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State Department e-mail system, BlackBerries went down for hours Wednesday

State Department (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The State Department’s e-mail system, Blackberries  and such went down for about three  hours Wednesday — and not for the first time.

We were quick to blame the Chinese, but apparently it wasn’t  their fault.

“At this point, we do not believe yesterday’s outage was due to any malicious activity and we are investigating the specific cause,” State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach said. This situation apparently happens from time to time, but not for that length.

Must have been painful to have to talk to people on an old-fashioned telephone or — Yikes! — even in person.  The outage “led to some awkward situations where people had to talk to each other face to face,” a source said. 

Speaking of the department’s Web site woes, the In The Loop Office of Consumer Affairs received a complaint Thursday from a reader who says she’s been calling the State Department tour office for the last month to set up a tour of the diplomatic reception rooms — they are really exquisite — for relatives visiting at the end of June.

A recorded message apologizes that the Web site is down “due to technical difficulties.” Previously reserved tours are still good, it says, unless they are canceled. The recording lists the ones canceled for May and June. “You are encouraged to continue calling the tour office” in the event the Web site may be fixed.

In response to an our inquiry, the department e-mailed us to say that the Web site  has been down since April but they “hope to have this problem resolved in the near future.” To “check on the status of a tour booked before the website went down, please contact the tour office at 202-647-3241, via e-mail at TourOffice@state.gov,  or go to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms page on State.gov.”

Since April?

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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