News In Brief

Lax security procedures in the State Department have weakened its handling of the government's most sensitive intelligence documents, The Washington Post reported, citing an audit by the department's inspector general. The audit, ordered by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1998, said 239 of 1,890 reports distributed from the National Security Agency's Cryptological Support Group had not been returned to its secure facility between August and October 1998. Auditors also found that State Department security officials failed to sweep scores of rooms for bugging devices. The House and Senate intelligence committees will receive a report on planned security upgrades by Jan. 31, the Post reported, quoting a senior State Department official.

As part of tests of a US missile-defense project, a projectile with a dummy warhead is to be fired from California today, and a "hit to kill" weapon is to be launched from Kwajalein Atoll in an attempt to hit the warhead over the South Pacific. The results of the test will likely affect President Clinton's decision this summer on whether to begin building a limited US missile defense at a cost of at least $12.7 billion. Another test, which was deemed successful, was conducted last October; a third is scheduled for April or May. Russia has said it considers such a defense as a violation of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and European allies also have expressed reservations.

US certification of Mexico's cooperation with counterdrug efforts seemed all but certain after Secretary of State Madeleine Albright praised the teamwork between the two countries. Since the process was initiated in the mid-1980s, Mexico has yet to be decertified, but the State Department's decision has sometimes come down to the wire. Decertified countries can be subject to economic penalties.

A final attempt to communicate with the failed Mars Polar Lander took place yesterday, NASA announced. An independent team of assessors has launched a review of the space agency's Mars program, which also lost an orbiter in September, and is expected to release its findings in mid-March. The Polar Lander was to have started a 90-day mission on the Red Planet last month, but it was last heard from minutes before beginning its descent.

Private lawsuits in US district courts alleging discrimination in the workplace jumped from 6,936 in 1990 to 21,540 in 1998, the Justice Department reported. Its Bureau of Justice Statistics attributed the increase to new civil rights laws including the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Civil rights complaints of all varieties surged from 18,793 in 1990 to 42,354 in 1998.

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Carter, Stansfield Turner, was among those injured in a plane crash in San Jose, Costa Rica. His wife, Eli Karen, was killed along with two other Americans and a Spanish national. More than a dozen were injured when the plane plunged into a home.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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