Weapon information, spy techniques on missing computer

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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 National Security Correspondent David Ensor explains the highly secret information contained on the laptop. QuickTime Play Real 28K 80K 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.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 04, 2000


If this is sabotage, as it undoubtedly is, it is the ultimate act of sabotage. Can you, offhand, think of anything worse?

-- Uncle Fred (dogboy45@bigfoot.com), May 04, 2000.

Unparalleled. Absolutely unmatched in history. To think that so much vital - yes, absolutely vital - data could be stored all in a single laptop boggles the mind.

-- Billiver (billiver@aol.com), May 04, 2000.

My brother-in-law, now deceased, a career C.I.A. Agent, will be turning over in his grave at this news of the loss of all our most precious "spy techniques.

-- JackW (jpayne@webtv.net), May 04, 2000.

I hate to even think it, but I wonder if Clinton, himself, didn't come up with a way to get this labtop to his friends, the Chinese. This is the first president in my adult lifetime that I have felt is actually capable of treason.

-- Wellesley (wellesley@freeport.net), May 04, 2000.

Oh, come now, that's beyond imagination.

I don't agree with Mr. Clinton on a lot of things, but he has built up our armed forces. Look how active we are throughout the world.

-- LillyLP (lillyLP@aol.com), May 04, 2000.

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