Pentagon culls classified document distribution list after intelligence leak

The Pentagon has started culling distribution lists for sensitive national security information after a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman with a junior job was charged in the biggest U.S. intelligence leak in a decade, spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Monday.

Initial findings from the Defense Department’s review of the leak are due in 45 days, Singh told reporters at the Pentagon. It will assess who has access to sensitive information across the world and seek to strike the balance between ensuring that the military and civilians have information needed to do their jobs but only what they need to know she said.

The FBI arrested Jack Teixeira on Thursday in connection with the leak of highly classified documents including maps, intelligence updates and the assessment of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The U.S. charged Teixeira with the massive disclosure of intelligence secrets, an embarrassment that prompted President Joe Biden to pledge the administration will clamp down on the spread of classified material and led investigators to probe whether foreign adversaries played any role in the leak and the dissemination of the material.

John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters that Biden directed a “high-priority” process including “dedicated vigorous efforts by the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, working literally around the clock to identify potentially classified material that had been disclosed.”

While the FBI and Justice Department are leading the criminal investigation, Singh said the Pentagon’s internal review may make recommendations on whether additions should be made to the background checks that every security clearance holder must go through, she added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that he’s directing Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie to lead a review into access to intelligence, accountability and control procedures within the Pentagon “to inform our efforts to prevent this kind of incident from happening again.”

The Defense Department is also working with social media outlets in an effort to obtain all documents that may have been leaked, according to Singh.

“There could be more documents that are circulating online,” she said.

The leak of dozens of pages of documents has been described as one of the most damaging intelligence disclosures in a decade, and raised the question of how a young, relatively junior National Guard member was able to access U.S. assessments of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, amid other information.

The documents were shared among a small group on the Discord text and video chat app before being picked up and circulated more broadly on the Russia-owned Telegram messaging service. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the U.S. wanted the charges against Teixeira to make others think twice before sharing secrets.


© 2023 Bloomberg L.P

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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