US Air Force to Tighten Access to Classified Data After Intel Leak

Foreign Affairs

Washington: The US Air Force says it is looking at ways to better control access to classified information, in the wake of revelations that superiors of the Massachusetts Air National Guard member charged with leaking highly classified documents had raised concerns about his handling of sensitive data.

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Secretary Frank Kendall told reporters  that the Air Force needs to better enforce the rules that govern access to classified information based on whether someone with the correct security clearance also has a need to know the information.

“It’s a long standing tenet that you don’t get to look at something classified unless there’s a legitimate reason for you to look at it,” Kendall said. “Just because you happen to have a certain level of clearance doesn’t mean you get access to all the material at that level. So, we’re taking a hard look at some practices around that.”

He said he doesn’t think the service enforced that rule strongly enough.

Justice Department lawyers said last week that Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira’s superiors voiced concerns on multiple occasions about his handling of highly classified information. They laid out the issue in court papers urging a magistrate judge to keep Teixeira behind bars while he awaits trial in the case stemming from the most consequential intelligence leak in years.

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Teixeira is accused of sharing highly classified documents about top national security issues in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers. He has not yet entered a plea.

As a result of the case, Kendall gave Air Force leaders 30 days to take a close look at their practices and determine if the department is prioritizing the need to get information about operations to those who need it and being careful enough about spreading intelligence too broadly. The inspector general is also investigating the matter.

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He said there are ways to tweak digital systems so when classified information is put online not everyone with proper clearance on that system automatically gets access to it.

Prosecutors told the judge in their filing that Teixeira continued leaking documents even after he was admonished by superiors on two separate occasions last year over “concerning actions” he took related to classified information.

The revelations have raised questions about why military officials did not take further action and why Teixeira continued to have access to classified information after his superiors raised concerns.