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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks With Questions and Answers at Town Hall Meeting on Security
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC, May 3, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Good morning. Good morning to all of you, both here in Washington and those who may be watching overseas. I want to begin by saying "thank you." This is an incredibly busy time for us all. And we are at a pivotal points almost everywhere, from Colombia to China, and from Korea to Kosovo.

This translates into hard work and long hours. For most, the personal and professional pressures are great, the rewards are modest, the victories rarely final. And in many overseas posts, there are often other hardships, including risks to life and limb.

But this is the nature of the business we have chosen -- American foreign policy -- and I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity with you to represent our country around the world. In fact, I am jealous that many of you will get to do this for your whole careers, while I will not -- at least not in government service. You are the real custodians of our foreign policy.

When I travel now, I am often asked whether there will be major changes in policy after the November election. And I reply that, of course there will be some changes, whichever party wins, but our fundamental direction is unlikely to shift very much. Overall, there will be continuity, due in large measure to the experience and wisdom provided by you, our Foreign Service, Civil Service and Foreign Service National personnel.

But I didn't come here this morning just to thank you. I also want to discuss with you two issues that have concerned me since the day I took office. The first is resources. America has the world's largest and strongest economy. We are the only country whose interests and capabilities are truly global. And yet, due to a shortage of resources, we are not able to do nearly as much as we should to shape the political and security environment of the 21st Century. This is a potentially tragic error.

When adequately funded, our diplomacy is a remarkable tool for preserving peace, preventing crises, promoting prosperity and providing the answer to global threats. In any rational system of priorities, we would have more to invest in programs, and far more to invest in recruiting, training, equipping, and protecting those who work in our diplomatic posts.

This is why we have launched a strong effort within the Administration, on Capitol Hill and in the country to explain how what we do here at the Department has direct and beneficial impact on the lives of our citizens. We have greatly expanded our educational outreach to key constituency groups. And we have made some headway.

International affairs has been a significant priority in endgame budget negotiations the past two years. Most of our 1998 and 1999 supplemental requests have been honored. Our personnel accounts have stabilized. We are going ahead, although still not as rapidly as we should, with construction and repairs overseas.

Still, like Sisyphus, we have to keep rolling the stone up the hill. This year, Congress passed a budget resolution that would slash twelve percent from the President's request. And our emergency supplemental requests for Colombia and Kosovo and other urgent needs have not been approved.

In my testimony this year, I have repeatedly made the point that most of the funds we are requesting for Fiscal Year 2001 will be spent next year, under a new Administration. So our requests have nothing to do with political parties or individual personalities. Their sole purpose is to advance the interests and values of the United States.

And I pledge to you today that as long as I am Secretary of State, I will fight for our budget; and that as long as I draw breath, I will do all I can to help you get the resources you need to do your jobs well, and thereby keep America secure, prosperous and strong.

The second and main topic I want to discuss will come as no surprise; that is security. In 1997, when I arrived on the 7th floor, coming from New York where I was a chief of mission, I was concerned generally about our security procedures and I also wanted to enhance the morale of our security personnel, improve recruitment, and increase resources. To head this effort, we brought in David Carpenter, the first career law enforcement officer ever to lead the Diplomatic Security Bureau.

Spurred especially by the tragic embassy bombings in 1998, I think we have made real progress. We developed a global risk management plan, enhanced perimeter security, hired more guards, adopted a rigorous escort policy, strengthened computer protections, provided hundreds of security briefings, and began a new surveillance detection program at most posts.

More recently, I asked Assistant Secretary Carpenter to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Department's security practices. This review was assisted by experts from the CIA, DOD, FBI and Secret Service, and is almost complete. I have also asked the Assistant Secretary to serve as my special adviser on security affairs, while we work with Congress to establish the position of Under Secretary for Security, Counter-terrorism and Law Enforcement Affairs.

I will be frank and say that some of these reforms have been resisted. Today, I want to make it clear that I am asking for, and expect, your full support.

Because we cannot and should not accept a culture within the Department that resists paying full attention to our security responsibilities. We cannot and should not suggest that those responsibilities somehow interfere with the performance of our jobs. For, in truth, this is not possible. Security is an inherent, inextricable, and indispensable component of all our jobs.

As you well know, a laptop computer containing sensitive information disappeared recently from one of the most secure areas of the Department. Combined with the 7th floor bugging incident, this demonstrates that more efforts on our part are needed. And these events have raised questions within Congress and the public about our commitment to security.

