Chris Lange, FISM News
President Joe Biden has directed the U.S. military and intelligence community to change the way sensitive information is secured and disseminated. The White House made the announcement Friday, days after highly-classified intelligence documents began circulating on social media.
Biden praised “the rapid action taken by law enforcement to investigate and respond to the recent dissemination of classified U.S. government documents” in a statement.
“While we are still determining the validity of those documents, I have directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our national security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies,” Biden continued.
Suspected leaker Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, 21, made his first court appearance Friday. He has been charged with the unauthorized retention and transmission of defense information in violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison. Prior to his arrest last Thursday, Teixeira worked as an IT specialist on military communications networks — a position that afforded him higher-level security clearance.
The leak, however, has raised alarm over the way in which the U.S. safeguards and shares classified information.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he was shocked that the Pentagon would allow someone like Teixeira to gain access to top-secret intelligence materials in the first place during an appearance on Fox News Friday.
“I don’t understand why a 21-year-old national guardsman had access to some of the most highly kept secrets in the United States, and in particular, finished products from the Joint Staff or finished products from the CIA operation center. I just don’t know why he would have access to those,” Esper said.
The former defense secretary acknowledged that the airman’s IT position necessitated security clearance since Teixeira performed work on computer networks and related equipment but said that the position did not warrant such high-level access to critical U.S. intelligence secrets.
“There’s not a need for him to have access to the information on that system, let alone finished products from the Joint Staff and CIA,” Esper said, adding that the leak revealed that the Pentagon has a problem “not just over classification, but in this case, over distribution.”
TEIXEIRA DOES NOT ENTER PLEA
Someone shouted “I love you” as Jack Teixeira entered the courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston Friday. Dressed in a prison jumpsuit with his hands shackled in front of him, the 21-year-old replied, “I love you too, Dad,” BBC News reported.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Hennessy advised Teixeira of the charges against him as the airman quietly responded “Yes, sir” in response to the judge’s questions, per USA Today. Teixeira did not enter a plea to the charges. Hennessy ordered that the suspect remains in custody pending a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Teixeira allegedly posted the classified material in a chat group he led on the Discord gaming platform, perhaps for as many as 40 days before his arrest. It was not until the materials began to surface on Twitter and other social media platforms around April 7 that the Pentagon became aware of leaks, which reportedly included detailed plans and maps related to Ukraine’s anticipated spring offensive against invading Russian forces. They also exposed U.S. intelligence-gathering methods and sources abroad.