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6/1/2007
02:54 PM
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Web Security Breach Lets Cat Out Of Baghdad Embassy Plans

The computer-generated drawings popped up on several Web sites before the company and the government announced that they had been removed for security reasons.

The architectural firm commissioned to design the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad removed master sketches of the compound from its Web site, but not before details of the sensitive plan were exposed online.

The computer-generated drawings popped up on several other Web sites before architects with Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. could say "Oops!" Some images and descriptive text also remained on cached pages of the Kansas City firm's own Web site Friday, after the company and the government announced that they had been taken down for security reasons.

While the U.S. government has not commented on whether the design is the final version being built, Iraqis have reportedly seen construction equipment from the banks of the Tigris River.

Al Jazeera last month reported bombings of cranes and construction crews resulting in injuries. The news outlet was one of the many organizations around the globe that posted the firm's images. Thanks to the corresponding leak of text, there has been plenty of opportunity to learn the number of construction phases, functions of the buildings, which can be matched with the drawings.

The Associated Press reported this week that the 104-acre site will include residences for the ambassador and staff, a post office and commissary, a cinema, retail and shopping, restaurants, schools, a fire station, power generators, waste water treatment plants, a drinking water purification system and telecommunications facilities. A total of 20 buildings appeared in pictures and were referenced in documents on the architect's Web site

Despite a request by the U.S. State Department to remove the information from the Web site, a spokesman for the architectural firm told reporters that anyone who was interested could have just looked up the compound on Google Earth. So, if anyone wishing to harm U.S. government employees hadn't thought of it already, they now know to cross-reference Google Earth images with labels and descriptions they wouldn't have otherwise had.

A woman who answered the phone at the firm Friday morning said the State Department was handling all calls about the matter. A spokesman for the agency did not return calls for comment.

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