The State Department doesn't take strong enough action against diplomats who violate security regulations, a senator charged following news that five department employees temporarily lost security clearances for such breaches.
"They didn't say they fired anyone, did they?" said Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "They don't take security violations very seriously."
He said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright almost certainly would be asked about the issue when she appeared before a hearing of the committee Tuesday to assess foreign policy during the Clinton administration.
Grams commented to The Associated Press after department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that as of Jan. 1, officials have suspended the security clearances of five employees for violations of security policies.
Another 27 employees had their security clearances suspended for other reasons in the past 18 months to two years, Boucher said.
The disclosure followed announcement over the weekend that Martin Indyk, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, was under FBI and State Department investigation for suspected security violations.
Indyk has lost his security clearance and no longer can participate in Mideast diplomacy.
"He's highly regarded for his contributions," Boucher said Monday. "Obviously, the fact that he doesn't have a security clearance, and therefore is not able to participate in the deliberations, makes things more difficult, because he has been an important member of the team."
Boucher said there was no indication of espionage and "there has been no indication that any intelligence information has been compromised. This is a question of security procedures that have not been followed."
He provided no details of the other cases. He said he did not know which employees had been reinstated, but said he assumed some had been.
Last week, Grams dropped a hold he had placed on the appointment of seven career foreign service officers who had been nominated for ambassadorships. They had accumulated about 100 security violations.
The violations reportedly included leaving safes open and removing classified documents from embassies.
The first American ambassador stripped of his security clearances, Indyk was sidelined as U.S. mediation to break a deadlock between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat entered another critical stage.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were due to resume talks here on Wednesday.
Indyk said in a statement this weekend: "I regret that my trying to do the best possible job under very difficult conditions has led to the temporary suspension of my security clearances. Jeopardizing the national security interests of the U.S. is absolutely abhorrent to me, and I would never do anything to compromise those interests."
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