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U.S. State Department Scrambling to Find Missing Laptop Computer

Aired April 17, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. State Department is scrambling a bit today after another embarrassing security flub. A laptop loaded with top-secret information is now missing.

CNN's Andrea Koppel live in Washington with more on this.

Andrea, hello.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill.

That laptop belonged to the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, also known by its acronym INR. There are about three dozen analysts who work there and they're responsible for handling some of the most sensitive, top-secret information here at the department. And yet today, almost two months after that laptop first went missing, State Department officials admit that they don't know if it was lost, misplaced or stolen. The damage assessment is currently under way to determine the impact of that computer's disappearance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Certainly, the computers that INR works with, the material INR works with, is highly classified. Higher classifications often in consular work or other work here done at the State Department. And we are concerned that there may have been a compromise of highly classified material, and that's what we're investigating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: State Department officials refuse to elaborate on whether the person who walked off with that computer may have been a department employee or a contract worker busy renovating some of the INR offices. It's part now of a joint FBI-State Department investigation. And it follows another embarrassing incident late last year involving a Russian diplomat who was caught outside the State Department eavesdropping on seventh floor conversations. The seventh floor is where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's office is -- Bill.

HEMMER: Andrea, I guess it's a bit of the sign of the times with this computer. Any thought given there at the State Department of tightening things just yet?

KOPPEL: Well, in fact, Bill, they say that they had tightened security here, and it began long before that embarrassing Russian spy incident in December of last year. Secretary of State Albright more than a year ago instructed the head of diplomatic security here at the State Department to enforce better regulations and better monitoring for visitors here at the State Department. The problem in this case is that they just don't know who walked off with the computer, Bill.

HEMMER: Keep us posted.

Andrea Koppel at the State Department, thank you.

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