US Air Force disciplines 15 people following investigation into accused National Guard leaker Jack Teixeira
Dec 11, 2023, 9:56 AM
(CNN) — The US Air Force has disciplined 15 people connected to the intelligence leaks from Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, the service said Monday, after an investigation found that individuals “intentionally failed” to report documented concerns about Teixeira’s behavior preceding the leaks.
According to an Air Force release on Monday, 15 individuals from the ranks of staff sergeant to colonel received punishments ranging from being relieved from their positions to non-judicial punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The commander of Teixeira’s unit, Col. Sean Riley of the the 102nd Intelligence Wing, was relieved of command, the Air Force said. Commanders of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron who had been suspended were “permanently removed.”
While the investigation did not find that supervisory members were aware of Teixeira leaking the information on the popular social media platform Discord, the Air Force said individuals in his unit “failed to take proper action after becoming aware of his intelligence-seeking activities.”
Teixeira, who served as a cyber systems journeyman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, has been indicted on six counts of willful retention and transmission of classified information related to national defense. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lawyers representing Teixeira have not responded to a request for comment from CNN.
The Air Force’s investigation found that commanders failed to adequately inspect areas under their command, had “inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents” and “inconsistent definitions of the ‘Need to Know’ concept,” a lack of supervision of night shift operations, an “inefficient and ineffective” process for carrying out disciplinary actions, and “a failure to provide security clearance field investigation results.”
CNN has previously reported three Air Force memos revealed Teixeira had received a direct order from superiors to stop taking notes on intelligence, and was observed two more times accessing intelligence unrelated to his job.
A “small number” of individuals failed to report Teixeira to the appropriate security officials, the Air Force investigation says, “fearing security officials might ‘overreact.’”
“Had any of these members come forward, security officials would likely have facilitated restricting systems/facility access and alerted the appropriate authorities, reducing the length and depth of the unauthorized and unlawful disclosures by several months,” the report said.
Three leaders ‘intentionally failed’ to report concerns
According to the Air Force investigation report, Teixeira began posting classified intelligence as early as February 2022, after receiving his Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS-SCI) clearance in June 2021.
As a computer specialist, Teixeira “had access to numerous classified systems, including the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS), a TS-SCI platform, to perform system maintenance,” the report says.
In February 2022, Teixeira began allegedly posting “rewritten ‘paragraphs of text’” to the Discord channel he belonged to. Then, in January 2023, he allegedly began posting photos of intelligence with top secret classification markings that “described the status of a current military conflict, including troop locations.”
He allegedly began taking intelligence home to photograph and post online after expressing concerns that he “would be discovered making the transcriptions in the secure work center” at Otis Air National Guard Base.
While the investigation puts the blame solely on Teixeira as the cause of the leaks, it does say that there were direct and indirect factors that contributed to his ability to leak that information.
Teixeira and other IT specialists in his squadron, for example, were “encouraged to receive weekly intelligence briefings to better understand the mission and the importance of keeping the classified networks operations.”
“This ‘know your why’ effort was improper in that it provided high level classified intelligence information than was necessary to understand the unit’s mission and created ambiguity with respect to questioning an individual’s need to know,” the report said.
The report then describes four documented instances of Teixeira’s leadership becoming aware of his accessing intelligence he did not need to know for his role in the unit. Around July or August 2022, Teixeira was seen viewing intelligence, and while his supervisor was informed, the report says, the incident “was not documented in writing.”
In September 2022, a unit member again saw Teixeira viewing intelligence and “writing information on a post-it note.” While he was directed to shred what he was writing, the report says it “was never verified” what he’d written down or if he had in fact shredded it as directed. Neither incident was reported to the appropriate security official, the report says.
A month later in October 2022, Teixeira “asked very detailed questions and even attempted to answer questions” regarding intelligence that was outside of the scope of what he needed to know for his job. He was questioned about the intelligence level of the information he was speaking about, but told leaders it was available from open sources. His supervisor was made aware, and he was ordered to “’cease and desist’ intelligence ‘deep dives.’”
In a fourth incident in January 2023, he was again observed viewing intelligence and ordered to stop. The incident was documented, but the report says that after “some internal discussion, a substantially minimized version of the concerns was provided to security officials.” Those security officials were not provided copies of the previous memos outlining security incidents.
“After interviewing higher levels of the supervisory chain, it appears knowledge of these security incidents was not fully disclosed above the squadron level,” the Air Force investigation report says. “Based on the preponderance of the evidence gathered during the investigation, three individuals in the unit who understood their duty to report specific information regarding A1C Teixeira’s intelligence-seeking and insider threat indicators to security officials, intentionally failed to do so.”
‘Our national security demands leaders at every level protect critical assets’
Outside of the failure to properly report concerns, the investigation outlines a number of other contributing factors to the leaks — among them a “lack of supervision” of personnel during night shift operations.
According to the report, members of a three-person crew like the one Teixeira belonged to were sometimes the only personnel in the TS-SCI facility, primarily to answer phones and ensure that the Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition (HVAC) unit was operating properly.
While there, however, the report says that any night shift member had “ample opportunity” to access classified intelligence networks and “print a high volume of products without supervision or detection.”
Other contributing factors included a misunderstanding of the military’s “need to know” policies. Some personnel, the report said, believed that having the TS-SCI clearance “meant users had approval to examine any information they could find on JWICS.” Investigators also found a misunderstanding in Teixeira’s intelligence wing about how to report security infractions; some people “mistakenly believed” that security violations could be reported to supervisors, instead of mandated security officials.
Since news of Teixeira’s leak broke earlier this year, the Pentagon began a review of security policies and procedures, which found some areas where the military could “improve accountability measures to prevent the compromise” of national security information.
The Air Force’s release on Monday also identified “several reforms” that were implemented in the wake of the leaks to improve security procedures, including clarifying reporting guidelines, increasing emphasis on “cyber hygiene,” improving security training and improving need-to-know enforcement for classified information.
“Every Airman and Guardian is entrusted with the solemn duty to safeguard our nation’s classified defense information,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Monday. “When there is a breach of that sacred trust, for any reason, we will act in accordance with our laws and policies to hold responsible individuals accountable.”
“Our national security demands leaders at every level protect critical assets, ensuring they do not fall into the hands of those who would do the United States or our allies and partners harm,” Kendall said.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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