Fake Badges Easily
Bypass Security At Pentagon,
CIA, FBI, Etc.
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Investigators flashing fake law enforcement badges and declaring they were armed bypassed security measures and entered Justice Department, Pentagon, CIA, FBI, and State Department headquarters, the General Accounting Office said on Thursday.
The GAO, which conducts investigations for Congress, was told to acquire fictitious law enforcement badges publicly available on the Internet and elsewhere and try to gain access to secure facilities in a way in which weapons, explosives, chemical and biological agents and listening devices could be taken inside.
The House Judiciary crime subcommittee wanted to test how readily available was such identification which could be used by criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence agents to enter secure government buildings and airports, said Robert Hast, GAO assistant comptroller general for investigations.
The undercover investigators tried to get into 19 federal buildings and two airports -- Ronald Reagan National Airport near Washington and Orlando International Airport in Florida.
They succeeded entering all sites, 18 on the first attempt and three on the second try. They were waved around metal detectors, their bag was not searched and in some instances they were allowed to keep their purported weapons.
``At no time during the undercover visits were our agents' bogus credentials or badges challenged by anyone,'' Hast said in testimony for the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the GAO findings on Thursday.
``At each visit our agents carried bogus badges and identification, declared themselves as armed law enforcement officers and gained entry by avoiding screening. At least one agent always carried a valise,'' he said.
Badges used included a movie prop of a police badge, a counterfeit federal badge and a fake drug task force badge. The investigators used commercially available software to create counterfeit law enforcement identification that bore no resemblance to any genuine credentials, he said.
``At the 21 sites that our undercover agent successfully penetrated they could have carried in weapons, listening devices, explosives, chemical/biological agents,'' Hast said.
Close To Chief Offices
The State Department has been under fire recently for security lapses that included a missing laptop computer containing highly sensitive information and the discovery of a Russian eavesdropping device in a conference room.
GAO investigators were able to enter the suite of the Cabinet secretary or agency head at the Pentagon and the Justice Department, get near the chief's suite at the State Dept. and the FBI, but not at CIA, the GAO said.
The Justice Department turned the investigators away the first time, but the second time investigators with bogus New York Police Dept. credentials were allowed to enter and park in the courtyard.
Attorney General Janet Reno, asked whether they got into her office, said, ``I understood they stood at the doorway there and looked at the conference room.''
A Justice Department official said now local law enforcement officers visiting the building must be escorted, store their firearms in a vault near the entrance, go through a magnetometer and there would no longer be visitor parking.
The Pentagon said it was implementing changes that would not allow law enforcement officials, including FBI agents, to enter unescorted and they would need to have an appointment to meet someone. Guns would be required to be checked at the entrance, Pentagon officials said.
The CIA said it was reminding employees about procedures already in place for unannounced visitors.
``Several GAO officials were escorted by armed CIA security personnel to our gift shop and Cold War exhibit on the first floor of our headquarters building,'' CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said. ``At no time did they get anywhere near classified information or the offices of senior officials.''
``They were turned away once and came back a second day and the security guys at the gate checked with some folks and agreed out of brotherly support for fellow police officers to let them go to the gift shop, but they were under armed escort at all times,'' Harlow said.
Undercover Agents Penetrate19 High Security Federal Buildings, 2 Airports .html 5-26-00
WASINGTON-- Undercover agents using phony identification successfully penetrated 19 of the federal government's most secure buildings and two high-profile airports, sources close to the probe by Congress' General Accounting Office said Wednesday.
"This is a wake-up call. We think this is a real serious problem," said a senior staffer on the House Crime subcommittee, which will hold a hearing on the security breaches Thursday.
The undercover agents, who work for the GAO's Office of Special Investigations, will brief the committee and play a videotape showing them inside the various facilities.
The buildings included FBI headquarters, CIA headquarters, the Department of Justice, the State Department and the Department of Energy. The two airports were Reagan National Airport and Orlando International Airport. The agents did not try to breach security at the White House or the Capitol, because some members of the team had recently done security work in both locations and would have been recognized.
The CIA said the undercover GAO agents were under armed escort the entire time they were in the CIA building and were not allowed near "any secured information." The Pentagon said its security officers were "incensed" at the way the test was conducted but that security procedures there have been under intensive review ever since highly publicized security breaches at the State Department.
The agents posed as police officers visiting Washington, according to sources, and flashed phony credentials from the New York Police Department or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
"In some cases, like the Department of Justice, they had free rein," said a staffer, who added that the men said they were friends of Attorney General Janet Reno and were taken into her office suite and given a tour. They were also allowed to bring their van into the DOJ parking lot without any security inspection.
In every case, the sources said, the men told security guards they were armed, but were never searched. None were actually carrying weapons. They carried briefcases, which a committee staffer said should have raised concerns about vulnerability to explosives or biological weapons.
At the State Department, site of several recent security lapses, the men were able to wander unescorted around the seventh floor, where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has her office.
At the CIA, the agents told guards they wanted to buy souvenirs from the gift shop and were eventually let in. "At one point, they were left unescorted with their briefcases," said a committee staffer.
At the Pentagon, the men were allowed to move around unescorted and paid a visit to Defense Secretary William Cohen's office.
At the two airports, the agents never actually boarded planes, but made it as far as the jetway unchallenged before turning back.
The agents briefed lawmakers and representatives from the various agencies affected at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, the committee staff said.
"All were very interested in how the men got in. Some were very disturbed," said one staffer.
The FBI issued a press release Wednesday announcing "additional security measures for FBI headquarters and other FBI locations."
The FBI said that, based on the recommendations received Tuesday from the House subcommittee, it will now require non-FBI law enforcement officers entering headquarters to be required to surrender their weapons unless they have prior clearance. Also, it said "positive identification of visitor security protocols have been supplemented."
Committee staff said the phony credentials were made with off-the-shelf software and resembled actual NYPD and DEA badges "to the untrained eye." They said such technology is readily available and could be used by other governments, terrorists or criminals.
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield told CNN that, while "two or three" of the undercover agents were able to talk their way onto CIA property, they did not pose a security risk.
After showing identification to the CIA security personnel, "Several of them did come onto our compound," Mansfield said. Only later did the CIA learn that the identification was false.
The agents were "escorted at all times by an armed security official," said Mansfield, and were allowed access only to "the museum and the gift shop on the first floor."
Mansfield said, "At no time were they near any classified material, senior officials or the offices of senior officials."
Defense Department security personnel were "incensed at the way this review or test was done" when they learned that they had been had, said an official who asked not to be identified.
"If you held [the fake I.D.s] beside the real ones," he said, "you can't tell the difference."


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