The Cable

State Department warns employees about new website highlighting Top Secret facilities

The State Department is bracing for a potentially explosive new feature on the Washington Post website that would publish the names and locations of agencies and firms conducting Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. government, according to the copy of an email obtained by The Cable.

The Diplomatic Security Bureau at State sent out a notice Thursday to all department employees warning them to protect classified information and reject inquiries from the press when the new web feature goes live.

"The Washington Post plans to publish a website listing all agencies and contractors believed to conduct Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. Government," the notice reads. "The website provides a graphic representation pinpointing the location of firms conducting Top Secret work, describing the type of work they perform, and identifying many facilities where such work is done."

According to the notice, the Post used only open-source information to compile its site. However, if some of that open-source information turns out to have been classified, its publication by the Post doesn't change that classification, the State Department emphasized.

"All Department personnel should remain aware of their responsibility to protect classified and other sensitive information, such as the Department's relationships with contract firms, other U.S. Government agencies, and foreign governments," the notice says.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley confirmed the authenticity of the e-mail and said it went out to all State Department employees in the Washington, DC area, 14,574 people.

The Washington Post declined requests for comment.

Here's the full notice:

Office of Origin:    DS/EX

Announcement Number:    2010_07_059

Date of Announcement:    July 15, 2010  

________________________________

Notification of Major Media Outlet Story On Monday July 19, the Washington Post plans to publish a website listing all agencies and contractors believed to conduct Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. Government.  The website provides a graphic representation pinpointing the location of firms conducting Top Secret work, describing the type of work they perform, and identifying many facilities where such work is done. 

Although the Washington Post acquired the information from open sources, all Department personnel should remain aware of their responsibility to protect classified and other sensitive information, such as the Department's relationships with contract firms, other U.S. Government agencies, and foreign governments.  Employees are reminded that they must neither confirm nor deny information contained in this, or any, media publication, and that the publication of this website and supporting articles does not constitute a change to the level of classification of any information duly classified in accordance with Executive Order 13526.

In the unlikely event you are contacted for comment, please forward any request for information to the Bureau of Public Affairs, Press Relations Office at (202) 647-2492.

UPDATE: The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder publishes a related memo by Art House, the communications director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which appears to be just as worried as the State Department about the Post's reporting. Excerpt:

It might be helpful as you prepare for publication to draw up a list of accomplishments and examples of success to offer in response to inquiries to balance the coverage and add points that deserve to be mentioned.  In media discussions, we will seek to garner support for the Intelligence Community and its members by offering examples of agile, integrated activity that has enhanced performance.  We will want to minimize damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified information.

It also describes ODNI's expections for the Washington Post series:

Themes

While we can't predict specific content, we anticipate the following themes:

The intelligence enterprise has undergone exponential growth and has become unmanageable with overlapping authorities and a heavily outsourced contractor workforce.

The IC and the DoD have wasted significant time and resources, especially in the areas of counterterrorism and counterintelligence.

The intelligence enterprise has taken its eyes off its post-9/11 mission and is spending its energy on competitive and redundant programs.

Format

The Washington Post may run a series of three articles, the first being an overview, the second focused on the large number of contractors supporting the intelligence enterprise, and the third looking at a specific community (the Fort Meade/BWI Airport area) that has expanded in part due to  Intelligence Community growth. 

The Washington Post is expected to work with Public Broadcasting Service's Frontline program to add a television component to this work, and will also present an interactive web site demonstrating growth of the intelligence enterprise and inviting comment and dialogue.  The Post advises that "links" between individual contractors and specific agencies have been deleted, although the Post will still cite contractors and their locations.

UPDATE #2: An administration official responds to The Cable to comment on the Post series, which the administration is portraying as less than meets the eye.

"A lot of this is explainable. You want some redundancy in the Intelligence Community and you're going to have some waste. These are things we've been aware of and in some instances we agree are troubling. However, it's something we've been working on for a year and a half. It's something we've been on top of," the official said.

"There was a need for urgent expansion after 9/11 and there was a need for an expansion of contractors to fill analyst positions. There will be examples of money being wasted in the series that seem egregious and we are just as offended as the readers by those examples."

The Cable

The nation of Kazakhstan turns its lonely eyes to Obama

When Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, visited Washington this past spring to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, he was hoping to go home with a valuable trophy: President Obama's firm commitment to attend a high-level summit in Astana, the Kazakh capital, sometime this year.

He didn't get it. Obama's message was, essentially: We'll get back to you.

Hosting the summit, intended to be a heads-of-state gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is a major priority for the Kazakh government, which currently holds the rotating chair of the 56-nation group and is trying to use its chairmanship to burnish its global image. The Obama administration is sending several top officials for a preparatory meeting this weekend.

The OSCE, which includes countries from across Europe, Central Asia, as well as the United States, traditionally does things like election monitoring but has played an increasing role in security issues, including mediating the end of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and helping to manage the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan.

But the group, whose origins date back to the 1970s, hasn't been able to put together a summit at the head-of-state level since 1999, leading some close observers to question its continued relevance in the post-Cold War era.

Kazakhstan is pushing hard to make a summit the centerpiece of its tenure, and is depending on Obama to make it happen.

"His presence is most welcome and will be the most important factor in terms of the success of the summit," Kazakhstan's Ambassador to Washington Erlan Idrissov told The Cable in an exclusive interview. "Issues of European security could not be properly addressed without the full and active participation of the United States."

The main event to try to prepare for the summit begins Friday in Almaty, the former Kazakh capital and its major commercial center. That meeting will bring together 40 foreign ministers. Although U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will not attend, the Obama administration is sending a robust team, including Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Assistant Secretary of State Bob Blake, and NSC Senior Director Mike McFaul.

Idrissov said that Friday's meeting will be crucial to determining whether or not to hold the summit at all, based on whether or not the group can agree on the goals of the summit and whether or not the Americans have good news about Obama's potential participation.

"It is pointless to try to have the summit unless you have a firm and solid agenda agreed on a consensus basis," Idrissov said. Regarding word from the U.S. on Obama's intentions, he said, "We hope to hear more from Deputy Steinberg on this question."

A White House spokesman declined to comment on whether Obama will attend.

By now, the arguments against attending the summit are well established: There's not enough time to prepare; Kazakhstan has a poor record on human rights and democracy; the summit is a prestige project; and there are more compelling priorities for the president's time.

But a recent report (pdf) published by the Atlantic Council's Chuck Hagel, Damon Wilson, and Ross Wilson argues that this view is "myopic."

"It misses the point of what is happening in the region and the organization and fails to recognize the risk our posture poses to U.S. interests," the authors write. They contend that U.S. influence is waning in Central Asia and criticize the Obama administration for failing to make up its mind one way or the other.

"The U.S. handling of this decision risks undermining our goodwill and squandering our influence in both the OSCE and Central Asia. Indeed, U.S. actions in the short term may make Washington and the OSCE irrelevant in Eurasia at a time when we need more of both in Central Asia, not less."

Alexandros Petersen, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center, said that Kazakhstan is actually reinvigorating the OSCE and that Washington's failure to get behind the summit now risks leaving America out in the cold.

"The OSCE agenda for the coming decade is likely to be shaped at this summit," Petersen said. "The U.S. risks either undermining the summit by not participating at the highest level, or it will attend the summit but not be one of the agenda setters. Then, countries that have different agendas will have the upper hand."

Alex Wong/Getty Images