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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Tries New Plan For Bugged Building

The U.S. government is planning a new attempt to use its abandoned, bugged chancery, an eyesore and political embarrassment for three administrations over a decade.


At least one Russian specialist, however, is dubious that the Americans will be able to prevent spying in the infamous building that caused a diplomatic cause c?l?bre when extensive bugging was discovered in 1985 before the building was opened.


Three U.S. administrations have struggled with options for dealing with the building. The United States also refused for several years to allow Russia to open its new embassy in Washington as a result of the bugging.


The State Department's construction office is now seeking a contractor for a $240 million overhaul of the building that will chop off the building's top two floors and build four new floors in its place.


"You're talking about the bugged building, right?" said a State Department official when asked about the construction project. "The lower floors will be completed and used for unclassified activities. The upper floors are going to be rebuilt and used for classified activities."


The building will, in addition, get a new modern facade hewn from a combination of white marble and glass.


"The new embassy has been extensively redesigned to represent American architecture and technology for the 21st century and will be a contemporary landmark on the Moscow skyline," Richard Hoagland, the embassy spokesman, said. "For modern architecture it is going to be a pretty attractive building."


But when your building is believed to be filled with listening devices, as is the embassy's hulking red-brick chancery, looks are only half the matter. The State Department official said, however, that Washington is convinced it can build a secure embassy.


"There's no question. We have a plan that has been approved by every organization that has a role in doing business in Moscow," the spokesman said.


But the listening devices, installed by Soviet construction workers and discovered in 1985 to the intense embarrassment of the U.S. government, may remain in the lower four floors.


Repeated attempts to de-bug the building failed, giving it the nickname "Giant Transmitter." The bottom floors will be used for routine operations like the payroll office, for example.


"You wouldn't want the ambassador down there," Hoagland said.


One Moscow security expert, himself a former employee of Russia's counterintelligence special service, said the Americans will have to maintain an extraordinary level of vigilance to ensure the building is secure.