WASHINGTON -- Soviet intelligence agents dressed as firefighters entered secure areas of the U.S. embassy in Moscow during a major fire last month, and an inquiry is under way into whether any secret material was lost as a result, the Bush administration says.
Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, said yesterday the United States would consider the 10-story building to be unsafe for classified operations until the inquiry was completed and the building deemed secure.
A second administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that areas of the embassy housing CIA operations had not been entered by the Soviet agents. He said that "there was no loss of intelligence material that would have endangered anyone" assisting U.S. intelligence operations in the Soviet Union.
A third official said that the inquiry was not yet complete, but that investigators had not so far found evidence of any serious breach of the national security.
Another official, who also insisted on anonymity, said that investigators apparently are concerned that the KGB gained entry to areas occupied by employees of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which collects and analyzes military intelligence, and the National Security Agency.
The NSA conducts electronic eavesdropping and protects the Moscow embassy building, its computers and its coded communications equipment from Soviet electronic interception and deciphering efforts.
"I think you have to conclude there is cause for some concern," said one official, who nonetheless said he believes the KGB foray caused little damage. "These guys were able to wander around the building for an extended period of time."