The U.S. Air Force took disciplinary action against 15 airmen, charging that a lack of supervision and a failure to take action contributed to the so-called ‘Discord intelligence leaks’ that rattled the U.S. intelligence community.
A 21-year-old Air National Guardsman, Jack Teixeira, was arrested this past April, shortly after the leaks were discovered, and is facing multiple charges for removing documents from a secured work environment, and then posting the information or photos for a small group on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers.
At the time, a top Pentagon official said the leaks, which revealed information about Russia’s war in Ukraine and about U.S. allies, posed “a very serious risk” to national security.
In a statement Monday, the Air Force said the commander of Teixeira’s Air National Guard unit, the 102nd Intelligence Wing, was relieved of command.
Another 14 individuals where subjected to non-judicial punishment under the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The Air Force defended the actions, saying officials in Teixeira’s unit could have and should have taken action that could have mitigated the improper disclosure of intelligence.
“Individuals in Teixeira’s unit failed to take proper action after becoming aware of his intelligence-seeking activities,’ the Air Force said, citing a report by its inspector general.
“Leadership was not vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who were placed under their command,” the Air Force said.
The statement also said the intelligence leaks were further enabled by “inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents” and “ineffective processes for administering disciplinary actions.”
“However, the investigation did not find evidence that members of Teixeira’s supervisory chain were aware of his alleged unauthorized disclosures,” the Air Force said.
According to the Air Force inspector general, evidence indicated that members of the 102nd Intelligence Wing had information on at least four incidents involving questionable activity by Teixeira, and that a smaller number of individuals “had a more complete picture” of Teixeira’s activities but “failed to report the full details of these security concerns/incidents.”
“Had any of these members come forward, security officials would likely have facilitated restricting systems/facility access and alerted the appropriate authorities, reducing the length and depth of the unauthorized and unlawful disclosures by several months,” the report said.
The inspector general’s report further found that a routine background check flagged concerns about Teixeira, but that the military granted him top secret clearance anyway.
Additionally, the report found those concerns were never shared with Teixeira’s unit.
“The details learned in background checks are not routinely shared with a member’s unit,” it said. “Had the unit been made aware of potential security concerns identified during the clearance adjudication process, they may have acted more quickly.”
The Pentagon Monday said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been made aware of the Air Force’s findings and actions, adding Austin is confident officials are “taking the necessary steps.”
This past July, the Pentagon released the results of its own review into the leaks, calling for a tightening of existing security measures. But it rejected the need for any sweeping overhaul.
“There was no single point of failure,” a senior defense official said at the time, speaking to reporters about the review’s findings on the condition of anonymity.
“What we see here is we have a growing ecosystem of classified facilities and a body of personnel who are cleared,” the official said. “Within that we have opportunities to clarify policy … they are not the clearest documents always.”
Still, Defense Department officials have taken steps to reduce the number of people with access to classified information.
According to a 2017 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, approximately 4 million people have U.S. security clearances, with 1.3 million cleared to access top secret information.