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Saturday, January 08, 2005

CNN: U.S. ambassador to Israel stripped of security clearance - September 23, 2000

U.S. ambassador to Israel stripped of security clearance - September 23, 2000: "U.S. ambassador to Israel stripped of security clearance
September 23, 2000
Web posted at: 3:28 a.m. EDT (0728 GMT)

From Andrea Koppel
CNN State Department Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an unusual move, the U.S. State Department has suspended the security clearance of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk -- pending the outcome of a joint State Department-FBI investigation.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told CNN that Indyk, a well respected U.S. diplomat was suspended September 21 "pending the outcome of an investigation into whether or not he violated Department of State security standards."

Officials say that "there is no indication of espionage" or "the compromise of intelligence information." But that Indyk may be guilty of a pattern of "possible sloppiness" with regard to the handling of intelligence information.

Albright spoke with Barak
On Friday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to notify him of her decision.

The investigation started in August, prompted by an allegation "from internal sources."

Officials said the investigation was prompted by something that happened before Indyk returned to Israel in January of this year. It will be examining "how he handled classified information ... the security practices he followed and possible violations."

The State Department says it hopes the investigation will conclude as quickly as possible, but says it doesn't know how long it will run.

In the meantime Indyk, according to the State Department, remains in New York pending the outcome of the investigation.

"You can't really function without classified information," explained a senior U.S. official.

The U.S. Charge D'affaires, Paul Simons, the embassy's number two diplomat, is now the most senior U.S. official in Israel.

'No direct effect' on peace talks
This is Indyk's second tour in Israel as ambassador. He served there during U.S. President Bill Clinton's first term and returned to Washington several years ago to assume a position as assistant secretary of state.

Indyk returned to Israel in January at the request of Clinton and Barak -- in the hopes he'd be able to help accelerate peace talks between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Officials say Ambassador Indyk's suspension should have "no direct affect on peace talks," which have been moving slowly since the Camp David peace talks ended in July.

Following a series of embarrassing security lapses at the State Department, Albright last summer insisted on a major security review and has since demanded all employees review security procedures and follow them to the letter.

Some of the most serious lapses include the discovery of a listening device planted in a 7th floor conference room, down the hall from Albright's office suite, and the arrest by the FBI of a Russian diplomat caught outside the department recording the goings-on in that conference room.

In addition, last spring, a highly classified laptop computer with "code word" data on sources and methods disappeared from ostensibly the most secure area in the department.

Ambassador Indyk is the most senior U.S. official to be accused of mishandling intelligence information.

Officials say they believe this is the first time the State Department has suspended the security clearance of one of its ambassadors.
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