. Still, the cost of fixing Lisa's jutting teeth would not have been cheap, and America is not kind to girls with chipmunk bites.

By that time, as well, the Seventies recession would have kicked in. Those mock-colonial homes we all lived in had rocketed in value from dollars 60,000 to dollars 200,000 in a decade. Mr Moore would not have been the only middle-class government drone who could no longer afford the higher property taxes implied by the new value of his home.

According to my mother, Mr Moore had other problems. His wife was infirm. She, it seemed, had adopted dozens of stray cats and had let the grass grow high in the garden. It should not, my mother said at the time, have required the FBI to detect that something was wrong.

In any case, the Russians stepped in. As Mr Moore's debts mounted and his sanity waned, evidently he bundled together a parcel of secrets he had been stashing away and hurled them over the wall of the Soviet embassy. Thinking it was a bomb, the Soviets called in the FBI. Mr Moore had attached a note to his bundle, promising more secrets where those had come from. Posing as Russians, the FBI rang Mr Moore and offered to take him up on his offer. It seems Mr Moore agreed to leave the new batch of secrets in the woods near our old school.

The fathers around the neighbourhood seemed more sad than shocked. One friend's father took it with extra embarrassment. Like him, Mr Moore, apparently, had gone to Duke University. My friend remembers his father remarking, 'We thought he was a queer duck, even then.'

Mr Moore was tried and convicted of treason. Few in Sumner thought him fit for trial or sane enough to qualify as a traitor. According to a neighbour, as he was led away, he asked, 'Who will feed the cats?'