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February 10th, 2012
04:23 PM ET
September 21st, 2011
04:07 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Behind-the-scenes with State Department's U.N. operations

By Jamie Crawford and Elise Labott reporting from the UN General Assembly

She may be out of Washington and on the road for the week, but the heavy machinery of office has followed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to New York as she attends the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings.

To be sure, the secretary always has a traveling staff with her wherever she may be in the world. But UNGA, with its hundreds of diplomats, ministers and heads of state converging on New York every September, is a much different animal from a trip to a world capitol.  Basically, Foggy Bottom moves up to the Big Apple and sets up a mini-State Department on the 24th floor of the Waldorf Astoria.

CNN was granted rare and exclusive access to this massive operation, one that involves hundreds of employees, planeloads full of equipment and a ton of coffee.

As we exited the elevator on the 24th floor, it became clear this was indeed a secure work space, with numerous Diplomatic Security guards and several signs reminding staff not to discuss classified information in the hallways.

It seemed as if U.S. foreign policy hadn't skipped a beat despite being a few hundred miles removed from home base. With the beds in each room removed (though the head boards where still bolted to the wall), the rooms have been transformed into working offices with secure telephone lines, computers, fax machines and all of the equipment needed to do the job of executing the nation's diplomacy.

As we were escorted down one of the halls, Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, the department's chief of protocol, was working with her staff to prepare for what was already shaping up to be an marathon of a week. Marshall's office is responsible for advising on matters of international diplomatic protocol, making sure the right atmosphere is created for conducting diplomacy.

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Filed under: backstory • United Nations