Federal Triangle

NASA makes the list

NASA was rated the best place to work in the federal government in a new survey released last week by the Partnership for Public Service and American University's Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. But that doesn't mean the space agency is free of problems.

Another survey released last week found that NASA's workers are still afraid to discuss safety issues.

"We've got a lot of work to do," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe.

Parlez vous anything?

The FBI has been suffering on several fronts as it faces scrutiny of its pre-Sept. 11, 2001, operations. But one lesser-known area under inspection is the bureau's language specialists.

The FBI has a chronic shortage of qualified language specialists, according to the 9-11 Commission. Their summaries and translations are usually not uploaded into a searchable database and not systematically analyzed for intelligence value. Case agents and analysts don't coordinate with them sufficiently.

As a result, the language specialists often lack the "proper context to understand the significance of otherwise innocuous references they hear or read," a commission briefing paper said. And that's a pretty scary thought.

Politics on the Net

A Duquesne University Law School student has been trying to get the Web's major search engines to highlight John Kerry's official Web site whenever anyone searches for the word "waffles." The stunt worked for awhile, but eventually search engines got wind of the prank and cut it off.

Diplomacy becomes electronic

State Department Secretary Colin Powell and U.S. Archivist John Carlin met last week in the department's diplomatic reception rooms for a historic handoff of electronic diplomatic records. It was the first transfer of such records from State to the National Archives and Records Administration, according to a department spokesman.

The records, dating from July 1973 to December 1974, comprise about 700,000 declassified documents that NARA officials will process and make available to the public on the Internet.

Since 1973, the department has stored its electronic records in a central electronic archive that now has about 28 million digital records. State officials said the department will soon replace its old diplomatic messaging system with a new one that lets diplomatic officers send, archive and retrieve diplomatic messages from a desktop or laptop computer. It will be a big change, and State officials are in close touch with officials in NARA's Electronic Records Archives program to ensure that both agencies stay in sync.

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