- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

State tightens security

Sen. Rod Grams feels vindicated for raising alarms against six ambassadorial nominees with a history of security violations now that the State Department has agreed to toughen penalties for future lapses.
"I am pleased that the State Department has taken initial steps to toughen security standards for its personnel," the Minnesota Republican said yesterday.
"In the past, a lack of security consciousness has made our nation's diplomatic headquarters a soft target for foreign intelligence. It is my hope that these new security standards will usher in a new era of caution and accountability at our diplomatic posts."
Mr. Grams, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on international operations, blocked the ambassadorial appointments in June after learning the State Department had cited them for a total of 62 security violations.
He said he will remove his objections and allow the nominations to be considered by the full committee, which has scheduled a closed session Sept. 27. He has refused to name the nominees with the security violations.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright had been pushing for tougher regulations since she learned of several security breaches at the department.
"People are being held accountable for their security lapses in a much more strict and defined way than we have in the past," Mr. Boucher said.
Mr. Grams, in a statement, said the new security measures were announced Sept. 1 in a notice at the State Department and in cables to U.S. diplomatic missions abroad. They take effect Oct. 1.
Under the new standards, security violations will be "taken into account" when ambassadorial nominees are selected and when all promotions are considered, Mr. Grams said.
Also a warning letter will be sent to any employee accused of two security violations, instead of four. Disciplinary measures will be taken against any employee with three infractions, instead of five.
The department also imposed tougher controls over classified materials in "controlled access areas" that are restricted to employees with certain security ratings.

From Russia with love

A statue of Russia's national poet, Aleksandr Sergeyevich Pushkin, reflected the glow of a late summer sun as Russian and U.S. officials expressed their warm affections for each other in a ceremony yesterday at George Washington University.
Across town on Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans were denouncing the Clinton administration for a "foreign policy failure" in its relations with Russia.
A dozen senior Republicans released a report charging that the administration's policy has left U.S.-Russian relations "in tatters, characterized by deep and growing hostility."
None of that was evident at the university ceremony where Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott insisted that U.S.-Russian relations are strong and growing.
President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin sent their regards at the unveiling of the 10-foot-tall bronze statue of the 19th-century poet crowned by the golden image of the winged horse Pegasus, the symbol of poetry.
Mr. Clinton, in a letter, said the statue will be a "reminder of the strong friendship between the Russian and American peoples."
Mr. Ivanov, who is on a private visit to Washington, was apparently overcome by Pushkin fever. After reading the message from the Russian president, he said it was signed, "Vladimir Pushkin, er, Putin, sorry."
"The statue is another visible testimony … to the phenomenon of Russian culture," Mr. Ivanov said. "Washington and Moscow are building mutual trust and partnership for years and years to come."
Mr. Talbott, who studied Russian literature, said Pushkin reminds him that the "Russian people are possessed of a greatness of spirit that was sure to prevail someday over the bleakness and cruelty of much of their history."
The statue is a gift to the people of Washington from the city of Moscow. James W. Symington, a former congressman from Missouri, helped bring the statue here in his position as chairman of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation.

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