State Department officials yesterday mourned the loss of two of the country’s top diplomats in a scandal over a missing laptop computer that set off a major overhaul in security at State.
Assistant Secretary of State J. Stapleton Roy has quit after his top aide, Donal Keyser, was suspended over the loss of the laptop, which held top-secret files on the nuclear capacity of foreign nations.
“Losing Stape Roy and Don Keyser are worse to the department than the bomb that hit the Cole,” said one department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The two are among the most highly respected members of the State Department, Mr. Roy having served as ambassador to China and Indonesia.
The State Department yesterday contradicted published reports that Mr. Roy had resigned in protest at the action taken against Mr. Keyser.
Rather, he took early retirement because he wished to assume responsibility for the security breach that occurred in his department the Bureau of Intelligence and Research said a department official who declined to be identified.
Mr. Roy has not explained his decision publicly, but department officials saw the loss of him and Mr. Keyser as a severe blow.
Mr. Keyser was expected to have taken over as head of I&R after Mr. Roy. Now, no one is in position to replace the leadership of the key analysis bureau, Department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged.
An intensive investigation began after the laptop computer containing highly classified information was reported missing from I&R in January, marking one in a series of embarrassing security lapses at the department.
Six officials face discipline as a result of that probe by the chief of diplomatic security.
“The disappearance of the laptop from I&R, a laptop with classified information on it, was a very serious matter,” said Mr. Boucher.
He said Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright “made clear … there needed to be an investigation, there needed to be accountability and responsibility for this disappearance.”
“The Diplomatic Security Bureau turned [its findings] over to the people in the Bureau of Human Resources, where they have proposed disciplinary action against six employees of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in connection with the disappearance of the laptop,” Mr. Boucher said.
“These proposed actions range from a letter of reprimand through suspension to separation from service.”
Mr. Boucher noted that the six employees “have a right to respond; they have a right to a hearing before final action is taken; and they have the right, in the end, to present a grievance over any final disciplinary decision.”
Mr. Boucher rejected news reports yesterday indicating Mr. Roy had taken retirement about one month earlier than expected to protest the action taken against Mr. Keyser, his subordinate and longtime colleague.
“He did not describe it to me that way,” said Mr. Boucher, who later said Mr. Roy had stepped aside to take responsibility for the lapse in security at I&R, the bureau dealing with the most highly classified intelligence information at State.
Other recent security failures included the discovery of a bug in a top-floor conference room that was being monitored by a Russian spy; the disappearance of classified papers from Mrs. Albright’s office suite; and the loss of other laptop computers.
Mrs. Albright subsequently appointed David Carpenter, head of diplomatic security, to tighten State Department security and take over some of the security roles from I&R.
All visitors to the State Department building now must be escorted at all times and reporters need escorts to go above the second floor to meet with officials.