Staff Blamed in Ga. Security Breach
Apr. 30, 2002
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:AXF104-043002; AUDIO:%)
ATLANTA (AP) _ Undercover congressional investigators were able to slip into Atlanta federal buildings because security people weren't doing their jobs, not because of flawed policies, officials said at a hearing Tuesday.
``It's great to talk the talk ... but we weren't walking the walk,'' said Wendell C. Shingler of the General Services Administration, which is responsible for security at federal buildings.
The investigators got access to security badges and easily sneaked briefcases and packages past security checkpoints at four Atlanta federal buildings in February and March.
One investigator obtained two different security badges and a guard's after-hours access code, said Ronald Malfi, managing director of special investigations for the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. One pass allowed the investigator to carry a firearm.
Malfi said security people were easily conned into issuing a building pass, which was then used to create a counterfeit pass that was never scrutinized. The passes allowed agents to bypass X-ray machines and other security devices, carrying items that could have been explosives, chemical weapons or listening devices.
``They were given, in effect, the keys to the kingdom,'' said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., vice chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, who chaired Tuesday's hearing.
Shingler, assistant commissioner of the GSA's Federal Protective Service, and other federal security officials were asked to address the security breaches.
Sabina Sims, director of the FPS region that includes Georgia, said immediate steps were taken to fix the problems included better training for security people. One GSA employee was reassigned and a contract worker was fired, she said.
Malfi, whose agents also successfully breached security at 19 government buildings and two airports in Washington two years ago, said closing the gaps is a matter of people paying better attention.
``Technology isn't a cure-all for security, money isn't a cure-all for security,'' he said. ``Due diligence is really the most vital factor.''
On the Net:
General Accounting Office: http://www.gao.gov
General Services Administration: http://www.gsa.gov