You may have seen reports indicating that I am furious about these incidents. Well, I am, and hope you are, too. Failures to observe basic procedures put our nation's secrets at risk. They damage the credibility and reputation of the Department and everyone who works here. They are intolerable and inexcusable. And together, we must strive to make their repetition unimaginable.

Let me stress a few points. First, I repeat: security is a core component of the job of each and every person in this room, and those listening to us outside. I don't care how skilled you are as a diplomat, how brilliant you may be at meetings, or how creative you are as an administrator; if you are not professional about security, you are a failure.

Every personnel review should include an evaluation of how well security-related responsibilities are fulfilled. And every employee who handles or safeguards classified or sensitive information must attend the Department's annual security briefings. Getting security right requires not just a short burst of attention. It demands a permanent commitment.

Second, the vast majority of State Department employees already take their security duties very seriously. I can't emphasize that enough. It is the few who neglect or who are casual about their duties who create problems for all of us. So this is one area where we must each be our neighbor's keeper. If you see a violation, don't look the other way. Correct it, report it, and ensure it doesn't happen again.

Third, forget that the Cold War ended. Spy novelists may be having trouble thinking up plots, but our nation still has enemies; our secrets still need protecting; and the threats we face are more varied and less predictable than ever. Jefferson had it right when he said that liberty's price is "eternal vigilance."

Fourth, don't let where you serve affect the precautions you take. It may seem less necessary to go the extra mile for security here than in a sensitive overseas post. It is not. The imperatives of day-to-day security do not change whether you live in Bethesda or Beijing.

Finally, don't rely on memory alone. Develop and follow procedures. I have to tell you that when I fly on a plane that says the United States of America, with our trained pilots who have flown thousands of hours, and I watch them in the cockpit, they sit there with a manual and they go through every step by step, making sure that they do the right things in flipping switches and moving various gidgets around. And I am so impressed at the discipline that they take in doing that. And they do it because they don't want to go down. And we don't want to go down either. We should do the same kind of procedures every day before we go home.

Let me emphasize again that, in responding to this challenge, there is no "us" or "them", only "we". We all have an interest in seeing that those who need highly sensitive information in their jobs have access to it, on a convenient and timely basis. We all have an interest in guaranteeing the security of that information, for without that guarantee, the information will be compromised and access to similar data in the future will be in doubt.

We all have a stake in safeguarding the interests of our nation, and in seeing that within our Department, there exists a climate and culture which ensures that security is a top priority for every employee, every day. This is essential to the future of the US Department of State, and critical, therefore, to the future our country, because American diplomacy is our first line of defense, and together, we have vital work to do on behalf of democracy, in support of peace, in service to our citizens, and in fulfillment of our nation's unique global role.

I have never been prouder than to serve with all of you. And I am confident that we will respond appropriately now, and proceed with America's work at a level of excellence unmatched by any comparable institution anywhere in the world.

Thank you very much, and I'll now be happy to take your questions.

(Applause.)

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. My name is Gary Galloway and I'm proud to serve as Agency Vice President for the American Federation of Government Employees, representing more than 6,000 bargaining unit employees in the Department.

It's been our experience that, in the past, when security violations have been observed by civil service employees, reporting of these violations has resulted, in some cases, in no action -- and, in the worst cases, retaliation or reprisal against employees.

What we would like to know is what new measures will be taken to ensure that these issues will be addressed without negative consequences to employees.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that what is very important is that we all understand this is a responsibility for everybody equally -- Foreign Service, Civil Service and Foreign Service nationals, as I have said. And that what has to happen, we have to understand that we all have a joint responsibility for this and no one's career will suffer unjustly and no one's, on this most recent incident, has. People have been moved but their investigation is ongoing.

And I believe that the procedures that will be in place will be such that people will be treated fairly, that their rights will be respected, and that no one will be in any way demeaned or punished for something before there is a full investigation. I do think it is important, however, that we take the kinds of measures immediately that make it possible for investigations to go forward.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Marshall Adair, President of the American Foreign Service Association.

First of all, I would like to commend you for your work on this issue, not only the issue of security of information, but also security of personnel. Both of them we recognize are critical to the management of effective foreign policy.

I think that we also -- we need to point out that information of security overall has been managed very well, particularly at our overseas posts. It is more difficult here at the Department of State. The challenge is substantially more difficult. It is a larger institution, it is more diverse and it also has a commitment, reinforced by this Administration, correctly so, to maintain openness to the public. That makes things far more difficult.

