U.S. Department of StateTuesday, December 5, 2000
Daily Press Briefing
Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
QUESTION: Can you talk about the Secretary's response to the laptop computer's disappearance?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to fill you in on where we stand on all these things. And I realize it's kind of complicated because there are several things going on at once, but if you'll bear with me I'll try to explain them to you in a sort of logical and separate fashion.
The disappearance of a laptop from INR, a laptop with classified information on it, was a very serious matter. And the Secretary made clear it was a very serious matter and she made quite clear that there needed to be an investigation; there needed to be accountability and responsibility for this disappearance.
Pursuant to that, an investigative process was established. That process was largely a bureaucratic one. The Secretary is not directly involved in decisions of defining responsibility or specifying punishments. But that process proceeded pursuant to her desire to see responsibility assigned, to see the matter investigated thoroughly.
At this point, that process, following the inquiries done by the Diplomatic Security Bureau, was turned over to the people in the Bureau of Human Resources, where they have proposed disciplinary action against six employees of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in connection with the disappearance of the laptop.
These proposed actions range from a letter of reprimand through suspension to separation from service. These are proposals. It is important to remember the employees have due process in discipline matters. They have a right to respond, they have a right to a hearing before final action is taken, and they have the right in the end to present a grievance over any final disciplinary decision. So that is one process going on.
Second of all, the Secretary has a responsibility to prepare this building for transition. And looking at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, especially given the fact that the Assistant Secretary indicated his intention to retire in January, she had to consider how she wanted this Bureau to go through the transition, what kind of leadership she wanted to leave this Bureau with. And she decided, in that context, to reassign one of the senior people in the Bureau and to look for different leadership.
The third thing that is going on is Ambassador Roy, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau, had originally intended to retire in January. He decided to move up his plans to retire, and he will leave his current position today, December 5th, in order to prepare for an earlier retirement.
So those are the things that I want to describe to you that are going on. I realize it's a great deal of intersecting lines here, but essentially each one of these things has its own reasons. Given the privacy and other rights of the individuals involved, I have to say we are not able to provide much more detailed information at this time. But that is the basic outline of what is going on with the Intelligence and Research Bureau.
QUESTION: Well, you're calling Roy's departure an early retirement, and he is calling a resignation in disgust.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think he is. Don't believe what you read in the newspapers, I have to say. He did not describe it that way to me.
MR. BOUCHER: He did not describe it that way to me.
QUESTION: Well, what is your understanding of his feelings on this matter, then?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not here to describe everybody's feelings; I'm here to describe the facts. He had originally said he was going to resign in January, and he decided that he would move up the date of his retirement. And that is what he has done.
QUESTION: Are you saying there is no relationship whatsoever with the laptop?
MR. BOUCHER: No, obviously there is a relationship to everything that's going on in the Bureau. He felt now is the time for him to leave his post and retire.
QUESTION: So you could say it was -- (inaudible) -- ?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I wouldn't because he did not describe it that way to me.
QUESTION: How did he describe it to you?
MR. BOUCHER: He decided, as a decision he had made in light of everything that's going on in the Bureau.
QUESTION: Is it customary of an employee of Roy's level to leave -- resign with a day's notice, or usually do they give a few weeks, or because of security concerns do they have to leave the building right away? I mean, is this kind of short notice?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I mean, yeah, it is short notice certainly. He had planned on leaving in January. You know, there is a whole process of retirement that you go through that you have certain periods of time on the payroll while you're in the process of retiring out. Normally he would have done that as he continued in his present position. He decided to leave his present position and he'll be nominally reassigned to the Bureau of Personnel or somewhere while he goes through filing papers and carrying out his retirement plans, which will take effect a bit earlier than they otherwise would have.
QUESTION: Given all the changes in the Bureau in the last -- of recent and his early retirement, how is this going to affect the workings of the Bureau through the next administration?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, one of the considerations here for the Secretary was, given that Stapleton Roy was planning on retiring in January and given the other events that are going on in the Bureau, she felt it was important to have the right leadership for this Bureau as we headed into the transition, and therefore that was one of -- that was the reason why she decided one of the other senior people in the Bureau had to be reassigned. And having made that decision, then she is now looking at possible candidates to take the Bureau through the transition in order to make sure that the new Secretary is well served.
QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on the other end. I had another question as well. You said that the Bureau of Human Resources made recommendations. Did she in any of her actions go beyond what they recommended, or in some cases did she take less punitive action?
