Accessibility links

Breaking News

Pentagon Tightens Classified Information Controls

FILE: In this artist depiction, Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, seated second from right, appears in U.S. District Court, in Boston, April 19, 2023. The Pentagon on July 5, 2023 announced plans to tighten protection for classified information.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has 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.

The Pentagon said the new classified information security measures included the appointment of "Top Secret Control Officers," establishment of a new office for insider threats, and plans for electronic device detection systems in classified, secret and top-secret work areas.

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 move comes after a 45-day review did not identify a single point of failure, but the Pentagon said policies, including those related to electronic devices in sensitive areas, were ambiguous and led to inconsistencies in implementing them.

Tightening access comes in the wake of the arrest of U.S. Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, 21, accused of leaking the highly classified military documents in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.

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 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.

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.

"I think what we see here is we have a growing ecosystem of classified facilities and a body of personnel who are cleared," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters.

"As someone who has read a lot of DoD policies, they are not the clearest documents," the official said.

The official said the Pentagon needed to be more clear about policies related to classified information and spaces it can be accessed in, along with greater accountability for personnel who work with sensitive 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.

This report was compiled from Rueters and The Associated Press.