The Cable

State Department suffers massive computer SNAFU

The State Department is always touting how savvy it is with technology, but sometimes that can be a double-edged sword; a massive e-mail and Blackberry outage hit Foggy Bottom today, forcing a large part of the U.S. diplomatic apparatus to get creative with communications.

"I don't know happened, all I know is that it really messed up my day," one State Department official told The Cable about the server error, which resulted in a loss of computer and Blackberry connectivity for a host of bureaus that lasted from Friday morning until about 4:30 p.m..

The bureaus affected include Public Affairs, East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, Near Eastern Affairs, Western Hemisphere Affairs, and many more.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told The Cable that there was no apparent rhyme or reason as to why State Department employees were having technological issues.

"We had rolling network outages today, it seemed just to be a glitch in the network, not related to weather or threats or anything like that," Nuland said. "But diplomacy goes on, we found a way -- and some of us still remember how to use the carbon paper."

One State Department employee told us that he took his Blackberry to the IT help center on the first floor of Foggy Bottom headquarters, known as the "Blackberry hospital," but they were swamped. Eventually, notice was sent out to all employees to stop calling the IT help line.

The SNAFU also affected some, but not all, members of the team traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York. She was there to give a speech on counterterrorism at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

So how did the Clinton team and the rest of State's busy diplomats manage?

"Let's just say there was more text messaging today than at a high school prom," one State Department official said.

The Cable

Clinton: We cannot afford to live in fear

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by saying that the United States still has a lot to do to fight global extremism, but the country must not to repeat the mistakes of President George W. Bush's administration and sacrifice American values in the process.

"The United States has thrived as an open society, a principled nation, and a global leader. We cannot afford to live in fear, sacrifice our values, or pull back from the world," Clinton said in a Friday morning speech at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. 

"Over the last decade our government also sometimes went off course and failed to live up to our core values and principles," she said. "We have begun to set this right, and to make progress on the other gaps as well.  And as we move forward, we are determined not to let the specter of terrorism darken the national character that has always been America's greatest asset."

Clinton pledged that the Obama administration would respect the rule of law when going after terror suspects, including international law principles guiding the use of force in self-defense, respect for the sovereignty of other states, and the laws of armed conflict.

"When we capture al Qaeda members, we detain them humanely and consistent with international standards. And when we do strike, we seek to protect innocent civilians from harm," she said. She also argued that some terrorists must be tried in civilian courts, while the use of "reformed" military commissions is also appropriate in some cases.

The United States must use a "smart power" approach to counterterrorism that combines military action with financial, diplomatic, development, and public relations efforts, she said. She linked terrorism to the problems of poverty and weak states around the world.

Clinton also noted that as she was speaking in New York City, the federal government was working diligently on a credible but unconfirmed threat of a possible car bomb attack in New York and/or Washington   

"As you know, we are meeting here in New York amid reports that al Qaeda is again seeking to harm Americans. This should surprise no one. But it is a reminder of the continuing stakes in our struggle against violent extremism," she said. "We are taking this threat seriously, and federal, state and local authorities are taking all necessary steps to address it."