MR. BOUCHER: Look, there are a lot of things wrong in the newspapers. Let me go through some of them, okay? There are some of these things you have to correct, okay?
First of all, no disciplinary action has been taken, okay? Nothing is done, nothing is final. These people have gotten letters from the Office of Employee Relations saying that we propose the following disciplinary action with regard to you. Employees have their rights: they have a right to respond; they have a right to an oral hearing; they have a right even to grieve a final decision that is taken.
Second of all, that is not an action that the Secretary took. The Secretary has not fired anybody or disciplined anybody. She made quite clear at the outset that she wanted there to be investigations and responsibility. So I'm not trying to distance her, but just factually it's not correct to say that the Secretary did this, the Secretary did that, because it's not her that does it; it is done pursuant to instructions to investigate.
There is a security investigation that establishes who is responsible in what fashion for the loss of the laptop, and then the Office of Employee Relations takes that and says, okay, based on this kind of responsibility, this is what we think ought to be the proposed disciplinary action. And those letters go out from the Bureau of Human Resources.
QUESTION: Before you go beyond that, though --
MR. BOUCHER: So the action has not been taken.
QUESTION: Does she see those letters, and does she approve those letters?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no, they just go out.
QUESTION: Was she aware of those letters?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure she probably was, yes.
QUESTION: And so -- (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: What?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- says that Roy told Albright he would resign in protest, he didn't have a face-to-face -- or he didn't have a one-on-one conversation --
MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Roy talks to Albright all the time.
MR. BOUCHER: About this? I don't know. They have talked about this. They have talked about his intentions to retire. They have talked about the situation in the Bureau, sure. They meet almost every morning, frankly.
QUESTION: So he didn't tell her he was going to resign in protest, as far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, I have never head Ambassador Roy use "resign in protest." And I don't -- I mean, the Secretary hasn't either, as far as I know.
QUESTION: What were some of the other mistakes?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. So there is no disciplinary action been taken as proposed; it is not final.
Second of all, Mr. Keyser has not been suspended for 30 days without pay. There is one proposal for removal, separation from service, not two. No one has been suspended at this stage and, as I pointed out before, all the employees have a right to respond before any decision is made.
And, finally, Stapleton Roy is one of three, not two, active Foreign Service officers with a rank of Career Ambassador. Tom Pickering and Mary Ryan are the other two.
So the chief question, though, is this is disciplinary action that is proposed. Remember, the laptop loss was a very serious matter. I think if we were up here saying, well, we found two or three low-level people and had taken action against them because of the laptop, you would have said, "What about higher-level responsibility?" Okay.
We're here to say that through the appropriate process we believe we have identified six people who have some responsibility with regard to the loss of the laptop, that we are taking -- proposing disciplinary action, and that that is proceeding according to the normal process, including the due process afforded to the people involved.
Second of all, we're up here saying that the Secretary is concerned about the leadership of this Bureau as we go forward, and that she is making certain decisions about who should lead the Bureau through transition in order to ensure that it is in solid shape as we go through this turmoil and proceed on to try to serve a new Secretary.
And third of all, I'm telling you that Stapleton Roy decided to retire early.
QUESTION: My second is the complaint lodged by some that, for example, when gentlemen unknown to anyone in the Secretary's private suite came in and, as observed by more than one employee in her private suite, put classified documents into a briefcase and walked out, all observed by employees. As far as we know, there was no disciplinary action taken against anyone in that instance.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let me check on what happened in that situation, okay?
QUESTION: So is it fair for --
MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on what happened with that investigation. Now --
QUESTION: Is it fair for some to suggest that the Secretary has not penalized people closest to her when there have been security breaches?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think that is fair because I think the need to propose disciplinary actions for infractions of a nature as serious as these, as the loss of the laptop, and perhaps others, should be self-evident. And you can't say that, well, he wasn't caught and therefore you shouldn't be punished.
QUESTION: Can I just clear this up? Allen Locke and Nancy May, then, have not been dismissed, or have they?
MR. BOUCHER: I cannot talk in much detail about specific individuals. But there are proposals for disciplinary actions, including dismissals. But none of those have been implemented until the employees have their right to respond.
QUESTION: And can I also ask about the Mort Halperin laptop which was mentioned in The Washington Post article? Is that correct, that that laptop there -- an unclassified laptop went missing and no action was taken?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, again, we have to look at that situation as well. In some of these situations you can figure out what happened, and some you can't. The laptop in the Bureau of Policy Planning was unclassified, and that is a question of accountable property and not a question of a nation's secrets. The classified laptop that was lost from INR was a very serious security matter.
