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US State Dept. workers beg Clinton for Firefox

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US State Department workers have begged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to let them use Firefox.

"Can you please let the staff use an alternative web browser called Firefox?" worker bee Jim Finkle asked Clinton during Friday's State Department town hall meeting.

"I just moved to the State Department from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and was surprised that State doesn’t use this browser. It was approved for the entire intelligence community, so I don’t understand why State can’t use it. It’s a much safer program."

Presumably, the State Department is using Microsoft's Internet Explorer. And we wouldn't be surprised if it's still mired in the eight-year-old IE6. The only thing that moves slower than Orange is a US government agency. But the State Department has yet to respond to our questions about its Firefox-less browsing mandate.

Finkle's fellow workers responded to his Firefox request with applause. While Clinton responded with bewilderment. "Well, apparently, there’s a lot of support for this suggestion. I don’t know the answer. Pat, do you know the answer?" she said, turning to under Secretary Pat Kennedy.

"The answer is, at the moment: It’s an expense question," Kennedy said. Then someone in the audience pointed out that Firefox is free.

"Nothing is free," Kennedy responded. "It’s a question of the resources to manage multiple systems. It is something we’re looking at...It has to be administered. The patches have to be loaded. It may seem small, but when you’re running a worldwide operation and trying to push, as the Secretary rightly said, out FOBs [for remote log-ins] and other devices, you’re caught in the terrible bind of triage of trying to get the most out that you can, but knowing you can’t do everything at once."

Clinton then told her staff to have a look through their closets. "The more money we can save on stuff that is not cutting edge, the more resources we’ll have to shift to do things that will give us more tools," she said.

"[That reminds] me of what I occasionally sometimes do, which I call shopping in my closet, which means opening doors and seeing what I actually already have, which I really suggest to everybody, because it’s quite enlightening. And so when you go to the store and you buy, let’s say, peanut butter and you don’t realize you’ve got two jars already at the back of the shelf – I mean, that sounds simplistic, but help us save money on stuff that we shouldn’t be wasting money on, and give us the chance to manage our resources to do more things like Firefox, okay?"

If the State Department buys less peanut butter, Clinton may even let them use Facebook. During a state department town hall meeting earlier this year, a bigwig at the US embassy in Mexico City told Clinton that the social networking site is a great way to prevent solipsistic stupid people from entering the country.

"Facebook, MySpace, and other web 2.0 social networking technologies will significantly enhance the Department’s diplomacy efforts and business goals," he said. "For example, an astute consular officer in Hermosillo recently used Facebook to determine a visa applicant’s ineligibility based on information contained on the applicant’s Facebook page, proving its value as an anti-fraud tool."

And Clinton seemed to like the idea. "We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to be smarter about using technology. So I think that’s a great example, the Facebook example. And you know, we might want to follow up on that example, checking out Facebook. For everybody who is applying for a visa, you just should know that the State Department is on the watch here for Facebook."

No doubt, the State Department will officially adopt Facebook at about the same time the revenue-challenged site follows Friendster into social networking oblivion. ®

Bootnote

Thanks to James for the tip.

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