WASHINGTON -- J. Stapleton Roy, one of the nation's two most senior foreign service officers and a three-time U.S. ambassador, has resigned in protest after Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright suspended his deputy without pay and fired two other long-time State Department officials over a missing top-secret laptop computer.
Albright last week suspended Donald Keyser, Roy's deputy at the bureau of intelligence and research, for 30 days without pay and reassigned him to the State Department director general's office, which is not involved in making policy. Sources said Albright had quarrelled with Keyser over a plan to strip some of the bureau's responsibilities in the wake of the laptop fiasco, and she informed Keyser last week that he had "lost her confidence."
Roy, who had worked closely with Keyser several times during their careers, then told Albright he would resign in protest, effective Tuesday. A State Department official said Roy was scheduled to retire in January and was leaving early "out of a sense of responsibility and honor." Friends of Roy said that resigning was the strongest way to signal his displeasure with Albright.
The high-level turmoil in the department reveals a festering dispute over how to react to security lapses, and it left some foreign service officers fuming about what they view as an excessive and uneven crackdown by Albright.
"The secretary of state decided to pursue her crusade against what she deems to be weak security inside the State Department," said Robert Oakley, former ambassador to Somalia and Pakistan. "Stape Roy says it is unjustified and said, 'If you've lost confidence in my deputy, then you've lost confidence in me.' "
Since the disappearance of the laptop in January, Albright has vowed to hold State Department officials accountable for security lapses and to change the department's lax attitude toward security matters. She has also moved to enhance the power of her diplomatic security chief, David Carpenter, a former Secret Service agent.
"Let's remember that this laptop had some of the highest classified material we have," said a State Department official, defending Albright. "The secretary has a responsibility to leave the bureau in the best possible position as it goes through transition to ensure that it will serve the next secretary well."
Albright has now disciplined six people, including Keyser, in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research as a result of the disappearance of the laptop computer. It held thousands of pages of "codeword" information about weapons proliferation issues and was reported missing from a supposedly secure conference room at the State Department's headquarters.
Early last month, she dismissed two people: Allen W. Locke, a 34-year civil servant in the senior executive service, and Nancy C. May. Sources said Locke, who also has worked in the White House and intelligence agencies, denies wrongdoing and will fight the dismissal. May could not be reached for comment.
An inquiry into the laptop's disappearance revealed that the door to the conference room had been propped open and that contractors lacking security clearances had not been escorted properly through the building. The laptop was never recovered.
While Albright has cracked down on the intelligence bureau, known by the initials INR, some foreign service officers complain that she has not taken measures against those closest to her and contend that she is scapegoating INR for other unsolved security breaches in recent years.
Those breaches include the planting of an eavesdropping device in a seventh-floor conference room and the removal of classified papers from the secretary's outer office by a mysterious man in a tweed coat who went unquestioned and unapprehended. An unclassified laptop signed out to Albright confidante Morton Halperin also disappeared, and no disciplinary action was taken.
The departure of Roy and the reassignment of Keyser will rob the department of two of its top China experts. The son of a missionary, Roy grew up in China, returned to the United States to go to Princeton University, then joined the foreign service. He later served as ambassador to China, Indonesia and Singapore. Keyser had served in Beijing three times, had been the State Department's director of Chinese and Mongolian affairs, and most recently held the rank of ambassador as a special negotiator for conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and former Soviet republics.
Current and former foreign service officers interviewed Monday were almost unanimous in their condemnation of Albright, who is scheduled to depart Wednesday on a trip to Botswana, South Africa and Mauritius, an Indian Ocean island nation known for its beaches.
"She's devouring her children all for the sake of maintaining an image of being a tough lady," said a former senior State Department official.
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