Another spy ring that may have done great harm to NATO security has been uncovered in West Germany and Sweden. It is time for Western policy-makers on both sides of the Atlantic to ask tough questions about procedures where sensitive documents are concerned.

The answers to these questions are particularly important because, with continuing relaxation of tensions between the East and West brought on by new Soviet policies, the tendency to become more careless with national security matters rather than less is likely to grow. The 1980s version of detente should not mean playing loose with military secrets.The first question has to do with retired Army Staff Sgt. Clyde Conrad, who has been arrested and charged by West German authorities with passing documents to Hungarian intelligence officers. The Hungarians presumably shared these documents with the Soviet Union. Sgt. Conrad was in charge of a document safekeeping center when on active duty in West Germany. If the charges against Sgt. Conrad are true, how did he get a security clearance, and how did he carry out the operation over much of a decade?

Other questions come to mind. According to news reports, Sgt. Conrad spent most of his 20-year career in West Germany. Why was he allowed to do that? Usual tour-of-duty rotations would have reassigned him to various bases and cities around the globe, thus reducing his chances for making long-term contacts with Eastern bloc agents.

And why did it take NATO countries so long to discover this spy operation? It was jointly investigated by West Germany, Sweden and the United States, with West Germany taking the lead.

Finally, how can NATO countries prevent security documents from being funneled to potential enemies? Should security checks be even tougher and more frequent?