Airman in Pentagon intel leak charged

Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira will remain in federal custody until a hearing next week, the Associated Press reported, following a court appearance on Friday where he was charged with unauthorized retention of classified material.

Billing records helped the FBI track down the 21-year-old Massachusetts Air Guardsman as the source of the massive Pentagon intelligence leak that has rocked the Defense Department since it was first revealed April 7.

Though the Justice Department is taking the lead on Teixeira’s case, the National Guard confirmed on Friday that he was on federal active duty at the time he was posting classified information online, subjecting him to the military criminal justice system as well.

He has been mobilized since Oct. 1, 2021, spokesman Rob Carver told Military Times on Friday.

Following Teixeira’s arrest on Thursday, the Pentagon released a memo, reminding employees about the rules for handling classified information.

“Do not access or download documents with classified markings from unclassified websites ― either from home or work ― as the data may be classified, it may be associated with hostile foreign elements, or it may contain malicious code or embedded capabilities that could introduce cyber threats into our information systems,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks wrote.

Hicks also reminded employees that classified information posted online is still classified, and their possession or sharing of it is still illegal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday directed Ronald Moultrie, the Pentagon’s intelligence and security chief, to review the department’s “intelligence access, accountability and control procedures.”

“I want to thank the men and women of the Department’s Disclosures Task Force who have been working around the clock to assess and mitigate any damage done by these disclosures,” he said in a statement. “As Secretary of Defense, I will also not hesitate to take any additional measures necessary to safeguard our nation’s secrets.

The Pentagon is reviewing classified material distribution lists to make sure everyone on them truly has a need to know the information.

“We continue to review a variety of factors as it relates to safeguarding classified materials,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters. “This includes examining and updating distribution lists, assessing how and where intelligence products are shared, and a variety of other steps.”

Ryder would not comment on whether DoD is combing through Discord or other online forums looking for classified material, referring questions on the investigation to the Justice Department.

Aside from handling of classified materials, DoD also has a strict social media policy that requires service members to put a lengthy disclaimer in their bios to distance their opinions from those of DoD.

Teixeira, according to members of his Discord server who spoke to the Washington Post, was open about his military service but didn’t give specific details.

Though the Pentagon is reviewing policies, Ryder emphasized that the leak was a purposeful flouting of those rules.

“I would say though, that it is important to understand that we do have stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information,” he said. “This was a deliberate criminal act, a violation of those guidelines.”

Asked why such a junior member would have access to such sensitive documents, Ryder tried to offer some perspective.

“When you join the military, depending on your position, you may require a security clearance,” he said. “And if you are working in the intelligence community, and you require security clearance, you’re going to go through the proper vetting. We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age.”

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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