More than five years have elapsed since construction was halted for security reasons on the nearly finished U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The very building materials were found to be riddled with embedded listening devices.

The old embassy, which is still being used, is too small and in poor condition. Yet American officials cannot move into the unfinished structure because every spoken word, every sound would be picked up by the Soviet KGB.The only thing that would make sense is to demolish the faulty embassy and start all over, this time with tight controls. Yet Congress won't supply the money for what would be the most expensive construction project in the history of the U.S. State Department, considering the funds already wasted on a useless building.

Recently, the State Department asked for authority to build a three-story "top hat" on the bugged Soviet-built embassy building. The upper levels would be used to conduct classified diplomatic activities in the Soviet capital.

According to the new plan, the top floor of the unfinished eight-story building would be demolished, and three new floors would be added to house sensitive U.S. materials.

Allegedly, these floors would be secure, even though the existing structure was found to be riddled with listening devices so sophisticated that U.S. intelligence officials still do not understand them.

Although the Bush administration favors a complete teardown and replacement of the building at a cost of $300 million, Secretary of State James A. Baker III has accepted the new plan as a cheaper alternative.

This is unfortunate, because the "top hat" plan would cost up to $200 million - no small piece of change itself - and its alleged guarantee of security is a sham. As Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said, the listening devices would make the renovated structure "one grand antenna."

Despite the awful cost, the only reasonable way out of this embarrassing mess is to tear down the bugged building and start over.