The Air Force has removed the intelligence mission from the unit where a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman had access to potentially hundreds of classified documents leaked over the internet, service officials revealed Tuesday.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told senators he has directed the service’s inspector general to investigate the Air National Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing in Cape Cod, Mass., the unit where Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira served, to look at “anything associated with this leak that could have gone wrong.”
Until then, the 102nd “is not currently performing its assigned intelligence mission. The mission has been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force,” a service spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.
Teixeira was charged on Friday with violating the Espionage Act and another statute that prohibits the unauthorized removal of classified documents in relation to the posting of more than 100 such papers to a group on Discord. The material ranges from secretive snapshots of the Ukraine-Russia war to intelligence gleaned from spying on allies.
Teixeira is set to appear back in court for a Wednesday hearing.
The leaks have roiled the national security community and raised questions on how an individual was able to covertly remove such information and post it online without drawing attention.
On Tuesday, lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee pressed Air Force leaders as to what happened and why there was such a blind spot within the military.
“How could this guardsman take this information and distribute it electronically for weeks, if not months, and nobody knew about it?” panel Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asked the officials. “We spend a lot of money trying to protect classified information. Do we have protections in place to stop this from ever happening again?”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown replied that while the organization does have protections in place to shield classified information, “obviously, in this case, this process fell apart.”
Dues to his job as a cyber administrator, Teixeira had security access to the information that was leaked.
“He took advantage of that access,” Brown said.
“We’re going through an ongoing investigation associated with that and then also determining how he was able to distribute,” he added.
Both Kendall and Brown also said the Air Force is conducting a service-wide review of its security practices.
“There is a full court press going on about this. We’re all disturbed about it and we’re working very, very hard to get to the bottom of it and take corrective actions,” Kendall said.
Air Force spokesperson Rose Riley later told The Hill that the review will include a security-focused standdown, to be conducted in the next 30 days at each unit across the service.
“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,” she said in a statement.
The Air Force reviews come after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday directed a military-wide look at all facilities that handle classified information, with officials to report within 45 days on how the nation’s secrets are accessed, shared, stored and disposed of.