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Government Tightens Security After Undercover Tests Expose Threat

Aired May 25, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Using phony IDs and movie-prop police badges, carrying satchels that could have been filled with guns or bombs, even chemical weapons, undercover investigators walked right into 19 high-profile government buildings. Among them: the Justice Department, FBI headquarters, the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon. Agents boldly entered office suites where top U.S. cabinet officers work.

Today, feds are tightening security, and this hour on Capitol Hill, Congress is asking how such an embarrassing breach could occur.

CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas joins us with more now -- Pierre.

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, it was a sting operation and it worked beautifully, according to one source. They posed as law enforcement officials and were given carte blanche to go inside the Justice Department and various agencies across Washington.

Now, we received a few moments ago a copy of a tape provided by Congress. It shows some of these undercover agents at work. Now, as you'll see here, the undercover agents are moving about freely. They're being invited in by the security officials. Now, what's particularly important on that first video that you saw is that they walked around the magnetometer. So If they had weapons or -- as you said earlier, they would have been able to come in and wreak havoc if they were actually terrorists. So that is of great concern.

Today, the FBI, the Justice Department, and also the Pentagon, announced that changes were in order.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG QUIGLEY, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: Law enforcement personnel from other federal agencies will no longer be able to enter the Pentagon without an escort -- that's first. And second, law enforcement personnel who carry weapons will surrender their weapons to the Pentagon's Defense Protective Service upon arrival at the Pentagon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS: So you can see, here in Washington security is now even more of an issue -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Pierre, is anyone saying why or how there could have been so many security breaches?

THOMAS: Well, one of the things that sources are talking about is this professional courtesy among law enforcement officials. They are very friendly to one another, normally, and they have this courtesy in which they would allow each other to come in and move about pretty freely because they trusted one another. But in this particular case, when there is an impostor, they were very vulnerable.

ALLEN: Pierre Thomas in Washington.

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