QUESTION: On a topic related to that, there were many missing unclassified laptops. And were these decisions -- were these suggestions for changes taking in the totality of the problems that became evident at the time that the classified laptop was missing that we found out that many unclassified were missing? There had obviously been many breaches.
Were these actions taken with a mind to lessening all of those incidents, or just --
MR. BOUCHER: No, this situation that the six proposed -- the six disciplinary actions relates to the loss of the classified laptop from the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Loss of another laptop, an unclassified laptop or a chair or a computer or a lamp or whatever else, that gets disposed of in a different manner, somewhat similar but not exactly the same way. When classified information is not involved it is considerably different.
QUESTION: This is slightly related, but does Martin Indyk -- does he still have his security clearance?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he does.
QUESTION: I mean, do you see any -- can you kind of go into Martin Indyk's security breaches versus the security breaches involving the INR laptop and how they are similar or different?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Can you say whether or not there is disciplinary action pending against him?
MR. BOUCHER: As far I know, the investigation regarding Ambassador Indyk continues, and so there is no outcome, there is no conclusion, there is no proposal at this point. What we are telling you here is that with regard to the INR laptop, obviously the overall investigation of the disappearance of the laptop remains in terms of responsibility within this building and within this Bureau for the loss, for the fact that the machine disappeared. We have come to certain conclusions from the investigation and we have proposed certain disciplinary actions. We will see as we go through the process what happens in the final analysis.
QUESTION: Mr. Roy's early retirement, as you described it, does he incur financial loss due to that? Is he going to retire with less money? Is he going to lose -- you know, if he had stayed through January would he get six weeks of vacation? Is he losing something?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I would be virtually certain that he is not.
QUESTION: But you're not sure?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not absolutely certain.
QUESTION: Can you find that out?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me say, no, he won't lose anything. And then if it turns out I'm wrong I'll be very surprised but I'll tell you.
QUESTION: Can you talk about what this means now for some of the policy planning, given that both Mr. Keyser and Mr. Roy are considered very top --
MR. BOUCHER: For Intelligence and Research?
QUESTION: Intelligence and Research. I meant policy planning with low p's, little p's. Just in general the situation in the Bureau.
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is a number of things to say. First of all, our Bureau of Intelligence and Research is a top-flight analytical shop. They have experts of many kinds on subjects throughout the world. They produce high-quality analysis that is respected in this building and I think throughout the intelligence community.
The questions that have arisen with regard to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research have really been in regard to the security procedures, the loss of the laptop being the most prominent, and then there was the issue of, okay, who's in charge of certain classified material; should they be their own administrators of security or should Diplomatic Security be in charge. And it was decided to place that responsibility with Diplomatic Security with regard to that.
But in terms of the sort of ongoing work and the process of producing good analysis for policymakers, I think we all feel that INR is first rate and continues to be first rate. In consideration of that, it is the Secretary's desire to make sure that continues and therefore to make sure the Bureau has the right leadership as we head into the transition.
QUESTION: A couple things I want to clarify from the article. First of all, is it your understanding that the Post was contacted to be told of the early retirement? Did Roy let them know of his --
MR. BOUCHER: They didn't tell me who their sources were.
QUESTION: Did he tell you?
MR. BOUCHER: They just called up asking me questions.
MR. BOUCHER: I think as far as the individuals involved, I don't think any of them talked to the newspapers.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody else did?
MR. BOUCHER: If you know who their sources are, you can tell me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Did the Secretary say to Keyser that she had lost confidence in him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that the Secretary had a direct conversation with Mr. Keyser. She asked through appropriate procedures and Bureau personnel that he be reassigned from that job.
QUESTION: Is it a lower-ranking position than he had?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose you would have to say the jury is still out on that. When you are reassigned from a senior job like this, you usually get attached to the Bureau of Human Resources or the Director General's Office, and then pending further reassignment. Obviously all of us that serve in senior positions serve at the request and the -- can I say the good graces of the Secretary and the President. If they should decide they want us reassigned, we get reassigned.
QUESTION: Does Keyser's letter say that he would be suspended without pay for 30 days? Because that's a pretty glaring discrepancy.
MR. BOUCHER: I think the point that I'm making on these is I can't go into any individual and what proposed disciplinary action might have been proposed. I just want to make the point for the sake of these individuals and for the sake of the due process that there are proposed actions but they haven't been taken at this stage, and that therefore nobody is suspended yet.
