- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 1999

The security at the Department of State’s international telecommunications center is so lax a reporter was able to easily enter the building without proper identification or authorization.
The building, located in western Fairfax County, Va., is filled with computer equipment and is topped off with large satellite dishes. About 200 State Department employees and contractors many who are engineers work in the facility.
Although the facility is called the Diplomatic Communication Services Center, or State Department Annex 43, State Department officials refuse to discuss the function of the building other than saying it is “non-technical and administrative.”
Only one private security guard protects the entrance to the building to keep out spies and terrorists.
It is supposedly controlled by electronic identification cards 24 hours a day, but that security measure was bypassed last week when a reporter walked to the door, rattled it and was admitted. The security guard opened the door without asking for or being shown any identification, and the reporter did not identify himself until he got inside and walked up to the desk where the guard was sitting.
A State Department security source said that there should be a working intercom at the door so a guard can identify someone without a pass.
A State Department spokeswoman said the security was adequate for the building, but she refused to discuss the function of the facility.
“While I will not get into the specifics of what is handled at any State Department annex, the level of protection at this State [Department] annex is commensurate with the nontechnical administrative work that is done there,” the spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman could not explain why engineers work in the building since it is supposed to be purely nontechnical and why a reporter gained access to the facility although the sign at the door requires an identification card to get in. The spokeswoman said she would try to get those answers, but she never provided them to The Washington Times.
She could also not explain why a security guard with a top-secret security clearance is needed to guard the building if it was so unimportant.
The lapse in security was discovered despite State Department assurances that its security was tightened after a Russian listening device was found inside a seventh-floor conference room at the department’s headquarters in the District.
The bug was detected only after the FBI discovered Russian diplomat Stanislav Gusev was picking up transmission from the device. The FBI and the State Department are not certain how long the device had been planted in the building.
The communications center is even more vulnerable, security experts say.
Only a sign at the loading docks identifies the building as a State Department facility, but the building is quickly identified as a telecommunications facility by the large satellite antennae on its roof.
Also, the approximately 200 employees have to park on unsecured surface parking lots. There are no concrete barriers to stop a terrorist from driving a car bomb in through the front door, or planting one by the loading dock.
“[The security measures] sound light to me,” said Tony Daniels, former assistant director of the FBI Washington field office, who is now president of Daniels Burke and Associates Inc., a security consulting firm.
He was surprised the reporter who works for The Washington Times could walk in by simply jiggling a doorknob and getting the lone guard’s attention.
A State Department security source said there is only one private security guard posted in the building, and the guard can not move from his post at the front door to patrol the building or even use the bathroom unless another guard from Rosslyn 12 miles away drives over to relieve him for a few moments.
“We have been complaining … constantly that there is only one officer,” said the source. “No one has listened to us.”
Another security source said that the building once had three guards working inside the building and the number of officers has slowly eroded to one per shift.
Although officers who provide the majority of security at the State Department are identified as State Department officers, they are actually contracted private security guards who work for Inter-Con Security Systems Inc. The Washington Times reported July 30 that the security guards have little firearms training and about 90 minutes of anti-terrorism training.
Security officers themselves told The Washington Times the State Department is not secure.
For example, about a year ago, the department suspended the rules that required employees to show their photo-identification cards on nights and weekend. All they had to do to get in the building during the off hours was to swipe the card’s magnetic strip to open the turnstile but no one was there to check if the card had been stolen or belonged to an actual employee.
The State Department began demanding photo IDs Dec. 11 after The Washington Times reported the security flaw.
A State Department official said they went back to the tougher security system after the bug had been found.
An audit by State Department Inspector General Jacqueline Williams-Bridgers completed in September found that visitors, contractors and maintenance workers were allowed to roam freely and unescorted throughout the State Department headquarters.
The practice was stopped in its tracks when the inspector general blew the whistle.
ABC News reported it received a copy of the report and said as many as 150 foreign nationals a day were given access to the building and that 140 offices and conference rooms had not been swept for listening devices.
The inspector general has not released the report, which was published in September.
Mr. Daniels says he can only assume that the guard at the communications center either did not follow orders or was ordered not to challenge anyone coming to the door. He said one of the problems security companies are facing is the lack of qualified people to work these jobs.
“I’ve been in touch with a number of these security companies, and they’ve said attracting security guards is difficult because the job market is so good,” Mr. Daniels said.
He also said that the companies only staff the number of guards that is required through its contract, not based on whether additional guards may be needed.

David Sands contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire-service reports.

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