Senate Sheds Light on State Security Problems

WASHINGTON (05/10/2000) - The U.S. Senate has proposed sweeping information security reforms throughout the U.S. Department of State's intelligence and counterintelligence organizations to stem the growing tide of information security breaches at the department.

In a report on the fiscal 2001 intelligence authorization act, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence threatened to withhold future funding and recommended limitations on State's authority to store certain types of classified materials.

If passed into law, the bill would require the director of Central Intelligence (DCI) to certify that all State classified information handling and storage procedures comply with DCI directives before intelligence information can be shared with the department. The bill also threatens to withhold funding from State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) if certain elements of the agency are not certified.

The committee's action comes one month after the disappearance of a laptop computer belonging to a State employee within INR. The laptop, which State officials have presumed stolen, is known to have contained highly classified information on weapons proliferation.

The case of the missing laptop is just the latest State incident to fuel the Senate committee's action. In January, officials discovered a listening device implanted by a Russian agent in a chair rail in a seventh-floor conference room at State headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The discovery of the listening device followed a February 1998 incident in which a man entered the secretary of State's office and made off with top-secret documents. The man has never been identified, and the documents have not been recovered.

In February, the State Department's Inspector General issued a report that castigated the agency for not complying with security regulations put in place by the DCI, who has authority over the protection of classified intelligence information throughout the intelligence community, including INR.

"The committee believes, however, that the time has come for the State Department to be held accountable for its failure to comply with directives governing the protection of [sensitive compartmented information]," the Senate committee report states.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has since ordered a "top to bottom" review of department security policies and procedures.