Security Found Lax at State Annex in Fairfax

By Keary, Jim | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 20, 1999 | Go to article overview
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Security Found Lax at State Annex in Fairfax


Keary, Jim, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


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, 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 also could 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.

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Security Found Lax at State Annex in Fairfax
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