The Pentagon’s security and oversight measures have failed to keep pace with the proliferation of military facilities that handle classified information and the personnel who work there, but the Defense Department does not have a systemic problem in keeping its secrets secret, a new review concludes.
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a 45-day review of Pentagon policies and procedures in April after a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman was accused of leaking top-secret documents.
Jack Teixeira, the airman, was accused of posting a trove of secret documents to an online chat group. He pleaded not guilty last month to six counts of federal criminal charges.
Before that, however, Mr. Austin directed top aides to determine how big a security problem the Pentagon had on its hands. Was Airman Teixeira an outlier who violated his oath not to disclose military secrets? Or was he symptomatic of a much larger problem within the military ranks that had gone undetected for years?
The review, which the Pentagon is expected to release and describe to reporters on Wednesday afternoon, concluded there was neither a “single point of failure” to explain Airman Teixeira’s disclosures nor any widespread breakdown in the military’s procedures for handling and overseeing confidential information, said two senior military officials briefed on the assessment’s findings.
Instead, the review found that the spectacular growth in military facilities and people handling classified information, particularly since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had far outpaced the military’s ability to keep that information secure, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the report’s major findings.
The review recommended that the department spend more money, take additional steps and assign more people to tighten security around the handling of classified information, the officials said. Additional safeguards should include stricter measures to prevent the use of electronic devices inside classified work spaces, where confidential information or images could be photographed or recorded.
Besides the federal criminal investigation, Frank Kendall, the secretary of the Air Force, has directed the service’s inspector general to look at the Air National Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing, where Airman Teixeira served, and at how the airman was able to post hundreds of national security documents in a chat room for gamers. From there, they eventually drifted to Twitter and the messaging platform Telegram.
New questions about the command surfaced in May, when a Justice Department filing revealed that Air Force officials caught Airman Teixeira taking notes and searching for classified material months before he was charged with leaking a vast trove of government secrets, but did not remove him from his job.
On two occasions, in September and October 2022, Airman Teixeira’s superiors in the Massachusetts Air National Guard admonished him after reports that he had taken “concerning actions” while handling classified information. Those included stuffing a note into his pocket after reviewing secret information inside his unit, according to the court filing.
That information raised troubling questions about whether the military missed opportunities to stop or limit one of the most damaging intelligence leaks in recent history.
Airman Teixeira seems to have retained his top-secret security clearance after he was admonished and subsequently received the second of two certificates after completing training intended to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.