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US diplomatic chats safe, says State Department

Secret US diplomatic conversations are safe, a top official said Friday, despite the apparent bugging of an American envoy's phone.

WASHINGTON: Secret US diplomatic conversations are safe, a top official said Friday, despite the apparent bugging of an American envoy's phone.

Asked if she was confident about the security of diplomatic communications, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki replied: "Certainly we are."

"We do indicate and make clear when there are concerns about when information can be tapped. So we're cognizant of this. We're aware of this. And we are constantly taking precautions and updating our approach."

She revealed that data encryption is given to all State Department employees for their government-issued BlackBerry mobile phones.

"However they do not have voice encryption," Psaki said, adding that "classified conversation on a personal digital-assisted device is prohibited in accordance with department policy."

She refused to detail however whether Secretary of State John Kerry had access to a voice-encrypted mobile phone.

"We don't need to convey every step we take and every precaution we take," she said, hinting at the classified nature of such security measures.

The issue has come under scrutiny after an apparent bugged recording of a phone conversation between the US envoy for Europe, Victoria Nuland, and the US ambassador to Kiev, Geoff Pyatt, was leaked on the Internet.

Psaki has not disputed that the recording was authentic, but has not revealed details of when and how the conversation took place.

She has pointed the finger at Russia for being behind the apparent phone tapping, and insisted Friday that "only a few countries have the level of capabilities needed."

Ironically, the row has flared not long after the extent of Washington's own phone and data surveillance was revealed, triggering a major diplomatic row with many of its allies.

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