The Foreign Service Journal, March 2024

46 MARCH 2024 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Security Engineering Officer John Bainbridge in 1978, searching for Soviet listening devices in a chimney at the U.S. embassy in Moscow after recovering an antennae system hidden there by the Soviets. BUREAU OF DIPLOMATIC SECURITY Soviet Bugs When I look back on my career of 34 years in DS, I reflect on my first inspection trip to Moscow, when we found the [Russian KGB “bugging”] attack against our typewriters. That was 1978, and no one understood until 1984, when they collectively examined the office equipment and stumbled across [the listening devices]. Over six years they had actually gotten into 16 of our typewriters, three in Leningrad and 13 in Moscow. They couldn’t control where those typewriters went in our building, so they bugged as many as they could. And we didn’t understand it for six years. I fear that at some point in time after our initial discovery they must have realized that they could turn [the listening devices] back on. So, yeah, there was my first encounter with the Russian KGB. And then the second memory, obviously, was when we had to take a brand-new embassy apart. That’s kind of a unique distinction to have. It cost us dearly in terms of time and in terms of dollars. I was part of that project for a period of years. And then, when I was the ST [security technology] director, we discovered that they had actually gotten into the Harry S Truman building and pulled off an attack. I went down the hall to Peter Bergen, [who] at the time was our principal DAS [deputy assistant secretary], and I said, “Pete, we need to start inspecting the building.” Ever since that day and that time, we’ve had inspection teams go through the building routinely. We have a whole program for that now. Because if anyone goes into a wiring closet and starts looking at the nest of the fiber cables running hither and yon, one realizes how easy it would be if you had access to that. Why would you attack U.S. missions overseas if you already had their headquarters building? That put the fear of God in me, and Pete agreed. We immediately started assembling teams, and we’ve been going through the building routinely ever since. —Security Engineering Officer John Bainbridge, active duty from the 1970s through the 2000s (est.), recorded in 2015. 101 Recommendations for Change I came into the [Administration] Bureau in late 1983. Tom Tracy was my predecessor. He was the assistant secretary for administration. … Tom said, “Bob, we had an embassy blown up in Beirut in March.” He added: “There are going to be more embassies blown up.” And Tom was right. I was in the job a very short period of time when the embassy in Kuwait [was] blown up [by terrorists]. We could see vulnerabilities. The Secretary of State, George Shultz, asked me one morning, “Bob, how many other places do we have like Kuwait that could be blown up?” And I said, “Sir, we’ve looked at that in security, and we think we’ve got 13 to 15 embassies that could be blown up today. We do not have adequate security for our embassies.” And the word from the Secretary and the White House was: “Stop it. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.” We created a whole range of measures. Probably the most important social change that has happened in the Department of State since the Second World War was the creation of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. It was an enormous task to get the department to recognize that its mission was much broader than simply the transmission of diplomatic messages, but in fact [included] the protection of data and the protection of people who are doing our country’s work abroad. It was an exciting time. We got a lot of outside help and the most important single element in that outside help was a panel that was chaired by Admiral Bobby Inman, a former number two at the CIA, former head of the National Security Agency, and a smart man. Admiral Inman looked at the whole range of functions of the Department of State and how they needed to be changed, what we needed to do better, and he prescribed, I think it was, 101 recommendations. Incredibly, virtually the entire list of 101 were ultimately done. I know of very few government panels that had so many of their recommendations accepted by the agency, and these were far-reaching recommendations. —Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (19861989) Robert E. Lamb, recorded in the summer of 1991. This is just a small sample of the impressive work that is still performed by the Diplomatic Security Service today. DSS/PA continues to interview its personnel and publish oral histories on its YouTube channel and via its After Action podcast. n