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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 46, May 2000

Classified Non-Proliferation Material on Missing State Department Computer

On April 22, the Washington Post reported the apparent theft of a laptop computer from the US State Department containing a large amount of highly classified non-proliferation and intelligence-gathering information and data. The loss of the computer was confirmed by officials. On April 24, Secretary of State Albright, describing the security lapse as "inexcusable and intolerable," noted: "Such failures put our nation's secrets at risk. They also damage the Department's reputation and that of its employees… Unfortunately, security is not a subject in a University course - 99% success is a failing grade." The same day, Albright announced a number of measures to improve security, including increased training and a comprehensive review of existing procedures. She also suggested the creation of a new position of Under Secretary of State responsible for security issues.

On May 5, the Secretary of State appeared before a closed-door, emergency hearing of the House Intelligence Committee to discuss possible improvements. Following her testimony, Committee Chair Porter Goss (Republican - Florida) observed: "My initial feeling is that we are going to have to bring in people who think in counterintelligence terms, people who understand law enforcement in the sense of violation of our national security interests… The worst of it is that the culture [in the State Department] is not security alert… The atmosphere is 'who needs security? This is the United States of America, we're home, we can relax, it's safe on the streets and nobody's going to spy on us here.' Wrong…"

Reports: Report - laptop had sensitive info, Associated Press, April 22; Security breach reshuffles officials, Associated Press, April 24; Congressman sceptical of Albright security plan, Reuters, May 5.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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