(WASHINGTON) — The Air Force on Tuesday said it has begun its own investigation into how a young airman allegedly was able to access possibly hundreds of highly classified documents he’s accused of posting on the internet.
Top officials also announced that the unit 21-year-old Airman 1st Class Teixeira was assigned to — Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts — has been removed from its intelligence mission and its work is now being done by other units.
“I’ve tasked our inspector general to go look at the unit and anything associated with this leak that could have gone wrong from the point of view of implementing our policies — to see what things allowed this to happen,” Secretary of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.
An Air Force statement explained that the IG’s review would “investigate overall compliance with policy, procedures, and standards, including the unit environment and compliance at the 102nd Intelligence Wing related to the release of national security information.”
“The 102nd Intelligence Wing is not currently performing its assigned intelligence mission,” said Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokesperson. “The mission has been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force.”
“There is a full court press going on about this,” Kendall told senators. “We’re all disturbed by it and we’re working very very hard to get to the bottom of it and take corrective action.”
Members of the congressional panel expressed disbelief that Teixeira allegedly had been able to leak information on to the Discord website for months without being detected.
“How could this guardsman take this information and distribute it electronically for weeks, if not months, and nobody knew about it?” said the subcommittee’s chairman, Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana.
“It appears that this was going on for many months without the airman allegedly being caught. And when he was caught, it was because of investigative journalism, not the controls within the Air Force,” said GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. “That is equally disturbing.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown told the committee that the Air Force has procedures in place to protect classified information but “obviously in this case this process fell apart.”
Brown provided the first indications that while Teixeira had a highly classified TS-SCI (Top Secret – Sensitive Compartmented Information) clearance he did not have a “need to know” access to the documents as part of his job as a IT specialist.
“The aspect of this particular airman, for his particular job he had access to information, but he didn’t necessarily have need to know for some of the information,” said Brown.
“Because of his duties he had access to some aspects based on his job as a cyber administrator. He took advantage of that access,” said Brown.
Brown also said the Air Force would put in place a service-wide review of security procedures to take place over the next 30 days within each Air Force unit.
“The focus of the standdown will be to reassess our security posture and procedures, validate the need to know for each person’s access, and emphasize to all Airmen and Guardians the responsibility we are entrusted with to safeguard this information and to enforce and improve our security requirements,” said the Air Force statement.
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