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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Bug' at U.S. State Heard No Secrets




WASHINGTON -- Sensitive discussions took place in a U.S. State Department conference room implanted with a listening device monitored by a Russian spy, but there was no indication highly classified information was lost, a security official said Thursday.


The device was hidden in a piece of wood at about chair height behind a white curtain and leafy plant. It was next to a window that looked out onto the street where a Russian diplomat was caught monitoring the bug late last year.


David Carpenter, assistant U.S. secretary of state for diplomatic security, brought to a U.S. congressional hearing photos of the conference room and the view outside its window and a piece of brown wood similar to the one in which the device was found.


Stanislav Gusev from the Russian Embassy was expelled from the United States after he was arrested in December for monitoring the listening device.


The seventh-floor conference room was on the same floor but at the opposite side of the building from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's suite of offices. That non-secure room was used by everyone from cleaning crews on breaks to a meeting of the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Senator Rod Grams, a Minnesota Republican, said at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.


Asked whether classified information had been discussed in the room, Carpenter replied: "classified information and sensitive information," but nothing designated top secret or higher.


Authorities still have not determined how the listening device was planted. Carpenter said "it was very cleverly installed and concealed."


Gusev, who arrived in the United States last March, raised suspicions during the summer due to his parking habits. "It was noted that the Russian visited the immediate vicinity of the State Department twice or more per week, walked the streets, and fussed about in his car," Carpenter said.


The Russian agent would try parking in different spots on the street outside the conference room. "Once we realized what he was doing, space was always available," Carpenter said.


Gusev was arrested on Dec. 8.


The case "puts to rest in the department the notion that since the Cold War is over we can let down our guard against espionage," Carpenter said.


Carpenter said there was an "uneven" policy for outside contractors doing work at the State Department. Those working on classified projects had full background checks, while those in non-classified areas did not, he said.


"Is it possible under the current practice for Russian nationals to have been given access to computers at the State Department?" Grams asked.


"Yes it is, in an unclassified atmosphere," Carpenter said.


Grams also asked whether the department was looking at foreign press access, saying: "We do know that the agents of foreign governments use press credentials as cover for their activities."


"We are looking at the wisdom of the ... process by which we credential foreign press," Carpenter replied.