As you pursue your efforts to improve security here at the Department of State, I am sure that the Foreign Service and certainly the Foreign Service Association will work very hard together with you. We would appeal -- we would make several appeals to you, however.

First of all, that you concentrate resources on security problem itself and not be diverted by responding to the critics, as opposed to the problem. Secondly, do as you have just done today: Seek the cooperation of those working here, rather than seeking to apportion blame. And, third, seek more resources. And I would commend you for your comments today in that regard and certainly for your efforts over the last several years to improve the foreign affairs budget here, because we can't do anything without more resources. The budget of the Department of State right now is appallingly low.

As I say, we will certainly work with you in this regard. My question here would be: Have you made an estimate now of the kinds of resources it will take to substantially improve this kind of security at the Department of State?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, thank you very much for your words of support and your understanding that we are all in this together. I feel that very strongly and, as I look around this room and see the many people that I have had contact with, whether it's in my office or in the cafeteria, you are all amazing people who are incredibly dedicated to this country. And, as I have said, I am very grateful for the privilege of serving with you.

But I think what we have to understand is how serious this is and how one, in fact, balances what you said, Marshall, about the openness of our society and our need to carry on work.. And we are going to try to find that balance.

Dave Carpenter, as I said, is going through this top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top review with his other law enforcement colleagues. He has given me a preliminary report, but we haven't done yet the assessment on the resources.

Where we have a problem is when I've gone to testify -- and we are increasingly conscious of security issues because of the terrible bombings -- of how not to have -- and this is more of a building issue -- how not to have just secure buildings with nobody in them with no programs, or people who are exposed in places, and I've just visited some really miserable locations where our embassies, the structures themselves, where they are located, where they have programs and they are not secure.

So we are working with Congress and with each other to try to develop a good balance. But I do think that we are in an unfortunate era where we have to be much, much more concerned about security, as I said in my remarks, as a core issue. But we are working on the balance and Dave is working on providing me with estimates of resources that we will need and also outlining the various procedures that have to happen here in terms of going to the security reviews and having people come into each part of the Department to go over the security procedures, making sure that the right people are working on the problem, and that it really is a responsibility of everyone.

All I can do is give you a kind of home analogy. Everybody, when they leave a house, is responsible for locking the door. It isn't up to just one member whose job it is to lock the door. And that is where we have to act together.

QUESTION: Good morning. My name is Karen Saxe, I am a regional computer security officer in charge of the United States, Canada and the NEA, one of two. And I want to say thank you for your strong words of support for security. We appreciate it greatly. We can use it with our briefings with ambassadors, posts, bureaus and so forth.

I did have a question. This is more computer security related, given the issue with the INR laptop and because that concerns me personally. Domestically, and I know you just are beginning to work with the Under Secretary for Security, domestically with computer security issues, have you given any thought to strengthening domestic policy for computer security? We're very weak in that area. Any work in that area would be of great use to us to help us when we go and do evaluations of bureaus and such to be able to have something to stand on to say to people that this isn't secure for this reason and you should do these things. Right now, we don't have that backing.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely. Let me just make the following point. I think this is not true of everyone in this room, but I think we are all into a new technology era where -- we were saying this the other day -- that if, in fact, there had been 5,000 pieces of paper on a desk and they disappeared, you'd kind of be aware of the fact that they were gone. And especially if they were marked with all the appropriate markings.

And the problem here is that, as computer literate as many people are, they still don't, I think, fully understand what it is that happens with a laptop computer and hard drives and CD-ROMs and various aspects of them. And I think that we just need to be better about understanding.

Yesterday, I was with the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and they were, as you can imagine, asking me about this. And I think that it is a question of technology and how people understand and handle it. And you will have, as a result of the procedures that we're setting up, a much more specific set of guidelines that I think will help you in order for the rest of the people here to understand the security and sanctity of a laptop or any computer, given the transfer of information that way.

QUESTION: Bruce Matthews. I am a security engineering officer with our Diplomatic Security Training Center at the moment. I, too, appreciate your comments. I am already lamenting the fact that many of our colleagues will read them only in words on paper. I don't think they can appreciate the honesty with which you delivered them. I do appreciate that.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We'll make a video.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: There you go. Modern technology helps.

