After secret documents leak, Pentagon plans tighter controls to protect classified information

Jul 5, 2023, 10:47 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon on Wednesday announced plans to tighten protection for classified information following the explosive leaks of hundreds of intelligence documents that were accessed through security gaps at a Massachusetts Air National Guard base.

Airman 1st Class Jack Texeira, 21, is accused of leaking the highly classified military documents in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a memo released Wednesday, ordered all of the department’s secured rooms where classified information is stored and accessed to be brought into compliance with intelligence community standards for oversight and tracking. The changes call for increased levels of physical security, additional controls to ensure documents aren’t improperly removed, and the assignment of top-secret control officers to monitor users.

Austin also said the sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs, must be monitored to prevent the use of electronic devices inside the rooms. That effort would include “appropriate electronic device detection systems and mitigation measures” inside the secure areas, according to the memo.

According to authorities, Teixeira, who enlisted in the Air National Guard in 2019, began sharing military secrets first by typing out classified documents and later by removing classified documents from the base and taking them home to photograph them.

Teixeira worked as a a “cyber transport systems specialist,” essentially an IT specialist responsible for military communications networks, which gave him wide access to the military’s classified computing networks.

The case highlighted the potential vulnerabilities the department faces as it works to safeguard classified information at military facilities across the globe that have varying security procedures and layers of protection, a senior defense official said in a briefing with reporters on the new directives.

“There wasn’t a single point of failure,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with Pentagon ground rules for the briefing.

Court filings in Teixeira’s case revealed that Air National Guard supervisors warned him at least three times about improper access to classified information, but no further action to restrict his clearance or access was taken.

The official said one of the concerns the department found in its review was that facilities that were farther from headquarters had ambiguity on some of the military’s classified information policies, such as when a security violation was required to be reported higher up the chain of command.

Teixeira pleaded not guilty last month to federal felony charges.

The stunning breach exposed to the world unvarnished secret assessments of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the capabilities and geopolitical interests of other nations and other national security issues. It has led to sweeping security reviews looking at the large number of users who have access to top secret information, who is tracking them, and whether or not they have a need to know.

Austin also directed the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency to develop ways to more quickly flag and communicate concerns to local commanders about personnel, such as by improving how “continuous vetting information” — any updated reports on criminal records, credit reports or other indicators that are tracked as part of background checks — can be more quickly shared to flag a potential security risk.

An estimated 4 million people hold U.S. security clearances, according to a 2017 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Of those, roughly 1.3 million are cleared to access top-secret information.

The Defense Department has previously been criticized for delays vetting new employees for security clearances and for over-classifying information. Officials have tried to balance those concerns against efforts to come up with ways to better protect the documents without further slowing down needed access to information, the official said.

More recent figures weren’t immediately available. But some lawmakers have long wanted to update the U.S. system of classifying information and add safeguards for how documents are stored and tracked.


Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

New Mexico heavy rain and flash flooding prompt mandatory evacuations in Las Vegas

Heavy rain and flash flood warnings in New Mexico prompted officials to order mandatory evacuations for parts of Las Vegas with shelters set up for displaced residents. The National Weather Service office announced a flash flood emergency on Friday night through early Saturday. The impacted areas included Las Vegas and communities near Albuquerque. Up to […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Parts of Washington state parental rights law criticized as a ‘forced outing’ placed on hold

SEATTLE (AP) — A judge has paused parts of a new Washington state parental rights law derided by critics as a “forced outing” measure. King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott on Friday paused portions of the law while a lawsuit brought by civil liberties groups and others is pending, The Seattle Times reported. The […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Ex-CEO of Nevada-based health care company Ontrak convicted of $12.5 million insider trading scheme

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former CEO and chairman of Ontrak, a publicly traded health care company based in Nevada, was found guilty Friday of a multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme. A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted Terren Scott Peizer, a resident of Puerto Rico and Santa Monica, California, of one count of securities fraud […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Lockheed Martin subsidiaries reach $70 million settlement for claims they overcharged Navy for parts

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two Lockheed Martin subsidiaries have agreed to pay the federal government $70 million for overcharging the Navy for aircraft parts, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. The federal agency says Sikorsky Support Services, based in Stratford, Connecticut, and Derco Aerospace, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, knowingly entered into an improper subcontract […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Man accused in killing and kidnappings in Louisiana waives extradition

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A man arrested in the slaying of a Louisiana woman and abduction of her two daughters and subsequent death of one of them waived extradition Friday in federal court in Mississippi, clearing the way for his return to Louisiana to face trial. During his court appearance in Jackson, Daniel Callihan, 36, […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

88-year-old Montana man who was getaway driver in bank robberies sentenced to 2 years in prison

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An 88-year-old Montana man has been sentenced to two years in a federal prison medical facility for being the getaway driver in two bank robberies in Billings last summer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Montana said. The man was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty in February to two counts of bank […]

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

After secret documents leak, Pentagon plans tighter controls to protect classified information