State Dept. Cracks Down Over Missing Laptop

In a widening dispute over a missing laptop computer, the State Department has ruled that six employees should be disciplined in a range of actions from reprimand to firing, spokesman Richard Boucher said today.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a parallel move, ordered the reassignment of Donald Keyser, deputy director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, to a less prominent post. This prompted the bureau director, J. Stapleton Roy, a former ambassador to China, to resign effective today. Roy was due to retire in January.

The six officers whose discipline was proposed have a right to respond and to a hearing, Boucher said.

The departure of Roy, one of the most senior Foreign Service officers, was seen as a show of support for Keyser, 57, who last week was suspended by Albright for 30 days without pay. Roy was not disciplined.

Roy, 65, was born in China of American parents. He is one of the department’s most experienced Asia hands. In addition to China, he has served as ambassador to Singapore and Indonesia and also once headed the State Department’s East Asia bureau.

He and Keyser worked together many times in their long careers.

Roy is one of two active Foreign Service officers with the rank of “career ambassador.” The other is Thomas Pickering, undersecretary of state for political affairs.

A Laptop Full of Secret Information The laptop computer and its classified contents disappeared in January, prompting complaints by several members of Congress that the State Department had a lax approach to security. Albright vowed to tighten procedures.

She told a gathering of State Department employees in May: “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 a professional about security, you are a failure.”

The computer contained highly classified information about arms proliferation issues and about sources and methods of U.S. intelligence collection. It was not clear whether its disappearance was a case of someone trying to pilfer state secrets or a simple theft motivated solely by the intrinsic value of the equipment.

Just weeks before the laptop disappeared, security agents uncovered a Russian spy operation that involved use of a sophisticated eavesdropping device installed in a seventh-floor State Department conference room. A Russian agent linked to the operation was ordered home.

In the meantime, an unclassified laptop signed out by Morton Halperin, who heads the department’s Policy Planning Bureau, disappeared but no action was taken.