I do have an appeal, though. I think one of the issues that we need to deal with fundamentally in the Department is our lack of classification guidelines. It is hard to hold anyone accountable or have an accountability structure that's effective without something to state when that accountability needs to be put in place. And other agencies do have classification guidelines and, to my knowledge, we don't have a well-established set within the Department to the detail required for the average user who's writing and creating documents and material to have a solid guidance of when they should classify and to what level

And so my appeal to you is to start an effort, if we can, to either better publish them if they exist or to create them if they don't.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think you have a very important point and I think that there are a lot of people who actually believe that documents are over-classified or they are classified incorrectly, and kind of a sense that if a cable comes in classified, that the response also has to be classified, and a number of questions that people have. I think that this is an issue that also does need clarification and will be clarified, because it's an important part of the process.

Let me say that, you know, I do not in any way wish to underestimate what has happened here: it is huge and terrible. But I hope that we can use this not only as something that has made us realize the importance of what we're doing but to turn it into a good learning lesson about questions such as you're raising, where people kind of go along with what they think is the process without fully understanding it. And so we are going to look at not only what you asked about the guidelines for computers, but just how to do things better. And Dave is going to work on that and, Skip, you are going to get involved in a lot of these aspects.

And I must say that we're getting tremendously good cooperation from the Agency and Director Tenet and I have been talking and will continue to talk about how to improve various parts of this. And I think people -- Ambassador Gnehm has told me that you all have cards and things that we hope very much that you will not only have questions on that we can answer later but also suggestions and things that you believe ought to be looked at.

I can't emphasize enough the "we" part of this. I feel very strongly about this, as is evident, but I can't do this alone. I am the ultimate person that is responsible for this and I take that responsibility on. But all of you have to be a part of this, and I think suggestions of various kinds will be very helpful.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, my name is Kerri Eggspuehler and I am a computer security specialist with Diplomatic Security. And one of the things that Assistant Secretary Carpenter has been very supportive of is our efforts in computer security. And we travel on teams that do assessments of our computer systems worldwide. And one of the things that I think has not been addressed is that our upper level management -- first of all, many times when I brief an ambassador, a DCM or a consulate general, they tell me this is the first time they've ever had a computer security briefing in their entire careers. And many times, you know, they're very upset about this.

But I have also been confronted with senior management who basically say, I don't have to deal with this, this isn't my problem. And a lot of times, computer security or any security is going to come from the top down. So I appreciate your comments on this, and I was wondering how we are going to educate our senior management to take this seriously and to recognize it, because it's not just a matter of, you know, the individuals doing it but really our senior management making a commitment to this.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I believe we all have to make that commitment. And it's a little bit -- I think it may be that some of the senior people are embarrassed to admit that they don't know anything about it, you know. So people should feel free to ask all the questions they always wanted to know about computers. And, you know, it's a generation problem, I can assure you.

(Laughter.)

But I think that we need to do that, and people should not be embarrassed to figure out how to even turn on their computer. So I urge everybody and Dave is working. We are going to have a program here that requires people to go to various sessions, where all of you will be going around even on a more frequent basis to make these kinds of explanations. And if people want to talk to you privately, they can do that. But I really do believe that you're absolutely right: it has to come from the top down.

QUESTION: I mean, this is twofold. I mean, when you were talking earlier about accountability, because that's one of the things, too. We've briefed literally almost 10,000 people in the last two years. But it's one of those things that, if they aren't held accountable for their actions, then why do we even do the work that we do? And the gentleman that first that was speaking was saying, you know, I hope careers aren't influenced by this. But I think they should be, if they have flagrant disregard for security in every aspect. So I think accountability is a key issue and part of that.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I agree with that. Which is why, in my remarks, I said that as there are evaluations are being made of people as to whether they are performing their jobs well, how they are accountable on security issues is going to be a part of that. I think that that is essential. And I must say, I am very glad you raised the question of accountability. There is a little bit too much of this going on, and "I didn't see it" or "I didn't do it" or "It wasn't my responsibility." And this goes back to, you know, everybody is responsible for locking the front door.

I think people in a bureaucracy, any bureaucracy, have a tendency to say somebody else did it. And we can't have that kind of culture. I'm kind of -- you know, I was calling members of Congress up about this, which was not a great, fun activity -- (laughter) -- and some of them said, well, it's just the culture of the State Department. That's embarrassing. I don't want to answer for that. I don't want to be humiliated or embarrassed on our behalf. I want to be proud, as we justly should be, of many -- all, mostly -- fantastic people here. And you have to take accountability. And you're absolutely right.

Thank you all very much.

[End of Document]
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