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Weapon information, spy techniques on missing U.S. State Department computer

May 3, 2000
Web posted at: 10:25 p.m. EDT (0225 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department laptop computer that went missing from a sixth floor room was loaded with "code word" top secret information about the sources and methods used to spy around the globe.

No secrets are more closely held by the intelligence community than "sources and methods," the ways in which raw intelligence is gathered.

That could include anything from so-called signals intelligence -- the methods used to eavesdrop on conversations among other nations' officials -- to the identity of a U.S. spy.

 VIDEO
VideoNational Security Correspondent David Ensor explains the highly secret information contained on the laptop.
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Windows Media 28K 80K
 

"We are talking about how we know things and how we keep track of things -- and that information could help people take steps to avoid us knowing what they are up to," said one official.

The missing laptop was used by State Department officials to log incidents of weapons proliferation. For example, if there was information about an alleged sale of a Chinese or North Korean missile to Iran, it would be logged in, as would the source of that information.

Then officials would screen out anything that might reveal "sources and methods" and give American diplomats a bare-bones description that they could use.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright used a meeting with Department staff to press for more vigilance about secrets:

"You may have seen reports indicating that I am furious about these incidents," Albright said. "Well, I am, and I hope you are too. Failures to observe basic procedures put our nation's secrets at risk."

Investigators are interviewing everyone with access to the secured room in question, from cleaning crews to diplomats. Officials said they are treating it as a possible case of espionage -- but so far they have no leads.

National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
DOD Web-watchers find war plans online
April 26, 2000
'Highly classified' State Department computer missing
April 17, 2000
U.S. knew of State Department bug for months
December 9, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Department of State -- Bureau of Intelligence and Research
U.S. State Department, Official Web Site
Federal Bureau of Investigation - Home Page
IDG.net: FBI investigating missing State Department laptop

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