No State Department secrets revealed by Post series… yet
Last week, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security bureau sent out a notice to all 14,574 DC area employees warning them that a new Washington Post website would reveal the locations of firms working on the department’s behalf. But although one White House official called the Post’s online database of contractors "troubling," the information graphic that ...
Last week, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security bureau sent out a notice to all 14,574 DC area employees warning them that a new Washington Post website would reveal the locations of firms working on the department’s behalf.
But although one White House official called the Post’s online database of contractors "troubling," the information graphic that the illustrates where Top Secret firms are located does not give exact street addresses and does not reveal which companies are performing work for which agency. In fact, the text of the first article in the series doesn’t mention the State Department at all.
"This isn’t really a State Department story," one State Department official told The Cable, pointing out that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been the lead agency dealing with the story, with the Post also working with the White House and the Defense Department to some degree.
The Post editors said they had addressed concerns about the contractor graphic by not revealing the specific addresses and not identifying which contractors work for which agencies. The paper also allowed administration officials to review the website before it launched. Only one unspecified agency objected to the graphics, but didn’t give any specific reason other than it was a national security risk, the editors wrote.
Here’s what the website did tell us about the State Department:
There are 146 contracting companies doing Top Secret work for the State Department, 13 large companies, 25 medium-sized, and 108 small companies spread across nine locations. The Department ranks 11th out of 45 agencies in terms of the number of Top Secret contractors it employs. That’s the largest number of intelligence contractors outside the defense establishment, after the Homeland Security Department and the FBI.
The types of Top Secret work that State is contracting out include everything from psychological operations and counterdrug operations to intelligence analysis, security, facilities management, and even disaster preparation.
The piece did point to the attempted Christmas Day bombing by Umar Abdulmutallab, who was able to travel to the United States despite some damning information on his visa application that the State Department did not transfer to the National Counterterrorism Center.
But State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that the deficiencies that allowed the entire system to miss Abdulmutallab were already being addressed.
"We haven’t waited for any Washington Post expose to do that. There’s been a very significant process of reviewing the lessons learned from, you know, the Christmas Day bomber," he said. "And in fact, we have adjusted our operating procedures, our interaction both with the NCTC, the Terrorist Screening Center, and other elements of the intelligence community. So that review and the changes in our procedures has already largely been adopted."
Meanwhile, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence posted this question and answer sheet and this fact sheet Monday in response to the Post series.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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