QUESTION: Well, but if that is reported and it needs to be corrected, is it accurate to say that that's pending?
MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you in some cases what's not true without telling you what exactly -- without being able to say what disciplinary action has been proposed against a specific individual. But the key there is to say it's proposed.
QUESTION: Would you care to share your views of one of the opinions expressed in one of these articles, which is that the reason this has happened is because Secretary Albright wants to show that she is tough?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think Secretary Albright has any need to demonstrate that she is tough. She has got four years of record in the world and in this building to show that she considers foreign policy a serious business, that she has taken swift and resolute action throughout the world. She has been tough in the fight for resources for this building. She has been tough in fighting with Congress to get the money we need to do our jobs. And she has been tough on issues like security, where she said quite clearly that being a professional Foreign Service officer means being professional about security.
So none of this is being done to prove anything. This is being done because the loss of the laptop was a very serious matter, and it is very important to her and should be to all of us in this building who believe in good security that we investigate and assign responsibility to those who have some responsibility for the loss.
QUESTION: Did Mrs. Albright know that -- before the letters went out that Mr. Roy would take an early retirement as a result?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not exactly sure how much she knew about when the letters went out or when they went out, but I'm pretty sure she did know that disciplinary action was being proposed in this situation. But I think it was subsequent to that that Ambassador Roy decided to move up his retirement.
QUESTION: And did Mr. Carpenter, the head of Diplomatic Security, did he make a recommendation as to what action should be taken against these people?
MR. BOUCHER: As I understand the process, is that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security defines the circumstances of the loss in terms of saying these people should have been watching; these people should have been escorting; these people should have had responsibility for making sure security procedures were properly followed. And then it is in the Bureau of Human Resources where they say, okay, somebody with that degree of responsibility, we propose this disciplinary action. So as far as I understand the process, Diplomatic Security doesn't actually propose the penalties, as it were; they just assign a certain degree of responsibility.
QUESTION: How have Mr. Carpenter's other efforts fared as far as his efforts to increase security? I mean, are you satisfied that you have plugged all the leaks?
MR. BOUCHER: "All" is a big word. I think what you do see in this building is a much greater attention to security; certainly a much greater degree of personal attention by people who work here, career people in the Foreign Service and Civil Service, because there is greater accountability, there is greater awareness, there is greater training. We have retrained, given refresher courses, to virtually everybody who works for us, or at least most of the people. We have improved physical security in a variety of ways and, as you know, we have talked in the past about how we're looking at other ways that would cost more money to do things.
And so I think we are safer and more secure now than we were six months ago and than we were a year ago. Is there more to be done? Yes, obviously there is more to be done. There is never perfect security, and it is an ongoing business and an ongoing effort.
QUESTION: And one final question. Does Mr. Carpenter still view reporters as a threat to security? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: If you will remember, that was not his view at the time, despite the quotes, and that does not -- that is not his view at this moment, either.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you any closer --
MR. BOUCHER: Where are we going?
QUESTION: Well, this is on the bugging. Has there been any disciplinary action taken against anyone because of the bugging?
MR. BOUCHER: I have to say, having been immersed in this one issue, I didn't check on where we stand with regard to the bugging and the man in the tweed coat, and whatever else it was -- oh, the laptop, the unclassified laptop. So let me check on those.
QUESTION: Are you any closer to finding the laptop?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I understand the investigation remains open.
QUESTION: Have there been any leads, and have the people to whom these letters have been issued been able to provide any information?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I don't think I can go beyond saying the investigation remains open. But I'm not -- I don't think there is anything to report to you in that regard.
QUESTION: Richard, since you seem to have -- Ambassador Roy is here, and since there is some confusion about the circumstances of his premature departure from the State Department, do you suppose you could ask him to issue a brief statement, a public statement, about -- to refute what was said in the paper this morning?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll ask him if he wants to say anything. As I say, he certainly had the opportunity to talk to reporters, and I'm not sure he's -- I don't think he has taken advantage of that opportunity yet. So if he wants to say something, he can say it.
QUESTION: Just one question. His deputy was disciplined, received a disciplinary letter; he announced early retirement; and you're saying that the early retirement was completely independent?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't. I said specifically in response to a question, I said obviously it's related.
MR. BOUCHER: He is concerned about the situation in the Bureau, he is concerned about where things are going, and he decided he was going to retire now.