news: U.S. intelligence computer crashes for nearly 3 days

Date Sun, 30 Jan 2000 01:30:14 -0500

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January 29, 2000 Web posted at: 10:18 p.m. EST (0318 GMT) 

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. government sources say there is no indication that the crash of an
important spy computer operated by the super secret National Security Agency was caused by
sabotage or the Y2K glitch. 

An NSA spokeswoman confirmed Saturday that computer systems at the NSA headquarters in Ft.
Meade, Maryland, crashed last Monday and remained down for almost three days. 

"It was a real problem," said an unnamed government source.

A source said the loss of the computer systems was "not
insignificant." And although the problem has been largely overcome,
the source said Saturday it was still not 100 percent repaired.

The NSA is responsible for protecting U.S. information systems and
producing international intelligence information. It also tries to
find weaknesses in codes and information systems used by U.S.

  Access denied
Monday's crash affected "the processing of intelligence, but not the
collection of intelligence," according to the spokeswoman. In other
words, the computer continued to receive information, but workers were
unable to access it.

She said no other NSA locations were affected.

A U.S. official told CNN that most, if not all of the affected data
had been stored in the computer for later analysis, but the official
said the timeliness of the information was lost in some cases.

"There are some things you want to know right away, and we will have
to go back and see if anything significant was missed," the official

  Contingency plan invoked
The spokeswoman said engineers began working on the problem
immediately after it occurred late Monday, and computers were back
within the window of operations within 72 hours.

Sources said a contingency plan for just such an event went into
effect after the problem was discovered.

Officials said as soon as the computer system went down, so- called
"work arounds" allowed the highest priority information to be
processed, such as intelligence needed to support U.S. troops deployed
around the world.

Sources said the problem occurred because the computer system was
overloaded and badly stressed. Indicating the scope of the crash,
sources said NSA technicians had to reconstruct the entire system.

>From Military Affairs Correspondent [64]Jamie McIntyre and National
Security Producer Pam Benson

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