WASHINGTON – The Air Force disciplined 15 members of the National Guard after an investigation into the massive online leaks of classified information, allegedly by a Massachusetts airman, revealed a “lack of adequate supervision” and a “culture of complacency,” according to an inspector general’s report Monday.
The leaks exposed embarrassing secrets and analysis from across the U.S. intelligence community involving Russia's war in Ukraine and North Korea's race to develop nuclear weapons.
Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira has been charged with six counts of willful retention of defense records for allegedly sharing hundreds of classified documents through the social media platform Discord. He has pleaded not guilty.
The inspector general’s office blamed Teixeira’s superiors for failing to restrict his access to classified systems and facilities, and a failure to alert authorities when he was allegedly sharing the government’s secrets illegally. If any of three supervisors had reported the security incident as required, the leaks could have been stopped months earlier, the report said.
'Breach of sacred trust'
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said airmen and National Guard members have a solemn duty to protect classified information and must be held accountable for lapses.
“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,” Kendall said in a statement. “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.”
The Air Force National Guard initiated disciplinary and other administrative actions Sept. 7 against 15 people, ranging in rank from staff sergeant to colonel, for dereliction in performance of duties, according to the Air Force.
The actions ranged from relieving personnel from their positions, including command positions, to nonjudicial punishment.
Relieved of command over Discord Leaks
Col. Sean Riley, the commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, was relieved of command and received administrative action.
Enrique Dovalo, commander of the 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, received administrative action for concerns with unit culture and compliance with policies and standards.
The inspector general's report found inconsistent guidance on security reporting, deficiencies in discipline and a "lack of adequate supervision."
"Additionally, there appeared to be a culture of complacency within these units," the report said.
Ukraine war and ultra-secret spy satellites
The report was completed in August and sent to Congress on Monday after news reports about the investigation.
One notable document that Teixeira allegedly shared with a rapt audience of teenage gamers on Discord was a top secret February analysis predicting that Ukraine's vaunted counteroffensive against Russia would likely produce modest gains. The assessment, at odds with the Biden Administration's optimistic appraisals of the Ukraine military, turned out to be correct − the war is currently stalemated.
The documents leaked to Discord revealed the work of bodies including the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, law enforcement agencies and the ultra-secret National Reconnaissance Office, which operates America's spy satellites.
Top-secret Post-it Notes
As a computer specialist in the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Teixeira had access to numerous classified systems including the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, according to the inspector general.
“The preponderance of the evidence shows three individuals in A1C Teixeira’s supervisory chain had information about as many as four separate instances of security incidents and potential insider threat indicators they were required to report,” the report said.
A conference meeting in Teixeira’s criminal case is scheduled for Monday, with prosecutors and defense lawyers discussing the sharing of evidence and other procedural matters. A trial date has not been set.
The inspector general's report found:
Teixeira was reportedly involved in an online chat group on the Discord discussing geopolitical affairs and current and historic wars. He allegedly began posting classified information as early as February 2022, according to the FBI.
In July or August 2022, Teixeira was allegedly observed viewing intelligence content on computer systems classified as “top secret” and “sensitive compartmented information.” His supervisor was informed, but the incident wasn’t documented.
On Sept. 15, 2022, Teixeira was allegedly noticed viewing intelligence and writing information on a Post-It note. He was confronted and told to shred the note, but destruction of the note was never verified. His supervisor wrote a memo saying he was directed to stop taking notes and “to cease all research where he did not have a need to know.” But the incidents weren’t report to the proper security official.
On Oct. 25, 2022, during an intelligence briefing, Teixeira allegedly posed detailed questions about classified matters and attempted to answer questions. When questioned about what he knew, he said the information was available from open sources. The airman was again ordered to “cease and desist,” with supervisors writing another memo − while failing to report Teixeira to the proper security official.
Teixiera initially posted rewritten paragraphs of classified text to Discord and by January 2023 began posting photographs of documents with “top secret” markings that described a current military conflict, including troop locations.
On Jan. 30, 2023, Teixeira was seen again viewing intelligence content. At this point, senior members of the squadron’s leadership were made aware of three of the four incidents. “After some internal discussion, a substantially minimized version of the concerns was provided to security officials.”
Besides the disciplinary actions, the Air Force reported taking a department-wide review of how to comply with security procedures, attend security training and answer questions on security practices.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Air Force disciplines 15 in Cape Cod Discord leaks of secret documents