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State Dept. Bug Seen as Major Security Breach

By David A. Vise and Steve Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 9, 1999; 12:54 PM

U.S. officials warned today that the discovery of a highly sophisticated listening device in the State Department reflects a serious and high-level security breach and that an intensive review will be necessary to assess precisely how much damage resulted from Russian spying.

While State Department officials said the concealed device was not found in the inner suite of offices where Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright works, other U.S. officials said it was discovered last summer in a conference room on the seventh floor of the building, where Albright and other senior level officials hold important meetings. After taking precautions to ensure that no more sensitive information was transmitted through the device, FBI agents left the bug in place for months so they could observe a Russian spy at work and, ultimately, apprehend him.

"This is not only a story of effective counterintelligence . . . but it's also a very important story of the aggressive activity of Russian intelligence presence inside the United States," said Neil Gallagher, who heads the FBI's national security division. "The fact remains that a foreign intelligence service introduced a device within the Department of State on U.S. soil."

David Carpenter, the State Department's assistant director of diplomatic security, said precautious have been taken to tighten security in the building, adding that other conference rooms and offices have been checked and that no other listening devices have been found. He emphasized that the FBI and diplomatic security worked closely together to crack the case and are continuing to investigate the breach.

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In a joint State Department-FBI briefing, officials said FBI agents doing routine surveillance work first became suspicious last summer when they saw a man with Russian diplomatic plates periodically parking his car outside the State Department and lingering. Yesterday, when that man returned again, the FBI detained Stanislav Borosovich Gusec, who has worked in the Russian embassy since March, and turned him over to the Russian embassy to be expelled after he claimed diplomatic immunity.

While U.S. officials asserted that the arrest in Washington was not in retaliation for an incident last week in Moscow, where a U.S. embassy official was accused of spying and ordered to leave the country, Russian authorities say this follows a pattern and appears to be a case of retaliation by the U.S. government.

What remains unclear is exactly how the concealed listening device was placed in a conference room where sensitive discussions occur. "We need to fully understand how the device was introduced into the State Department," Gallagher said.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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