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U.S. intelligence computer crashes for nearly 3 days


January 29, 2000
Web posted at: 10:18 p.m. EST (0318 GMT)

In this story:

Access denied

Contingency plan invoked


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. government sources say there is no indication that the crash of an important spy computer operated by the super secret National Security Agency was caused by sabotage or the Y2K glitch.

An NSA spokeswoman confirmed Saturday that computer systems at the NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, crashed last Monday and remained down for almost three days.

"It was a real problem," said an unnamed government source.

A source said the loss of the computer systems was "not insignificant." And although the problem has been largely overcome, the source said Saturday it was still not 100 percent repaired.

The NSA is responsible for protecting U.S. information systems and producing international intelligence information. It also tries to find weaknesses in codes and information systems used by U.S. adversaries.

Access denied

Monday's crash affected "the processing of intelligence, but not the collection of intelligence," according to the spokeswoman. In other words, the computer continued to receive information, but workers were unable to access it.

She said no other NSA locations were affected.

A U.S. official told CNN that most, if not all of the affected data had been stored in the computer for later analysis, but the official said the timeliness of the information was lost in some cases.

"There are some things you want to know right away, and we will have to go back and see if anything significant was missed," the official said.

Contingency plan invoked

The spokeswoman said engineers began working on the problem immediately after it occurred late Monday, and computers were back within the window of operations within 72 hours.

Sources said a contingency plan for just such an event went into effect after the problem was discovered.

Officials said as soon as the computer system went down, so- called "work arounds" allowed the highest priority information to be processed, such as intelligence needed to support U.S. troops deployed around the world.

Sources said the problem occurred because the computer system was overloaded and badly stressed. Indicating the scope of the crash, sources said NSA technicians had to reconstruct the entire system.

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and National Security Producer Pam Benson

NSA grapples with Linux security
January 18, 2000
Biggest U.S. spy agency choking on too much information
November 25, 1999
The long, strong arm of the NSA
July 27, 1998

The National Security Agency
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